Lusitania's maiden voyage

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

In the lead up to Merseyside Maritime Museum marking the centenary of the sinking of Lusitania on 7 May 2015 with our upcoming exhibition 'Lusitania: life loss, legacy', it is worth flagging up some other significant dates in the history of this world famous passenger liner.

On this day 107 years ago, Lusitania was sailing across the Atlantic on her maiden voyage, having departed from Liverpool on the evening of 7 September. Liverpool was literally buzzing with excitement in the days leading up to this, and the world was watching. Could this new showcase of British engineering stand up to the immense anticipation which had surrounded her throughout her build and preparation? Could she claim back the Blue Riband (the unofficial prize for the fastest ship on the North Atlantic) title for Britain from Germany? Over 200,000 people lined the banks of the Mersey to wave her off; cheering and singing 'Rule Britannia'. In the collection of Maritime Archives is a letter from that maiden voyage, written by passenger Cecil Minnitt to his fiancée. In it he describes the scene:

“You should have heard the people cheer. There were crowds lining both shores and at New Brighton they had a display of fireworks as a send off for us. I went right up on the highest deck close to the funnels to see her go.”

He also talks of her immense size and luxurious interiors:

“You do not get any idea of her size till you get right on the top and then it is like being on Lincoln Cathedral. I went over part of the 1st class and it is really impossible to describe, it is so beautiful. The staterooms are exquisite and all the other rooms which I went in are so beautifully furnished that it would be impossible for me to attempt to describe them.”

You will be able to see this letter on display in the new exhibition. Lusitania arrived in New York early on 13 September, just short of breaking the Blue Riband record – bad weather was partly to blame, and the fact that her engines were not fully run-in. Thousands of people turned out to catch their first glimpse of the ship, and during her week-long stay there she was opened up to the public. She was to win the Blue Riband back on her second voyage in October, and between her and her sister ship Mauretania, Britain went on to retain the title for the next 22 years!