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The Lusitania Story
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Group Reads Archive > May 2015- The Lusitania Story by Mitch Peeke

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message 1: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Welcome to May's group read of The Lusitania Story by Mitch Peeke.

Enjoy!


message 2: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Jennifer W wrote: "Welcome to May's group read of The Lusitania Story by Mitch Peeke."


Thanks Jennifer.

We also agreed participants could read other books about the Lusitania, so this is both a general discussion to mark the centenary of the sinking, and a discussion about various books, including The Lusitania Story by Mitch Peeke


message 3: by Nigeyb (last edited Nov 14, 2021 02:19AM) (new)

Nigeyb In readiness for this Lusitania discussion I recently finished reading…





Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age by Greg King and Penny Wilson

In another thread Mitch Peeke commented....

Mitch wrote: "We sort of styled THE LUSITANIA STORY as a "biography" of the ship."

Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age by Greg King and Penny Wilson took a different approach and the extent to which you are likely to enjoy their book about the sinking will largely depend upon your appetite for reading about the lives of the rich and privileged passengers who were aboard the vessel when she sank in May 1915. There were a lot of them, and authors Greg King and Penny Wilson spend the majority of the book providing details of their background, their lives and their intrigues, along with descriptions of the Lusitania's luxurious interiors. I am interested in the era and so found much to enjoy in this information. The knowledge of what is to befall all these people adds poignancy and an added grim fascination.

The drama of the actual sinking is truly gripping and it really helped me to imagine the experience and terror of being torpedoed and then sunk, on a vessel that was ill prepared for such an eventuality. The perfect storm of the Lusitania’s captain, Turner, making a succession of inexplicable errors of judgement, Britain waiving the "cruiser rules" (which made all liners liable to be torpedoed without warning by the enemy), and Germany’s new U-boats, all conspired to doom the Lusitania.

The story continues after the boat sinks and follows the survivors to Ireland and beyond, and also details how the lives of some of the survivors played out.

It’s an extraordinary tale and Greg King and Penny Wilson really do it justice in this engaging, thoroughly researched and well written account that personalises the tragedy whilst providing sufficient historical information to help the reader to view the tragedy within a broader historical context.

4/5


message 4: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val Did they not look at the results of the enquiry?


message 5: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ Yes, they do.


They also, and more interestingly, explore some of the myths, conspiracies and inconsistencies, for example, were two torpedoes fired or one.

By the by, the inquiry can be read online..

http://www.titanicinquiry.org/Lusitan...

The conclusion...

The Court, having carefully enquired into the circumstances of the above mentioned disaster, finds, that the loss of the said ship and lives was due to damage caused to the said ship by torpedoes fired by a submarine of German nationality whereby the ship sank.

In the opinion of the Court the act was done not merely with the intention of sinking the ship, but also with the intention of destroying the lives of the people on board.

Dated this seventeenth day of July, 1915.

MERSEY,
Wreck Commissioner.

We concur in the above Report,

F.S. INGLEFIELD,
H.J. HEARN,
DAVID DAVIES,
JOHN SPEDDING,
Assessors.



message 6: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val I was thinking particularly of this bit:

20. Was the loss of the " Lusitania " and/or the loss of life caused by the wrongful act or default of the master of the " Lusitania " or does any blame attach to him for such loss?

Answer:
No.


message 7: by Nigeyb (last edited May 01, 2015 02:14AM) (new)

Nigeyb ^ Ah.


I came away from Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age with the clear impression that Turner was negligent and partly responsible. The lack of drills involving the passengers, the condition of the life boats, the slow speed through the final stretch, his ignoring the instructions to zigzag etc. The inquiry was never going to blame him though as it would mean Cunard and/or Britain would be liable for numerous claims for compensation.

Turner was hampered by Cunard's problem of finding crew of the pre-War standard - though that does not excuse the shocking behaviour of some of them once the ship started to sink.

