Paul Romelly Crompton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America, on the 14th April 1906, the second son and fourth child of Paul and Gladys Mary Crompton, (née Salis-Schwabe). His parents were British and the main family home was at 29, Gilston Road, Kensington, Middlesex, England. He had three brothers, Stephen, born in 1902, John, born in 1909, and Peter, born in 1914, and two sisters, Catherine born in 1904, and Alberta, born in 1903.
His father was a director of The Booth Steamship Company, whose job took him all over the world - often accompanied by his family. In fact, all the children, apart from Catherine, had been born abroad, whilst their father was engaged on business.
In the spring of 1915, the Cromptons had been living in St. Martin’s Lane, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America (where Paul Romelly Crompton was born), but Paul Romelly’s father was then offered a position for the firm in London, made plans to return to Britain and take all the family with him. This would also include Miss Dorothy Ditman Allen, who had been employed as a nursemaid to baby Peter Crompton.
As a result, the family was booked to sail from New York to Liverpool as saloon passengers on the
Lusitania, which was due to depart on 1st May 1915. The booking was made through the Booth Line’s New York office which was situated at 17, Battery Place and the ticket issued was numbered 46081. Having left Philadelphia at the end of April, they all arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour, on the morning of 1st May. Once they had boarded, they were allocated rooms on ‘D’ Deck and young Paul Crompton was escorted to room D60, which he shared with his sisters Alberta and Catherine. The liner’s departure was delayed until after mid-day and after that, she slipped out into the North River and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Nothing is really known about the voyage after this as far as the Crompton family is concerned, as no extant account from survivors mention them in any detail, but six days out of New York, the
Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk off The Old Head of Kinsale, in southern Ireland, by the German submarine
U-20. At the time, she was only 250 miles from her home port.
All the Crompton family and Peter’s nurse, Miss Allen, perished in the sinking and it is possible that they were all together when they died. Their combined loss was the heaviest family loss of the whole tragedy. Paul Crompton was aged nine years and as his body was never recovered and identified afterwards, he has no known grave.
Bedroom Steward Barnes, who had looked after Paul, Alberta and Catherine Crompton in room D60 did survive the sinking, however, and eventually made it back to his Merseyside home.
Pennsylvania Birth Certificates 1906 – 1911, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, Ayr Advertiser, Tragedy of the Lusitania, 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.