People's Stories

Everyone on the Lusitania's last voyage, including passengers and crew.

Annie E. Ripley Baxter

Annie E. Ripley Baxter

About Annie E. Ripley

Annie E. Baxter was born Annie Eliza Ripley in Nether Hallam, Sheffield in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, in 1881, the daughter of George and Mary Ann Ripley (née Taylor).

In 1902, she married William Baxter, who was a machinist, in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and they had one son, also named William, who was born in 1909.

She and her husband ran a post office at Shireoaks, in Worksop, for six years until 1908, after which they took on a greengrocery and general goods shop in Potter Street, Worksop.  In June 1912, however, they immigrated to Canada, presumably because of better work opportunities there and settled in Welland, Ontario.

On 24th January 1915, Annie Baxter’s mother died and because of this and perhaps because of the war, the family decided to return to Worksop to look after Mr. Ripley who was a stove grinder and lived at 155, Kilton Road, there.  As a result, they booked second cabin passage on the Lusitania and having left Welland at the end of April, they joined her on the morning of 1st May 1915 at Pier 54 in New York harbour, in time for her last sailing ever out of the North River in the early afternoon.

When the liner was torpedoed and sunk, six days later, the two male members of the family were killed.  Annie Baxter survived, but only after a great ordeal.

On her eventual return to Worksop, she described this ordeal to a reporter from the local newspaper The Worksop Times and this was published on Friday 14th May 1915.  It stated: -

Mrs. Baxter says that 1.40 p.m., she and her husband and little son, Willie, the latter six years of age, were in the dining room , when the huge vessel was struck, right under their feet.  The crash was terrific and the noise like thunder.  All three of them came up on deck and calmly awaited their doom, hand in hand.  Mrs. Baxter had an opportunity of getting into the women's boat, and was urged to do so, but stoutly refused, preferring to stay with her husband and child.  There was no panic whatsoever.

There was, says  Mrs. Baxter, a man standing beside them wearing a lifebelt and her husband asked him if he would transfer it to his wife, which he very promptly did, and it is doubtless due to this chivalrous act on the part of the unknown, that Mrs. Baxter's life was saved.  "I do hope that gentleman was saved," pathetically said Mrs. Baxter to our representative.  Although there was no panic, there was a rush for the lifeboats by some of the men, and her husband remarked to a few, "Be brave, be brave.  What do you want to run to the lifeboats for?  Give the women and children a chance."

A few minutes later, the vessel listed and all three, husband, wife and son slided (sic) down as it were, into the water together.  Almost immediately afterwards, the doomed ship disappeared, and she could feel the suction of the water as it went under.  When she looked round, - being kept up by the lifebelt - she could see nothing of her husband and son, neither of them had lifebelts and after floating about awhile, a man in the water near her helped her onto a little boat that was overturned.  On this she remained for a while but it heeled over and she found herself in the sea again.

This time she was not alone as a boy, apparently from eight to ten years of age, was clinging round her neck.  She did not know where he came from but imagined that he must have slipped off the boat at the same time as she did.  The boy, who was dark and well featured, prayed and asked her repeatedly to save him, saying "My father's a millionaire."  The boy repeatedly addressed her s "Dear Lady" in a refined voice.  The lad held on until, as far as she could tell, till half past three or four o'clock , and she judged they had been in the water about two hours when he complained of cramp, released his hold and fell away, and she saw no more of him.

She was picked up about 6.30, having been in the water for 4½ hours, by a boat of which Lieut. H.C. Field R.N.R. was in command.  This gallant officer ultimately gave her his card, which was as follows :-  "Lieut. H.C. Field, R.N.R., H.M.T. 'Sarba' "  When taken into the boat she was unconscious - she was informed - and frothing at the mouth and it was not until artificial respiration  had been tried for an hour and a half that life and consciousness were restored.

She was landed at Queenstown about 10 p.m., and was first taken to the Imperial Hotel, and subsequently to the house of Mrs. Swanton who was awfully good to her, and gave her all the clothes she required.  All she saved of her own clothing were her boots, as the Lieutenant had to cut her own clothing away she when she was hauled into the boat.

