Hannah Ackroyd was born Hannah Hardaker in Great Horton, Bradford, Yorkshire, England, in 1879, the daughter of Thomas and Caroline Hardaker of Brooksbank Farm, Great Horton, Bradford, Yorkshire. By the age of 12 years, she was working in the textile industry, first as a worsted weaver, and later as an alpaca weaver. In 1911, she married and gave birth to twin boys in 1912, named Frederick and Thomas. Unfortunately, Thomas died shortly after birth.
In May 1914, Hannah and Fred travelled to Brooklyn, New York, in the United States of America to join her husband who had gone there some time earlier in search of work. In the Spring of 1915, Hannah decided to return to visit her family in England, and accompanied by Fred, she booked a second cabin passage for them both on the May sailing of the
Lusitania, for their return to Bradford. They therefore joined the liner on the morning of 1st May 1915, in time for her scheduled 10.00 a.m. sailing.
This was then delayed until the afternoon as she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war service as a troop ship, at the end of April. The
Lusitania finally left port just after mid-day and just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May; she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20. At that point, she was off The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland and only 250 miles hours away from her Liverpool home port destination.
Both Hannah and her young son lost their lives as a result of this action. Hannah Ackroyd was aged 35 years and Fred was aged three. No trace of either of them was ever found and identified afterwards and consequently, neither has a known grave.
However, Cunard used a local man to photograph the unidentified bodies prior to burial in the temporary mortuaries set up in Queenstown, in the hope that some of the victims could be identified later, as they had begun to decompose and had to be buried as soon as was practicable.
The Ackroyd family at first identified the photograph of victim number 29 as Hannah Ackroyd, but by this time, property removed from the body of victim 29 indicated that it was the body of second cabin passenger victim Margaret Anderson of Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. Later, George Anderson, her widower sent a photograph of his late wife to Queenstown, which was remarkably similar to the photograph of number 29 and by December 1915, victim 29 was accepted as being Margaret Anderson.
The Ackroyd family also eventually accepted this.
Cunard later explained the confusion thus: -
The original photographer was no help and was far from being perfect and we would like to say for future guidance that there is no one in the office who actually saw the photographs being taken. ..... In no single instance has the photographer been of any assistance and it is only by checking and re-checking, that we have been able to elucidate the complications naturally arising.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, Cunard Records, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Bradford Daily Argus, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. D92/1/1, Yorkshire Observer, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly