Naval Warfare Books

Book reviews

The Lusitania

The Life, Loss, and Legacy of an Ocean Legend

Butler, Daniel Allen

2000, Stackpole Books
ISBN 0811709892
Hardcover, 384 pages

Type. General History
Pros. Very well researched and written
Cons. None to speak of

This is a very, very scholarly book on the subject and a pleasure to read.

The author begins by covering, at length, the political climate in Europe at the turn of the century and the reasons (as such) for the almost gleeful entry of nation after nation into World War I. He then covers the planning and preparations of the Royal Navy and the German High Seas Fleet for the mighty battle at sea they both saw as inevitable.

The birth and reasoning behind Germany's increasingly unrestricted submarine warfare are very interesting and chilling. He quotes a document that the Germans captured from a British merchant in early 1915 that;
a) Instructs naval and merchant captains to open fire on Germans waiving white flags of surrender, and
b) Contains the incredible point of "survivors are to be rescued, or shot in the sea, whichever is more convenient".

Understandably, the Germans took this very seriously and although it was not until Feb, 1917 that they hesitantly adopted fully unrestricted submarine warfare they certainly had to be very, very alert while trying to honour the Prize Rules.

He also covers the massive pride and cost the Germans and British put into winning and keeping the Blue Ribbon for fastest trans-Atlantic crossing of a passenger liner. The Germans had taken the Ribbon away from the British and only many years later the Lusitania managed to wrestle it back for good with her impressive 25.75 knots.

The rest of the book covers Winston Churchill as the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty and how he successfully for the most part tried to re-shape the Royal Navy just prior to outbreak of war.

Complete backgrounds of both U-20, the U-boat that sank the Lusitania, and Lusitania and her commanders are provided as very detailed accounts of the loss of the mighty ship and its aftermath.

This is a very interesting book and a must-read for anyone who wishes to learn more about this fascinating chapter in world history.

Review written by GuĂ°mundur Helgason.

Published on 4 Mar 2001.

This title is highly recommended.

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