Anna Marjory Allan was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on 20th April 1900, the third and youngest daughter of Sir Hugh Montagu and Lady Marguerite Allan. She had an older brother named Hugh, born in 1896, an older sister named Marguerite Martha - always known as Martha - born in 1894 and another named Gwendolyn Evelyn, who was born in 1898. Her father was the vice chairman of the Allan Steamship Line and president of The Merchants’ Bank of Canada and the Montreal Telegraph Company. The family home was ‘Ravenscrag’ in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
On the outbreak of war, in 1914, her father, who was an honorary lieutenant in The Black Watch of Canada and an enthusiastic member of the militia, was refused, at the age of 53 years, permission to command a battalion overseas. However, Martha Allan took a nursing course and having bought an ambulance with her own money set out for France to do her best for the war effort. Lady Allan then decided to follow her to England with her two younger daughters, to set up a hospital there for wounded Canadian soldiers. Included in her party, naturally enough were two of the family maids, Emily Davis and Annie Walker. Emily Davis was Lady Allan’s personal maid and Annie Walker was maid to the two teenage girls.
Having booked a saloon ticket for the party, (No. 12933) through agents Robert Reford & Co, of Montreal, they travelled to New York at the end of April 1915 and joined the
Lusitania as saloon passengers on the morning of 1st May. Anna and Gwendolyn were allocated room B49, which was under the personal supervision of First Class Bedroom Steward Walter Wood, who came from Seaforth, along the banks of the River Mersey from Liverpool. Lady Allan was allocated room B47 and maids Emily Davis and Annie Walker were in room B79. Also travelling on the same sailing of the
Lusitania was Sir Frederick Orr-Lewis an old family friend and his valet George Slingsby, who was a great favourite with the Allan girls. The liner set off from the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York on the early afternoon of 1st May, after a delayed start, necessitated because she had to embark passengers, some crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war work as a troop ship.
From the time that the liner set sail from New York for the last time, Sir Frederick Orr-Lewis’ valet, George Slingsby helped to entertain the girls and after the liner had been struck, he came across Lady Allan and Anna and Gwendolyn, as he described in an account printed in the 11th June 1915 edition of the Retford, Gainsborough and Worksop Times, Newark and Mansfield Daily News: -
“We had a smooth crossing until this took place, which was at 2.10p.m. by my watch. I was having lunch in the top saloon when I noticed a long white streak coming towards the ship in the water, and it suddenly struck me as from a submarine, and I dashed out of the saloon, and then came the crash, which struck the port-holes and caused a terrible sensation.
I at once made for my lifebelt and fixed it on ready for what was to take place. When I got to the boat deck I saw my master and Lady Allan and two daughters and two maids without lifebelts. I at once pulled my belt off and gave it to the ladies. I then rushed in the ship and got two more, which I also gave to the ladies, and by that time the ship had got too much of a list on, and it took me all my time to get back on deck, as the fore part of the ship was almost level with the captain’s bridge.”
Lady Allan’s own account, and that of her two maids, which was published in the newspaper,
The Cork Examiner, stated: -
They were all on ‘B’ deck at the time that the Lusitania was struck. Along with them was a friend Mr. Lewis
(sic). They were unable to get into any boat in the time that elapsed before the deck was awash. When they saw that the vessel was going down, they all joined hands and went down with her. When they rose again they were separated.
On his return to England, Frederick Orr-Lewis wrote a letter to his family in Canada, in which he mentions Lady Allan and her family: -
All the way over I slept every morning until about eleven, but on the Friday morning I found it impossible to sleep and was up on deck early. I met Lady Allan and the children and we sat around and chatted and walked etc, until lunch time. We had a table by ourselves, composed of Lady Allan, Mrs. G.W. Stephens Senr, Miss Dorothy Braithwaite, Gwen, Herbert Holt’s son, Anna and myself. The foregoing are the seats they occupied all the way over.
He described the moment the liner slipped under the waves: -
Our cabin steward then came up and stated that the water tight compartments had all been closed and that the boat was all right, but she began to lurch so much to the starboard side that the boats on the port side could not be launched and this had the effect of placing the boats on the starboard side so far away that it was impossible to get into them, so there was nothing to do but wait, when in the twinkling of an eye, she took the most awful dive and we all went down with her. I had Gwen by the hand and Lady Allan had Anna and the two maids were next and Mrs. Stephens with Chatham’s baby. Miss Braithwaite somehow became separated from us. How far we went down or what happened nobody will ever tell. Only those apparently were saved who were not killed in the water as the ship went down and the only reason, I should judge, why anyone is here to tell the tale, is an account of the explosion of the boilers which sent us up to the surface, and I came up alone near an upturned boat, which I got on to and as far as I can remember I was the first on it.
This would appear to be the best eye-witness account of what happened to Anna Allan and her family.
Lady Allan, her two maids, Sir Frederick Orr-Lewis, George Slingsby and Bedroom Steward Wood all survived the sinking, but unfortunately both Anna Allan and her sister Gwendolyn perished. Also lost was Dorothy Braithwaite.
Although, George Slingsby recounted seeing both their bloated and mottled
corpses in one of the temporary mortuaries set up in Queenstown, he must have been mistaken, - an easy mistake to make under the circumstances - for Anna Allan’s body was never recovered and that of Gwendolyn only turned up in the sea some two months later. Anna Allan was aged fifteen years at her time of death.
Imperial Germany had not finished with the Allan family, however, for on 6th July 1917, Anna’s brother, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Hugh Allan was shot down and killed whilst flying over the German trenches on the Western Front in Belgium, whilst serving with No. 3 Squadron of The Royal Naval Air Service. His body was recovered later, however, and was buried at Coxyde Military Cemetery, in West Flanders, where it lies today!
Although Anna Allan has no known grave, she is commemorated on a stone in the family plot, E-198, in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal Quebec, Canada, next to the body of her sister Gwendolyn, which was returned there in July 1915. The inscription states:-
ANNA MARJORY ALLAN
BORN APRIL 20TH 1900
DROWNED WHEN S.S. LUSITANIA SANK
AFTER BEING TORPEDOED BY GERMAN
SUBMARINE MAY 7TH 1915 AGED 15 YEARS
HER BODY WAS NOT RECOVERED.
SHE IS IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE,
WHERE SHE GOES THE ANGELS BEND TO HER
Her father died in September 1951 aged 90 years, her mother in September 1957, aged 84 year and her sister Martha in 1942, aged 47 years. They are all buried in the family plot in the cemetery.
Quebec Vital & Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621 – 1967, 1901 Census of Canada, 1911 Census of Canada, Myriam Cloutier, Retford, Gainsborough and Worksop Times, Newark and Mansfield Daily News, Cork Examiner, Cunard Records, Find A Grave, Memoirs of a Gentleman’s Gentleman, Mount Royal Cemetery, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, The Square Mile, The Times, USB, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly