Dorothy Ditman Allen was born at 1406, Oxford Pike, Leiper Street, Frankford, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America on the 28th March 1887, to Dr. Richard Cox and Hettie D. Allen (Née Ditman). Five children were born to the couple, but two died in their infancy or early childhood. Dorothy was unmarried, and along with her two sisters, “enjoyed rare educational advantages”. She was a graduate of Mount Holyoke College for women, Massachusetts and in her youth, had appeared in, and worked behind the scenes on, amateur stage productions.
Dorothy and her sisters, Elsie and Ruth, became teachers, and Dorothy was employed for a period in the Quaker school in Frankfort. Then, she found employment as a governess with the Crompton family. She commenced working for them in 1913 or 1914, “devoting three hours each afternoon to her duties”. She contributed $300 per annum in support of her mother, her father having died in January 1913.
The head of the family, Mr. Paul Crompton, was a director of The Booth Steamship Company and travelled the world with his wife Gladys and his family of four boys and two girls, in connection with his business.
In the spring of 1915, however, Mr. Crompton decided to return to Great Britain for the duration of the war and consequently booked saloon passage for them all and Dorothy Allen, on the
Lusitania, through the New York office of the Booth Line, which was situated at 17, Battery Place. The sailing they intended to take was scheduled to leave New York for Liverpool, on 1st May 1915.
As a result, the family left their temporary home in St. Martin’s Lane in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and joined the liner (with ticket number 46081) at her berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour on the morning of 1st May. Having boarded, they were escorted to their accommodation which was all on ‘D’ Deck. Dorothy Allen and Peter Crompton were allocated room D62 which was in the charge of First Class Bedroom Steward William Barnes, who came from Wallasey, in Cheshire, which was on the opposite side of the River Mersey from Liverpool.
The great liner actually left New York for the last time just after mid-day and for the rest of the voyage, Miss Allen would have been occupied by the near full-time job of looking after her eight month old charge. Disaster struck; however, when the
Lusitania was six days out of New York and passing The Old Head of Kinsale about twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland. She was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20, when she was only 250 miles away from her home port!
None of the Crompton family or Dorothy Allen survived the sinking and it is probable that they all died together. Dorothy Allen’s body was never recovered and identified afterwards and as a consequence, she has no known grave. She was aged 28 years.
A letter has survived in which she was described as being five feet tall, with blue eyes, brown hair, stub nose, and freckles.
The loss of all the members of the Crompton family was the largest family loss of the whole sinking.
Bedroom Steward Barnes, who had looked after Dorothy Allen and Peter Crompton in room D62 did survive the sinking, however, and eventually made it back to his Merseyside home.
After the War, Dorothy’s mother made a successful claim before the Mixed Claims Commission, which was set up to allow victims of the Lusitania, and their dependants, make claims against Germany for compensation for their losses in the sinking. The Commission awarded Mrs. Hettie D. Ditman $7,500.00 for the loss of her daughter and $1,267.00 for loss of personal property of her daughter.
1900 U.S. Federal Census, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, U.S. Quaker Meeting Records 1681 – 1935, Cunard Records, Last Voyage of the Lusitania, New York Times, U.S. Passport Applications 1795 – 1925, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 233, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly