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In April 1915, the German Embassy in the US ran a series of adverts in American newspapers warning people that due to the existing state of war between the allied and central powers, ships travelling in British water were liable to be sunk without warning. Despite these warnings however, passenger and mail services between neutral America and Britain still continued. In spite of the German warnings, it was still believed that the Germans would not dare to sink a passenger ship filled with civilians, particularly American ones. Those who believed that were soon to be sorely disappointed.
On the 7th of May 1915, the RMS Lusitania, carrying a mixture of passengers and a cargo of munitions and other war materials, was sunk by the German submarine U-20. 1,198 passengers and crew perished in the sinking, including 128 American citizens. This incident outraged public opinion both in Britain and the United States, but worse was soon to come.
A few months later, Karl Goetz, a German medalist and sculptor, created a medal which was intended as a satire on Cunard's policy of carrying on 'business as usual' by providing a passenger service on a ship carrying war materials from America to Britain in a well-known and declared war zone in the waters around the British Isles. Sensing a powerful propaganda opportunity, the British government seized upon the medallion as 'proof' of the hun's beastliness. It was replicated in large numbers and sold in Britain and the United States to keep alive the memory of the sinking. It was falsely claimed in the press that it was issued to celebrate the U-20's monstrous achievement. Public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic was outraged by the German's apparent delight in cruelty and the slaughter of innocent civilians, particularly neutral American ones, and was an important factor in encouraging the United States to enter the war on the Allied side.
These medals were cast in iron (unlike the originals, which were struck in bronze) and originally sold for a shilling apiece, and came in an attractive box for display. This medallion not only commemorates an important historical event, it influenced one as well!
Obverse and Reverse
Obverse shows passengers queueing up to buy tickets for passage on the Lusitania from a skeleton. The man with the newspaper (whose headline translates as 'Danger! U-Boats!) is a reference to the German Ambassador's printed warnings not to travel in allied waters. The words 'Geschaff Über Alles' on the top of the medal translates as 'Business Above All'.
Reverse depicts the sinking of the Lusitania itself, words at the top translate as 'No contraband goods', and those at the bottom 'Lusitania, sunk by a German submarine 5th of May 1915*
*In earlier versions of the Medal, the date of the sinking is incorrectly given as the 5th of May, this was corrected by Goetz in later versions.
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The Chard Medallion Collection
This page is published as part of a small collection of interesting medallions acquired in the course of our coin business.
Many medallions are of local historical interest, others of wider interest. Many are beautiful examples of medallic art.
Most are not primarily for sale. We hope they will add to your interest and enjoyment of our site.
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