As first Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill was indeed
fully aware of the latest intelligence updates on the positions of U-boats.
These were obtained by Naval Intelligence from wireless intercepts,
sighting reports and reports of sinking's.
On Wednesday, 5th May, 1915, two days before the disaster
Churchill held a briefing in the Admiralty's war room.
Unfortunately, First Sea Lord Jacky Fisher and First Lord Winston Churchill were
at odds over Churchill's disastrous Dardanelles campaign again. Fisher was harbouring a good deal of resentment
with Churchill's name on it, and Churchill himself was off to France that afternoon to participate in a
Naval convention which would bring Italy into the war on the side of the Allies.
Churchill cancels the Luistania’s destroyer escourt
After that formality, he was to visit the Headquarters of Sir John French,
who was going to mount what would ultimately prove to be an equally disastrous offensive on the Aubers Ridge the following Friday, a totally un-necessary diversion for Churchill.
Churchill knew that U-20 was on her way toward Fastnet,
as was the LUSITANIA, and the cruiser due to escort her, HMS JUNO.
The U-boat and the cruiser would arrive there ahead of the Cunarder. HMS JUNO, being of an obsolete design, was particularly
vulnerable to U-boat attack, so was immediately recalled to Queenstown.
No message was sent to Captain Turner on the LUSITANIA
to advise him that the escort he was expecting had now been cancelled.
The briefing over, Churchill had lunch with his wife, then hurried to Waterloo station to catch his train.
This left the Admiralty in the charge of First Sea Lord Jacky Fisher,
aged 75 and sadly, showing signs of senility, and Admiral Oliver,
who was deputising for Churchill whilst he was away.
Churchill learns of other attacks
Late that same Wednesday afternoon, U-20 sank a small schooner,
the EARL OF LATHOM, off Kinsale.
The Admiralty received notification of the sinking by 21.30 that night.
By midnight, news came in that the British Steamer CAYO ROMANO
had been unsuccessfully attacked off Queenstown (now Cobh).
The next day, Thursday May 6th, U-20 sank two cargo ships,
the CANDIDATE and the CENTURION,
in the entrance to St. George's Channel, near the Conningbeg lightship.
She also unsuccessfully attacked the White Star liner ARABIC.
By 11.00 on Thursday May 6th, the Admiralty in London
knew of the sinking of the CANDIDATE,
though they didn't see fit to inform the Naval base
at Queenstown, Ireland, for a further 24 hours.
By 03.40 on Friday, May 7th, they also knew the fate of the CENTURION.
If one considers Churchill's penchant for intrigues,
he was certainly behind this dastardly plan to fulfilment. He would then have been directly responsible for the
deaths of 1,201 men, women and children.