That said, the whole thing could have been avoided if Churchill and the admiralty, had no waived the Cruiser Rules, and it is interesting to reflect on the extent to which his reported “live bait” comment can be taken at face value.


message 8: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val According to the book I read, certain of the Admiralty representatives tried to blame Captain Turner to cover up their own shortcomings, but Lord Mersey insisted on seeing all the signals and orders and concluded that Captain Turner was obeying them. The instruction to zig-zag was only issued after he had left New York and not passed on to him. Neither was the most accurate information / estimate of the whereabouts of the U-boat. Captain Turner felt it was an attempt to make him a scapegoat.


message 9: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ That's interesting. It's a different emphasis in Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age. I have it on Kindle so cannot face trying to find the relevant section, however my recollection is that Turner definitely received the zigzag order, albeit towards the end of the voyage, the most high risk part, however stated he did not understand what it meant. I'm also pretty sure he did receive the intelligence about the U Boat (though cannot remember for sure).

The point made by numerous passengers was why was the Lusitania travelling so relatively slowly through the most dangerous part of the voyage. There was a suggestion that Turner was trying to time his arrival into Liverpool for late afternoon but that seems bizarre given the risks, particularly that a U Boat was in the area and had already sunk other vessels.

Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age spends quite a bit of time describing Turner's taciturn demeanour and disinclination to socialise - the suggestion being that he was stand offish and not willing to listen to the concerns of passengers, in particular a couple of passengers who queried why passengers was not participating in evacuation drills.


message 10: by Judy (last edited May 01, 2015 06:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I've just started reading Mitch's book and am fascinated by the descriptions of how grand the decor and furnishings of the ship were - the lounge with inlaid mahogany panels, the "sumptuous" green and yellow floral carpet and the stained glass windows. Then 18th-century style Adam decor in the writing room and library - and a regal suite based on Versailles. It almost sounds like a country house or a palace rather than a ship!


message 11: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val Judy: Mahogany panelling from her sister ship Mauretania ended up in my school. The decor of the two ships was different though, Mauretania had a lot of panelling.

Nigey: The enquiry answers the speed question:
http://www.titanicinquiry.org/Lusitan...
and the file of orders most of the rest (according to the other book, as those are not available online to check).
Orders to observe standing procedures (which had not included zig-zagging when ship sailed, but did by date of enquiry).
U-boat positions given were not near Kinsale / Cork Harbour and captain was not informed of sinkings.
Proper lifeboat drills cannot be carried out while underway, and ordered not to stop. (They could perhaps have been carried out in New York before sailing, on one side of the ship.)
Ship had been ordered into Queenstown (Cobh / Cork Harbour), not direct to Liverpool, and captain needed sight of land to confirm position for approach.


message 12: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb Very interesting - thanks Val.


From your informed comments I must conclude that The Lusitania Story by Mitch Peeke is far more authoritative and helpful on the facts surrounding the sinking.

Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age spends over half the book profiling many of the first class passengers - which I found interesting but perhaps they could have spent more time on the key facts,

I am relying on my memory however I came away with the clear impression that Turner was at fault for sailing too close to the Irish coast, going too slow, and not zigzagging. If I've remembered correctly, and based on what you state Val, that's positively misleading. Perhaps Susan can clarify if I have remembered correctly when she comes to comment?


message 13: by Val (last edited May 01, 2015 09:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val The emphasis of the book is obviously different.
That one probably concentrates on just the first class passengers because there would not be as much detailed information about the second and third class ones.
If they are going to include the sinking it would have been better to use more than passengers' accounts however. The enquiry concluded that two torpedoes were fired, but they did not have the U-boat's log or her captain's diary and there were two explosions, so that is understandable. It does not follow that the rest of the enquiry findings are false.


message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Thanks, Val - how interesting that the panelling from the Mauretania was at your school. Do you have photos?


message 15: by Val (last edited May 01, 2015 09:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val No I don't unfortunately and much of the school has been rebuilt since. I do remember it though, very dark, very shiney and with the names of our Oxbridge exhibition scholars in gold.


message 16: by Nigeyb (last edited May 01, 2015 10:22AM) (new)

