On May 7, 1915, the British passenger ship RMS Lusitania was nearing the end of a risky trans-Atlantic voyage from New York to Liverpool when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat about 11 miles off the southern coast of Ireland.
Europe had been embroiled in WWI for nearly a year by that point. Earlier in 1915, in response to being blockaded by Britain, Germany had declared the seas around Ireland and Great Britain a war zone. This meant unrestricted submarine warfare: U-boats would attack any Allied or neutral ship — military or not — without warning.
The Lusitania sank in just 18 minutes. Of the 1,962 passengers and crew on board, nearly 1,200 perished. The casualties consisted primarily of British and Canadian citizens, but also included 128 Americans.
Judging by the records I’ve seen, hundreds of babies worldwide were named Lusitania that year. Most were born in the United Kingdom. Others were born in the U.S., Australia, Canada, and elsewhere.
Here’s a sampling of the many babies named Lusitania in the UK:
- Lusitania May Rayson, born in England on May 4, 1915
- Bronwen Lusitania Davies, born in Wales on May 7, 1915
- Lusitania Southwell, born in England on May 15, 1915
- Lusitania Mayo, born in England on May 17, 1915
- Lusitania Cartwright, born in England in mid-1915
- Lusitania M. Fox, born in England in mid-1915
- Lusitania Haywood, born in England in mid-1915
- Lusitania Ypres Heavingham, born in England on June 20, 1915
- Lusitania Nash, born in Wales in mid-1915
- Lusitania Walker, born in England in mid-1915
- Lusitania Cranstone, born in England in mid-1915
- Lusitania G. Elias, born in Wales in mid-1915
- Lusitania Wiggins, born in England in mid-1915
- Lusitania Hayden, born in Eng in late 1915
- Lusitania R. Horncastle, born in England in late 1915
- Lusitania Colbridge, born in England on December 3, 1915
And here are a few of the U.S-born Lusitanias:
- Lusitania Looney, born in Virginia in July of 1915
- Lusitania Vinson (married name Lusitania Kelley), born in Oklahoma in March of 1916
- Lusitania Henselman, born in Wisconsin circa 1916
- Lusitania Krupinski, born in Missouri circa 1916
- Lusitania Totino, born in New Jersey in May of 1917
Though the U.S. public was outraged by the destruction of the Lusitania, president Woodrow Wilson was reluctant to get the country involved in World War I.
Several months later, in September of 1915, Germany agreed to stop attacking passenger vessels.
In January of 1917, however, Germany decided to resume unrestricted U-boat warfare. This reversal — along with the interception and decoding of the Zimmermann Telegram — convinced Wilson to ask Congress to declare war against Germany. Which it did, on April 6, 1917.
The RMS Lusitania was named after the ancient Roman province of Lusitania, located on the Iberian peninsula. The province, in turn, was named after the Lusitanians — the people who’d lived in the region before it was conquered by the Roman Republic.
P.S. In 1982, divers salvaged one reel of the silent film The Carpet from Bagdad, which featured a character named Fortune, from the wreckage of the Lusitania.