Why Was The Wreck Used For Depth Charge Practice?


Dec 23, 2017
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One question iv always had is why would the Irish or the British government use the Lusitania for target practice? More and more dives to the wreck find a increasingly amount of them at the wreck site. It could not have been to "Cover up" the second explosion as they did not destroy the magazine and still to this day is intact and proves that regardless on what was put in the "Magazine" did not explode.
My guess was that it was just a easy ship to find and practice at

Any ideas?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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It was a secure datum for a sonar target so there was no especially good reason....in their eyes...not to use it. It was also a good way to discourage hostile submarines from using the wreck as a hiding place.

Now all that said, exactly what 'magazine' are you referring to? The Lusitania was unarmed at the time of her sinking.
 
Dec 23, 2017
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Simply referring to the forward cargo hold that everyone keeps calling the "Magazine" all the time. That's why i put "" around it as its just a cargo hold
 
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Aaron_2016

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.....My guess was that it was just a easy ship to find and practice at. Any ideas?
There were several attempts to salvage her valuable cargo in the 1920's and even proposals to raise the entire wreck! Perhaps the British government decided they had enough of the newspaper attention and the rapid interest in salvaging her, so they sent the navy out to conduct training exercises and patrol the area and reluctantly destroyed the wreck to stop the treasure seekers and hopefully put an end to the growing interest in salvaging the cargo from the many ships that went down in British waters in WW1 which probably numbered in their hundreds. Perhaps they believed there was a real possibility she was carrying illegal armaments and they could not take the risk of that information being made public, or they were concerned that any efforts to raise the wreck might actually work and create a precedent for salvagers to raise all of the wrecks off British and Irish shores. Not sure, but was there a law passed which made all valuable British shipwrecks the property of the British government? Perhaps they felt that salvagers would break the law, and instead of pulling the navy out of essential areas and patrolling the area above the wreck they decided it was best to destroy the wreck and hopefully put an end to the salvage projects.

Here are newspaper articles about salvaging and raising the wreck in the 1920's.


New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, August 01, 1920, Page 4, Image 56

The Washington times. (Washington [D.C.]) 1902-1939, June 04, 1922, SUNDAY MORNING, Image 44

Bisbee daily review. (Bisbee, Ariz.) 1901-1971, May 21, 1922, Section Two, Page Page Three, Image 9

The Washington herald. (Washington, D.C.) 1906-1939, June 23, 1922, Image 1

Norwich bulletin. (Norwich, Conn.) 1895-2011, May 19, 1922, Image 14



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Dec 2, 2000
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>>Perhaps they believed there was a real possibility she was carrying illegal armaments and they could not take the risk of that information being made public<<

Actually, they knew better. The ammunition carried on the Lusitania was no secret. All of it, from the rifle cartridges to the empty shell casings was documented on the amended manifest which was filed after the ship sailed. Since the British government was the customer, they didn't have to speculate on what was aboard. They knew.
 
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Aaron_2016

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>>Perhaps they believed there was a real possibility she was carrying illegal armaments and they could not take the risk of that information being made public<<

Actually, they knew better. The ammunition carried on the Lusitania was no secret. All of it, from the rifle cartridges to the empty shell casings was documented on the amended manifest which was filed after the ship sailed. Since the British government was the customer, they didn't have to speculate on what was aboard. They knew.

My understanding is that the Lusitania was carrying a limited amount of armaments that was legal and the British government made that figure public, but in reality they may have known in secret that the ship may have been carrying a greater amount that far exceeded the quota that was allowed, and if the true figure was disclosed to the public then Germany would have felt their actions were justified and the ship was a legitimate target. The propaganda machine was turning high during, and between the wars, and my guess is the navy or possibly the newly formed government were kept in the dark and the blunders, corruption and atrocities were covered up after the war.

Then again, maybe the fishing trawlers were losing too many nets because of the countless shipwrecks off the British and Irish coast and the navy stepped in to destroy the wrecks so that the fishing community could flourish without the difficulty of manoeuvring between the wrecks.


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Dec 2, 2000
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>>but in reality they may have known in secret that the ship may have been carrying a greater amount that far exceeded the quota that was allowed<<

Bailey and Ryan in their work on the Lusitania refuted that over 40 years ago. There's no conspiracy, no secret cargos or the like. There never was.
 
Nov 14, 2005
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Really interesting thread. I never really looked into the Lusitania much except for the general story. Didn't know about her being used as target practice. In your research did you come across anything about her now being covered by the War Graves Act. I know the Act was passed long after she sank but since she was sunk as an act of war I wonder if she qualifies now?
 
