Anyone think Churchill had anything to with the sinking of the Lusitania to get America into WW1


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Guest (R17)

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Sorry if you have been asked this before ! Everything seems to have been discussed at some point :) But does anyone believe that Churchill might have turned a blind eye with the Lusitania, in the hope that if she were sunk then it help get America into the war ? Any solid substance to this or is it just another myth... I often hear that the Lusitania might have been sacrificed.

Maybe the above is just a myth - but what about the cargo on the Lusitania ? Church Hill would have known about that - even if he did not want to loose the Lusitania. That's if there were arms on board. I understand that the Lusitania wreck was used for target practice. I tend to remember reading somewhere that one of the reasons for this - during and after the WW2 could have been because Church Hill wanted to destroy any signs of dodgy a cargo ?

Was anything removed from the wreck over the years ? The little baboon brain boggels !
 

John Flood

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Mar 1, 2004
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I think it's possible. The war in Europe which was supposed to be over by Christmas 1914, was dragging on with massive casualties. Both sides were becoming more desperate to end the deadlock. I think they started using gas attacks in 1915, which shows how appalling the situation had become.

I wouldn't think the Admiralty would have definitely wanted to have seen the Lusitania sunk, in the hope of getting non combatant countries to join their cause, but then again they don't seem to have been too interested in protecting her either, IMHO.

Not sure about there being arms on board or not, but the second explosion seems to have been massive, and I don't think it was from a torpedo. The first explosion was from a torpedo, and it seems to have been much smaller.

All the Best,
John.
 
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Guest (R17)

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Hello

Yes the gas attacks were awful !!! I try not to watch things about WW1, as I always find myself getting angry about it ! So tend to avoid any documentaries that come on tv. One thing that really gets me worked up about WW1 are the soldiers that were shot for not going over the trenches to almost certain death ! Not only did they have their lives taken away at young ages ( some as young as 18 ) but they were called cowards at the same time - disgusting ! Cowards for what ? Not wanting to jump into the line of fire from 50 machine guns !! I wonder how many high up British Generals/Officers got away with what happened - again makes me angry they will never be called to justice, though we recognise how awful these acts are today. I don't know that much about the First World War - but I know enough. I suspect these people may well have been given medals after the war and lived out the rest of their lives in honor - no justice!

It's fascinating that there are still people alive today who survived WW1 — I suppose (like Titanic survivors) now you would be able to count exactly how many are left. My dad always makes sure I buy a poppy each year - very much so if I'm looking for a new job :)

Anyway back to Lusitania ! I think you could well be right when you say they did not seem to interested in protecting her. I'm sure the thought of what her loss might contribute towards would have crossed quite a few politicians minds, at the time, even if they just toyed with the idea. Again I really don't know that much about the Lusitania so I suppose with a ship like her a second explosion could have been anything ? I think it is highly likely she would have been carrying at the very least a few guns...

Wonder if the fact that she was used for target practice was to also (as well as being useful for other things) destroy any signs of cargo like this is a bit far fetched ?
 

John Flood

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Mar 1, 2004
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Hi Miles,

Yeah WW1 was certainly an appalling waste of life and that's putting it mildly!! The generals of WW1 all seemed to be a lot like General Melchot in the tv series Blackkadder goes Forth....and that was a comedy!!!! I find I have more of an interest and knowledge in WW2.

If you're looking for a good book on the Lusitania, try 'Wilful Murder' (I think that is what it is called anyway. It's a while since I read it). It is written by Diana Preston.

All the Best,
John.
 

Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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Might I suggest that those who believe that all British generals were butchers and bunglers ala General Melchett might like to read " Forgotten Victory " by Gary Sheffield. It is a very readable book, and none too long either, and addresses many of the issues raised in this discussion.

Relevant points to consider would be

1. The large numbers of British Generals who were themselves casualties during the war - a far higher proportion than you might think, and sufficient to raise doubts about the cliche of the " chateau generals "

2. The manner in which the Germans waged war - their unerring ability to do the very things that would lose them sympathy overseas ( particularly in America) - viz torpedoing the Lusitania, using poison gas, bombardment of British coastal towns by units of the German fleet, atrocities in Belgium, the annexations of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Keep in mind that whether you accept the thesis that Churchill put the Lusitania in harms way or not ( and for the record, I don't )it was not he who fired a torpedo into her.

