Remember the Lusitania!

Remember the Lusitania!

4.0 1
by Diana Preston

Three years after the tragic sinking of the Titanic, another luxury liner went to a watery grave beneath the icy depths of the North Atlantic. The sinking of the Lusitania, torpedoed by a German U-boat in a sneak attack off the coast of Ireland, was one of the most pivotal and universally condemned acts of World War I.

Diana Preston chronicles the shipboard


Three years after the tragic sinking of the Titanic, another luxury liner went to a watery grave beneath the icy depths of the North Atlantic. The sinking of the Lusitania, torpedoed by a German U-boat in a sneak attack off the coast of Ireland, was one of the most pivotal and universally condemned acts of World War I.

Diana Preston chronicles the shipboard experiences of three children who were on that fateful voyage. Eleven-year-old Frank Hook, a third-class passenger, was moving to England with his father and older sister. Twelve-year-old Avis Dolphin, a second-class passenger, was being sent to an English boarding school with a chaperone. And five-month-old Audrey Pearl was traveling in luxurious first class with her parents, three siblings, and two nannies.

From different walks of life and varied circumstances, these three children shared a common bond-they all survived one of the most disastrous shipwrecks in history. Their stories, taken from firsthand accounts, personal interviews, and historical documents, provide a riveting look at one of the most tragic and significant events of World War I.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing on the research from her Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy, aimed at adults, Diana Preston charts the ship's course for a younger audience in Remember the Lusitania! Here she focuses on the stories of three children who survived the torpedoing of the British ship (by a German submarine) on its voyage from New York to Liverpool, England in 1915. Vintage photos and illustrations portray the doomed vessel and her passengers. The final chapter follows the fates of the three children and other featured passengers; an epilogue recounts the incident's role in the United States' entry into WWI. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
A mere three years after the sinking of the Titanic, the Lusitania reached an equally tragic end and was torpedoed by a German submarine in May of 1915. Although the Lusitania carried an adequate supply of lifeboats, over 1200 people drowned in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Preston, author of a previous book about the sinking of the Lusitania written for adults, draws on meticulously researched primary sources to provide a gripping and moving tale of the doomed voyage, focusing on some of the child passengers of varied economic classes who survived this horrific ordeal. The most compelling of the many interwoven stories Preston tells is of the seaboard friendship struck up between twelve-year-old Avis Dolphin—homesick, seasick, reluctantly heading off to boarding school in England—and a kindly young professor sailing home to his family after a prolonged lecture tour of the United States. Professor Holbourn's dedicated care of Avis ultimately saves her life and leads to their lifelong friendship. Preston captures and shares every vivid detail, allowing the catastrophe to unfold for young readers, from a period photo of children playing jump rope on deck to the uneaten "dessert of pears and blancmange" that Avis is looking forward to when she first feels the ship "shaken by a tremendous blow." This is expertly presented nonfiction that reads as a riveting, page-turning novel. Perhaps the receding Titanic craze will yield now to a new craze for stories about the Lusitania. 2003, Walker, Ages 8 to 12.
— Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-An account of the sinking of the Lusitania as seen through the eyes of the passengers and crew. Preston based this book on published interviews with survivors, the diary of the captain of the U-boat that torpedoed the passenger liner, other contemporary sources, and her adult title, Lusitania-An Epic Tragedy (Walker, 2002). In addition to describing the wartime setting, the transatlantic voyage, and the U-boat's patrol, the author follows up with details on many victims' post-Lusitania lives. However, so many characters are presented that some treatments are superficial. A few really shine through, though, such as a shipboard friendship between a man and a young girl, his efforts to save her, and their separation and eventual reunion. Informative black-and-white photos and diagrams enhance the text. An appendix meticulously lists and describes the sources used in re-creating the ship's last trip. Technical descriptions of its sinking, such as Robert Ballard's in Ghost Liners (Little, Brown, 1998), lack the personal details of Preston's book. Her focus on the experiences of children should appeal to young readers.-Jeffrey A. French, Euclid Public Library, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1915, three years after the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, the Lusitania was preparing for her 101st eastward crossing of the Atlantic. "Big Lusy" was famous for its first-class accommodations-salons, staterooms, and suites modeled upon the palaces of Europe. But war was on in Europe, and there had been threats on the safety of the great ship. Preston trims her longer work for adults and here focuses on three children-Avis Dolphin, Frank Hook, and Audrey Pearl. Carefully chosen details about the Lusitania and the parallel story of the German submarine stalking the ship make for a well-constructed, lively account, though she does gloss over the fact that the Lusitania was, indeed, carrying ammunition. A torpedo struck, sending the great ship to the bottom of the ocean in 18 minutes, drowning 1198 passengers and crewmembers. The epilogue makes a connection with the attacks of 9/11. The dramatic cover will entice readers, and the exciting narrative will keep them riveted. (appendix, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Walker & Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.22(w) x 10.28(h) x 0.52(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


