Borderline cargo


Arun Vajpey

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Although the Lusitania might not have been carrying any ammunitions as such, would not rifle shells, cartridges etc be considered as contributory to the British war effort in the eyes of the Germans irrespective of what Washington said? Those things could not be classified as supplies and the Lusitania was still listed as an Armed Merchant Cruiser, even though she never had any guns mounted like her sister ship.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>would not rifle shells, cartridges etc be considered as contributory to the British war effort in the eyes of the Germans irrespective of what Washington said?<<

If I recall correctly, they tried to make that case, and they really wouldn't have been wrong. You don't use rifle ammunition to plant flowers although anyone on the dirty end could well end up pushing up daisys!

The amount the Lusitania carried might have looked impressive on paper but it was actually quite trivial and wouldn't have lasted that long out on the front. The troops could burn through the rifle ammunition alone in less then an hour. Same with the unfilled artillary shells...one they had been filled with the bursting charge.
 

Arun Vajpey

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>>>>>> The amount the Lusitania carried might have looked impressive on paper but it was actually quite trivial and wouldn't have lasted that long out on the front. The troops could burn through the rifle ammunition alone in less then an hour.<<<<<<<

Perhaps, but the fact that it was THERE would be sufficient excuse as far as the German High Command was concerned to justify the attack.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Perhaps, but the fact that it was THERE would be sufficient excuse as far as the German High Command was concerned to justify the attack.<<

Which of course, they attempted to do. It didn't go over very well in light of the casualties among civilians. Keep in mind that the skipper of the U-20 didn't really have any specific information on that and didn't need it. For him, it was enough that the vessel was flying the flag of a state with which his country was at war. That and the fact that the Lusitania was designed to be converted to an armed merchent cruiser was justification enough.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Agreed. If the situation had been reversed and a British ship or submarine was faced with a German passenger ship that was listed as an AMC and suspected to be aiding the Kaiser's war effort in some way, I am sure Churchill would have given explicit instructions to attack unless there was a diplomatic reason (eg American passengers) not to do so.
 
V

vince von lamburg

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The Germans were suspicious of the British from other attempts to hide guns on deck behind objects on non-combative ship and attacking the U-Boats when they surfaced. This suspicion probably carried over to the Lusitania. Captain Turner knew he was sailing into waters stated in a notice in New York, etc. that sailing in such waters was dangerous and any ship is likely to be destroyed. Churchill knew this also and it may have been planned to sacrifice people and ship to force the U.S. into the war in which the U.S. wanted no part of. If was a European problem not an American and the sinking did not make an effect to enter such a war. Captain Turner was instructed to zig-zag to avoid being attached and he refused to do it, refused to sail as fast as possible also. Maybe the British and Germans are at fault in this sinking.
 

Adam Went

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I agree, I think the terrible tragedy and hefty loss of life sometimes shadows that neither side is completely innocent in all of this. The Lusitania should not have been sunk whilst carrying so many innocent passengers, nor should she have been used to ferry war materials of any kind across the ocean. Indeed, if what the hold manifests state she was carrying is correct (and despite the heated debates about this, the condition of the ship now will probably permanently prevent it being proved otherwise), then it was quite trivial.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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If Churchill had been planning to sacrifice the ship and any of the people aboard, you can be certain that the very last thing they would have done would be to put ammunition aboard. Ammunition which was needed desperately enough that they were placing it in any movable bottom that they could.

If Chruchill wanted to force the U.S. into a war it didn't want, he would have to do a lot better then the Lusitania affair which caused a lot of fluster but ultimately was not enough to bring the U.S. into the war. Remember, the Lusitania was sunk in 1915. The U.S. didn't enter the war until April 6 1917 with the casus belli stated being the Zimmerman Telegram. (See Zimmermann Telegram - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )
 
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I had a question related to Lusitania's cargo, that would seem plausible at least.
(And to my knowledge has never been brought up before.) https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.o...30520-lusitanias-last-voyages.html#post362639

But the simple fact of the matter is that the British required shipping, and the Lusitania represented (only one ship of several) a quick way of bringing needed supplies across quickly. I seriously doubt the British wanted to lose a vessel like her, since they were in no position to build anymore large liners for troop or transport use. Such a loss represented a serious waste of resources, I would imagine their view at the time was something like 'the longer ships like the Lusitania could carry war supplies for the British the better'.
 
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>>I seriously doubt the British wanted to lose a vessel like her..<<

They didn't, but the implications surrounding ammunition and neferious conspiracy theories that the government trying to get the ship sunk to draw the U.S. into the war being conflated and confused is a neat way for conspiracy theorists to reconcile two completely opposing positions.

In other words, they're trying to have it both ways.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

Yes that's true, but then the US was late for both World Wars, let's not forget.

If Churchill, the Admiralty or whoever was intent on sending serious ammunition over the ocean, they would have been wise enough not only in terms of protecting innocent civilians but also in terms of pure logic to send it on a smaller, more nimble war vessel with trained crews, not the Lusitania which was one of the largest and most recognisable ocean liners afloat at the time.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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A war vessel is even more useless for cargo carriage then an express liner, the latter of which at least does have dedicated cargo space, even if it's a premium rates.

Warships have only their magazines and while auxilary vessels such as dedicated ammunition ships have the cargo capacity, they are anything but nimble.

What was needed was ammunition and they were sending it over on every available bottom. With that in mind, the're would be nothing to gain by deliberately arranging for the ship to be targeted and sunk, and with the spare troop carrying capacity, everything to lose.
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

Yes, but warships were and are equipped for at least attempting to defend themselves against attack from the enemy, be it above or below the surface. That is why they are warships. Passenger ships, and specifically the Lusitania, was not equipped for such purposes. The amount of space in a cargo hold is a minimal issue in comparison to the safety of civilians or the most logical means of getting precious ammunition as quickly and safely as possible across the ocean.

