Proof of premeditated murder or merely publicity hoopla? This medallion may seem innocuous at first glance but in fact it was a propaganda tool used by both the Germans and the Allies during the First World War.
The sinking of RMS Lusitania was a significant event in WWI. The German torpedoing of the passenger liner in the Irish Sea on 7 May 1915, with the loss of 1198 lives, caused outrage amongst the allied nations and was a factor in prompting America to enter the war. Germans argued that the ship was fair-game as it was carrying war munitions and was travelling in a declared “war zone”; they had even issued warnings to passengers beforehand not to travel on the Lusitania.
In August 1915, a few months after the sinking of the Lusitania, a medal was designed by the German artist, Karl Goetz, as a satirical attack on the Cunard Line for trying to continue business as usual during wartime. One side shows a skeleton selling tickets with the words “Business above all”; the other side depicts the ship sinking with the deck laden with guns with the words “No Contraband!”. The date was incorrectly added as 5 May 1915 which Goetz later put down to an error in a newspaper story.
This small mistake led to further controversy. News of the medal was picked up by the British Foreign Office who, believing it in their interests to keep US citizens aware of German actions and attitudes, sent photographs to the Americans. In the US, the story was widely promulgated, including the false report that the medal was awarded to the U-boat crew, and, due to the incorrect date on this medal, conspiracy theories were put forward that the sinking was premeditated.
The British Propaganda Office saw that the situation could be used for their own purposes and generated a reproduction medal in 1916 which was sold with a propaganda leaflet to develop anti-German feeling. It was estimated 250,000 were sold. This medallion is one of the British reproductions.
“On the morning after the battle”, my father said, “sailors they left their battle posts to breathe, and found items they would keep as souvenirs of that day of fire and steel. Steel is what they collected, pieces of shrapnel with strange appearance, that had left traces of the impacts of the artillery.”
The Great Museum Explorer
A colourful gallery activity where children are on the hunt for artefacts in the galleries. At the same time they can be on the lookout for the ship brass rubbings dotted around the gallery. With five to find they can see if they can collect the fleet. Kids also get to keep a cool Museum pencil. Cost: $1:50
Salty Sea Dogs Activity Book
This activity book is for use in our galleries to enrich and educate. Some activities must be done in the galleries, others can be done at home to continue the fun. With 15 activities, there is plenty to do. The Salty Sea Dogs Activity Book comes with a pencil, temporary tattoo and origami paper. Just $4 per book.
Please purchase your gallery activities at Museum Reception
Te Waka is our online newsletter which is a great way to stay informed about current events at the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum. If you would like to subscribe to the online newsletter, please click here
The current issue will be emailed to you free of charge or can be downloaded below.
Sub-Lt Thomas Chalmers Glen McBride was an accountant in Wellington before he joined the Fleet Air Arm (the flying branch of the Navy) in 1942. He trained in Britain and in Detroit, USA, before being commissioned in 1943. It was during that American stint that Glen McBride was able to record two messages to send home his personal greetings in time for Christmas.
The messages were recorded on Recordio-Grams – the audio equivalent to the photo-booth for on-the-spot production of voice letters, which became popular in America during WWII. A coin was inserted into the Recordio-Gram machine and the machine recorded your message onto a thin cardboard record via a telephone handset. The booth also provided you with a handy mailing envelope.
Recently received by the Museum, these Recordio-Grams have now been converted to modern audio files and we can hear Glen’s voice from 70 years ago.
“Young Linda” was Linda Butler, Glen’s fiancé. The couple married in April 1945 when Glen returned home to New Zealand on leave. However, they only had 5 weeks together before Glen had to return to his ship, the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable. Linda never saw him again.
Glen McBride was lost over Japan on 10 August 1945. He was killed just five days before the Japanese surrender and is believed to be the last New Zealander killed in action in the Second World War.
On 12 April 1913, in unpleasant weather, Wellington turned out to witness the arrival of a special ship. “… Grim grey, a little squat … HMS New Zealand moved in over the gale-swept harbour …punctual to the minute.’ (Dominion, 14 April 1913)
This Royal Navy battlecruiser was a gift to Britain from the New Zealand government and she was here down under to show us what our money had bought. HMS New Zealand was two months into a 10-month tour of Empire ports and it would be another 8 months before she returned to England. New Zealanders responded enthusiastically – more than one-third of the population took the opportunity to tour the ship, and hundreds of thousands more viewed her from the shore. “There was a sense of proprietorship deep in the minds of the beholders of the stranger. All looked upon her with a real personal interest. She was “Our Dreadnought.”’ (Ashburton, Guardian, 14 April, 1913) Captain Halsey, one of the youngest Royal Navy captains of the period, was charismatic and much lauded. A number of New Zealanders were included in the crew of nearly 800. Also part of the crew was British bulldog Pelorus Jack, a naval volunteer with the rating of ‘Puppy,’ and ship’s mascot.
Auckland War Memorial Museum and Torpedo Bay Navy Museum invite you to join us as we follow the battlecruiser on her world tour and gain insight into New Zealand’s world of 1913 through newspaper reports, photos, personal stories, ephemera and collection objects from HMS New Zealand.