Emotional tributes as world recalls sinking of Lusitania
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins urged the world never to forget the terrible lessons of the RMS Lusitania tragedy in World War I and to cherish peace while supporting diplomacy.
President Higgins was speaking as almost 10,000 people joined with dignitaries from the United States, UK and Germany in Cobh, Co Cork to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Cunard flagship on May 7, 1915.
A total of 1,198 people died when the liner sank in just 18 minutes off the Cork coast after being struck by a torpedo from the German submarine, U-20. Just over 700 people survived.
"The importance of recalling the horror of war is that it should press us all to cherish and nurture peace, to defend the role of diplomacy, and seek to have it extended to achieve peaceful resolution of conflicts," President Higgins said.
Descendants of victims and survivors fought back tears at the Cork ceremonies.
Cunard second engineer, George Harrison (30), revealed his great-grandfather, George Little, was a third engineer on RMS Lusitania in 1915.
"While he survived the sinking, he contracted pleurisy from exposure in the sea and that was a factor in his death a few years later," he said.
George said the wreath laying over the wreck site was "very emotional for everyone".
UK resident, Jill Power- Forward, lost her grandfather, William Affleck-Anderson.
"He left two children aged just four and two years, so it had an enormous impact on the whole family," she said.
Cunard Fleet Commodore Christopher Rynd vowed RMS Lusitania will never be forgotten.
At 3am yesterday, RMS Queen Victoria paused over the wreck site and laid memorial wreaths.
"Cunard is a company that is very connected to its history. We will never forget the RMS Lusitania, the survivors or those who were lost," he said.
The events were attended by the US Ambassador Kevin O'Malley, British Ambassador Dominic Chilcott and German Charge d'Affairs, Wolfram von Heynitz.