During the 1993 Lusitania expedition, I was fortunate to make two dives to the wreck in a small two-man submersible. The first dive took place on 4 August during which we explored the hull of the ship. The second dive on 8 August was spent looking through the debris field of the superstructure. During the dive, we recovered this piece of coal. It was originally 1/3 larger, but a section was removed by National Geographic for later analysis. It currently measures 6” x 4” x 3”.
The Lusitania survivor I knew best was Edith Wachtel (née Williams). Edith was traveling to England on the fateful voyage with her mother Annie, two sisters Florence and Ethel, and her three brothers Edward, George, and David. Of the family, only Edith and Edward survived.
This collar was part of a dress that was purchased for Edith the day after the disaster. Over the years, the dress became tattered and eventually fell apart, but Edith kept the collar as a reminder of that day. Shortly before she passed away in 1992, Edith gave me all of her Lusitania-related memorabilia, including the collar. The inset photo is of Edith (wearing the collar) and Edward shortly after the sinking.
Several years ago, I added this replacement discharge book for Lusitania crew member George Griffiths to my collection. George signed on to Lusitania as a second-class saloon steward (waiter) on 17 April 1915 for the round-trip crossing. The date of discharge is listed as 7 May 1915, and the reason is “sunk by enemy action.”
All crew discharge books were lost during the sinking; so every crew member was issued a replacement.
I am now the very proud owner of the mercantile marine medal for Percy Hefford, Second Officer of Lusitania when she sank. Hefford, aged 34, was on watch on the ship’s bridge when the torpedo struck, and he was lost in the sinking. His body was not recovered. This medal was presented to his widow Elsie in thanks for his service to King and Country.
In 1990, I purchased a number of artifacts that had been salvaged from Lusitania in 1982. Most of the items were easily identifiable, but there were three or four pieces that escaped identification. Although I had not given up on figuring out what they are, it seemed unlikely that I would ever find any of them in an archival photo. Several years ago, I purchased a large number of original builder’s photos of Lusitania that showed rarely seen interior and exteriors of the liner. While carefully examining one of these, something jumped out at me. It was one of the artifacts that I had purchased in 1990—the remains of an oil lamp from a crew area.
Although Lusitania and Mauretania were fully electrified, electricity on liners at the time was still not trusted 100%; so oil lamps were installed throughout the passenger and crew areas. Most of the items salvaged in 1982 were brought up from the area surrounding the forecastle and bridge. The archival photo below shows the Officers’ Smoking Room behind the bridge, and perhaps my oil lamp is the exact same one shown in the photo. It was extremely gratifying to finally be able to put an identification to this amazing artifact.
A new addition to my growing Lusitania passenger/crew autograph collection — a typed certificate that would have been given to a passenger after visiting Berengaria’s engine room, signed by her Chief Engineer Alex Duncan. In May, 1915, Duncan was a junior second engineer on board Lusitania when she sank.