Friday 7 May 1915 – We Lost 889
Captain William Turner of the Lusitania upon entering what is called the danger zone of waters in which enemy submarines operate orders all lifeboats to be swung out, all the bulkhead doors to be closed, look-outs to be doubled and steam pressure to be kept high to give the ship all possible speed in case of an emergency. At 08:00 the ships speed is reduced to eighteen knots to secure the ship’s arrival at the bar outside Liverpool at 04:00 the following morning, in order catch the high tide. At 12:40 the ship’s course is altered in order to make a better landfall. The ship is brought closer to land and the Old Head of Kinsale is sighted at 13:40.
At 14:15 as the ship is between ten and fifteen miles off the Old Head of Kinsale with weather clear and the sea smooth, Captain Turner hears the second officer shout “There is a torpedo coming, Sir”. Immediately afterwards there is a terrific explosion on the starboard side, between the third and fourth funnels. Almost simultaneously there is a second explosion, which at the time is thought to be a second torpedo, but has since been confirmed to be an internal explosion, although the cause has never been definitely established. The stricken Lusitania immediately takes on a heavy list to starboard and in about eighteen minutes she sinks, with the loss of 1,198 lives. The ship sinks bow first, with its stern almost perpendicular out of the water. Two crewmembers will be officially recognized with the Silver & Bronze medals for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea. Able Seaman Leslie Morton is the first to observe the approach of the torpedo and he reports it to the bridge. When the torpedo strikes the ship he is knocked off his feet, but he recovers himself quickly, and at once assists in filling and lowering several boats. Having done all he can on board, he jumps overboard. While in the water he manages to get hold of a floating collapsible lifeboat, and with the assistance of Able Seaman Joseph Parry he rips the canvas cover off it and succeeds in drawing into it fifty to sixty passengers. Morton and Parry then row the boat some miles to a fishing smack. Having put the rescued passengers on board the smack they return to the scene of the wreck and succeed in rescuing twenty to thirty more people.
Among those lost in the sinking of RMS Lusitania
- Justus Miles Forman. He is an American novelist and playwright. His only play, The Hyphen, appeared in 1915, but it did not receive the success Forman expected. He decided to book a first-class passage aboard the RMS Lusitania. Days before he was to board the liner, he received a mysterious phone call from a man with a thick German accent, who warned him not to board the Lusitania. He ignored the phone call and boarded the Lusitania on May 1, 1915. His body was never recovered.
- ‘Sir’ Hugh Percy Lane was born in County Cork, Ireland in November 1875, he is best known for establishing Dublin’s Municipal Gallery of Modern Art (the first known public gallery of modern art in the world) and for his remarkable contribution to the visual arts in Ireland. He died on board the RMS Lusitania.
- Firemen Michael Sr. and Michael Cooney Jr. are both killed in Lusitania. The elder Cooney dies at age 40 while his son is 20 years-old.
- Fireman Edward Ryan is killed at age 44. His brother will be killed as a stoker on HMS Queen Mary at Jutland.
- Henry St Giles Humphreys is killed. He is the son of Reverend Henry James Humphreys Vicar of Thornley who will have two others sons killed in the Great War.
U-20 sights the British cruiser Juno, but as she is zig-zagging and going at full speed, the German submarine gives up the chase.
The Tribal class destroyer HMS Maori strikes a mine off the Belgian coast and the entire crew plus those of HMS Crusader’s boat are made prisoners of war.
The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, the Royal Irish Rifles and the Cheshire Regiment attack the Zwarteleen salient at Hill 60. The first trench is taken and crossed but shortly after this dawn breaks and it becomes evident that although the enemy has been driven out of the neck of the Salient they still hold the Salient itself. The day passes quietly until darkness comes at 19:45 and patrols are sent out to ascertain what the results of the attack have been. The totality of the failure is reported including 22 members of the Yorkshire’s killed 124 officers and men wounded and 42 officers and men missing. Most of the missing will prove to be killed.
The 1st/5th Royal Scots attack Fir Tree Wood on Gallipoli. They advance at 10:00 and enter the wood. There they find many snipers situated on small wooden platforms in the branches. The Scots are driven back after three hours fighting. The battalion is reduced to the strength of two companies.
The operations on the Karkha River, Mesopotamia begin. The district which contains oil fields and the pipeline is cleared of the enemy by 3 June.
‘Sir’ Edward Grey sends a message to the Ottoman Government stating that members of that government will be held personally responsible for the safety of British and French civilians transported from Constantinople to Gallipoli.
The attack on Achi Baba continues still with little progress.
Lieutenant Ernest G Boissier (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) is awarded the Distinguished Service Cross as he behaves with gallantry in charge of a machine gun during operations south of Achi Baba and effecting the destruction of an enemy machine gun. His son will be killed in 1945 serving at a Sub Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
Airship SS-1 is destroyed by fire after colliding with telegraph wires near Dover when her pilot mistakes the wind direction signal and lands down-wind. Both occupants escape injury.
Today’s losses include:
- A man killed on Lusitania will have two brothers killed later on service in the Great War
- A man killed on Lusitania will have a brother killed on HMS Queen Mary and Jutland
- A man whose son will be killed later in the Great War
- A son of an Admiral
- A son of a Baronet
- An Antarctic Explorer
- A man whose brother will lose his life in the Second World War
- Multiple families that will lose two sons
- A family that will lose three sons
Today’s highlighted casualties are:
- Major Christopher Henry Hoskyns-Abrahall (Royal Marines Light Infantry) dies of wounds on Gallipoli at age 43. His son will be accidentally killed in December 1917.
- Captain George Culme-Seymour (King’s Royal Rifle Corps and Acting Adjutant London Regiment) is killed in action at age 37. He is the son of Admiral ‘Sir’ Michael Culme-Seymour, 3rd Baronet GCB.
- Captain Edward Frederick Robert Bage (Australian Engineers) is killed in action at age 27. He was an astronomer, assistant magnetician and recorder of tides with ‘Sir’ Douglas Mawson’s 1911 Antarctic expedition. He was one of the six volunteers that formed the relief party that was left in the Antarctic for a second winter when Mawson and his companions failed to return to winter quarters on time. Lieutenant Bage contributed the chapter “The Quest of the Southern Magnetic Pole” to Mawson’s book “The Chome of the Blizzard”. He was awarded the King’s Polar Medal this year. At Trinity College Melbourne he obtained 1st Class honors in chemistry, rowed in the College Eight and was honorary secretary of the Students’ Representative Council. The “Robert Bage Memorial Scholarship” at the University of Melbourne will be founded in his honor.
- Private Charles Alfred Fisher (King’s own Yorkshire Light Infantry) is killed in action. His son will lose his life in January 1944 on service.
- Two brothers are in the trenches this morning, Private Fred age 20 and Lance Corporal James Henry ‘Harry’ Tennant age 27 (Lancashire Fusiliers). Harry is killed this morning. Fred writes their mother: “He fell with his face to the enemy, and I am sure no man could wish for a more glorious death”. Fred will die of wounds next month.
- Private Charles Cullinan (Leinster Regiment) is killed in action at age 41. His brother will be killed eleven days later.
- Private Thomas Frederic Farrier (Sussex Regiment) is killed at Bethune during shelling at age 26. He is the first of three brothers who will be killed by the middle of next year.