Luton and the Lusitania

Event date

7th May 1915


Entity info.

Luton And The Lusitania

RMS Lusitania was a steam powered British ocean liner, holder of the Blue Riband and briefly the world's biggest ship, weighing 44,060 tons. Construction started By John Brown & Company at Clydebank on 7 June1904. She was launched by the Cunard Line on 7 June 1906.

Lusitania made many voyages across the Atlantic from Liverpool to New York City, but on the outbreak of war, the admiralty decided to use her to transport large quantities of munitions to Britain from America, as well as carrying on as a passenger liner.


On 1st May 1915 she left New York for the last time. As she leaves, the Master at Arms discovers three Germans on board who should  have left the ship. The Germans have a camera with them. Captain Turner confiscates the camera and orders the Germans to be locked in the ship's cells. Amongst her cargo is a large consignment of live artillery shells, stored in the forward hold. Lusitania is torpedoed 14 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, Southern Ireland, by the German U-boat, U-20. One torpedo is fired and it strikes the ship in the forward cargo hold.  After another explosion She sinks in just 18 minutes. 1,201 men, women and children perish in the disaster, including the three Germans in the cells.

Among the people that lost their lives in the sinking were Lutonians Mr Thomas Edward George Bodell, his wife and son and Mr Robert Edward Dearbergh, as reported in the Luton News.

Mr Thomas E G Bodell  was sailing home from Canada with his wife Florence, nee Saunders, and their 3 year old son. He had moved to Canada in 1905 after serving his apprenticeship at Hayward Tyler and Co of Crawley Road. He used to be secretary of the Luton Amateur Football Club. He was born in July 1881 in Luton and came from a large family. He had 2 sisters & 6 brothers. In 1901 he was living at 13 Havelock Road with his family & was working as a brass finisher, the same occupation as his father.

Mr Robert Edward Dearbergh was born in 1863 in Hackney, London. His father john was a straw plait warehouseman. In 1891 he is living in Friars Barnet, Enfield with his widowed father, four sisters and three brothers. He is working in the family run straw hat company. His brother Frederick William eventually took over the family business at 46 Bute Street, Luton, whilst Robert emigrated to America. At the time of the sinking of the Lusitania, Robert was 48 years old and the retired vice-president of a company in New York City. He was travelling to England with the explorer Commander J Foster Stackhouse to acquire Robert Falcon Scott's ship, Discovery. Dearbergh  intended to use the ship to raise funds for Stackhouse's expedition to the Pacific as he had become very interested in science and exploration.

The victims of the sinking were buried in a mass grave in The Old Cemetery, Cobh
County Cork, Ireland.

There is an exhibition of the Lusitania & Titanic at Merseyside Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool.

Event Place

Author: KarenC

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