THE GREAT WAR: Lusitania “gravest situations” yet faced in war – newspaper

In less than a minute the first torpedo hit the fastest passenger ship in the world up-front on the starboard side.

FRANK MORRIS

JOURNEY OF NO RETURN: THE LUSITANIA, HEADING FOR THER OTHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC. Below: THE SPHERE GIVES A BLOW BY BLOW DESCRIPTION OF THE FRUITLESS ESCAPE. Below: KAPITANLEUTNANT SCHWIEGER, OF THE GERMAN NAVY, HAD THE LUSITANIA IN HIS SIGHT.

It’s Saturday, May 1, 1915, at 0800 hours.

Berthed at pier 54, was the Lusitania getting ready for its 5000 miles journey from New York to Britain. It stood there like a centurion, tall and fast. Thousands of the sightseers were screaming and shouting their hearts out. They were flags flying and bands playing; the celebrity ship was preparing to leave.

This was the sense of an occasion; a sense, if you like, of a party going on.

In among this there were politicians and solicitors, some saying “Goodbye” and “Hello”. There were a mixture of passengers – 2000 in all – waiting to board this celebrity ship; there were the first class passengers having their luggage taken from them; and ordinary passengers who had to struggle with their good and chattels.

After Lusitania began embarkation, it was heading for the other side of the globe. As the greyhound of the seas, she carried the hope and dreams of everyone aboard. It was known as the “fastest ship in the world” and Captain Turner was the commodore.

GENERAL WARNING

During 1914, Britain intended to use its powerful naval blockade to starve Germany … into submission. Britain hoped to use the blockade of enemy ports to cut off supplies from the outside would. The public, officials and politicians would make their voices heard.

The ship’s captain was notified of submarine activity off the south coast of lreland. Instead of Liverpool, he was ordered to go to Queenstown, on the Irish east coast.

A week before its sinking, the “German Embassy, in Washington, advertised in the American press a general warning to travellers by ship in British waters, “ notes a magazine caption in The Great War At Sea.

Speed is the best defence against any submarine activity and, in 6 days averaged 21 knots, which made the Lusitania a tough bird to catch. Kapitaleutnant Schwieger, commander of U-20, had curtailed the lives of many ships in his patrol of the North Sea.

Schwieger ranked 6th in the point-score of top-scoring U-boat commanders when he was killed in a submarine accident six weeks after being presented with Germany’s highest decoration for gallantry in 1917.

LUCKY BREAK

Calling to the U-20 pilot, Schwieger, after summing up the position, said, “Four funnels … upwards of 20.000 tons and making about 22 knots.” The pilot checked this information and called back to his commander, “Either the Lusitania or the Mauretania. Both listed as armed merchant cruisers.”

Schwieger and the U-20 prepared for action.

After loading a G-type torpedo into the forward tube, the commander noticed the target had altered its course.

Schwieger could not believe his luck! Lusitania had turned to starboard and the Queenstown coast was 20 miles away. Because the Lusitania had changed its position, the range was about 550 metres it would not be a long shot after all.

At that range, Schwieger “gave the deadly order to shoot.”

END OF PART 1.


POET RUPERT BROOKE DEAD. MANY AUSTRALIANS MUST HAVE HEARD ABOUT RUPERT BROOKE, OR SEEN HIM ON THE BATTLION LINE WHEN HE JOINED UP ON SEPTEMBER 27, 1914.  HE WROTE SOME OF HIS BEST POETRY IN THE TRENCHES. THE WELL KNOWN POEM, THE LITTLE DOG’S DAY, WAS A TRIBUTE TO THE PERIOD. RUPERT BROOKE’S WAR … IN THE NEXT GREAT WAR.


THE LUSITANIA: Final! All hell broke loose – a torpedo is coming!

JOURNEY ENDED: STERN UP AND MINUTES LATER, GONE FOREVER. Below: NEARLY, AND ALMOST GONE, THE LUSITANIA TAKES A DEEP BREATH THEN … Below: THE NEW YORK TIMES WITH A FOUR-DECK HEADING THAT ALMOST TOLD THE FULL STORY.

Schwieger waited a few seconds to steady himself. “Fire one!” The torpedo cleared the tube. It chalked up 38 knots and it was right on target.

Back on the Lusitania …

There was a lookout on the starboard bridge wing but it was from the crow’s nest that the vital warning came, via the telephone. “Torpedo coming on the starboard side!” Captain Turner, the commodore of the Cunard Line, “responding to the lookout’s warning looked to starboard in shocked disbelief just in time to see the white streak in the water.”

There was a heavy thudding sound from the starboard side just under the bridge.  A second torpedo shot was felt, “almost instantaneously, which physically rocked the ship”.

SOS – COME AT ONCE

All hell broke loose.

The Lusitania bow was listing on the right hand side and water was fast getting in through the cavernous torpedos holes. At 1411 hours, the Lusitania had started sending distress signals. “SOS, SOS, SOS. COME AT ONCE. BIG LIST. 10 MILES SOUTH OLD KINSALE. MFA.”

A lifeboat laden with over fifty passengers, weighting 5 tons, swung inboard and crushes those standing on the boat deck. Passengers ran for a lifeboat. Children were crying. Parents and elderly folk were blighted by fear.

WALKED AWAY

Schwieger looked out of the periscope and saw the 20,000 ton ship, so to speak, just about ‘on its knees’ … saw passengers jumping overboard … saw lifeboats being eased over the side and with others racing out of danger. He saw many tragic things in the 18 minute before the ship went under.

Schwieger, because he was low on fuel, lowered the periscope and headed back to sea to begin the U-20 voyage home.

When he received the Blue Max or Pour Le Merite Medal, for sinking a total of 190,000 tons of Allied shipping, the largest victim, the Lusitania, was never mentioned on the citation.

