November we will feature blogs about World War I and World War II. We are kicking off November with the docu-drama Sinking of the Lusitania: Terror at Sea. This docu-drama was produced in 2007. It kicks off with the narration of Professor Ian Holbourn, one of the survivors of the Lusitania sinking. He was a second-class passenger and made friends with a young lady Avis Dolphin.
Germany unleashed the U-boat onto the world during World War I and it proved to be a deadly weapon. They were an underwater weapon. The British attempted to starve Germany into surrender, an illegal action at the time. The rules were being re-written. The British Admiralty did not take these weapons too seriously. However, they too report on U-Boat activity around the British Isles.
The First Lord of the Admiralty was Winston Churchill, he did not take it too seriously. He wanted to encourage neutral shipping into British waters. If one of these ships were sunk, especially if an American ship or American casualties were involved it could draw the United States into the War. Holbourn speculates that passenger liners could be targeted. He had been on a lecture tour of America and was coming home.
Lusitania was about to set sail in May 1915 when a notice appeared in the newspaper: “Notice! Travelers intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travelers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk. Imperial German Embassy Washington, D.C., 22 April 1915.”
The Lusitania was the British Flagship liner. The Germans would not sink a ship full of innocent people. Alfred Vanderbilt is being interviewed by journalists. He dismisses the warning as scaremongering by the Germans. A family is also about to board the ship. The mother is worried about boarding the ship. However, they would not get money their money back if they did not board it.
Captain Turner signs off on a shipment of munitions and assures the passengers that the Admiralty will look after them. They cite the size and speed of the ship. The Admiralty also receives the warning Lusitania got. The Admiralty dismisses the warning. The Lusitania sets sail with 2,000 souls on board.
At the same time, U-20 was making its way to the Irish Sea. Their travels are interrupted when they get a destroyer in their sights. They dive to avoid the destroyer. There is one young sailor who seems reluctant to be a part of the war effort. After avoiding the destroyer, they make their way to the Irish Sea.
The British Admiralty is listening in on the messages between U-20 and Germany. They know that the U-20 is heading to the Irish Sea. The Admiralty advises not to tell the Lusitania about U-20 since the ship is 100’s of miles away.
During the voyage, the passengers get used to life onboard the ship. It is here Professor Holbourn meets up with Avis Dolphin. They would become lifelong friends.
Continue to watch to see what happens. The Sinking of the Lusitania: Terror at Sea is a fascinating docu-drama. It is nice to finally see something involving the Lusitania. Titanic has been overdone. Both Germany and England produced this documentary. Show clips of this documentary or show the whole thing in a class. It is a good docu-drama to show in class.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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