The Lusitania Sinking: Eyewitness Accounts from Survivors

Written by Anthony Richards
Review by Edward James

What more is there to say about the Lusitania, the liner torpedoed off the coast of Ireland in May 1915?  Anthony Richards admits that hundreds of books have been written on the sinking, but he has found a new angle.  In December 2000 he purchased almost 200 letters at Sotheby’s on behalf of his employer, the Imperial War Museum, concerning one of the Lusitania passengers, Preston Richards.  Through these we can follow Preston’s life up to the sinking – he was an English emigrant to Canada returning to visit his family – and then the frantic and ultimately unsuccessful efforts of his family to find out what had happened to him.  In the course of their search they contacted dozens of survivors who gave detailed accounts of their experiences.

Besides Preston’s story, Richards gives us the background to the sinking, the enquiry, the vexed question of the munitions in the cargo, and the political impact.  The incident did not of itself bring America into WW1, but from then on America definitely favoured the Allied cause.  Well worth reading even if you know the story well.