Government papers shed light on sinking of ‘Lusitania’

On May 1, 2014 the Financial Times reported that the British government’s Foreign Office had expressed secret misgivings regarding the actual cargo of the Lusitania back in 1982. Because a salvage company was proposing to visit the Lusitania’s underwater site, the British Ministry of Defence warned the divers that the wreck could contain dangerous explosives. Previously classified papers just released by the National Archives at Kew show that in 1982 officials feared that the wreck “could blow up on us” if divers approached it. In an unpublished memo found among these papers, an official of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, North American Department, acknowledged the presence of “a large amount of ammunition in the wreck.”  In another memo, also addressed to the Foreign Office, Jim Coombes warned that disclosure of explosives aboard the Lustania could produce “considerable political fallout,” and might endanger British/American relations.  Also worried about belated law suits, Foreign Office memos assured members of the cabinet that there was no chance that Britain would be held financially liable for the loss of American lives on board the Lusitania.

Source: Press Association. 2014. “Government papers shed light on sinking of ‘Lusitania.’” Financial Times May 1, 2014

Categories: Historical Context and Relevant Resources.