A TALE OF TWO TRAGEDIES: A WOLFSONIAN COMMEMORATION OF THE ILL-FATED VOYAGES OF THE TITANIC AND THE LUSITANIA
Exactly one hundred years ago, on Tuesday April 10, 1912, the R.M.S Titanic sailed from the English port city of Southampton on her maiden, and (what was fated to be) her last voyage.
The tragedy at sea prompted much reflection, including this poem in memoriam by Harry Percival Riley in the Wolfsonian-FIU library collection:
Even with the passing of a century, the Titanic’s disastrous sinking after colliding with an iceberg has continued to capture the imagination of the public, ocean liner enthusiasts, and, of course, filmmakers.
Inexplicably, the sinking of the Cunard Line’s Lusitania only three years later appears to generate far less interest today, although at the time it provoked a maelstrom of controversy (and outrage) and nearly precipitated an earlier entry of the United States into the First World War against the Germans. Although the Lusitania was a British ship, a number of prominent Americans were among those killed after a German U-Boat torpedoed the passenger liner on May 7, 1915 only eleven miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland.
Although their enemies and neutrals complained, the German high command, on the other hand, were naturally reluctant to abandon this new technological wonder that had helped them bottle up, strike terror into, and to send to the depths so much of Great Britain’s merchant and military ships.
Needing time to produce more U-boats and hoping to placate U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and keep the United States from declaring war, the German high command temporarily suspended her policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. The German military’s decision to resume the U-boat attacks two years later resulted in the sinking of some American ships and ultimately the entry of the United States into the war.