Great Canadian Heritage Treasure In 1915, during World War 1, the Germans were waging submarine warfare against British shipping. The Cunard liner Lusitania, sailing out of New York, rounded the coast of southern Ireland and was torpedoed by a submarine. She sank in 15 minutes taking 1200 passengers to the bottom, including 115 Americans. To celebrate the feat of arms, a medal was struck in Germany.

As part of the campaign to demonize the enemy, and drum up support for the war effort, and relief for widows and orphans, replica medals were struck in the Allied countries. Left is the cardboard box which held the medal and the plaid pouch in which it was stored. It is probably the most celebrated memento of World War 1.

The medal notes all the controversy surrounding the sinking including German charges - which the Allies denied - that the Lusitania was carrying forbidden contraband (guns and ammunition) for the war (and therefore a legitimate military target).

British Lusitania Medal, 1915
Orig. medallion - Size - 60 mm
Found - Dundas, ON

The front of the medal (left) shows the "Lucy" sinking with guns and airplanes on the foredeck, and the stern reprimand "No Contraband?" written on the top in German.

The rear of the medal (right) shows passengers buying tickets from a skeleton, representing Death, as Cunard's ticket agent in New York. One man reads the paper warning Americans not to board the ship going into the war zone - the German embassy had printed warnings. The medal also features the German ambassador wagging a warning finger at the passengers. A resigned motto at the top "Business Above Everything" accounts for Cunard taking chances by carrying war materiel as well as passengers.

The death of over 100 neutral Americans, is held by many to be a pivotal factor for turning Americans against the Germans and entering the war on the British side two years later.

This 2 1/4 inch medal is a copy of German medalist Karl Goetz's first medal, issued with the wrong May 5th date. Medals were found in many Canadian homes.

The Sinking of the Lusitania: May 7, 1915


History Page 5

Great Canadian History