Constance Emily Barber was born in Norwich, Norfolk, England, in 1879, the daughter of Charles Russell and Emily Barber. Her father died in 1883, and her mother in 1884, leaving her orphaned. She was raised by her grandmother, Mrs. Affery Barber, who by 1915, resided at ‘The Green Hills’, Costessey, near Norwich, Norfolk.
She was a trained nurse and governess, and in 1913, had gone to live and work in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She had sailed from Southampton on the
Ultonia and arrived at Quebec, Canada, on the 8th May. After the outbreak of the Great War, she decided to go back home, however, perhaps because she thought she might be better needed in England and before returning, she travelled to the United States of America to visit some friends.
It was her original intention to travel back with two sisters from Costessey, the Misses Gunton, with whom she had sailed from Southampton two years previously, on the White Star liner S.S.
Tuscania, but at the last minute, she decided to prolong her stay in America and instead booked second cabin passage on the
Lusitania which was scheduled to leave New York for Liverpool on the morning of 1st May 1915.
The sailing of the Lusitania was delayed until the afternoon of that date and no doubt Miss Barber had her last glimpse of New York City just after mid-day, as the liner made her way out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Six days later she was dead - killed after the vessel was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20 when she was a mere twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland and only 250 miles from her destination.
Constance Barber’ body was never recovered and identified after the sinking and as a result, she has no known grave.
Had she carried out her original, intention of returning home with the Gunton sisters, she would probably have survived the war, for the
Tuscania, although a slower ship, docked safely in Liverpool on Monday 10th May 1915!
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, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, Cunard Records, Norwich Mercury, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, Dick Rayner, UniLiv D92/2/307, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly