Winston Churchill and the Lusitania

Discussion in 'World War I' started by Njaco, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    #1 Njaco, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011
    I wasn't aware of this but some historians believe that Churchill hastened the US' entry into the war by allowing the Lusitania to be sunk. The following excerpts are from internet sites.......

    WW1 - The True Cause of World War 1

    Rethinking Churchill, Part 2

    A week before the disaster, he (Winston Churchill) wrote to Walter Runciman, President of the Board of Trade that it was "most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hopes especially of embroiling the United States with Germany." Many highly-placed persons in Britain and America believed that the German sinking of the Lusitania would bring the United States into the war. And, as Churchill stressed in his memoirs of World War I, embroiling neutral countries in hostilities with the enemy was a crucial part of warfare: "There are many kinds of maneuvres in war, some only of which take place on the battlefield. . . . The maneuvre which brings an ally into the field is as serviceable as that which wins a great battle."

    The next step in the maneuvering of the United States into the war came when the Cunard Lines, owner of the ocean liner, the Lusitania, turned the ship over to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. It now became a ship of the English Navy and was under the control of the English government.

    England broke the German war code on December 14, 1914, so that "By the end of January, 1915, [British Intelligence was] able to advise the Admiralty of the departure of each U-boat as it left for patrol...." This meant that the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, knew where every U-boat was in the vicinity of the English Channel that separated England and France.

    On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was sunk off the coast of County Cork, Ireland by a U-boat after it had slowed to await the arrival of the English escort vessel, the Juno, which was intended to escort it into the English port. The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, issued orders that the Juno was to return to port, and the Lusitania sat alone in the channel. Because Churchill knew of the presence of three U-boats in the vicinity, it is reasonable to presume that he had planned for the Lusitania to be sunk, and it was. 1201 people lost their lives in the sinking.


    What do you think?
     
  2. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    There is a world of difference between knowing the patrol areas of submarines and being able, with any certainty, to place a "target" (ie Lusitania) in a position to guarantee its destruction. The Lusitania was heading to a port in the UK. It's hardly surprising, then, that the German Navy would place submarines to intercept vessels heading into or out of those ports. Given the immaturity of anti-submarine sensors and weapons, I suspect the presence or absence of the Juno had little impact on the eventual outcome.

    Overall, an interesting conspiracy theory but, in my view, it's simply impossible to choreograph the sinking of the Lusitania using maps in London.
     
  3. Vassili Zaitzev

    Vassili Zaitzev Well-Known Member

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    I can't believe it. It's like those conspiracy theorists claiming FDR wanted Pearl Harbor to happen. Churchill wouldn't orchrastrate the sinking at the cost of hundreds of British citizens, and FDR wouldn't waste his Pacific Fleet to get dragged into a conflict.
     
  4. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    I agree with the two posters above me. I can't believe it was deliberate due to the inaccuracies of knowing where the submarines were at specific times.

    However the notion of enticing neutral (particularly American) shipping to British ports to increase the chances of them being sunk by the U-boats and thus causing the international incident that would hasten their entry into the war is a plausible Churchill policy and no doubt was done to some degree but I doubt they had any particular ship in mind when doing it. Any ship(s) would of worked, it just so happened that the one that was sunk was the Lusitania and caused more than the necessary consternation and angry from the Americans to serve the aims of the British and the Allies at the time.
     
  5. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    A conspiracy theory on the Internet.....a first,

    The U Boats were shooting and asking no questions. At some point they knew they would sink American ships but they believed they could win war before USA entry. If it wasnt the Lusitania it would be any other vessel.

    The Juno could just be another military FUBAR which is all too often.
     
  6. Coors9

    Coors9 Member

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    In WW2, didn't he allow the bombing of a British city because they couldn't allow the Reich to know they cracked their code ?????
     
  7. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    #7 buffnut453, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011
    No he didn't. The city in question was Coventry but it was not sacrificed to preserve Enigma. The source of my rebuttal is R V Jones' book "Reflections on Intelligence" on p.42 (and in case you don't know of R V Jones, he was the father of scientific intelligence during WWII and was read into Enigma-based intelligence).
     
  8. Coors9

    Coors9 Member

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    Can you tell us more about what's on page 42 please.
     
  9. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    R V Jones recounts letters he received from French former resistance fighters following the publication of Anthony Cave Brown's "Bodyguard of Lies". The resistance fighters were upset because Cave Brown claimed that their lives were considered by Churchill unimportant when balanced against the need to keep Ultra secure. The resistance veterans asked R V Jones to investigate the matter, to which Jones states:

    "Faced with so much trust, I took every possible step with old colleagues throughout the wartime intelligence organizations to check whether anyone could recall an instance where an agent had been intentionally betrayed, or which might be so interpreted. In reporting...the firmly negative result, I could only console the French Resistance with the fact that the same author had said that Churchill himself had sacrificed both Coventry in 1940, to preserve the Ultra secret of our breaking Enigma, and also Bomber Command on the Nuremburg raid in 1944....Neither the Coventry nor the Nuremburg claim has, to my knowledge, the slightest element of substance."

    Bear in mind that foreknowledge of the raid on Coventry was not just an Ultra secret. The German Luftwaffe used navigation beams to help bombers find their targets. These beams were being intercepted and some deception measures had been successfully implemented. As a key member of the UK's scientific intelligence staff, R V Jones was intimately involved in such matters during the war.
     
  10. Ferdinand Foch

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    Buffnut, interesting post. Thanks for the info. I personally do not think that Churchill masterminded the sinking of the Lustiania. I'm no expert on Churchill, but I am an avid reader about him. So far, a lot of the authors i've read or looked over had found any real evidence about linking Churchill to the Lusitania (One of these books was William Manchester's Visions of Glory). Personally, with the way the submarine war was taking place, I don't think Churchill would have needed to deliberately sink one of Britain's own ships to get the U.S. involved, the German Navy would have taken care of that. I will admit that it was a bit of hit and miss with Churchill during his time as first lord of the admiralty. Vassili knows more, but he did bungle the battle at the Colonels early in the war. Gallipoli is still very much a touchy subject for Churchill supporters and opponents, though I do believe that Winston's original plan would have worked with the admirals on the scene had been a little more daring.
     
  11. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    During WWI Churchill didn't have much influence on British foreign policy. It was Sir Edward Grey and Colonel House who maneuvered the U.S. into the war as a British ally.

    WWII is an entirely different matter.
     
  12. Ferdinand Foch

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  13. Edgar Brooks

    Edgar Brooks Active Member

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    There is, and always has been, a "Hate Churchill" faction, who'll say anything to try to make him lose face. As always, it's so much easier to wait until the person is dead before peddling the stories.
    Edgar
     
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  14. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Say what you will about the man, but there's a very big difference between making the most out of a tragedy, and actually taking steps to ensure that the tragedy took place. If you take a step back and look at his life in general (and I'll admit that I haven't read anything specifically on him, no in-depth master's thesis studies, just general accounts where he touched upon the topic I was reading at the time), he doesn't seem to be the guy who would make that kind of decision, to sacrifice 1200 innocents just to bring another ally into the war. The kind of moral bearings that would be required to make that sort of decision would have either destroyed a decent man, or would have guided his decision-making process elsewhere, as well. I may very well be wrong, but for now, that's the impression I get.
     
  15. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    'What do you think?'

    Whether true or not, I believe Churchill would be capable of attempting such a manouevre.
     
  16. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #16 stona, Aug 25, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2011
    Almost all of these conspiracy theories evaporate in a puff of smoke when you actually demand hard evidence to support them. Hard evidence is not the wild extrapolation of known facts allied to supposition and conjecture.
    This one is no exception.
    Steve
     
  17. Mustang nut

    Mustang nut Banned

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    #17 Mustang nut, Aug 25, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2011
    My tuppence worth

    The enigma code breakers when breaking the code took time to do it, the information rarely extended to individual subs actual location in real time.

    If any secret was worth the sacrifice of lives to protect it was Bletchley park and later the US equivilant. It is estimated to have shortened the war by a year and D Day may not have succeeded without it. If military commanders were given full access to all that was known all the time the Germans would very quickly have changed their codes and procedures.

    I resent small men trying to make a name by dissing the great men of history. I havnt seen anything to suggest Churchill who had many faults was involved in this conspiracy to to mass slaughter.

    Churchill was the British P.M. but he was half American .....I just dont believe it and until it is proved let the man rest.
     
  18. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    And Enigma was not an issue in the Lusitiania sinking, as it had yet to be invented in 1915.

    But I strongly doubt Churchill orchestrated the sinking to get the US into the war. Churchill didn't need to mount a false flag operation, he just had to wait until the Germans killed a load of American civilians, which was inevitable given German submarine policy
     
  19. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Just so everyone knows, I don't believe this gobbledigook. Churchill, to me, is one of the three greatest men of the 20th Century next to Theodore Roosevelt and MLK Jr.
     
  20. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Churchill typically inspires strong opinions both for and against him. There aren't many people who say "Churchill? Meh...he was ok, I guess." He's typically either respected/venerated or loathed/vilified. Ask an Australian veteran of the Malayan Campaign and he's likely to blame Churchill for the entire debacle and postulate that he abrogated his responsibilities to defend the Commonwealth. Similarly, many Indians merely see Churchill as the man who failed to do anything about the rice shortage in 1943 which resulted in famine and great loss of life. Churchill was far from perfect. He was a man of his age; an ardent proponent of Empire. He made many mistakes but, to me at least, it's a step too far to suggest that he deliberately schemed in a Machiavellian way to sacrifice the Lusitania in the First World War or Coventry during WWII.
     
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