In the Bookcase


RMS Lusitania, 100 Years later

If you've followed my blog for very long, you might know that I do enjoy learning about historical and maritime events. Studying about the Titanic has been the biggest research project I've shared about on the blog. Several other historical events intrigue me, but the Titanic still fascinates me, perhaps because of all the mysteries that we'll never solve about the ocean liner's ill-fated maiden voyage.

There's another ship I've become quite interested in learning more about -- the RMS Lusitania. Many differences exist between it and the Titanic, but with several similarities at the same time. Both were huge ships in their day -- in fact, each briefly held the title as "world's largest passenger ship" at some point -- until they each sunk. The British ocean liner Lusitania wrecked not because of an iceberg, but because she was shot at by a German U-boat during World War I -- a true war crime. 1,198 passengers and crew went down with Lusitania (slightly less lives than the 1,500+ on Titanic).

The Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk 3 years after Titanic.

May 7, 1915.

100 years ago today.

In honor of this being the century anniversary, I'm sharing a poem I discovered a while back in a delightfully-old hardbound book entitled A Treasury of War Poetry. The following poem is called 'The Passengers of a Retarded Submersible'.

What was it kept you so long, brave German submersible?
We have been very anxious lest matters had not gone well
With you and the precious cargo of your country's drugs and dyes.
But here you are at last, and the sight is good for our eyes,
Glad to welcome you up and out of the caves of the sea,
And ready for sale or barter, whatever your will may be.

Oh, do not be impatient, good friends of this neutral land,
That we have been so tardy in reaching your eager strand.
We were stopped by a curious chance just off the Irish coast,
Where the mightiest wreck ever was lay crowded with a host
Of the dead that went down with her; and some prayed us to bring them here
That they might be at home with their brothers and sisters dear.
We Germans have tender hearts, and it grieved us sore to say
We were not a passenger ship, and to most we must answer nay,
But if from among their hundreds they could somehow a half-score choose
We thought we could manage to bring them, and we would not refuse.
They chose, and the women and children that are greeting you here are those
Ghosts of the women and children that the rest of the hundred chose.

What guff are you giving us, Captain? We are able to tell, we hope,
A dozen ghosts, when we see them, apart from a periscope.
Come, come, get down to business! For time is money, you know,
And you must make up in both to us for having been so slow.
Better tell this story of yours to the submarines, for we
Know there was no such wreck, and none of your spookery.

Oh, kind kin of our murderers, take us back when you sail away;
Our own kin have forgotten us. O Captain, do not stay!
But hasten, Captain, hasten: The wreck that lies under the sea
Shall be ever the home for us this land can never be.

For another excellent poem on the sinking of the Lusitania, read The Lusitania by John Weber.

To read an interesting account of the shipwreck, read the newly-posted BBC News article Remembering the Lusitania: One passenger's remarkable story of survival.


  1. Chrissy5/07/2015

    Beautiful poem! Thanks for sharing, Tarissa.

  2. Anonymous6/11/2016

    My grandson loves reading history books and we had discussed the Lusitania. I remember him telling me that it was torpedoed by a German U Boat and that two explosions occurred. One from the torpedo and the other most likely from the munitions that the ship was carrying. Also, it was in a declared war zone when it was torpedoed off the Southern coast of Ireland. A total of 1,198 deaths of passengers and crew of which over 100 were Americans. There are some nice photos and drawings of the interior of the Lusitania online. Wikipedia has quite a bit of info on it as well as salvage efforts.

  3. Anonymous6/11/2016

    I was at a Civil War reenactment in Framingham, MA & met a man who knew so much about maritime events. If you want to learn some interesting maritime events then pick up Chuck Veit's books. You can learn about him and the U.S. Naval Landing Party at the link enclosed. Enjoy.

  4. @Anonymous

    Hi Bev,
    The Lusitania has a fascinating history, doesn't it? It's hard to believe so many more people died on it than Titanic, yet it receives little historical mention.

    Thanks for stopping by my little ol' blog.

  5. Oh, thank you for information on Chuck Veit. His books and website already are intriguing me. Thanks!