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Lifejacket in loft is relic of Lusitania tragedy

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

The only surviving lifejacket from one of the 20th century's worst maritime tragedies has been unearthed in an attic in Wolverhampton.

The only surviving lifejacket from one of the 20th century's worst maritime tragedies has been unearthed in an attic in Wolverhampton.

The relic from cruise liner RMS Lusitania, which was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in May 1915, killing 1,198 passengers and crew, is expected to fetch thousands of pounds at auction later this year.

The vessel was carrying 1,959 people when the submarine struck near the Irish coast, having left New York a week earlier bound for Liverpool.

Hundreds of lifejacketed bodies were found floating in the port, with fisherman were paid to retrieve them as well as look for survivors.

One lifejacket was kept as a memento by a man from Cape Clear Island, 30 miles from the disaster scene.

In the 1930s he moved to Wolverhampton and later gave the relic to a close friend the father of the current owner, who has asked to remain anonymous.

Today it emerged he kept it in his attic, where it was only recently rediscovered.

Experts estimate the piece of maritime history could go for at least £2,000 or £3,000 when it is put up for sale by Biddle & Webb Auctioneers in Birmingham on September 3.

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Adrian Mackwell, of Biddle & Webb, said: "The lifejacket epitomises the futility of war and I couldn't help feeling deeply moved and saddened when handling this item.

"It is the only surviving lifejacket from the tragedy I have not been able to find another that is still in one piece.

"It is made of canvas and cork and we are anticipating that it will generate a lot of interest from private collectors and museum curators in the UK."

Mr Mackwell added: "Due to its strong transatlantic links we envisage it may also attract a significant portion of bids from the US market."

Before Lusitania set out on her final journey, the German Embassy in the US, which was then still neutral, issued a warning on April 22, 1915, telling passengers a state of war existed and that any ship flying the flag of Great Britain, or her allies, would be destroyed.

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