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First World War - Loss of the Lusitania

Key facts

  • Suitable for: Key Stage 2
  • Subjects: English, History
  • Session type: Museum led
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Class size (maximum): 30
  • Venue: Merseyside Maritime Museum


Perfect for any groups studying the First World War and its effects on Liverpool, particularly the wider war at sea. Pupils will use hands-on activities with a museum demonstrator to investigate the likely causes of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915.

This session is aimed specifically at upper key stage 2 - Years 5 and 6.

It is available at 10.15am, 11.30am and 1.15pm, Monday to Friday from 20 April 2015.

Further details

school children holding up flags

2015 marks the centenary of the torpedoing and sinking of the Liverpool ship Lusitania. This new session at the Merseyside Maritime Museum aims to build understanding of how this tragedy occurred, its effect on the city and also sets the story into the wider context of the First World War. It perfectly complements a visit to the new exhibition Lusitania: life, loss, legacy.

Firstly pupils are introduced to the importance of Liverpool to the whole story, so it is perfect for groups focussing on local history as part of a more extensive study theme. The owners of Lusitania, the Cunard Line, have been a key part of the city’s seafaring links for 175 years.

As well as looking at when and why the ship was built, we will also explore the international situation leading up to the outbreak of war in 1914 and how this affected shipping and ocean travel.

There are many controversial aspects to the Lusitania story covering such things as the design of the ship, the cargo she was carrying and also government actions leading up to the disaster and after. Using a very informal, accessible and hands-on approach, groups will gain a deeper understanding of the multi-layered nature of the past and also increase their knowledge of relevant historical terms.

Of course, many people lost their lives in this terrible disaster and pupils are encouraged to think more deeply about how such an event would have far-reaching consequences at local, national and international levels. There are also many possibilities for post-visit work back at school based on the issues raised during the session.

Curriculum links

Key stage 2 - History

  • understand historical concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance, and use them to make connections, draw contrasts, analyse trends, frame historically-valid questions and create their own structured accounts, including written narratives and analyses

  • understand the methods of historical enquiry, including how evidence is used rigorously to make historical claims, and discern how and why contrasting arguments and interpretations of the past have been constructed
  • gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts, understanding the connections between local, regional, national and international history; between cultural, economic, military, political, religious and social history; and between short- and long-term timescales
  • a local history study
  • a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066

Key stage 2 - English (spoken English)

  • ask relevant questions to extend their understanding and knowledge
  • articulate and justify answers, arguments and opinions

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

Pupils will:

  • understand the importance of the Lusitania story to Liverpool and the wider world
  • understand the links between the sinking of the Lusitania and World War One
  • gain increased awareness of terms such as ‘contraband’, ‘propaganda’ and ‘reparations’


Pupils will:

  • increase their confidence in speaking and expressing ideas within a group context


Pupils will:

  • appreciate the complex nature of cause and effect in historical enquiry
  • begin to realise the significance of different points of view and bias when studying the past in order to obtain a balanced perspective


Pupils will:

  • appreciate the experiences of people in the past and gain empathy
  • wish to investigate the Lusitania story further to produce a piece of drama or diary/journal/newspaper article etc
  • appreciate that Merseyside Maritime Museum is an enjoyable place to visit