It was May 1915. Carrying thousands of passengers across the bone-chilling cold of the Atlantic Ocean – and towards the shadow of the First World War – was the RMS Lusitania, a luxurious greyhound of an ocean liner. Off the Irish coast, passing the Old Head of Kinsale, a torpedo fired from German submarine U-20 pierced the giant ship's hull below the waterline, causing a great explosion that shook the ship about. The coal dust in the air of her bunkers ignited, causing a second, more ferocious explosion that blew her side out.
RMS Lusitania vanished below the Atlantic waves within 20 minutes. Out of 1,959 passengers and crew, only 761 ever set foot on shore again. 124 Americans perished, influencing America’s decision to join the First World War.
The legendary story of this majestic liner is something that I keep very close to my heart. It is difficult to explain in so few words, but to think that something so beautiful, elaborately furnished, and shamelessly elegant rests crumpled and rotten on the seabed like a great hand-riveted corpse is utterly astonishing to me. Every rotted deck plank, pitch-black hallway, and rusted rivet carries the story and legacy of a human being – many whom perished aboard one of the finest liners ever built. An owner of Lusitania artifacts myself, I feel a deep connection with that great ship as well as a heavy responsibility to respect and honour her legacy. Her everlasting story is one that, for the good of humanity, cannot be forgotten. It would be a travesty for such a thing to happen. Amid this world of processed food and selfies, we need history more than ever before.
This is why the final voyage of RMS Lusitania is heavily featured as a major plot point in the manuscript for my debut novel. It is a dramatic period thriller that, I feel, has the potential to leave readers shaking their heads in disbelief. It is really the telling of a fictional passenger’s crossing and struggle for survival. In a way, the disaster also has piqued my interest in my Irish heritage, and what that lovely little green island is like. I’m also inspired by the lifestyle, fashion, and even the etiquette of that era, thanks to what I know of the tragedy.
The history of this splendid ship is deserving of all your attention, admiration, and respect. She is truly a frigid angel – her final moments carrying men, women, and children from this life into another existence, via an icy burial at sea.
An Ottawa-based writer, born in Cobourg, Ontario. A shortlisted winner of the 2014 National Capital Writing Contest, Reed is currently studying Professional Writing at Algonquin College to further hone his skills. His passions include ocean liner history, Art Deco design, fiction writing and everything to do with Stevie Nicks.