3. The question of executions - yes, there were several miscarriages of justice, but the most recent and exhaustive study ( see the book " Blindfold and Alone " ) suggests that most of the executions were, within the limits and guidelines of military regulations of the time, justified. Regrettable - and to our modern eyes, excrable,- but within the context of the time, justified and necessary. When you are fighting a war, desertion has to be dealt with as a priority. Executing a young lad whose nerves have shattered is one thing - and wrong - but the case of a soldier who has, in full knowledge of what he's done, walked out on his fellow soldiers, gone on the run, killed some-one to avoid arrest is something else altogether ( and yes, I mean Percy Topliss )

The problem with the whole thesis to me is twofold.

Firstly, it revolves around the idea that, because the war was not over by Xmas 1914 but was settling down to ve a long war, Churchill and a few others " realised " that to win it, the Entente powers would also have to enlist the USA. Hence, the Lusitania was " set up" as a target.

The problem is that in early 1915 this was NOT the way Churchill - or anyone else - was thinking. That the war would possibly go on for sometime had been recognised before the war in some circles, particularly the RN. The belief was that a long war would suit Britain and her allies far more than it would the Central powers - Austria-Hungary was the new " sick man of Europe " and likley to collapse into internal revolution, Turkey could be readily knocked out by assaulting the Dardanelles, and the Russian " steamroller" would wear down the German army, whilst British sea power would starve her civilian population into demanding peace.

Nor was American aid either expected, or welcome. Wilson made American attitudes clear at Christmas 1914 when he attempted to get the warring states to discuss an armistice - all sides brusquely and contemptuously rejected his initiatives. No-one expected America to enter the war at all - and no-one especially wanted them to. Particularly Britain that, in 1914, was firmly established as " Europe's banker" - she was very w ell off and expected to fight a war in the traditional manner - using naval power to seal in the enemy whilst investing money, rather than manpower, in the Continent - in short, to pay some-one else ( the French, the Russians ) to do the actual fighting. The USA would just throw the whole equation out.

2. It just does not jibe with Churchill's personality - he may have waged war very effectively, but he was also a massive sentimentalist and a patriot. I cannot believe that Winston would have sacrificed British - or American - lives quiet so ruthlessly for so nebulous a thing as possible American outrage.

But I welcome alternative theories

warmest regards

dave
 
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Guest (R17)

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Hello

You seem to know a lot about WW1 so I can't really engage in this debate that much !

>>>The question of executions - yes, there were several miscarriages of justice, but the most recent and exhaustive study ( see the book " Blindfold and Alone " ) suggests that most of the executions were, within the limits and guidelines of military regulations of the time, justified. Regrettable - and to our modern eyes, excrable,- but within the context of the time, justified and necessary.<<<<<

I will say this though. I don't care what time these killings of men some as young as 18 were considered necessary and justified in - it's disgusting ! And the fact people thought like this in those days to be frank makes me angry want to puke ! I hope I am not breaking ET rules by saying that.

I agree with you that there must have been quite a lot of high up people who also died and had to fight, and it's awful they lost their lives. But I have heard there were quite a few of them drinking tea, giving orders well a way from the front line. This is probably just a myth — I don’t claim to know that much about the WW1.

But I feel angry that we murdered our own men because they did not want to walk into what was *almost* certain death and called them cowards before doing what the thinking of the time thought *necessary*

>>>Executing a young lad whose nerves have shattered is one thing - and wrong - <<<

Yup I agree.

>>>but the case of a soldier who has, in full knowledge of what he's done, walked out on his fellow soldiers, gone on the run, killed some-one to avoid arrest is something else altogether ( and yes, I mean Percy Topliss )<<<

I agree all killing is wrong. But I don't know if I agree about this being something *else altogether*. Why ? Because I take into account this man who ran away was probably so terrified and out of his mind when he killed he did not know what he was doing ! I'm sure war does all sorts of awful things to people's minds and they react in away they would not normally - very much so when a sense of survival kicks in. So I don't know if this should be classed as murder in the true sense or judge him. Who knows what some of us might do if we were in his position and so scared ? We can’t say it is *something else altogether* as we were and never will be in the position of this man. Hence I don’t know if I agree or disagree on that — but keep an open mind. I would question the people that put him in such a position that led to those actions.
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Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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I think we both agree on much, miles - all war is disgusting, all killing is wrong. I for one hold to the belief that no civilised state should have a death penalty ( doesn't mean we should pamper them in prison, either ).

Percy Topliss deserted from the army during the war. On the run, in 1920 ( 18 months after the war ended ) in an attempt to escape the authorities, he killed a tax-driver. I would argue that, having deserted during the war because he presumably either didn't fancy killing some-one, or didn't fancy being killed himself, he was quite prepared to do so in 1920, by which time the war pressure was off. Percy killed to stay free and unpunished. He knew what he was doing.

