The 68c stamp portrays an image of the Lusitania just before the torpedo hit, steaming along in relatively calm waters in fine weather. However, the €1 stamp shows the ship listing to one side after the torpedo strike and explosion which led to her sinking within 18 minutes.
The RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner famous for its luxurious accommodation and speed. It was, briefly, the world’s largest passenger ship and holder of the Blue Riband, the unofficial trophy given to the passenger liner crossing the Atlantic Ocean in regular service with the highest speed record. She was launched by the Cunard Line in 1906, at a time of fierce competition for the North Atlantic trade.
On 1 May, 1915, the Lusitania left New York and sailed for Liverpool. Since the outbreak of World War I, ocean voyages had become dangerous: German U-boats (submarines) hunted in British waters, continually looking for enemy vessels to sink. In fact, Germany had declared the seas around the United Kingdom a war zone and the German embassy in the United States had placed a newspaper advertisement warning people not to sail on the Lusitania.
On 7 May, a German U-boat launched a torpedo at the Lusitania approximately 14 miles off the coast of Ireland,near the Old Head of Kinsale. The torpedo hit the starboard side of the Lusitania and, almost immediately, another explosion rocked the ship and the Lusitania sank within 18 minutes.
Although there had been enough lifeboats for all passengers, the severe listing of the ship while sinking prevented most of these from being launched properly. Of the 1,959 people on board, 1,198 died and 761 people were saved, many of them by boats launched from Kinsale, Queenstown (Cobh) and Cork. Nearly three days after the sinking of the Lusitania 150 of her victims were buried in mass graves in the Old Church cemetery, a mile north of Queenstown.