Lusitania: life, loss, legacy

Opening on 27 March 2015

ERDF logo with text: European Union, Investing In Your future. European Regional Development Fund 2007-13

This new exhibition will open on 27 March 2015 on the first floor of the museum, to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania, on 7 May 2015. As well as the story of the Lusitania, the displays will consider the role of Liverpool’s liners in the First World War.

'Lusitania: life, loss, legacy' is part funded by the European Union - the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

illustration of people on a U-boat watching the Lusitania sink

The sinking of Lusitania

The sinking of Lusitania was one of the most horrific incidents at sea during the First World War (1914-18). In early 1915 the German Government declared that all Allied ships would be in danger of attack in British waters. Lusitania sailed from New York on 1 May 1915 with 1959 people on board. On 7 May 1915 at 2.10pm, the liner was near Kinsale in southern Ireland when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-20. She sank in under twenty minutes with the loss of 1198 lives.

The sinking of this unarmed passenger ship caused international outrage. There were riots in Liverpool and London, as well as other cities around the world. The German government claimed that Lusitania was carrying military supplies and there is some evidence to support this. However, British and American enquiries later declared the sinking to have been unlawful.

This event devastated the tight-knit dockland communities in north Liverpool, where most of Lusitania's crew lived. 404 crew members died, including many Liverpool Irish seamen.

Old photo of the ship Lusitania surrounded by smaller boats

Lusitania’s first arrival in New York in 1907, reference MCR/25/118 Image probably out of copyright, copyright unknown. Please contact us if you have information.

Lusitania and Mauretania

Lusitania and her partner Mauretania were ordered by Cunard to restore British superiority over German ships in the Atlantic passenger trade. Both came into service from Liverpool in 1907, the year of the port’s 700th anniversary celebrations. They were then the largest and fastest ships in the world.

More than 200,000 people lined the banks of the Mersey to watch Lusitania’s maiden voyage to New York. She soon won back from Germany the ‘Blue Riband’ for the fastest Atlantic crossing, although Mauretania quickly proved to be the faster of the two. Lusitania and Mauretania worked together to provide a weekly service from Liverpool to New York.

Collection highlights

Most of these objects will go on display in the new gallery on 27 March 2015.

Appeal for information

Lusitania in Canada dock

Lusitania in Canada dock, Liverpool, 18 July 1907. © Peel Holdings

Can you help with research into Liverpool connections to Lusitania? Find out how to get involved on the blog.

Further information

The Maritime Archives and Library also hold a lot of relevant material about the Lusitania. You can read more online with information sheet number 42: RMS Lusitania.

There is further information on the Lusitania Online website.