A CUNARD cruise line commodore today vowed that the loss of the RMS Lusitania with 1,198 passengers and crew will never be forgotten.
Commodore Christopher Rynd was speaking as thousands gathered in Cobh, Co Cork today to mark the centenary of the sinking of the liner which was instrumental in bringing the United States into World War I.
President Michael D Higgins is today leading the commemorations of one of the most tragic events of World War I which cost 1,198 lives off the Cork coast.
The RMS Lusitania, flagship of the Cunard cruise line, sank in just 18 minutes after being struck by a single torpedo from the German submarine, U-20.
The liner suffered a second catastrophic explosion which is suspected to have been a boiler rupturing or dust in a coal bunker igniting.
At 3am today, the liner RMS Queen Victoria paused over the exact site of the RMS Lusitania wreck and laid a wreath in memory of the victims and survivors.
"Cunard is a company that is very connected to its history and this is something we will never forget - we will never forget the RMS Lusitania, the survivors or those who were lost," he said.
Commodore Rynd said wreaths were laid in memory of all those involved - with descendants of Lusitania victims and survivors each laying a single red rose.
"We wanted to pay tribute over the wreck of the Lusitania which of course was the Cunard flagship. It was a very, very poignant moment."
"Just as we paused over the exact co-ordinates the moon came out and we could see the signal light from the Cork coast in the distance. It was very moving."
"It was a very emotional moment and we were all aware that 60m below us lay the Lusitania and those who were lost."
Cobh, which received most of the bodies of the Lusitania victims and was the site of a mass grave, is today hosting a special ceremony led by dignitaries from Ireland, the United States, Britain and Germany to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.
Over 10,000 people are expected to attend.
President Higgins is leading the programme of events which includes an exhibition of the log of victims, historical tours, a wreath laying ceremony at sea and a special night time flotilla of remembrance.
Cobh, Kinsale, Courtmacsherry and the Old Head in Cork are staging special events over the week to mark the sinking of the Cunard flagship.
Courtmacsherry, whose lifeboat was the first to launch and race to help the stricken liner, has staged a special recreation of the rescue.
Next Sunday, Cobh will stage a recreation of the Lusitania funeral procession, with locals dressed in period costume, to mark the exact route taken as victims' bodies were brought from Cobh town centre for burial in a mass grave.
A total of 145 people were buried in the mass grave with the photographs becoming one of the iconic images of World War I.
Many stories will be retold in relation to the torpedo attack on the RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, which has its 100th anniversary this week. One worth telling is that of Jerome B Murphy, who - as the Cunard Line manager in Cobh - did everything he could to help the survivors and the victims. His great-granddaughter Bayveen O'Connell recently wrote of the impact it had on him. She thought of two words about his experience - brave and alone.
There is no grave because no body was ever recovered. There is nowhere for James Joseph Larkin's grandchildren to lay a wreath tomorrow, May 7th, to mark the centenary of the Lusitania sinking, just like there was nowhere for his widow to go and grieve the loss of her beloved husband.