What would you do if you were a passenger on a vast ocean liner and it began to sink? Would you believe the crew members who, under orders to avert panic, insisted that the ship would not go down? Would you leave your wife on deck to fetch the life jackets in your cabin, even if she begged you not to? Would you wait with your husband if he refused to board a lifeboat because women and children needed the spaces? What would you do if you were a mother, pregnant and travelling alone with two children, and the baby was in your cabin napping and the three-year-old was in a crèche on deck? What would you do if you were a nine-year-old boy quarantined with measles when you felt the torpedo blast hit the ship?
When the Lusitania, the fastest and most modern ship of its day, was torpedoed by a German U-boat twelve miles off the coast of Ireland on 7 May 1915, she took less than twenty minutes to go under. Of her 1,959 crew and passengers, a large proportion of whom were