It’s a small medal in a box that was struck nearly a hundred years ago.
Despite its size and at first glance, it is quite innocent looking, this piece of history tells us fathoms about the era in which it was made and the tragedy that it represents.
I recently visited Cobh on the Irish coast near Cork, were passengers had once boarded the Titanic for its maiden voyage where there is a memorial to those that died on the Lusitania.
The medal was struck by the British "copied" from the original, that was made after the deplorable act of the sinking of The Lusitania on 7th May 1915 by a German U-Boat, killing 1,198 of the 1,959 people aboard, leaving 761 survivors.
It is said that it is an exact replica of the one that was struck by Karl Goetz for the Germans to commemorate the atrocity.
It was made in 1916 some time later than the original which was made privately in August 1915.
It was said that 500 German medals were struck and a limited circulation took place.
British copies were of die cast iron and were of poorer quality than the original. The original Goetz medals were sand-cast bronze. Belatedly realising his mistake, Goetz got the date wrong and the original German medal was dated ‘5 Mai’ Goetz quickly issued a corrected medal with the date of "7. Mai".
The Bavarian government suppressed the medal and ordered their confiscation in April 1917.
The original German medals can be identified from the English copies because the date is in German, the English version was altered to read 'May' rather than 'Mai'. After the war Goetz expressed his regret that his work had been the cause of increasing anti-German feelings.
One side of the medal showed the sinking of the Luitania laden with guns with the motto "KEINE BANNWARE!" ("NO CONTRABAND!"), the other side showed a skeleton selling tickets with the motto "Geschäft Über Alles" ("Business Above All").The replica medals were produced in an attractive case claiming to be an exact copy of the German medal, and were sold for a shilling apiece.
On the cases it was stated that the medals had been distributed in Germany "to commemorate the sinking of the Lusitania" and they came with a propaganda leaflet which strongly denounced the Germans and used the medal's incorrect date to claim that the sinking of the Lusitania was premeditated.
The head of the Lusitania Souvenir Medal Committee later estimated that 250,000 were sold, proceeds being given to the Red Cross and St. Dunstan's Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Hostel.
There had been an advertisement placed in an American paper warning of the risk to passengers travelling on Cunard Line.
U-Boats were the new threat to shipping.
U-20 sank the 6,000 ton steamer Candidate. It then failed to get off a shot at the 16,000 ton liner Arabic, because although she kept a straight course the liner was too fast, but then sank another 6,000 ton British cargo ship flying no flag, Centurion, all in the region of the Coningbeg light ship.
The specific mention of a submarine was dropped from the midnight broadcast on 6–7 May as news of the new sinking's had not yet reached the navy at Queenstown, and it was correctly assumed that there was no longer a submarine at Fastnet.
Captain Turner of Lusitania was given a warning message twice on the evening of 6 May, and took what he felt were prudent precautions.
There can be n excuse for this barbaric act in the early days of the First World War before new style Naval warfare, and the new U-Boat threat had been understoo.
But it is also a fact that Britain wanted America in the First World War and this unholy act is cited as one of the main reasons that America entered the war on the side of the Allies.
Churchill then Lord of the Admiralty knew of the threats to the Lusitania and it was said he was away playing golf, it has been rumoured he ignored the threats.
Posters were also produced. It says a lot about the cruel nature at the time where both side splayed with propaganda that cost peoples lives.
The RMS Lusitania was funded by the British Government and had a contract that it could be commissioned by the Navy.
It was estimated that it took 16 minutes to sink 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale.
The contemporary investigations both in Britain and in the United States into the precise causes of the ship's loss were obstructed by the needs of wartime secrecy and a propaganda campaign to ensure all blame fell upon Germany.
The reason why we the British would strike a medal and distribute it, is, a sinister act itself.
Argument over whether the ship was a legitimate military target raged back and forth throughout the war as both sides made claims about the ship and whether it was a legitimate target.
At the time she was sunk, she was carrying a large quantity of rifle ammunition and other supplies necessary for war, as well as civilian passengers.
Several attempts have been made over the years since the sinking to dive to the wreck seeking information about exactly how the ship sank.
It was on its way to Liverpool and one of its bronze propellers is on display near Liverpoos Albert Dock.