Catherine Mary Crompton was born in London, England, on the 23rd August 1904, the second daughter and third child of Paul and Gladys Mary Crompton, (née Salis-Schwabe). The family home was at 29, Gilston Road, Kensington, Middlesex, England. She had four brothers, Stephen, born in 1902, Paul, born in 1906, John born in 1909 and Peter, born in 1914 and one sister, Alberta, born in 1903.
Her father was a director of The Booth Steamship Company and his job took him all over the world - usually accompanied by his family. In fact, all her brothers and sisters had been abroad. In the spring of 1915, the family had been living in St. Martin’s Lane, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America when her father was appointed to a position fir the company in London. Thus, he decided to take the family, (and baby Peter’s nursemaid Miss Dorothy Ditman Allen), back to Great Britain.
Consequently, he booked saloon passage tickets for them all and Miss Allen, to travel to Great Britain on the
Lusitania, departing on 1st May 1915. He booked through the New York branch of his firm, which was situated at 17, Battery Place, and the ticket issued was number 46081. The party left Philadelphia at the end of April and joined the vessel at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour on the morning of 1st May in time for her sailing. Catherine Crompton was then escorted to her room, D60, which she would share with her sister Alberta and her brother John. Their room was under the personal supervision of First Class Bedroom Steward William Barnes, who came from Wallasey in Cheshire, which was on the opposite bank of the River Mersey from Liverpool.
The liner finally left New York for the final time just after mid-day and the voyage towards across the Atlantic was probably fairly uneventful for Catherine Crompton, until the afternoon of 7th May when the steamer was struck by a torpedo fired from the German submarine U-20 and she foundered just 18 minutes later. At this time, she was only twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland and only hours away from her Liverpool home port.
All eight members of the Crompton family perished as a result of this torpedoing as did Miss Allen and this loss was the highest suffered by any family involved in the sinking. Catherine Crompton was aged ten years and as her body was never recovered from the sea and identified afterwards, she has no known grave.
Bedroom Steward Barnes, who had looked after Catherine, Alberta and Paul Romelly Crompton in room D60 did survive the sinking, however, and eventually made it back to his Merseyside home.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, Ayr Advertiser, Last Voyage of the Lusitania, Tragedy of the Lusitania, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. D92/2/360, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Stuart Williamson, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.