At 1428 hours GMT, only six lifeboats out of a total of forty-eight were afloat amid the wreckage. In the final moments the Lusitania bow would strike the sea bed before the stern sank beneath the waves and went to the bottom. It lost over 1200 souls.

The fastest passenger in the world, the Lusitania, was gone.

<< Background from The Great War at Sea: Naval battles of World War One; Lusitania, a television documentary; and Pen and Sword Books Ltd.


MILESTONES: How the Aussie people lived between the war years?

IT STARTED IN THE RING AS THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP, AND ENDED UP FORTY MINUTES LATER WITH POLICE BEING CALLED IN.

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

ATLAS POSE: JACK JOHNSON SAID, “I WAS DEAD SURE I’D WIN.” Below: TOMMY BURNS SHAPING UP AND IS ATTEMPTING TO HAVE ANOTHER GO AT JOHNSON.

1908

It was dawn on Boxing Day and people awoke to newspaper headlines involving the clash of the titans and the struggle for white supremacy when Tommy Burns, the Canadian, was pitted against “American’s premier coloured boxer” Jack Johnson.

More 60,000 spectators converged on Rushcutters Bay Stadium, Sydney, for the Heavyweight championship of the World, and filled the stadium to the brink.

Reports of the day claim “there were 20,000 men at ringside and twice twenty thousand lingered outside …” There were crowds of men everywhere but only one woman – the wife of the celebrated author, Jack London, who covered the stoush for newspapers overseas.

The fight was over in forty minutes, moments after the opening of the fourteenth round before police intervened. A towering Johnson toyed with Burns who was almost 20cm shorter than his opponent.

Meanwhile, at the ringside, an over-confident Johnson said: “Never had any doubt. From the start of the fight I was dead sure I would win.” A well-beaten Tommy Burns said: “I did my best. I fought hard but Johnson was too big”.

Mrs Jack London, the only woman to have witnessed the fight, said: “I think Burns is the grittiest fighter it is possible to be.” – Frank Morris.

The iconic poem of Australia, My country by Dorothea Mackellar, was published in London. Mackellar, who died in 1968, at the age 83, is credited with two most quoted lines in Australian literature: “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains …”

Her house was the centre of publicity back in the 1970s. A visitor maintained that the she spoke to the ghost Mackellar about certain trinkets and news, and described her outfit; everybody in the district soon knew about the ghost. An opera based of the life of Australia’s most famous poet was staged in the open at Narrabeen, NSW. – Frank Morris.

Horror rail smash at Sunshine. Australia was shocked when 44 people died and more that 400 were injured in the nation’s worst rail disaster. There were anguished screams when victims were laid out in rows in two waiting-rooms for identification on April 20. – Frank Morris.

1909

In November, NSW coalminers mounted a strike which lasted four and a half months – but it ended in defeat.  

George Augustine Taylor, in December, made first unpowered flight in Australia.

Colin Defries piloted the first motor-propelled flight in Australia.

<< Milestones, a part-feature in Good Weekend; extra editorial by Frank Morris.


THE YANKS BRING THEIR NEWSPAPER: It’s can be worth a lot of cash!

AS THE WARS ROLL ON, STAR AND STRIPES WILL BE A FAMILIAR CATCH CRY.

FRANK MORRIS

THE S&S: THE STARS AND STRIPES, THE FIRST ISSUE WAS IN 1915. S&S WAS THE MOST POPULAR, MOST QUOTED SERVICE PAPER IN WORLD WAR 2. Below: IT’S THE 21ST CENTURY AND S&S IS STILL GOING, THIS TIME AS A TABLOID.

The most treasured newspaper of any war from 1915 onwards was Stars and Stripes. Experts say it’s hailed as the most popular, most quoted, and most ambitious of the service newspapers around since World War II.

Meanwhile, there was an interesting array of service newspapers and magazines produced all over the world -- Yank, SEAC, Parade, Battle Dress, Victory and so on – S&S origins actually date from the Great War.

Media historian Michael Anglo said these news outlets “provided a safety valve for the vast hordes of civilians in uniform who were enmeshed in the military machine.”

The first of issue of The Stars and Stripes was produced in Neufchateau, France, on February 8, 1918. The idea that the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) published its own newspaper was promoted by an articulate but aggressive young officer, Guy T. Viskniskki.

START THE PROJECT

Viskniskki, a press officer and censor, backed up his proposal with the fact the he had organised and managed the 80th Division Training Camp weekly, The Bayonet. When the General Staff finally acquiesced to his plan, Viskniskki unearthed enough newsprint to start to project.

His next move was to find linotype machines and stereotyping equipment and suitable premises. He did. He organised the printing at the Paris plant of the London newspaper, The Daily News. Viskniskki’s position as editor was curtailed after a few issues.

He was eventually succeeded by an “editorial council”, which was headed by Harold Ross, who later co-founded the New Yorker magazine. Some of the other luminaries included Alexander Woolcott (drama) and Grantland Rice (sport).

BRITISH EDITION

The paper, which was “greatly prized” by the infantry and officers alike, continued to be published in France for the next sixteen months. It was shifted to Washington, lock, stock and caboodle to operate as “an independent weekly”.

Since its beginning, S&S has been part of every theatre of war on every front. The paper made its first appearance in North Africa as a four-page weekly in December, 1942. This edition carried a special message from the US Commander of the European Forces, General Eisenhower.

The General emphasised, once again, the importance of home news to the soldiers.

Special editions, weekly and then daily, covered the Mediterranean and Italy; and a British edition appeared in 1942, hard on the heels of the first US troops arriving in Ireland.

As the wars rolled on, “Stars and Stripes forever” has been a familiar catchcry.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 01 June 18

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