Dec 23, 2017
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Well i know John Light (The American Diver that said he found a gaping whole from the munitions exploding, was completely wrong) bought the wreck in the 60's and through out the next 3 decades had salvage expeditions to it and some people even wanting to raise it. All of this was done without the British government without care, even the 2015 expedition where it cut part of the hull open and retrieved shells from the cargo hold had no red tape to go through to be allowed to do it. Im pretty sure it was not effected
 
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Aaron_2016

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>>but in reality they may have known in secret that the ship may have been carrying a greater amount that far exceeded the quota that was allowed<<

Bailey and Ryan in their work on the Lusitania refuted that over 40 years ago. There's no conspiracy, no secret cargos or the like. There never was.
Thanks, but who are Bailey and Ryan? Did they gain access to undisclosed records from the war office? I googled their names and a book on Amazon from 1975 popped up, and the top review said their work was biased. e.g. "Thomas A. Bailey and Paul B. Ryan, together, present an ultra-nationalistic, biased interpretation of the policies, decisions and events leading up to the sinking of the Lusitania." If this is true, then their analyses of the truth might be suspect at best. Perhaps they were very patriotic and were seeing the evidence through rose coloured glasses, or were funded by the government to repeat the old patriotic narratives like the wartime propaganda to quash any mistakes or criminal activities, especially if it led to something much bigger - similar perhaps to the aftermath of the Titanic when Colonel Gracie's book and Lawrence Beesley's book which were both published not long after the disaster had both praised the company and the board of trade and both dismissed the allegations that the ship broke in two.

Perhaps the records were destroyed and a false set were duplicated to kill any press stories, and the newly formed government could not confirm or deny with absolute certainty what the Lusitania was carrying and they decided it was better to be cautious and destroy the wreck rather than allowing the possibility of its contents be known especially with the growing interest in salvaging the ship and her cargo in the 1920's.


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Dec 23, 2017
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If that was their intention then they did fail at it since even in 2015 they where able to send a ROV into the hold and look at the contents inside
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Thanks, but who are Bailey and Ryan? Did they gain access to undisclosed records from the war office? I googled their names and a book on Amazon from 1975 popped up, and the top review said their work was biased. e.g. "Thomas A. Bailey and Paul B. Ryan, together, present an ultra-nationalistic, biased interpretation of the policies, decisions and events leading up to the sinking of the Lusitania." If this is true, then their analyses of the truth might be suspect at best. Perhaps they were very patriotic and were seeing the evidence through rose coloured glasses, or were funded by the government to repeat the old patriotic narratives like the wartime propaganda to quash any mistakes or criminal activities, especially if it led to something much bigger - similar perhaps to the aftermath of the Titanic when Colonel Gracie's book and Lawrence Beesley's book which were both published not long after the disaster had both praised the company and the board of trade and both dismissed the allegations that the ship broke in two.

Perhaps the records were destroyed and a false set were duplicated to kill any press stories, and the newly formed government could not confirm or deny with absolute certainty what the Lusitania was carrying and they decided it was better to be cautious and destroy the wreck rather than allowing the possibility of its contents be known especially with the growing interest in salvaging the ship and her cargo in the 1920's.


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The top reviews are essentially conspiracy theory oriented drek of no real consequence. These two set out to refute...point by point....the great grand daddy of Lusitania conspiracy theorist, Colin Simpson and they did so in fine fashion using PRIMARY sources.

There is nothing suspect about it.

>>"Thomas A. Bailey and Paul B. Ryan, together, present an ultra-nationalistic, biased interpretation of the policies, decisions and events leading up to the sinking of the Lusitania." <<

I've actually read the book. They did nothing of the kind.
 
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PRR5406

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There are a lot of conflicts in this depth-charging issue. The "Lusitania" was a commercial liner, sunk by a hostile nation, killing over 1,000 civilians. If there ever was a war grave, that is it. The hull was probably "ship shape" and not collapsed. Blowing the ship apart or collapsing the hull would certainly be desecration. Symbolically, the "Lusitania" was a righteous call to arms, and not some tramp freighter. Some salvage or exploration of the liner had taken place, post war, by the British government, while everyone else was warned off.

I don't think it was to stop commercial salvage of cargo.
I don't think it was to test weapons on a ship full of heroic corpses.
I doubt it had anything to do with preventing fishing net snags.
Her contemporary sister liners were still in service, so there would be no archaeology involved.

Imagine the howling if weapons had been tested on, say "Carpathia" or "Titanic"?

