The Lusitania was launched in 1906 and was at the time the world’s largest passenger ship. She held the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing. Lusitania left New York for Britain on 1 May 1915; World War I was dominating Europe but the US was as yet not involved. The seas around Britain were largely controlled by the British Navy as part of a naval blockade of Germany, but German submarines were operating off the Irish coast. On 7 May 1915, a German u-boat torpedoed the Lusitania when she was 11 miles off the southern coast of Ireland. She sank with the loss of 1,198 lives.
The first boat on the scene after the torpedo attack was the Wanderer, a lugger from the fishing port of Peel on the Isle of Man, just off the west coast of mainland Britain. The crew of seven sailed straight for the Lusitania and rescued 160 people from the Irish Sea, sailing them towards shelter in Kinsale, Ireland where they were aided by a Navy boat. The Wanderer then sailed back to the sinking Lusitania but was unable to find any further survivors.