Of course, the Germans were well aware of this fact. And they found a highly effective means of disrupting Britain’s merchant shipping: the U-boat. Subsequently, in May 1915, the devastating potential of this underwater weapon was horrifyingly demonstrated in the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Ireland.
Yes, a merchant vessel was about to face the full force of a German U-boat. Bound for Liverpool, England, the ocean liner RMS Lusitania had left New York’s Pier 54 at the beginning of May 1915. Aboard the ship were close to 2,000 passengers and crew. And while most of the people on the vessel were British and Canadian, there were also more than 100 American nationals on the ship.
The Lusitania had, in fact, made many similar journeys in her lifetime. Indeed, the Cunard Line vessel – that dated back to the very start of the 20th century – had already made in excess of 200 voyages across the Atlantic. But as well as transporting her human cargo on this particular crossing, the ship was also carrying 750 tons of ammunition and a variety of other materials to England. And the Germans would later try to use this military consignment as a justification for the fate that befell the ship at their hands.