On April 22nd, 1915, a notice was published in the New York Times. The notice read as follows; "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 ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk. Imperial German Embassy; Washington D.C." The notice appeared on the same page that advertised Lusitania's scheduled departure from New York. In spite of the notice, most people really didn't think Germany would go so far as to attack a passenger vessel. Adding to the atmosphere of safety was the fact that Lusitania was flying the American flag. Her funnels and the letters on her bow and stern had all been painted black, obscuring her identity as a Cunarder. The consensus was that sailing under the stars and stripes protected Lucy from attack.

         Several American passengers, including Alfred Vanderbilt, stepped aboard the ship without a second though. Vanderbilt, in particular, should have been a little more skeptical as he had received an anonymous message at his hotel the previous evening warning him not to sail on Lusitania, as she would be sunk by a German sub as she approached British waters. This did nothing to deter the 37-year old multimillionaire, who spent as much time in Europe as he did in the States. He was on his way to a meeting of the International Horse Breeder's Association, and could not miss it as the previous year's meeting had been canceled due to the outbreak of war. It's ironic that Vanderbilt ignored the warning he received. Three years earlier he had booked passage on the maiden voyage of White Star Line's ill-fated Titanic. A business concern at the last minute forced him to change his plans and probably saved his life. Taking that into consideration, you would think that he wouldn't tempt fate twice, but he did.

          Another passenger alleged to have received a warning about sailing aboard Lusitania was noted theatrical impresario Charles Frohman. He was on his way to London to critique the newest West End productions to assess any potential Broadway candidates. Frohman traveled to London once or twice a year, though a bad fall some years earlier had resulted in a worsening case of articular rheumatism that seemed to be aggravated by the sea air. Frohman had booked passage aboard Lucy because she was the fastest ship on the Atlantic run at the time (Mauretania had already been drafted for war duty). He had even considered sending someone else in his place, but his notoriety and lack of faith in anyone else's judgment prompted him to make the journey himself. So, like Vanderbilt, Frohman ignored the warning he received and stepped aboard the doomed Cunarder without hesitation.

          Margaret Mackworth had been in America with her father on business. Returning to England in the middle of a war held less appeal to her than remaining amidst the glamor and spectacle of New York City. From Broadway shows to the overwhelming "newness" of the entire place cast doubts in her mind as to whether she really wanted to go back. Her 7-year marriage to Sir Humphrey Mackworth was crumbling and she rued facing her peers in the wake of a divorce. Traveling First Class aboard Lusitania had also been overwhelming. She was taken by the ship's sheer size and marvelled at Lusitania's ellegence. Still, her mind and her heart were elsewhere.

          Twelve-year old Avis Dolpin, a Second Class passenger, was on her way to England to attend school. Avis' mother, the proprietor of a nursing home in St. Thomas Ontario, had emigrated to Canada from England ten years earlier, but insisted her daughter receive an English education. Avis was looking forward to seeing Britain, her homeland she had only heard stories about and seen pictures of. Accompanying her on the voyage was a nurse who worked for her mother. The nurse was visiting England and had agreed to care for Avis on the crossing.

          Traveling in Third Class was Annie Williams and her six children; Edith (9 years old), Edward, George Florence, Ethel and four-month old David. The Williams family had immigrated to America years earlier, but soon after they had arrived her husband John Williams had deserted the family (I am not sure who young David's father was). Thinking he had returned to England, Mrs. Williams saved as much money as she could, sold all their possessions and booked passage on Lusitania to return the family to England where she hoped to track down her husband.

          As Lusitania made steam out of New York harbor, the German sub U-20 was into her second day at sea on a mission through the waters off the British Isles. The U-20 had departed her berth at Emden on Germany's north coast the day before under the command of Lieutenant Walther Schweiger. This patrol was to take the U-20 to the Irish sea off Liverpool. Troopships and supply vessel were to be her primary targets. Cutting off the supply of troops and materials to the Dardanelles was essential to the German war effort and an Allied offensive on Constantinople meant a steady stream of vessels heading out from British ports; Liverpool in particular. As Lusitania made her way across the Atlantic without incident, her passengers and crew became only more relaxed. At this same time, the U-20 was making her way to the hunting grounds off the Irish coast.

          Without a care and no knowledge of the tragedy that awaited them on the other side of the Atlantic, Lusitania's passengers watched the New York skyline recede into the distance. As the faces on the dock became a blurry crows, and the crowd became a distant smudge on the waterfront, Lusitania steamed past the rising metropolis and it's landmarks one last time, never to return to American waters. As she headed out into the Atlantic, history turns yet another page in the book of maritime tragedy...


BACK: Life Aboard Lucy

 


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Lusitania prepares to depart


Alfred Vanderbilt


Charles Frohman


Margaret Mackworth





Walther Schwieger


One last view of New York


The last photo of Lusitania

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