But, I'm digressing...a bad habit of mine. Sorry

Thanks

Warmests regards

dave
 
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Guest (R17)

Guest
Hello

Yes that does change things. I had not heard of Percy and did not know things flowed on until 1920. Again I can't really comment on his actions as I don't know if he would still have been shot for being a deserter as late as 1920. Were they still looking for people in the first few years that followed the War ?

>>Percy killed to stay free and unpunished. He knew what he was doing.<<

But was he really free ? And would he have been shot if found ? Sounds like he was still on the run. When you say unpunished - are you saying he was unpunished because they had not yet shot him ?

>>in an attempt to escape the authorities, he killed a tax-driver<<

So they were still looking for him/deserters. *IF* the authorities were still rounding people up to be shot although the terror of being in the trenches were over, I don't know where my opinion lies on this. Sounds like he killed to escape being killed for a crime that he should not (in my opinion) have been punished for - that's if the authorities were still killing what I class as *innocent* people.

I really don't know what to think about this ! Having said that I don't think I know the full in's and out's of the story.
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John Flood

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Mar 1, 2004
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Hi Dave,

I still feel some of the WW1 generals were slow to, or just did not want to accept change. The slow introduction of the tank, not providing aircraft pilots with parachutes etc., but I guess that's easy for me to say with the benefit of hindsight!! I'll check out the book you recommended though as my knowledge of WW1 is not as good as my knowledge of WW2.

On the subject of the Lusitania, like yourself, I don't believe she was "set up", but I do think it could have been possible to protect her more, but again, I guess that is easy for me to say in hindsight.

All the Best,
John.
 
G

Guest (R17)

Guest
I hope it does not seem a bit OTT to post a pic of my grandfather (standing) b.1890 and survived the whole of WW1 in the trenches. Most of my friends grand parents were just babies during WW2. So it is quite cool having a grand-father from the war before though he died in 1988.

Two stories from the WW1 one that he use to tell ( I don't want to be boring ) were about the China men that came over to fight.. There was a Scotsman one night who after having a bit to many to drink found it funny to go up to these China men and cut off all their pig tails one by one ! And this is what he did - very funny he thought. But really you don't want to do that to a china man - very much so in those days. The following nite the Scotsman was on night duty and the next morning they found him dead. They had obviously hung him.

The other WW1 story he told me was about the China man waiting at the train station with a sparrow.... The China man had the little bird sitting on the tip of his hand. Every now and then he would throw a small paper dart and the sparrow would up sticks, collect and bring the little dart back to him ! Once sat back on the tip of his hand it would take it's reward and peck a bird seed that he kept resting in his mouth
happy.gif


He never spoke about the really awful stuff. His job was to throw posion gas at the Germans! Maybe that is why he managed to live so long when everyone else was going over ! Funny to be throwing gas at the germans when your father is german.

I only find out now that he came from Liverpool ( tho he spoke properly ) I wonder what ships he would have seen ? I was not into the Titanic in those days but I wonder now what ships he would have seen... To late to ask now... such a shame ! He would have been there when Olympic was there....Bugger - sorry !!

He is the guy standing.

Anyway back to Lusitania ! :)

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Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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Thanks very much for posting that - the story about the wee bird was really nice to end the day with

Cheers miles

warmest regards

dave
 
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Brian R Peterson

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Hi Miles,

The story that Churchill was behind the Lusitania sinking has been floating around just as much as the infamous and rather tiresome “cursed mummy”￾ theory on the Titanic.

Churchill had no motivation to have the Lusitania deliberately sunk, especially because it had little effect to draw American troops into the conflict. IMO, both stories are nothing more than bovine excrement, especially the mummy nonsense.

The US did not want to enter the war as we still maintained our isolationist attitude, and were sending the Allies everything they needed, tanks, weapons, ammunition food, medical supplies since 1914.

While the sinking of the Lusitania outraged Americans and kicked the anti-German sentiment up a few notches, however the final straw that caused the US to enter the war was the interception of the Zimmerman Telegram, which offered the Mexicans full support if they declared war against the US.

Best Regards,

Brian
 
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Daniel Ehlers

Guest
I'm not sure on my stance on whether the Lusitania was sunk purposely, but I do believe it is a valid argument. I wrote a paper on this subject, using that the British were responsible as my thesis, but I don't have access to all my research, so I'm using mostly memory and Lusitania.net for this...

