RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner that was sunk on 7 May 1915 by a German U-boat 11 miles (18 km) off the southern coast of Ireland, killing 1,198 passengers and crew. The sinking occurred about two years before the United States declaration of war on Germany.
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Lusitania held the Blue Riband appellation for the fastest Atlantic crossing and was briefly the world’s largest passenger ship until the completion of the Mauretania three months later.
Both Lusitania and Mauretania were fitted with turbine engines that enabled them to maintain a service speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph). They were equipped with lifts, wireless telegraph, and electric light, and provided 50 percent more passenger space than any other ship; the first-class decks were known for their sumptuous furnishings.
RMS Lusitania left New York for Britain on 1 May 1915 when German submarine warfare was intensifying in the Atlantic. Germany had declared the seas around the United Kingdom a war zone, and the German embassy in the United States had placed fifty newspaper advertisements warning people of the dangers of sailing on Lusitania. Objections were made by the British that threatening to torpedo all ships indiscriminately was wrong, whether it was announced in advance or not.
On the afternoon of 7 May, a German U-boat torpedoed Lusitania 11 miles (18 km) off the southern coast of Ireland inside the declared war zone. A second internal explosion sank her in 18 minutes, killing 1,198 passengers and crew.
The sinking caused a storm of protest in the United States because 128 American citizens were among the dead. The sinking shifted public opinion in the United States against Germany and was one of the factors in the declaration of war nearly two years later.
Take a look at these vintage photos to see the fabulous interior of the RMS Lusitania.