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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I have always assumed that the ammunition that was being carried aboard the Lusitania was intended for small arms and, as such, was the kind of material that would have regularly been carried in peace time. The Germans could clearly argue that any kind of ammunition was "war" cargo, but there is one point that I do not understand. If, for the sake of argument, the ship was carrying American military rifle rounds, would they have been compatible with British .303 weapons (and when did the US change to rimless rounds?)
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Yes, but warships were and are equipped for at least attempting to defend themselves against attack from the enemy, be it above or below the surface.<<

However, they are useless as cargo vessels, and this is what you are proposing.

BTW, you are aware that the Lusitania was faster then the vast majority of warships in service at the time, are you not? Further, you are aware of the fact that were it not for one final and fatal turn, the U20 would never have got a firing solution on the ship, are you not? (One little mistake!)

>>The amount of space in a cargo hold is a minimal issue in comparison to the safety of civilians or the most logical means of getting precious ammunition as quickly and safely as possible across the ocean.<<

On the contrary, when the objective is to get as much from one side of the pond to the other "The More Space The Merrier" rules!
 

Adam Went

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Stanley:

The way the Germans would have seen it (or at least made it appear that way) is that every one of those ammunition shells could be responsible for killing a German soldier. Whilst carrying such material in peace time is more acceptable, in mid-1915 it was hardly going to be transported for peace-keeping purposes. Furthermore, remember the warning published in the paper - the Germans were well and truly aware of the Lusitania.

Michael:

Better to carry ammunitions on a ship which is useless for cargo but which is equipped defensively for the purpose than on a passenger vessel.

Lusitania might have been faster than most warships but that doesn't help you when you're more than 700 feet long, does it? It's like trying to hit the side of a barn with a rock. True, she could outrun a U-Boat, but again she was not defensively equipped and her sheer size would have made her more difficult to manouver than your average warship as well.

Don't forget that warships usually travelled in convoys too, good move if you're spreading the ammunition load between you. Whereas Lusitania was on her lonesome and if she went down then so did the whole lot of the cargo....which, incidentally, is exactly what happened!

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Better to carry ammunitions on a ship which is useless for cargo but which is equipped defensively for the purpose than on a passenger vessel.<<

Not really. When you need thousands of tonnes of the stuff, then you need a cargo vessel.

>>Lusitania might have been faster than most warships but that doesn't help you when you're more than 700 feet long, does it? It's like trying to hit the side of a barn with a rock.<<

Actually, it's not. Firing solutions for torpedos have to be based on where the target vessel is expected to be given a set of values such as a known course and speed. If this changes, you're firing solution is in the toilet.

Don't forget that even in World War Two, in order for even a few to strike the targets, hoards of these things had to be fired and it's an absolute fact that the vast majority of them missed. Submarines typically fired a spread of between four to six in the hopes that one or two would hit...and this was aiming at battleships and aircraft carriers!

>>Don't forget that warships usually travelled in convoys too, good move if you're spreading the ammunition load between you. Whereas Lusitania was on her lonesome and if she went down then so did the whole lot of the cargo....which, incidentally, is exactly what happened!<<

And which wouldn't have happened had Captain Turner followed his orders.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Just as a matter of some interest, if anybody is interested in what it takes for a submarine to develop a viable firing solution for an attack with unguided straight run torpedos, click on Submarine Torpedo Fire Control Manual

Even with a huge honking target, it's not even close to being as easy as one might think. (And fire control computers and protocols were vastly more well developed and understood in World War Two then they were in World War One!)
 

Adam Went

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Michael:

Then if you need a cargo vessel, and a warship will not suffice, then why not send a properly equipped cargo vessel? The point that i'm trying to get across here is that so many people died on the Lusitania and it was one of the great tragedies of WWI, and for what? If the Germans sunk her because she was carrying munitions and that's all it was, then no matter which way you look at it, it was careless to send the munitions on the Lusitania in the first place. It was just asking for trouble really, especially given the notice the Germans had published in the paper a week beforehand.

I'm aware that firing on a ship was not easy, especially with 1915 technology, however would you rather be shooting at a 700 foot long vessel with no defensive equipment or a 300 foot long warship with guns, depth charges, etc??

Cheers,
Adam.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Then if you need a cargo vessel, and a warship will not suffice, then why not send a properly equipped cargo vessel?<<

They did. The point your missing is that the need was great enough that the UK was sending ammunition acrosss on any bottom with usable cargo space they could find. Passenger ships had usable cargo space so they were used.

It's really as simple as that.

>>If the Germans sunk her because she was carrying munitions and that's all it was, then no matter which way you look at it, it was careless to send the munitions on the Lusitania in the first place. <<

The Germans sank her because she was flying the Union Jack. That's really all there is to it Kapitänleutnant Schwieger didn't even know there was ammunition aboard, really had no way of knowing and didn't care. The whole ammunition thing didn't come up until after the event. In fact, the sinking wasn't even sanctioned by the German government. (You are aware of the fact that Schwieger actually got censured for this, are you not?) The reason they ended up playing along with it publicly is because they really didn't have a choice in the matter.

>>I'm aware that firing on a ship was not easy, especially with 1915 technology, however would you rather be shooting at a 700 foot long vessel with no defensive equipment or a 300 foot long warship with guns, depth charges, etc??<<

This is irrelevant to the issue of what it takes to engage a target successfully in the first place.
 

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