The Trip on the Lusitania
In April 1910 Bessie and William McKee, with Marjorie and 11-year old Augustine, took a 2-month long trip to Europe taking in the major cities and traveling first-class all the way. They sailed on Cunard’s R.M.S. Carmania from New York to Liverpool, England, where they were met by their own chauffeur, Krohe, in their own car. Krohe had traveled with the family car on the previous sailing, so as to be rested and ready to drive the McKees and the Van Wickles through England, France, and Italy.
Their return journey was on the R.M.S. Lusitania. Marjorie described the last-minute excitement as they prepared to leave the Ritz in London to drive to Liverpool for the sailing on May 28th. “Trunks everywhere, Aline fairly standing on her head, everyone wondering whether the wash will come back in time…whether they ought to declare this or that…whether the trunks will get to Liverpool safely, etc., etc.” Once on board, they occupied Stateroom A16, one of the largest and most well-appointed on the ship. The Lusitania had the reputation for being the fastest, most prestigious, and the most luxurious ocean liner of its time. It held the coveted Blue Riband award for speed and comfort, and was known to attract the richest, most prominent passengers.
Almost exactly five years later, on May 6th 1915, the Lusitania was attacked by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland. It was considered the safest ship on the high seas and even after the broadside hit at an ideal 90 degrees angle, and two massive explosions, passengers still believed the ship would stay afloat and that they would be able to limp into Queenstown, the nearest port, only 12 miles away. However, it sank in less than 18 minutes, and the loss of life was horrendous. By Cunard’s official tally 123 Americans died, and it is believed that this tragic event ultimately led to America joining the war in Europe.