The wreck was being destroyed for a political reason, as of yet, uncovered. I'm actually surprised a significant amount of the wreck hasn't been opened and further examined by marine archaeologists and historians. And here I mean, raising hull plating and opening the ships ribs and interior spaces. This would require huge salvage barges and cranes, not to mention saturation divers doing dangerous work. The expense would be huge and the rewards mostly intangible, but there is more to the "Lusitania" than meets the eye or surfaced to date.
 
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Aaron_2016

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A few theories.

- The wreck was destroyed because there was a potential threat that U-boats would use the wreck to mask their appearance from any radar signals detected.

- The wreck was destroyed because there was a blunder and somebody reported the radar signal for a U-boat wolf pack when it was simply the wreck of the Lusitania and they blew it up. I can picture a navy captain saying - "Better safe than sorry."

- The ship was carrying a legal permitted amount of armaments. With tensions growing in Ireland and the carnage occurring in towns and cities like Cork, the proximity of the wreck may have been a tempting offer to salvage as much armaments as they could to arm the resistance in Ireland against the British.

- The British airforce had to drop their bombs before they could land. There is a theory that the famous dance band leader Glenn Miller was killed when his plane was crossing the channel and flew underneath the allied bombers as they unloaded their bombs into the sea and one of them struck his plane. If they were doing the same kind of practice near the Lusitania wreck then perhaps it was destroyed by the air force?

- If there were U-boats in the area during WW2 then possibly they were fired upon by warships and dive bombed by allied planes. Perhaps the Lusitania wreck was caught in the middle and took heavy damage from the battle that was raging on the surface?

- Perhaps a scan of the area might reveal that other shipwrecks are also badly damaged from depth charges and dive bombers? My great great uncle was in command of a ship that went down with all hands in 1918 during the war and the wreck is resting not far from the Lusitania. It is almost unrecognizable in the photos I saw. Perhaps the navy were using a much broader area to conduct their training and manoeuvres and the Lusitania was simply one target out of many that they used for practice in that area?


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PRR5406

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Neither sonar nor radar were invented at the time of the depth charging. You can scratch those two theories. German subs of the era (WW1) wouldn't know where the wreck was unless they ran into it. Submarines weren't all that sophisticated until the end of WW2, and really not until the late 1950's.
"Lusitania" was intentionally demolished with explosives for some reason(s). I have a strong feeling that prevention of embarrassing salvage played a role in that decision.
 
Dec 23, 2017
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Yeah, much like leaving the Lusitania alone that day, there was some decision or reason behind it. Sadly much like the reasons to leave the ship unprotected, we will never know who made the decision or the real motives behind it.

It's always made me real sad how old Lucy has been treated in her death
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>The wreck was being destroyed for a political reason, as of yet, uncovered.<<

There is ZERO evidence to support that claim!

I think I'm seeing a hint of temprocentrism here in assuming that there would have been some sort of sentimentality towards the wreck and that's a pretty risky assumption. Just because it was Lusitania and the center of a call to arms in 1915 doesn't mean it would have been seen with the same measure of respect in 1939. Especially when the U Boat menace was rearing it's head and the MoD had to know what a wonderful hiding spot it would be for hostile submarines.

Beware assumptions and beware looking for sinister motives where there are none in evidence.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Yeah, much like leaving the Lusitania alone that day, there was some decision or reason behind it. Sadly much like the reasons to leave the ship unprotected, we will never know who made the decision or the real motives behind it.

It's always made me real sad how old Lucy has been treated in her death

In 2015 during the 100th anniversary I was going to take a train journey down to the south of Ireland. There was meant to be a big ceremony at the old head of Kinsale and they were going to raise one of the whistles from the wreck and blow it at the time she sank. It was big news here, and yet it never happened because of so called 'red tape' so I cancelled my plans. Even the owner of the wreck was infuriated because it was his idea to raise the whistle for the anniversary and he was refused permission by the government.


Government 'spiteful' over Lusitania dive rules

The owner Mr. Bemis said - "It's my property. I bought it. I invested in it. Is it wrong for me to want to recover it? I'm trying to find out what caused the second explosion properly. I don't think that's being arrogant, I think that's being responsible."


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PRR5406

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Sometimes you have to defy the government to get to the truth and accomplish what is right.
Yes, there are consequences, but popular opinion holds sway in an issue like this. Look, one of her propellers has been retrieved and displayed in Liverpool.

There seems to be enough inconclusive evidence to point a bloodhound in the direction of some kind of official policy. WW1 British politics were hardly innocent. I doubt "Lusitania" was chosen as a sitting duck, but some ship or even a near miss from U-Boats would have enraged America at that point.
 

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