On the morning of May 5th, 1915, the Lusitania was more than half way across the Atlantic on her crossing from New York to Liverpool, the sea was calm and the weather clear and sunny. Any of the drama associated with her sailing on May 1st had largely dissipated like ocean fret.
Proud and aristocratic, the great liner surged purposefully across the sparkling briny. Trails of smoke from her quartet of tall, black funnels spread back in the direction of the new world. Families with babies and small children in tow strolled the long expanses of the boat deck. Bouillion was served to people lounging in steamer chairs, half asleep against a backdrop of clacking shuffeloard disks. With the crossing more than half over, thoughts had already begun to turn to arrival in Liverpool for many passengers.
Crossing the Atlantic by sea has always had the effect of gradually lulling a shipload of passengers into what I have always defined as a kind of dreamy, pampered stupour. Think about it; for a week or so, the only real concerns you have are about what to order for dinner, and making sure that you avoid the odd unsettling person or two. Everything else is done behind the scenes for you. And, as it is now, so it was back on that fateful springtime crossing.
Yes, the ship was heading into the area of the war zone, and it was also known that German U-boats were active in the waters off the south coast of Ireland. But what U-boat could match the cracking pace of the speedy Lusy? Even the idea seemed absurd to many.
Still, there were precautions to be taken. Next day would see the swinging out of all of the ship’s lifeboats, and the darkening of the entire ship at night. And that might have concentrated minds quite wonderfully…
But that was tomorrow, and not today. No, for this one last day, the great Cunarder could go about her business pretty much as she had always done. One last sunny day in the life of a spectacular, legendary ship. Contentment was in the air on that sunny, mid ocean day.
None of those laughing strolling passengers or silently grumbling stewards could have guessed at the horror that was to follow. For the Lusitania, May 5th, 1915 was one last hurrah on an eastbound appointment with eternity.