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Kootenaians on the Lusitania’s last voyage

Updated: Nov 21, 2018

Six West Kootenay/Boundary residents and one former resident were among the 1,200 passengers and crew who perished when a German U-boat sank the RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915 off the south coast of Ireland. There was also one survivor from our area and three others who narrowly avoided sailing on that fateful trip.

The RMS Lusitania is seen in a 1907 painting by Norman Wilkinson. (Wikipedia)

The Chantry family

Harold Chantry (or Chantrey), 23, and his wife Mina, 22, arrived in New York from England on Nov. 27, 1914 bound for Nelson as tourists. Harold was a bank clerk. The ship manifest, intriguingly, gave Mina’s occupation as engineer.

Harold suffered from tuberculosis and we can guess their move to Canada was part of his recuperation. Soon after their arrival, Mina gave birth to Elizabeth Ellen. The family was listed in the 1915 civic directory as residing in unit 306 of the Kerr Apartments on Victoria Street in Nelson (seen below).

In April 1915, the family set to return to England — whether permanently or temporarily is unclear. They were forced to stay over in Spokane owing to Harold’s illness, so it wasn’t initially known whether they made the Lusitania’s sailing. But a chilling story emerged, as told on a website devoted to the Lusitania.

During the sinking, a woman thought to be Mina, then holding Elizabeth, pleaded with saloon passenger Robert Timmis for help. Timmis, then standing with Ralph Moodie, thought they were third class passengers.
Timmis advised Mina to strap Elizabeth in front of her and began assisting her. Harold then asked Timmis worriedly, “Do you think they will live, sir?”
Timmis replied bluntly, “I think so, but you won’t.”
[…] Moodie took off his lifebelt and gave it to Mina, but before they could jump, the Lusitania took her final plunge. The entire Chantry family was lost. Their bodies were either never recovered or never identified.

I don’t know the source of this story. The website above cites The Last Voyage of the Lusitania by A.A. and Mary Hoehling (1956), but the book doesn’t actually mention the Chantrys.

Presumably the details came from one of the many newspaper accounts of the disaster, but I haven’t been able to find it. A report in the Baltimore Sun of May 10, 1915 did note “Moodie was ready to jump when Timmis … said: ‘There is a steerage woman with a six months’ old baby.’ Moodie promptly stripped off his life belt, but it seems both he and the woman perished.”

A memorial to the Chantrys, seen here, exists on the gravemarker of Harold’s parents, Thomas and Ellen, in the St. James Churchyard at Rawcliffe, Yorkshore. Ellen inherited Harold’s effects and estate, worth £742 (about $24,000 today).

The Bailey family

Walter George Bailey, 53, and Jessie Annie Hanford Bailey, 45, were travelling on the Lusitania with their daughter Ivy, 14. They immigrated to Canada in 1912 to join Walter’s son from a previous marriage and began ranching on the Arrow Lakes. Their home was variously listed as Edgewood, Fauquier, or Nelson.

In the spring of 1915, Walter, Jessie, and Ivy decided to move back to Leicestershire permanently. They departed from Needles at the end of April for New York. None survived the sinking and their bodies were never recovered.

Nelson Daily News, May 8, 1915

Jessie’s brother, Charles Benjamin Hanford, had left Shepshed for Liverpool to meet the family, but would have arrived to learn the grim news of the Lusitania’s sinking.

Hanford filed a claim for the loss of the family and their possessions with the Canadian Commission established to detail with such matters. However, because Hanford wasn’t Canadian and there were no Canadian dependents, the claim was denied.

A memorial gravestone to the Baileys, pictured below, exists in St. Matthew’s Churchyard at Darley Abbey, Derby. Unfortunately, it has fallen to pieces, although the inscriptions are still legible. The marker is shared with Jessie’s nephew, Gilbert Hanford Cotton, who died on May 13, 1917, age 15.

Courtesy Roy Branson/Derbyshire War Memorials

Courtesy Roy Branson/Derbyshire War Memorials

Courtesy Roy Branson/Derbyshire War Memorials

The Lay family

According to the Rossland Miner of May 8, 1915: “It has been reported that Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Lay and baby, recently leaving Rossland, had sailed on the Lusitania. Mr. Lay, however, booked their passage on the steamship New York sailing last Saturday and they are now no doubt in the waters in the vicinity of the Lusitania tragedy.”

We know Douglas and Mary Lay and their children Mildred and Douglas Jr. survived, for they were listed on the 1921 census for Rossland.

Kenneth John Morrison

In the wake of the tragedy, Morrison, 48, was identified as a missing Trail resident. This was odd, for while Morrison did have a Kootenay connection, he was not living in Trail at the time.

A native Nova Scotian, he was president of the Morrison Steel and Wire Co. and BC Manufacturers Association. He and his wife lived in Vancouver at the time the Lusitania sank.

His biography in British Columbia From the Earliest Times to the Present, Vol. 3 (from which the photo here is taken), stated: “[I]n 1898 [he] came to British Columbia, where he spent three years in the Boundary district in and about Sandon, Phoenix and Greenwood.” (There are actually signs of him in the area as of 1897, applying with two partners for land near Silverton.)

