The Mersey Commission: Two Torpedoes
“WWI ARGUS ARCHIVE: No guns onboard Lusitania”
South Wales Argus, Friday 17 July 2015
No masked guns aboard
Germany’s baseless inventions
Lord Mersey, on Saturday, delivered judgement in the Lusitania Inquiry. The Court found that the ship fulfilled all the requirements of the law and that the life-saving appliances were satisfactory.
The company’s efforts to induce the crew to become efficient were successful and his Lordship commended one of the crew; Leslie N. Morton, a look-out man who gave notice of the approach of torpedoes and subsequently saved 50 or 60 passengers in a collapsible boat, after being thrown into the water.
Morton was only 18 years old and showed great courage, self-possession and resource.
The Court was satisfied the officers and crews behaved well, and worked with skill and judgment. More than half their number lost their lives.
The total crew of 702; of the 1,257 passengers’ conduct 785 were lost; of 39 infants, 35 were lost.
The Court could speak well of the passengers’ conduct, though there was something approaching panic in the steerage quarters.
Some passengers probably did more harm than good with attempting to launch boats.
The 5,000 cases of cartridges on board were stowed 50 yards from where the torpedo struck the ship and there was no other explosion on board.
The Court found untrue the German allegations that the ship was armed.
These baseless inventions only condemned the persons making use of them.
The steamer carried no masked guns, nor was she transporting troops.
The reported warnings to the passengers that the ship would be torpedoed only aggravated the crime by showing its deliberate intention.
The passengers ignored the threats regarding such an atrocity as impossible.
The ship sailed with six boilers closed down, the speed being reduced to 21 knots. Reduction of speed was of no significance and was proper.
The captain took proper precautions. When the danger zone was reached the speed was reduced to 18 knots on the morning of the catastrophe, to secure her arrival at Liverpool about four the next morning.
The second officer gave a warning that the torpedo was coming at 2.15pm. Immediately the ship was struck.
A second torpedo followed, both striking the starboard side also simultaneously. No warning was given.
A third torpedo fired from a different submarine, missed the port side.
The Lusitania took a heavy list to starboard and in less than 20 minutes sank.
The court confirmed the Attorney-General’s description of the case as a deliberate attempt to murder.
The guilt of the persons concerned was confirmed by the vain excuses of the German Government.
The Court discredited the evidence of the French passenger who spoke of an explosion on board of secret ammunition.
Complaints of witnesses about the improper launching and the condition of the lifeboats the Court regarded as ill-founded. No negligence or incompetence’s could be imputed. Evidence taken in camera dealt with certain advice given by the Admiralty to avoid submarine attacks.
These matters could not be discussed in public but it was abundantly plain that that the Admiralty had devoted most anxious care and thought to submarine peril and had diligently collected all available information likely to affect the Lusitania on this voyage.