Lusitania Wreck Given to Irish Museum

BRIEFING ROOM

The RMS Lusitania in New York harbour, 22 November 1907.
(US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

IN MAY, 91-year-old American millionaire, Gregg Bemis, transferred his ownership of the RMS Lusitania wreck to a community group in County Cork planning to build a commemorative museum on the nearby Old Head of Kinsale, James Scannell reports.

Bemis, who acquired an interest in the wreck in 1968 and in 1982 became its sole owner, said he hoped the Old Head of Kinsale Lusitania Museum Committee would continue to investigate what caused the second explosion that sank the liner in just 18 minutes – and confirm his long-held suspicion that the ship was carrying war munitions.

The Lusitania, which was for a time the largest passenger ship in the world, was torpedoed 11 miles off Kinsale, Co Cork, with the loss of at least 1,193 lives on May 7, 1915. The sinking of the vessel, and of her supposed cargo, have both been the subject of conspiracy.

She was sailing to Liverpool from New York on her 202nd transatlantic crossing with 1,962 on board. At around 14:10, Lusitania was intercepted by the German submarine, U-20. One torpedo was fired, striking the liner on her starboard side. A second explosion ripped through the ship moments later, and the subsequent list hindered the launch of lifeboats. Among the dead were 128 American citizens, a factor that has been attributed to bringing the US into the war.

The signing-over ceremony took place on the day of the 104th anniversary of the disaster at a pub on the Old Head of Kinsale, the closest point of land to where the ship sank. However, Bemis’ deed of gift does not become effective immediately, in case it jeopardises the museum committee’s ability to fundraise and acquire support from state agents, but it will be held in escrow and activated on Bemis’ death, instruction or when the museum is built. The proposed museum is estimated to cost €3 million, with a further €1m required to install interactive features telling the story of the sinking.