Stephen Hugh Crompton was born in Vladivostok, Russia, on the 19th July 1901, the eldest son of the six children of Paul and Gladys Mary Crompton, (née Salis-Schwabe). His father was a director of The Booth Steamship Company and often travelled around the world in connection with his business. It was on one of these trips abroad that Stephen was born. He had three brothers, Paul, born in 1906, John, born in 1909, and Peter, born in 1914, and two sisters, Catherine born in 1904 and Alberta, born in 1903. The family home was at 29, Gilston Road, Kensington, Middlesex, England.
In the spring of 1915, the family had been living in St. Martin’s Lane, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America, but because Paul Crompton was appointed to a position in the firm in London, he made plans to take his whole family back to Britain. By this time, also, Stephen’s baby brother Peter had a nursemaid, Miss Dorothy Ditman Allen, who had agreed to travel with them.
As a result, they were all booked to sail as saloon passengers on the Lusitania
which was scheduled to sail on 1st May 1915 from New York to Liverpool. The booking was made through Paul Crompton’s New York office, which was situated at 17, Battery Place and the ticket issued for the Crompton party was numbered 46081. Thus, having left Philadelphia at the end of April they arrived at the vessel’s berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour, on the morning of her planned departure.
Once on board, Stephen Crompton was escorted to room D58 which he shared with his brother John. All the family’s rooms were nearby on ’D’ Deck and they were all the personal responsibility of First Class Bedroom Steward William Barnes, who came from Wallasey in Cheshire, which is situated on the opposite bank of the River Mersey to Liverpool.
It is not certain exactly what Stephen Crompton did on the voyage after the steamers delayed departure from New York, as no survivor’s accounts of the Crompton family which mention them in any great detail, have survived the subsequent sinking. Nevertheless, six days out of New York, all the family and Miss Allen were killed when the vessel was torpedoed and sunk off the southern Irish coast, only hours away from her Liverpool destination. This loss was the greatest suffered by any family on board the ship that day. Stephen Crompton was aged thirteen years.
His body was recovered from the sea, however, not long after the sinking and landed at Queenstown, where it was taken to one of the temporary mortuaries there and given the reference number 134. After a positive identification had been made, however, probably by someone who recognised it, it was embalmed by a Doctor O’Connor, before being buried, on 13th May 1915 in a private grave in The Old Church Cemetery, just outside the town, in Row 15, Grave 12. Doctor O’Connor was later paid the agreed sum of £10-0s-0d., for his professional services.
On the morning of 14th May a telegram arrived at the Cunard offices in Queenstown which stated: -
PLEASE SEND US SOME NEWSPAPER CUTTINGS GIVING DETAILS OF STEPHEN CROMPTON’S BODY BEING BURIED. FAILING THIS, WOULD LIKE YOU TO SEND A NOTE STATING THE EXACT WAY THE BODY WAS INTERRED.
It is not known what reply was actually sent.
Despite the fact that the family was very wealthy, no headstone was ever put on the grave - or if one was, then it has not survived to the present day. This is probably because there were no close members of the family left to carry out this task after the sinking. The grave position has been re-designated since the burial and is now numbered 482. No property was recovered from Stephen Crompton’s body.
Bedroom Steward Barnes, who had looked after Stephen and John Crompton in room D58 did survive the sinking, however, and eventually made it home to Merseyside.
1910 U.S. Federal Census, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, Ayr Advertiser, Last Voyage of the Lusitania, Seven Days to Disaster, Tragedy of the Lusitania, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. D92/2/360, UniLiv.PR13/6, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Stuart Williamson, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.