TORPEDO ATTACK on LUSITANIA (Illustration) Famous Historical Events World History Disasters World War I

Thomas M. M. Hemy (1852-1937), a British painter, produced this artist's interpretation of the crippled Lusitania after her torpedo attack.  It is online via SearleCanada.org.

Schwieger knew he had either Lusitania or her sister-ship in his sights. When the fog cleared, U-20  had surfaced. Low on fuel, she was making her way to Fastnet.
A lookout spotted smoke off the starboard bow. Schwieger counted four funnels. He believed the ship was 12-14 miles away. Probably too far for a successful hit, but if she were heading to Queenstown? Maybe. It was 13:20 Greenwich Mean Time.
Schwieger reported what he saw to his pilot:

Four funnels, schooner rig, upwards of 20,000 tons and making about 22 knots.

The pilot checked his manuals. He reported to Schwieger:

Either the Lusitania or the Mauretania.

Brassey's Naval Annual  listed both as armed merchant ships:

Both are cruisers and used for trooping.

The captain ordered a G-type torpedo to be loaded into a forward tube. Watching the target ship through his binoculars, Schwieger could not believe his eyes. The ship was changing course, putting herself directly where U-20 needed her to be!

In his logbook, Schwieger noted

...the ship turns to starboard then takes a course to Queenstown.

Closing in on each other, the two ships were 650 yards apart.

Traveling at a speed of about 38 knots, the torpedo streaked toward Lusitania's starboard side. From the crow's nest, Lusitania's lookout spotted the unthinkable:

There is a torpedo coming, sir!

There was no time to react. U-20's torpedo struck Lusitania "between the third and fourth funnels." The ship shuddered. An eyewitness said it sounded like:

...the sound of an arrow entering the canvas and straw of a target magnified a thousand times.

Then, nearly instantaneously, the Lusitania exploded. Not from a second torpedo. From an internal explosion.

Nearly 2,000 people had 18 minutes to get off the mortally wounded, quickly-sinking liner. (Follow the link to a rare copy of the "Annex to the Report," from the official inquiry conducted by Lord Mersey.)

Most would not make it.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: May 19, 2015

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"TORPEDO ATTACK on LUSITANIA" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2004. Feb 23, 2020.
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