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This brass ship’s bell was recovered in 1982 from the wreck of the 30,396 ton British passenger liner Lusitania, which was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20 on 7 May 1915 while on the way back to her home port of Liverpool from New York.
The liner sank in only twenty minutes, 1,201 men, women and children lost their lives, including 128 American citizens. Of the 129 children on board 94 were killed.
Lusitania was registered with the British Admiralty as an Armed Auxiliary Cruiser and was probably carrying some munitions on her last voyage. Nevertheless, the sinking was seen by the Allies as an example of German ‘frightfulness’ and it provoked a renewed wave of bitter anti-German propaganda.
Ada McGuire, a young woman from Liverpool, like many others in the city - and in the country as a whole, was deeply shocked by news of the disaster and wrote to her sister in Boston, 'We thought then that no lives would be lost – that Germany would be afraid of American anger but it seems to me they are trying to draw America in & then they will have an excuse for asking for peace. There seems nothing but death and destruction everywhere. I was in town yesterday morning & that little street at the side of the Cunard offices was filled with a dense mass of people waiting for news. The crew belonged almost entirely to Liverpool & Wirral. Poor things!'
Relations between Germany and the neutral United States of America deteriorated after the incident although nearly two years elapsed before America joined the war on the side of the Allies.