The formal investigation was held at Central buildings, Westminster, on the 15th 16th, 17th and 18th June,at the Westminster Palace Hotel
on the 1st of July, and at the Caxton Hall,Westminster, on the 17th of July,before the Right Honourable LORD MERSEY, Wreck Commissioner.
He was assisted by Admiral Sir F. S. Inglefield, K.C.B.; Lieutenant-Commander Hearn RN; Captain D. Davies and Captain J. Spedding,
(both from the Merchant Navy) who were acting as assessors, into the circumstances attending the loss of the steamship "Lusitania", and
the loss of 1,198 lives at a spot ten to fifteen miles south of the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland, on the 7th May 1915. (Please note that the official
figure for lives lost does not include the three Germans locked in the ship's cells).
The Board of Trade required that a formal investigation be held on the above dates. Some were held in public others were in camera.
A total of thirty six witnesses were called and a number of documents examined. Twenty one questions for the court were formulated by the
Admiralty for the Board of Trade which we will detail, with the answers as given.
The full report is not available to the public, indeed the only surviving copy to our knowledge is in Lord Mersey's private papers. As two of the
hearings took place behind closed doors, the only transcript of those hearings s in Lord Mersey's private papers. It was during these in camera
hearings, that the Admiralty tried to frame Captain Turner. They very nearly succeeded in this, but at the last minute, their own staff work let
The "prosecuting" barrister started reading from Admiralty memos that had not been submitted to the court! Mersey stoppedb the proceedings
and summoned ALL the lawyers to the bench. He then icily demanded an immediate explanation of the memos from the Crown Solicitor
General, who was at a loss to explain.
Lord Mersey, and Sir F.E. Smith, (the prosecution barrister) suddenly realised that the evidence had been falsified by the Admiralty and they
refused to proceed further.
The inquiry was adjourned and Lord Mersey asked all of the assessors to give him their seperate opinions in sealed envelopes. Only Admiral
Sir Frederick Inglefield returned a guilty verdict against Captain Turner. This was not surprising as Inglefield had been pre-briefed by the Board
of the Admiralty and instructed to find Turner guilty of treasonable behaviour.
Our copy of the report came from the Cunard archives held at Sydney Jones library, Liverpool University and obviously only covers the
PUBLIC hearings. We obtained the pages that related only to Captain Turner's given evidence but the version of the report which is held at
the library, is available to the public.
The report as detailed shows the questions and answers and the court's findings. We have added the answers that show an Annex with
our comments, which appear in red type. Ultimately of course, the Mersey inquiry was simply a public whitewashing exercise. Something had
to be seen to be done, to quell public outrage. With Lord Mersey clearing Cunard and Captain Turner of blame, the full blame had therefore
to be placed with the "beastly Hun".
So justice, at least to some, appeared to have been done. But it was a fundamentally unsound justice, as Lord Mersey knew only too well.
Two days after he closed his inquiry, Lord Mersey waived his fees for the case and formally resigned. His last words on the subject were:
"The Lusitania case was a damned, dirty business!" He did have one consolation though. However hard they tried, then or later, the Admiralty
would NEVER be able to completely cover their tracks as Lord Mersey, in his wisdom, had taken the liberty of confiscating the entire contents
of Admiral Inglefield's master court file, and placing it with his own, secure, private papers.
If you wish to read a transcript of the findings