RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner, built in Scotland and launched in 1906. and for eight years made regular Atlantic crossings between Liverpool and New York. On 7 May 1915 Lusitania was nearing the end of her 202nd crossing, bound for Liverpool. Aboard were 1,266 passengers and a crew of 696, a total of 1,962 people. She was off the south coast of Ireland, roughly 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, when she crossed in front of a German submarine, the U-20, which fired a torpedo. Lusitania was hit on the starboard bow, just beneath the wheelhouse. As a result, the liner sank. Of the 1,962 aboard, 1,198 lost their lives. Germany claimed that, because Lusitania was carrying, and had previously carried, armaments, she had a right to sink her under the rules of war, also stating that they had previously issued warnings to potential passengers that this was the case. The Cunard Line denied the charge that she carried munitions, but admitted that she was carrying small-arms ammunition, and that she had been carrying such ammunition for years. The fact that Lusitania had been carrying shells and cartridges was not made known to the British public at the time.


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