At ten minutes past two on Friday the 7th May 1915 all hell broke loose on the Lusitania. A single torpedo fired from the German U-20 submarine had just ploughed into the starboard side of the Lusitania at a speed of 38 knots from a distance of just 550 metres hitting the ship somewhere near the bridge and three metres below the surface of the water. The torpedo explosion was followed almost instantaneously by a second much larger explosion. Despite her size the ship immediately began to list steeply and her bows began to dip rapidly.
On the bridge of the Lusitania Captain William Turner, realising that his ship was doomed, gave the order to ‘abandon ship’. Looking back along her length he saw that all of the starboard lifeboats had swung out and all of the port lifeboats had swung in over the decks making their launch practically impossible. In an attempt to slow down the ship he next ordered a ‘reverse thrust’ with disastrous consequences. Unable to withstand the increased stress some critical valves failed with almost complete loss of boiler pressure leaving the ship without power. In any case the propellers were already beginning to rise out of the water.
Despite the immense practical difficulties, frenzied efforts to launch some starboard lifeboats were partially successful but on the port side there was mayhem. Released lifeboats careered down the steep deck crushing people in their path and dumping passengers into the sea or against solid obstacles. One or two port lifeboats were handled to the side but as soon as an attempt was made to lower them construction rivets which were projecting out from the Lusitania’s side ripped the lifeboats and dumped their passengers into the sea.
Suddenly the liner’s forward momentum ceased. Her bows had struck the bottom three hundred feet below. Her stern settled and she slowly slid under the water. The Lusitania was gone. The time was twenty eight minutes past two o’clock. Of the forty eight lifeboats only six were afloat. There were bodies everywhere and people were clinging to any piece of floating wreckage they could reach. The Lusitania carried 1,962 persons in total of which 1,201 perished. Of the 129 children on board, 94 perished. Of the 159 Americans on board, 128 died. The vast majority of passengers and crew were Irish and English of which many perished. People of many other nationalities also lost their lives. Many famous and wealthy people perished on the Lusitania. It was a monumental tragedy with historic repercussions.
6/22/2020 02:54:08 am
No lifeboat slid down the portside boat deck. This story was first told in Colin Simpson's book and wrongly attributed to Albert Bestic. No survivors from that deck mention such events in their accounts. People by and large didn't lose it and panic. When asked to they got out of the boats and the gentlemen assisted the ladies. Ten they waited for further orders that never came. They were still waiting when the sea suddenly rose over the deck as the ship rapidly sank beneath waves.
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