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Three Queens Liverpool 2015: Lusitania remembered in city

Three Queens Liverpool 2015: Lusitania remembered in city
By Catherine Jones

Cunard's RMS Lusitania

The Lusitania is set to be commemorated in a major new exhibition being launched in Liverpool.

The Maritime Museum’s Lusitania: life, loss, legacy show will open at the Albert Dock venue a month today.

It marks the centenary in May of the infamous sinking of the great Cunard liner, affectionately known in the city as ‘the Lucy’, by a German U-boat in 1915 with the loss of 1,195 lives.

Meanwhile the anniversary itself – May 7 – will be commemorated with a special service at Our Lady and St Nicholas’ Church, and events at the waterfront museum.

Ellie Moffat, curator of maritime collections at the museum, and who has been working intensively on the exhibition for the past year, says: “Lusitania wasn’t just Liverpool’s most-loved ship, she had worldwide fame, and was a familiar sight on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The loss was one of the most infamous events of the First World War.

“We’ve been working with dozens of Merseyside families to develop content. It’s especially poignant to be opening this exhibition as we approach the centenary of her sinking.”

The exhibition is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors from the city, and further afield, with crowds set to gather on the waterfront in May to see Cunard’s Three Queens – Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria – sail up the Mersey in celebration of the shipping giant’s 175th anniversary.

Lusitania: life, loss, legacy will be staged on the first floor of the Maritime Museum and is divided into three sections.

Liverpool’s Lusitania

The Lusitania on the River Mersey c1911-14

The exhibition opens with the launching of the 31,550 ton liner – built by John Brown & Co Ltd of Clydebank – and her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York in September 1907.

Curator Ellie Moffat explains: “A crowd of 200,000 people lined the Mersey when she left.

“The Lusitania won the Blue Riband back for Britain. And Liverpool’s Lusitania is the brighter, optimistic beginning of the story. Liverpool was at the peak of its success and confidence as a world port.”

The section will include some items never put on display at the museum before, such as a sea chest belonging to Captain Daniel Dow who was master of the ship from 1913 until her penultimate voyage, and a decorative invitation to come on board and inspect the ship ahead of its maiden voyage.

Other artefacts include letters written during the Lucy’s 1907 transatlantic crossing, a fan given to First Class women passengers at a captain’s dinner, a commemorative medallion, and a gold pocket watch belonging to Captain William Thomas Turner.

Liverpool’s War at Sea

Dazzle Ships in the Mersey, off the Liverpool Waterfront, by Leonard Campbell Taylor c1918

On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany and the next four years saw thousands of Liverpool merchant seaman thrown into combat on board their vessels.

Ellie says: “We’re putting Lusitania’s story in context of the war. We’ve never really told the story of the First World War at sea in the maritime museum. The main focus is still the Lusitania, but this opens it up a little bit more.

“Liverpool’s war is a big story. This is Liverpool as the front line.”

The city’s merchant ships were central to the conflict, transporting troops and acting as hospital ships, air craft carriers and Armed Merchant Cruisers.

The war at sea section features personal stories, such as that of seven-year-old Nancy Mildon and her toy lion, British Red Cross nurse Florence Irving, and the crew of Elder Dempster’s doomed ship the Falaba, among various century-old artefacts.

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Continued: Three Queens Liverpool 2015: Lusitania remembered in city

Continued from Above:

The Sinking of Lusitania

Lusitania: life, loss, legacy

The largest section of the exhibition will look at the Lusitania’s final voyage from New York in May 1915, her sinking by U-boat 20, and the aftermath of the tragedy, with anti-German riots spreading from Liverpool to other parts of the country.

Key artefacts, including a rare lifejacket, deckchair and cushion, letters written by survivors, and a baby shoe and medal presented to Able Seaman Joseph Parry for saving lives, will all be on show, alongside recordings of interviews with survivors, and a huge ship’s model of the RMS Berengaria, handed over after the war by Germany as part of reparations.

The exhibition also includes a touch screen search facility which will hold biographies of everyone on board the ship on that last sailing.

Ellie adds: “If people have more information about individuals, they can add it in. This is a long-term development.”

Lusitania: life, loss, legacy opens at the Maritime Museum on March 27.

Three Queens, One Magnificent City runs from May 23-26