By Diana Preston

Walker & Company

Copyright © 2003 Diana Preston
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0802788467

Chapter One


* * * It was raining on the morning of May 1, 1915-a thin, drizzling kind of rain that hung in the air like a mist. Droplets from his sodden hat dripped on the newspaper boy's face as he stood on the dock at Pier 54. He brushed them away before shouting "`Big Lusy' sailing today. American passengers travel at their own risk, warns German Embassy."

Cunard's spokesman, Charles Sumner, stared anxiously at the notice in the paper. It was surrounded by a thick black line and read

Travelers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.

The notice was right next to the Cunard shipping line's own notice advertising the sailing of its ships from New York to Europe. It was signed by the Imperial German Embassy, Washington, D.C.

Sumner looked up at the huge ship anchored alongside the dock. The previous evening twenty-two trains had delivered the six thousand tons of coal needed to fill her vast bunkers. Grimy, sweat-soaked firemen had labored through the night feeding her furnaces to raise steam for the voyage ahead.

Now smoke was curling from three of her four great smokestacks. She looked awesome, magnificent, all eight hundred feet of her. She was the famous Lusitania, the "big Lusy," one of thefastest and certainly the most beautiful of all the ocean liners sailing the Atlantic. When she first sailed into New York on September 13, 1907, on her maiden voyage, she had caused a sensation. Now she was preparing for her 101st eastward crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to the British port of Liverpool. Gangways had already been lowered, waiting for the nearly 1,300 passengers to arrive. The big escalator was ready to start moving their trunks and cases aboard. But, Sumner wondered, what would happen now? Would people cancel their reservations?

In New York's hotels, anxious passengers discussed the newspaper notice. What did it mean? Was it really a warning that the Lusitania, a British ship, might be attacked by German ships or submarines? After all, Britain and Germany had been at war for nearly a year. Just a few weeks ago, in February, Germany had announced that her submarines-or "U-boats," as the Germans called them-would sink without warning any British merchant ship they could. Some people now wondered anxiously whether they should transfer to another ship. The American liner New York was also sailing for Great Britain that day. Perhaps it would be wiser to travel on her. The United States was neutral in the war, so her ships should be safe from the submarines.

News reporters eager for a story hurried to the Cunard shipping line's offices near the docks to bombard staff with questions. Scribbling away in their notebooks, they demanded to know whether the Lusitania was in danger. A harassed Charles Sumner told them firmly, "The fact is that the Lusitania is too fast for any submarine. No German vessel of war can get near her." He also assured them that special agents and plainclothes policemen would be mingling with the crowds on the dock, looking for stowaways and other suspicious characters. Everything was being done to protect the ship.

As the hours passed, only a handful of nervous people decided to cancel their bookings. These included two friends who had nearly sailed on the Titanic, the liner that had hit an iceberg and sunk on her maiden voyage just three years earlier. It looked like the "Lusy" would be carrying over 1,250 passengers, including nearly 200 Americans, as well as her crew of 700. The voyage would be business as usual.

As the rain stopped and the sun came out, the docks sprang quickly to life. Bellboys who had been on shore leave came rushing back to the ship to get into their brass-buttoned uniforms. One of them, fifteen-year-old William Burrows, was stopped at the dock gates by a policeman who had just read the German warning. He told the startled boy, "You're not going to get back this time, sonny. They're going to get you this time." The puzzled teenager hurried on board, where a crewman told him about the warning. Another said that during the night the ship's cat, four-year-old black-furred Dowie, had run away. It seemed a bad omen. But what could they do except get on with their jobs? In a few hours the "big Lusy" would be leaving New York.

Before long the pier was overflowing with people. It was all bustle, excitement, and chaos as cars and horse-drawn carriages delivered passengers to the ship. Carts piled with steamer trunks and boxes clattered along, their harassed drivers yelling frantically at people to get out of the way. Photographers dodged about in the crowds, looking for departing celebrities to snap for the newspapers. It was always news when the "big Lusy" sailed, and the German warning made this occasion particularly newsworthy. Some photographers were even shouting, "Last pictures of the Lusitania!" as if they did not expect to see the ship again.

