Act of War

The 30,000 ton, four funnel, 785-foot-long Cunard liner RMS Lusitania was the largest, most luxurious vessel on the transatlantic passenger run. Newspapermen hailed her as ‘more beautiful than Solomon’s temple and big enough to hold all his wives’; ‘a skyscraper adrift and gorgeous in apartments; a marvel of speed and luxury’ and ‘as unsinkable as a ship can be’. But on 7 May 1915, the German submarine U-20 torpedoed her, and she sank in just eighteen minutes.

Of the 1,959 passengers on board, 1,198 lost their lives, including 128 citizens of the then neutral United States. But the importance of this act of war went far beyond the number of lives lost. It epitomised a new barbarism in which civilians became targets of technological warfare.

What’s more, after an escalating diplomatic crisis between the United States and Germany about Germany’s conduct of submarine warfare, it led to the United States’ entry into the First World War in April 1917.

This is the story of the maritime tragedy – similar in scale to that of the Titanic - that kick-started a series of events leading to the Allied victory in the First World War. Using personal accounts from diaries, letters and interviews, and transcripts from the trial, it is a moving and informative account of the sinking of the Lusitania, and the political aftermath.

  • Author: Diana & Michael Preston
  • Title: Act of War: The Sinking of the Lusitania
  • First Published by: Lume Books
  • First Published Format: Kindle
  • First Published Date: 16 February 2015

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