He owned mining claims at Sandon and was an engineer at the Snowshoe mine at Phoenix. He then returned to Nova Scotia to become master mechanic for the Dominion Iron and Steel Co before moving to Vancouver in 1907. (Strange thing: a different Kenneth John Morrison, also from Nova Scotia, married Letitia Maud McCurdy in Greenwood on Christmas Day 1907. This man was a carpenter then living in Kellogg, Idaho.)

Fellow Lusitania passenger Harold Mayne Daly swore an affidavit stating he and Morrison had been sitting in the smoking room of the A deck when the torpedo struck. Morrison rose from his chair and went to the ship’s rear. He was never seen again; his body was not recovered. Morrison’s widow filed a claim with the Railway Passengers Assurance Company but was denied.

Rev. Henry Wood Simpson

Simpson, 41, was an Anglican minister from Rossland. He was off to England to visit his ill mother. His congregation bid him a fond farewell. Before things turned dire aboard the Lusitania, he provided viola and violin accompaniment for a Welsh choir performance. He wired details of his harrowing experience to the Rossland Miner, which printed them on May 10, 1915.

When the first torpedo struck, I was in the saloon which was filled with passengers. Life belts were immediately handed round, but in the confusion of the moment, few took time to put them on, bolting in panic for the deck. After making my way to the deck, the second torpedo found its mark, and immediately the ship commenced to list to starboard, which made the launching of boats on the port side almost impossible. Many boats were simply cut loose from the davits, the people taking a chance in being able to right them after they struck the water.
The time elapsing between the moment the first torpedo struck and when the big liner sank could not have been more than 15 minutes. A great many passengers had not reached the deck at the time and among the other passengers there was some confusion, but not nearly so much as you would think. The crew behaved with the greatest bravery and the Captain made heroic efforts to calm the people.
When the plunge came I dived from the second deck, which was then only a few feet from the water, and struck out for an upturned boat, which myself and a number of others managed to right. Previous to jumping, I climbed down a rope on the side of the ship with a little child I had found wandering about the deck crying for its mother. I passed the child to a man seated in one of the boats, and following the righting of our boat, picked up a good many women and children from the water. We also picked up an old man and old woman, American citizens.

In another account, quoted in Erik Larson’s book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Simpson recalled that while in the water, he repeated the phrase “Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,” and felt sure he would survive, though “It is too long a story to tell how I knew.” This gave him peace even when he was underwater.

He also said “a monster porpoise” surfaced “and played near us, coming up with its shiny black skin and triangular fin showing for a moment.” In contrast to the horrific scene that had just unfolded, the sunset was “all so calm and peaceful.”

Simpson served Rossland until 1916, then Greenwood, Phoenix, and Rock Creek from 1916-18, whereupon he returned to England. He died at Scarborough in 1946.


A couple of addenda: Nelson historian Greg Scott points out that for several days after the Lusitania sank, the Nelson Daily News continued to carry ads for the ship. The one seen here appeared on May 12 and offered a discount. “I would want more than a $50 cabin reduction!” Scott says.

As for why the ad was not yanked immediately, he says it took longer in those days to make such corrections — “or perhaps profit overcame proofreader.”

Also, Sarah Annie Hallam Beckworth, great grandmother to Nelson historian Frances Welwood, was on the penultimate voyage of the Lusitania. She was returning to Vancouver where she had immigrated four years earlier after a short visit home to England. Welwood writes:

Mrs. Beckworth, an experienced continental traveler, enjoyed the comfort and sociability of her second class accommodation. Into her luggage she tucked several mementos of her voyage:
• Breakfast and luncheon menus for April 18, 1915
• A small notepaper and envelope bearing the Cunard Steamship Co. and Lusitania red seal
• A lapel button “Lusitania and Mauretania Hand Baggage”
• A programme of entertainment held in the second class dining saloon April 21, 1915
• A booklet of Second Cabin passengers, including the name: “Mrs. Annie Beckworth”
• The small tokens collected by Mrs. Beckworth on the previous voyage are rare documents. Their connection to this wonderful Edwardian vessel and one of the era’s greatest war-time and civilian tragedies make them family keepsakes and personal memorials to the crew and passengers of the RMS Lusitania.


The Chantry Family



1915 civic directory:

“Kootenay people on the Lusitania,” Nelson Daily News, May 8, 1915

The Bailey Family


“Kootenay people on the Lusitania,” Nelson Daily News, May 8, 1915


The Lay Family

Circumstances: Rossland Miner, May 8, 1915

Kenneth John Morrison




Rev. Henry Wood Simpson

Circumstances: “Rossland man tells story of his leaving ship,” Rossland Miner, May 10, 1915

“Rev. H.W. Simpson of Rossland saved,” Nelson Daily News, May 8, 1915

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson, 2015, quoting “Saved from the Luisitania,” Church Family, May 14, 1915

Playing the violin:

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