-The Lusitania, Mauretania, and Olympic were all requisitioned for military service. Mauretania and Olympic were retained for military service, but Lusitania was given back to Cunard because it consumed too much coal, a bit of a ridiculous notion, as Mauretania would have consumed just as much. However, before Lusitania was returned, part of her third class cabin was removed, enlarging her cargo hold, and the Admiralty gave her back to Cunard with "a very important job to do." What this job is, however, we do not know.
-Her speed is reduced, to save money, to 21 knots max/18 knots cruising.
-As she embarks on her final crossing to England, she is carrying highly explosive artillery shells. She has carried munitions before, but not any artillery shells. These were housed in her forward compartment, near where she was torpedoed; whether these had any effect on the second explosion is irrelevant; the fact that they were placed there is merely an interesting choice.
-All British ships were given an escort ship upon entering the English Channel, since the English Channel was a known haven for U-boats. Lusitania's escort never showed up, and she was told via radio to proceed anyway, but instead to head to Queenstown, Ireland, as there are no U-boats nearby. At this time, however, there is Schwieger right outside Queenstown Harbor sitting on the surface, ready to sink a ship that would come to Queenstown. The Lusitania, with reduced speed, comes directly in his path.

While the Zimmermann Telegram did initiate the war officially, we must look at other events to show the Lusitania's importance.
-Before the Lusitania, there was a pro-German sentiment present; pro-German galas were held on the intercepted Vaterland in New York. Also, our isolationist attitude, as Brian stated, was still present.
-The Zimmermann Telegram resulted in the US formally declaring war on Germany. However, had the Lusitania never occured, the US would never have been drawn to the conflict at all; we would have continued our complete neutrality. It was only after the Lusitania that our anti-German sentiment began to grow; the Zimmermann Telegram was sent to Mexico because the Germans were afraid we would eventually enter the war on behalf of the Triple Entente.
-Don't forget that if the Lusitania was indeed too expensive for the Admiralty to use ever during the course of the war, she would have been an ideal target; a high profile ship which frequently carried rich Americans, which was of no help to the Admiralty as, say, the Olympic was.

Also, I disagree with the unimportance of America's help. Don't forget that, at this time, the US and Britain were equally industrialized, which would have been an important qualification; even at this time, unindustrialized Russia had one gun for every four men, and was already getting pummeled by Germany. Even though Britain was considered the world's superpower, the US would have been a much stronger ally than either France or Russia.

As for Churchill not even considering was already using Q-ships, which is putting private ships (though not ones with passengers onboard) in the line of fire, so it was in his mentality, whether or not he did it, to use it as a target.

In short, there is substantial evidence that supports the Lusitania's purposeful sinking, but it is equally possible that Lusitania was just part of an unfortunate chain of events.
 

Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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Interesting thesis Daniel but a couple of points in reply, if I may

(1) Britain was suffering something of a coal crisis by the end of 1914 - the battle fleet consumed coal at prodigious rates, there was the deployment of troopships and warships to the upcoming Dardanelles campaign. Furthermore, in 1915 the RN did not know quite what to do with the large liners - they had been hee haw use as auxiliary cruisers ( too much coal consumption, unhandy steering, large targets for u-boats ) and at this stage of the game the Dardanelles was a naval rather than a military campaign ( that came later )- it was expected that the battleships would brush past the forts and be alongside Istanbul in short order.

Thus, the admiralty did not need any of the large liners at the moment. Thus, with Cunard wanting to keep at least one crack liner in service, and the lamentable failure of Aquitania in naval service, the RN did not need the Lusitania.

(2) Her speed was indeed reduced - to save coal, which was in short supply.

(3) Lusitania's best defence was her speed- 18 kts was still wat faster than a U-boat on the surface, let alone submerged. Careful calculation meant that she would have passed at good speed up the Bristol Channel and past Wales in time to arrive at the most dangerous point - outside the Liverpool Bar - by nightfall. Unfortunately her captain decided, contrary to standing orders, to run along a straight line for some considerable time near a headland. This was Turner's own decision - no-one ordered him to do it.

(3) Sympathies varied across America after the Lusitania was sunk - yes, there was anti-German sentiment in soem areas, but there was an even more marked anti-war sentiment. Wilson ran on an anti-war platform in 1916, Hearst's newspapers were aggressively against involvement. Moreover, in late 1916 Wilson called on the warring powers to state their aims as a first step to negotiating an armistice. He was, to his disgust, rejected just as brusquely bu the British as the Germans. By the start of 1917 the US had no more sympathy for Britain and France than it had for Germany. Wilson had no hidden agenda.

The problem was that the Germans held to the belief that Britain would cave in if unrestricted submarine warfare was brought back - and despite Wilson's warnings took this step in 1917. Fully aware that the Americans might then enter the war - it was a risk the Hindenburg- Ludendorf duo that were de facto rulers of Germany accepted.