First-class passengers were gathering by the gangplank in the center of the ship. Their staterooms were here, "amidships." This was the best, most comfortable place to be in rough seas because it rocked and rolled the least. Other less well off families struggled through the crowds and towers of baggage on the pier, trying to keep hold of their possessions and their children at the same time. They were looking for the gangplanks to the second- and third-class accommodations. Second-class passengers were supposed to board at the rear, or "stern," of the ship. Third-class passengers were to board at the front, known as the "bow." This was the least comfortable part of the ship, where people would feel every pitch and roll as the prow cut through the water.

Eleven-year-old Frank Hook, his twelve-year-old sister, Elsie, and their father, George, a widower in his mid-forties, were standing in the line of third-class passengers. George had sold his house in Toronto and was taking his children home to his native England. He had only paid half-fare for Elsie, although she was a year over age. Anxiously he told her to duck down and make herself look as small and young as possible when they got to the desk.

Formalities were taking longer than usual this morning because of the extra security. U.S. Secret Service men mingled with the noisy crowds. Their eyes flickered from face to face while passengers handed over their tickets and documents to Cunard officials who checked them with extra care. Passengers were then led to their bags, which they identified. The luggage was marked with chalk and then loaded onto the escalator. Private detectives were on the lookout for German secret agents trying to slip aboard with hidden weapons or explosives. Who knew what they might do once the ship was in the mid-Atlantic and far from help? They might even try to blow her up. But it was hard to keep track of everybody and everything in the confusion!

Twelve-year-old Avis Dolphin came hesitantly up the second-class gangway. Her father had died of tuberculosis, and her mother was sending her to school in England. She didn't want to go. At her side was Hilda Ellis, a young nurse from the nursing home Avis's mother ran in St. Thomas, Ontario, who would be looking after her for the next six days. But Avis was already feeling lonely and homesick. The voyage ahead held little magic. She knew Hilda wasn't really interested in her and was looking forward to having fun with any good-looking young men she could find.

But as Avis stepped on board the Lusitania, she forgot her worries. Walking along elegant corridors in search of their stateroom, she and Hilda passed luxurious salons furnished with gold-colored wooden tables and deep sofas. Chandeliers with glass drops sparkling like diamonds hung from high stained-glass ceilings. Avis decided she was in "a floating palace."

The stateroom Avis was to share with Hilda and two other women was light and quite roomy, with berths surrounded by soft, thick curtains that could be closed to keep out the noise and "nosy" eyes. Their stewardess showed them where to stow their clothes and belongings so that they were out of the way and offered to bring them early-morning tea the next day, even breakfast in bed if they wanted.

Five decks down, right by the waterline, the Hooks were happily settling in. No one had asked awkward questions about Elsie's age, and their cabin was larger and more comfortable than they had expected. Third class on the Lusitania had the reputation of being better than on any other ship, and it seemed to be true. There were even automatically flushing toilets in the bathrooms down the corridor-something very rare in 1915.

The Lusitania was most famous, though, for her fabulous first-class accommodations. The magnificent salons, staterooms, and suites were modeled on the great palaces of Europe. They didn't look as if they belonged on a ship at all, with their marble fire-places, silken draperies, and thick, velvety carpets. This was where the famous, glamorous, and wealthy-the British lords and ladies, the American millionaires, the actors, actresses, and writers-would pass the voyage.

Handsome Alfred Vanderbilt, one of the richest men in America, was making himself comfortable in a lavish suite on the Boat Deck. His valet, Ronald Denyer, was unpacking, so when a reporter, who had been authorized to come on board to interview celebrities, knocked on the door, the millionaire opened it himself. The pink carnation he always liked to wear was stuck neatly in the buttonhole of his charcoal-gay pin-striped suit. He was holding a telegram in his hand. The message read, "The Lusitania is doomed. Do not sail on her." It was signed "Morte"-"Death." The reporter asked Vanderbilt how he felt. The millionaire just shrugged, saying with a smile that it was probably "just someone trying to have a little fun at my expense." He had no intention of changing his plans.

American surgeon-major Warren Pearl, his wife, Amy, and their four young children had also booked one of the first-class suites. They had brought two nurses with them, Alice Lines and Greta Lorenson. Eighteen-year-old Alice's job was to look after tiny baby Audrey, just three months old, and five-year-old Stuart, while Greta cared for three-year-old Amy and two-year-old Susan. The Pearls knew that by traveling first class, their children could play in an exclusive nursery under the watchful eye of a specially trained stewardess. They could eat their meals in a fairy-tale dining room gilded and decorated to look like the palace of the French king Louis XVI.

