10 May 2012 by Sam
On Bank Holiday Monday, Merseyside Maritime Museum held its annual commemoration for the sinking of Cunard liner ‘RMS Lusitania’. Ellie Moffat, Curator of Maritime Collections, explains why this is an important event for the museum:
“On 7th May 1915 ‘Lusitania’ was nearing the Old Head of Kinsale, off the southern coast of Ireland, when she was torpedoed by German u-boat U-20. She sank in only 18 minutes and 1201 lives were lost. It was one of the most horrific incidents at sea during the First World War.
‘Lusitania’ had strong ties to Liverpool. She was registered in Liverpool, her home port, and was owned by Cunard, still based in the city at that time. The ship, referred to affectionately as “Lusie” by local people, was a familiar sight at the landing stage. In 1907 she sailed from Liverpool on her maiden voyage, bound for New York. Over 200,000 people came down to the Mersey to watch her depart. For the next eight years she provided a regular service across the Atlantic, breaking speed records along the way.
The sinking caused outrage and led to rioting in Liverpool and Birkenhead, and other cities across the world. It struck a tragic blow to the dockland communities in north Liverpool, where most of “Lusie’s” crew lived. 404 crewmen perished.
One of the most iconic objects in our collection is the port side four-bladed propeller that was salvaged from the wreck of RMS Lusitania by Oceaneering International Services Ltd, later acquired by the museum. It was one of four that drove Lusitania across the Atlantic. When she was launched in 1906, she was originally fitted with three-bladed propellers, but they were replaced with the four-bladed propellers in 1909 to improve her speed.
Each year on the anniversary, we hold an annual commemoration to remember those men, women and children who lost their lives. It was particularly poignant this year as were we are able to hold the commemoration around the propeller for the first time in several years.
During the event Ian Murphy, Deputy Director of Merseyside Maritime museum, gave an introduction. David Roberts, maritime historian and author, then gave a historical overview of “Lusie”. A short religious service was led by Father John Williams and a minute’s silence was held. To mark the end of the commemoration Ian Murphy laid a wreath at the base of the propeller on behalf of the museum. Many people attending also left flowers.
With the centenary only three years away, curatorial staff at Merseyside Maritime Museum are carrying out new research in to the ‘Lusitania’ and her connections to Merseyside. As part of this work, we would be very pleased to hear from local people with family connections to the famous ship and would encourage anyone to email us at:
Find out more about ‘RMS Lusitania’ in our gallery Titanic, Lusitania and the Forgotten Empress.”
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