Nigeyb Val wrote: "If they are going to include the sinking it would have been better to use more than passengers' accounts however"

I think they did actually. There is a bit of discussion about the various conspiracy theories which are not given much credibility. I'm wondering if I should read it again a bit more carefully. After the sinking, which was gripping, I was less engaged - though still interested - in all the aftermath. That said, the descriptions of the next few days in Ireland were eye opening, and demonstrate how far we've come in treating trauma victims and people who suffer due to disaster (at least in the developed world).


message 17: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val Nigeyb wrote: "Val wrote: "If they are going to include the sinking it would have been better to use more than passengers' accounts however"

I think they did actually. There is a bit of discussion about the various conspiracy theories which are not given much credibility."


They do seem to have dismissed / disagreed with the findings of the Board of Trade enquiry and the ship's log.


message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Thanks for the description of the panelling anyway, Val. I did find this site which has some photos of the interior of the Mauretania, including its regal suite:

http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/mauretani...

The Lusitania site related to the book we are reading by Mitch Peake has a visual tour of the ship, in illustrations rather than photos, which shows how amazing and colourful the interiors were - breathtaking stuff.

http://www.lusitania.net/tour.htm


message 20: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Thanks Val, I'll check if they are available.


message 21: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val There are plenty of other books about the great transatlantic liners. I am not obsessed enough to have looked at all of them, so good luck.


message 22: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Haha, I don't think I'll become that obsessed either, but it's nice to see some illustrations - it helps to visualise what it was all like.


message 23: by Susan (new)

Susan | 774 comments Val, thanks for this nomination. I had read, "Wilful Murder" previously and I read the Greg King one for this discussion. I also listened to a podcast with Erik Larson - author of "Dead Wake," and also waiting on my kindle.

I think there are so many unanswered questions with Lusitania. Did she carry weapons? Were there two torpedoes? Did the Admiralty allow passenger liners to go into danger in the hope it would bring America into the war?

Just a hypothetical question - but would any of you travelled on Lusitania, had you seen the advertisement which appeared in the New York Times shortly before sailing? I have to say that I might have still travelled, but not with my children.


message 24: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val I might read one of the broader interest books, now I have read the purely historical one. Which would you recommend Susan?

In answer to your hypothetical question: It would depend on the reason for the journey and how easily I could put it off. It would certainly make me stop and think about it.


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan | 774 comments I enjoyed the Greg King book, but I have read a few of his books. Dead Wake also has excellent reviews.

There did seem an air of arrogance about sailing, especially as Titanic happened only two years previously and other ships had been hit.


message 26: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb In answer to your question Susan, it would be an emphatic no from me, unless there was a very compelling reason, and even then I think the advertisement would make me think about a different vessel.


message 27: by Susan (new)

Susan | 774 comments Sensible answer, in my opinion, Nigeyb! I have to say that I would really think twice and I would not have sailed with my family on board.


message 28: by Mitch (last edited May 02, 2015 06:45AM) (new)

Mitch Peeke Nigeyb wrote: "Very interesting - thanks Val.


From your informed comments I must conclude that The Lusitania Story by Mitch Peeke is far more authoritative and helpful on the facts..."

Hello Nigeyb!
Just wanted to clarify a couple of points for you regarding Captain Turner's supposed negligence.
1. The order to zig-zag, though DRAFT dated 16th April 1915, was not issued till May 2nd. The very first Turner saw of that order was when it was used against him at the inquiry. He had a Feb 10th ADVICE note saying that if a sub was SIGHTED, to steer a "serpentine course". That was NOT an order!
2. Legally, too close to the coast in wartime was FIVE miles offshore. Turner was 14 miles offshore when he was attacked and the wreck is 11.2 miles offshore. Turner's sailing instructions from the Admiralty told him to "maintain at least TEN miles between his ship and the Irish coast".
3. Lack of lifeboat drill. Much is often made of this. How would such a drill be done I wonder? Fill the boats with passengers and have them lowered with the ship making 20 knots across the Atlantic? Stop the ship, lower the lifeboats to practice abandoning her and pray no U-Boat was watching at the time? Get all the passengers into the boats but don't lower them, then get everyone out of the boats again? Those were Turner's options for boat drill aboard the Lusitania in wartime. I think you'll agree that all three are pretty absurd!
Unfortunately, this is the lasting legacy of Captain Richard Webb's infamous memo and the Admiralty's thoroughly discreditable attempt to have Captain Turner blamed for the loss of his ship. The ship they failed to protect.