Just after 11:30 A.M. bellboys began loudly banging gongs to warn anyone not sailing to go ashore. People who had come to say good-bye to friends and family gave them one last kiss and hurried down the long passages to get off the ship in time. Officers reported to the ship's bridge. A loud whistle announced that three tugboats were waiting to nudge the huge Lusitania out into the Hudson River. Passengers came pouring onto the open decks to wave good-bye, Avis Dolphin, Frank Hook, and the Pearl family among them.

As the Lusitania's captain, Will Turner, stood on the ship's bridge with his officers by his side, dockworkers untied the thick ropes securing the Lusitania to the dock, and the tugs helped her back slowly out. Three ear-splitting blasts of her horn signaled farewell. Down on the dock people were waving hats, handkerchiefs, and flags, shouting and flinging fistfuls of confetti in the air. The ship's band played a lively tune at one end of the deck, while at the other end a men's choir from Wales who had been touring America sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Streamers of brightly colored flags fluttered from the Lusitania's masts as she moved out into midstream and caught the breeze. Ahead of her as she sailed down the Hudson was the liner New York, but, the passengers joked, the "Lusy" was faster and would beat her to England.

Still, some people could not hide their nervousness as the New York skyline faded into the haze. One crewman was so jumpy that he ran up to a young bride, Lucy Taylor, who was proudly wearing a new hat lavishly trimmed with shining blue-and-green peacock feathers. He snatched it from her head and hurled it into the Hudson. When she angrily asked him why he had done that, he replied that peacock feathers on board ship always brought bad luck.

The Lusitania had one last job to do before she headed out into the Atlantic Ocean. Three British warships were patroling just outside American waters. Some British sailors rowed out from them, battling through the swells, with sacks of mail for England. They slung them aboard the liner, shouting their good wishes for her safe and speedy journey.

Meanwhile, a man on the deck of one of the warships took a photograph of the Lusitania. Unknown to any of the two thousand people on board the beautiful liner, it would be one of the last pictures anyone would ever take of her. She would never see New York again.

Excerpted from REMEMBER THE LUSITANIA! by Diana Preston Copyright © 2003 by Diana Preston
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Born and raised in London, Diana Preston studied Modern History at Oxford University, where she first became involved in journalism. After earning her degree, she became a freelance writer of feature and travel articles for national UK newspapers and magazines and has subsequently reviewed books for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times. She has also been a broadcaster for the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and has been featured in various television documentaries.

Eight years ago, her decision to write "popular" history led her to The Road to Culloden Moor: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the '45 Rebellion (Constable UK, 1995). It was followed by A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), The Boxer Rebellion (Walker & Company, 2000), and now, Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy (Walker & Company, 2002).

In choosing her topics, Preston looks for stories and events which are both compelling in their own right and also help readers gain a wider understanding of the past. She is fascinated by the human experience-what motivates people to think and act as they doÐand the individual stories that comprise the larger historical picture. Preston spent over two years researching Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy. She did a remarkable amount of original research for the book, and is the first author to make full use of the German archives and newly discovered papers that illuminate both the human tragedy and subsequent plots to cover up what really happened. Preston traveled to all the key locations of the tragedy, experiencing firsthand how cold the water off the Irish coast near Cobh would have been in early May when the Lusitania sank, and how eerie it was to stand inside what remains of the U-20 (now at the Strandingsmuseum in West Jutland, Denmark) where the U-boat captain watched the Lusitania through his periscope and gave the order to fire. Of the many artifacts she reviewed, it was her extensive reading of the diaries and memoirs of survivors that had the biggest impact on her. The experience of looking at photographs and touching the scraps of clothing of both survivors and those who died when the Lusitania sank provided her with chilling pictures: The heartbreaking image of a young girl whose sister's hand slipped away from her was one that kept Preston up at night. When not writing, Preston is an avid traveler with her husband, Michael. Together, they have sojourned throughout India, Asia, Africa, and Antarctica, and have climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and Mount Roraima in Venezuela. Their adventures have also included gorilla-tracking in Zaire and camping their way across the Namibian desert. Diana and Michael Preston are currently working on a biography of the 17th-century British explorer, naturalist, scientist, pirate and buccaneer William Dampier, which is forthcoming from Walker & Company. They live in London, England.

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