Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Sinking of the RMS Lusitania

RMS Lusitania. taken from www.times.co.uk

 May 7th  marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Lusitania by German submarine U-20 off the coast of Ireland  killing 1,198 and leaving 761 survivors. While not directly related to Ballarat, the sinking of the Cunard ship was a key event in the early stages of the war.   The sinking turned public opinion in many countries against Germany. It also contributed to the American entry into the war as a large number of the passengers that perished were American.  It also became an iconic symbol in military recruiting campaigns of why the war was being fought.

As Joan Beaumont ponits out although the Lusitania was probably carring contrband, its sinking was seen at the time as a cold-blooded and premeditated outrage, yet another German atrocity.  As a patrriotic Australian wrote on 14 May:

                      Would you have us fight with your own vile tools?
                      If we've no choice we must do the same
                     But we don't  sink boats with civilian crews
                     We leave that to you - tis a cowards game

                     Joan Beaumont Broken nation:Australians in the Great War

To commemorate the anniversary a book has been published which is available through Ballarat Library.  Dead wake: the last crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.

Front page of the Ballarat Star reporting the sinking.  May 10 1915

Painting of the sinking. Taken from www.images.google.com

Recruiting poster used as a result of the sinking.  Taken from www.images.google.com

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