message 29: by Nigeyb (new)

Nigeyb ^ Thanks Mitch - very illuminating.


message 30: by Susan (new)

Susan | 774 comments The ship certainly was unprotected - yet passengers seem to have expected an escort. Mitch, I am interested in why you think no escort was provided? Do you think the Admiralty wanted passenger ships to be attacked for propaganda reasons?


message 31: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Susan wrote: "Val, thanks for this nomination. I had read, "Wilful Murder" previously and I read the Greg King one for this discussion. I also listened to a podcast with Erik Larson - author of "Dead Wake," an..."
Hi Susan,
Kapitan-Leutnant Schwieger stated in his log that he fired only one torpedo. This is backed up by his torpedo inventory and u20's log.
The Lusitania herself was not armed but she was most definitely carrying a considerable cargo of munitions.
The Admiralty used passenger liners to transport munitions because they were faster and in theory, less likely to be attacked. Churchill had indeed CONSIDERED the possibility that one of them would be attacked and that there may well be American deaths as a result and that America may well declare war because of it, but he didn't physically engineer the disaster as others have suggested. He was good, but he wasn't THAT good!


message 32: by Mitch (last edited May 03, 2015 02:38AM) (new)

Mitch Peeke Nigeyb wrote: "^ That's interesting. It's a different emphasis in Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy, and the End of the Edwardian Age. I have it on Kindle so cannot face trying to find the relevant se..."
Hi Nigeyb,

We put more of an emphasis on Captain Turner in our book, as he was wrongly blamed for the disaster and after writing a biography of him, we thought he deserved far better than he got. He was in fact an outstanding seaman and a highly skilled Master. He'd been Cunard's Commodore Captain since the end of 1913 and was not put in that position because he was negligent or traitorous!


message 33: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Judy wrote: "Thanks for the description of the panelling anyway, Val. I did find this site which has some photos of the interior of the Mauretania, including its regal suite:

http://www.twmuseums.org.uk/mauret..."


Hi Judy,
So glad you liked our TOUR pages! They've been a very popular part of our website for quite some time!


message 34: by Val (new) - rated it 4 stars

Val Thanks Mitch.
I understand that the cargo manifest filed with US Customs includes munitions, but the version released to the newspapers is vague at best.


message 35: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Nigeyb wrote: "^ Thanks Mitch - very illuminating."

Happy to help!!


message 36: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Susan wrote: "The ship certainly was unprotected - yet passengers seem to have expected an escort. Mitch, I am interested in why you think no escort was provided? Do you think the Admiralty wanted passenger sh..."

Hi Susan,
Turner was told that he would be escorted by HMS Juno, a cruiser. He told his passengers this on the thursday night of the voyage, after several of them had expressed concerns that they would be entering the war zone the next day."Tomorrow, we shall be securely in the hands of the Royal Navy" he'd said to them.
Unknown to Turner though, was the fact that the Admiralty had cancelled his planned escort the day before. They were worried about U20's activities and did not want a repeat of "the livebait squadron" debacle, so HMS Juno was recalled to Queenstown; without telling Turner.


message 37: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Val wrote: "Thanks Mitch.
I understand that the cargo manifest filed with US Customs includes munitions, but the version released to the newspapers is vague at best."