The Zimmerman telegram added insult to injury - its cold blooded acceptance of likely hostilities was a goad to Ameriacn opinion.

(4) Of great, but oft ignore, import - the Americans entered the war as co-belligerents. They did not enter into formal alliance with the Entente powers - and in late 1918 even indicated they might pull out of the war if German Armistice requests were ignored.

warmest regards

dave
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>However, had the Lusitania never occured, the US would never have been drawn to the conflict at all; we would have continued our complete neutrality.<<

I'd have to disagree with that one, if only because the causes of a nation chancing war for any reason are never as simple as any one incident but a number of them which come together until something comes along to push things past the breaking point. The Lusitania was something that came, raised some heckles, but which quickly fell by the wayside over time, though it did make a useful rallying cry when it became convenient.

After you read This Translation of the Zimmerman Telegram, I don't think it'll strain anyone's intelligence to see why this was the straw that finally broke the camel's back. For some reason, nation-states are quite unamused when other parties decide to try and divide up their territory as if it were their own.

While one can bandy about forever the premise that the Lusitania was "deliberately sunk" in some grand conspiracy, the fatal flaw in the whole deal is the one wildcard that the British couldn't control, and that was Germany herself. Why would Germany co-operate with a scheme calculated to bring in another belligerant to fight against them?
 

Dave Moran

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Apr 23, 2002
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Further to my posting above re the coal shortage. From " British Naval Operational Logistics 1914-1918 " by Professor Jon Sumida

In the first four months of the war, the Grand Fleet kept boilers continually lit in order to deploy at two to three hours notice, and frequently went to sea in anticipation of German naval operations in the North Sea, activity that involved considerable consumption of fuel. Moreover, an absence of colliers to move the coal north to Rosyth and Scapa Flow ( Sumida suggests a 66% shortfall ) meant that coal mobility was limited as colliers were pulled away to service the needs of the fleet and to store the coal until it was called upon - which could be at short notice. In his memoirs Jellicoe remarked that " the situation as regards coal supply to the Fleet had become...very serious and was causing me some anxiety "

Moreover, whilst changes in standing orders meant that by early 1915 the collier shortage in home waters had eased, this was more than offset by the Dardanelles operation.

Keep in mind that, as a crack liner, Lusitania needed to use high quality coal for her operations. Moreover, though she might not be needed at the moment for naval operations, she might well be at some point in the future. Cunard would have been in serious trouble had her serviceability been impared through boilers that were knackered on poor quality nutty slack. The problem was - the Grand Fleet needed that same coal for their operations.

Finally - you cannot escape the effect of sea resistance versus speed. Basically, as a ships speed increases mathematically the amount of horsepower needed increases geometrically - for every knot of speed above a limit determined by hull shape horsepower must go up by an enormous leap. Thus, 18 kts is probably a speed that covers all the margins - fast enough to outrun submarines, slow enough not to wallop through limited coal reserves.

Warmest regards

dave
 

Jack Devine

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Jan 23, 2004
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I really don't believe that Churchill or anyone else in the government would have seriously considered sinking a liner full of civilians simply to affect public opinion in the U.S. Nothing I've ever read leads me to think that this would have ever been remotely considered for a moment. The idea of deliberately murdering hundreds, including women and children, would have horrified and offended those in government at the time, just as it would today. They could be ruthless, calculating, and perhaps even reckless with the lives of soldiers (the Dardanelles campaign comes to mind), but drowning innocents goes beyond the pale. Had they actually done this, word of it would eventually have gotten out and anyone involved might be fortunate to live long enough to reach the gallows.
 
G

Guest (R17)

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>>I really don't believe that Churchill or anyone else in the government would have seriously considered sinking a liner full of civilians simply to affect public opinion in the U.S. Nothing I've ever read leads me to think that this would have ever been remotely considered for a moment. The idea of deliberately murdering hundreds, including women and children, would have horrified and offended those in government at the time, just as it would today.<<

I'd agree with you. But it makes a good mystery story - no ? :)

My guess is that there could well have been some arms on the Lusitania - even if it were just a few guns.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I don't think that there's much doubt that the Lusitania was carrying some munitions. I don't think this is quite the scandal some might think and almost certainly not all that signifigent. The cargo capacity of a Transatlantic liner wasn't all that great and the rates for cargo aboard these ships were...so I'm given to understand...quite steep. Given the intensity of the fighting, even if the holds were stuffed completely full, the supplies would have barely lasted for an hour or two of actual combat operations.