Lusitania: life, loss, legacy
This major exhibition opened 100 years after the sinking of the Lusitania. Highlighting new research about the people involved in the Lusitania story, the display also considers the role of Liverpool’s liners in the First World War.
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 1962 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 1191 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 a legitimate target due to the war supplies she was carrying - as were many other British ships. 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. 405 crew members died, including many Liverpool Irish seamen.
Find out about crew and passengers on the last voyage
Read more about the Lusitania story
Lusitania online collections
Explore highlights from the exhibition as well as many more objects and archive items that are not on display, in our Lusitania online collections.
Browse through archives, ship models, personal items, medals, commemorative items and more.
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.