Hi Val,
Yes, the one given out to the press was a deliberately sanitised version issued by the ship's underwriters. The REAL one ran to 27 pages and was NEVER printed in ANY newspaper!


message 38: by Susan (new)

Susan | 774 comments Interesting, Mitch - many thanks. I often think too much is made of Lusitania bringing the States into the war, as it took two more years, although it probably made individuals join up.


message 39: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Susan wrote: "Interesting, Mitch - many thanks. I often think too much is made of Lusitania bringing the States into the war, as it took two more years, although it probably made individuals join up."
Hi Susan,

Yes, they did try to put the disaster to good propaganda use, especially recruiting posters, but you are quite correct; the sinking did not bring the US into the war. It was, I think, a catalyst; but the straw that broke the camel's back in that respect was in fact the Zimmermann telegram of course.


message 40: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Just noticed there is an article about the Lusitania in the current BBC History magazine (May edition) - I couldn't resist buying a copy. The article, 'Did Britain Doom the Lusitania?', by Saul David, isn't available online unless you subscribe to the digital edition, but is an interesting read - it does criticise the captain, but, as the title suggests, also levels blame at the British authorities, in particular for putting munitions on board.

The magazine has put up a gallery of images of the sinking:

http://www.historyextra.com/lusitania


message 41: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Mitch wrote: "Hi Judy,
So glad you liked our TOUR pages! They've been a very popular part of our website for quite some time! "


Thanks Mitch, it's great to see what it looked like on board.


message 42: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Judy wrote: "Mitch wrote: "Hi Judy,
So glad you liked our TOUR pages! They've been a very popular part of our website for quite some time! "

Thanks Mitch, it's great to see what it looked like on board."


I'd have loved to to have seen it all for real, though! Especially the First Class Lounge and the Bridge.


message 43: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Judy wrote: "Just noticed there is an article about the Lusitania in the current BBC History magazine (May edition) - I couldn't resist buying a copy. The article, 'Did Britain Doom the Lusitania?', by Saul Dav..."
Just took a look at that web page, Thanks!


message 44: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Thanks Mitch - I also just followed the link from there to the site about the exhibition about the Lusitania at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. It would be interesting to go and see it, but it's the wrong end of the country for me:

http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ma...


message 45: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Judy wrote: "Thanks Mitch - I also just followed the link from there to the site about the exhibition about the Lusitania at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. It would be interesting to go and see it, but it's th..."
Did you see the cushion? It was sent to me from Australia in 2003. It came by Air Mail in a black bin liner, done up with parcel tape! I had it valued by a specialist I know and he said to insure it for at least £6,000 back then. When I donated it to The Merseyside Maritime Museum, they sent an armoured truck to collect it from my house!


message 46: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments No, I haven't had a detailed look at the site as yet, but will do so when I've finished the book - and will definitely look at the cushion!


message 47: by Susan (new)

Susan | 774 comments That is a wonderful thing you did, Mitch, to give the cushion to the museum. I have been to that museum too and it is a really interesting place.


message 48: by Susan (new)

Susan | 774 comments Totally off topic, but the book about Mary Benson, mentioned a while ago on the group is a kindle deal of the day today. As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil, the impossible life of Mary Benson


message 49: by Mitch (last edited May 02, 2015 12:42PM) (new)

Mitch Peeke Judy wrote: "No, I haven't had a detailed look at the site as yet, but will do so when I've finished the book - and will definitely look at the cushion!"
Full story is on the DISASTER page of www.lusitania.net as well. It actually has a story of its own!


message 50: by Mitch (new)

Mitch Peeke Susan wrote: "That is a wonderful thing you did, Mitch, to give the cushion to the museum. I have been to that museum too and it is a really interesting place."
Thanks for that! To be honest, the guy who sent it to me asked me never to sell it. I get dozens of emails every month asking if I buy/sell/deal in Lusitania memorabilia. I never have and never will. My policy is "share the wealth", be that information, images, documents etc. FREELY. I don't believe that history should be in the hands of private collectors. It belongs to all of us.

To me, she was a Liverpool ship with a Liverpool Captain, so where better to send the cushion than her homeport? In the museum it is safe and accessible to ALL. That's why our website is free to everyone and we never charge for the use of our images, even if they are for use by publishers. The site has grown considerably since its launch as people who have these items send pictures to us and we share them with the world; freely.


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