A survivor of the Lusitania joins the authors of a new book to recall the sinking of the ship off Kinsale in 1915/
On 7 May 1915, the Cunard Liner RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat off the old head of Kinsale on the south coast of Ireland
30,000 tonnes, one of the most luxurious passenger liners the world has ever seen. A floating palace in which the rich and famous wanted to travel.
On 1 May 1915, the Lusitania set sail from New York on her last voyage as the liner became the most coveted prize of the German war machine. The ship was sunk by a torpedo in just 18 minutes. 1,200 people died and 800 people were saved. Queenstown (now Cobh) became a mortuary and the headquarters for the search for the dead and survivors as family and friends waited for news of their loved ones. The old church cemetery near Queenstown became the site of mass graves.
They were the victims of the first deliberate attack on civilians in wartime.
Des Hickey and Gus Smith have written the definitive story of the Lusitania disaster titled 'Seven Days To Disaster'. The book tells the story through the words of eyewitnesses. One of the survivors of the sinking of the Lusitania is Avis Dolphin Foley who was 12 years of age when she boarded the ship on its final journey. She is one of the last remaining survivors of the Lusitania disaster.
Avis Dolphin Foley describes how she survived with the help of another passenger Professor Hoban who fitted her with a lifebelt and put her in a lifeboat. However, the lifeboat capsized as it was being launched and the passengers were tipped into the water. She managed to hold on to a life raft and the passengers were later picked up by a fishing trawler and taken to Queenstown.
Des Hickey explains that the Lusitania was carrying ammunition but nobody knows how much. While there was only one torpedo, there are reports of a double explosion. He says that one torpedo should not have sunk the Lusitania so quickly and many believe that the ammunition on board also exploded. Others believe that it was not the ammunition that exploded but rather the ship's boilers. There was also a lot of debate about the construction of the ship with many claiming it was very top heavy.
Possibly, the boilers exploding sent it to the bottom.
One of the most astonishing revelations in his book is that many of the passengers say that they actually saw the torpedo coming towards the ship.
This episode of 'The Late Late Show' was broadcast on 7 November 1981. The presenter is Gay Byrne.