There was a Royal Naval trawler named Sarba in the fleet list for 1915, of 315 tons displacement, but she is not mentioned anywhere else in any accounts of the sinking.   Perhaps it was Lieutenant Field’s former command and he had not had time to change his calling card, or perhaps it was just one of the rescue vessels merely referred to as a trawler.  The Imperial Hotel still stands in Cobh (formerly named Queenstown), today, although it is now named The Atlantic Inn.  The Worksop Times concludes: -

She came by boat from Queenstown to Holyhead on Saturday night, and was then taken by a circuitous route round by Bangor and Llandudno on the Liverpool.  Here she was met by her father and sister, with whom she journeyed to Worksop, arriving about five o'clock on Monday evening.  While she was on the water the second time, she and the other passengers had a slight shock as they heard two sounds like shots, but they turned out to be fog signals only. We might mention, incidentally, that whilst on the overturned lifeboat alluded to, Mrs. Baxter saw hundreds of bodies floating about, whilst the shrieks were awful.

When our representative saw Mrs. Baxter on Wednesday evening, she was lying on a couch in her father's kitchen looking very pale and wan and had a hacking cough, caused doubtless through exposure where the boy had had his grip for  so long, but she was wonderfully calm under the circumstances, and was still hopeful that her husband and son might have been saved.

The same day her husband's brother, a farrier sergeant-major in the Army, went to Queenstown to make further enquiries with regard to Mr. and Master Baxter, who are missing.

Another second cabin passenger survivor, also travelling from Canada, Mrs. Winifred Hull, met Annie Baxter several times on the crossing and was also taken in by the Swanton family, after being landed at Queenstown.  In a letter written home to her husband George back in Winnipeg, she described Annie Baxter’s ordeal and their journey to Liverpool.

I had spoken to her quite a few times on the ship as they, her husband & little boy and herself, were berthed near us.  They came from Welland or Walland Ont.  Poor soul, she asked if I'd seen her husband & son & I had to say No, but promised to look out for them as we went about.  She was in the water until half past six and Mr. Field an Admiralty officer who rescued her, said that after working for an hour and a half he'd almost decided to let her go.  She was in a terrible state but seemed to take the idea she would like to travel with Allan & I, so when we went to the Station we took her with us and held her up between us.  From half past two till 1/4 after four o'clock we had to stand in the Station to get our rail & boat tickets.  When we received them we took Mrs. Baxter to the waiting room & laid her down.

The Allan referred to in her letter, was Allan Beattie, who was also travelling from Winnipeg, Manitoba and lost his mother in the sinking.  Mrs Hull’s account continued with the journey from Queenstown railway station to Liverpool: -

Mr. Swanton took us to the Station and fixed (us) up comfortably, doing all that he could for us in every way - and so at 9.15 in the evening we started on the saddest journey any of us had ever made.  We were all practically exhausted, and so nervous that twas hard work to keep still.  At about 4 in the morning of Sunday we arrived in Dublin and two other ladies (one young woman with a two month old child who never even got wet), Mrs. Baxter and myself were taken across the City in a side car to another Station where we were to get the boat train.  We got a cup of coffee at a dirty old coffee stall, but we needed the drink!  The rest of the party walked across the City but Mrs. Baxter was not in a fit state for that and one of us had to be with her to help her, George.  I saw some many instances of calm courage but not one who showed more bravery that this frail looking woman who had been, as it were, beyond "the line", and brought again to the awful knowledge of having lost her nearest & dearest, for I fear there is no hope whatever and as yet no one of these three bodies has been found.

To continue, at 8 o'clock we were aboard the train for Kingstown which we reached in a very short time.  Then came that experience which tried us most of all, the crossing from Kingstown to Holyhead.  Altho' we made no mention of it to each other we all had a fear that the Germans would know survivors were on board and might repeat their inhumanity.  We made a rapid passage, and you may imagine for yourself our feeling on stepping safely ashore.

Here a pleasant surprise awaited, for there were waiting on the Station officials from the Cunard who put us into our train, (they also took our names here and counted the number in the party) and said they were making all arrangements for us.  The train ran a little distance into Holyhead Station and here they brought trays up and gave us all a cup of hot tea & a packet of sandwiches each which we stood sorely in need of anyway.  I'm sure the refreshments eased our jadedness a little for we all, in that compartment, dosed a little afterwards.  Even poor Mrs. Baxter seemed to get a few moments of something like rest and then, for the first time she cried, very quietly but I was glad in a way to see the tears, for her calm had been unnatural.

Allan and I held her hands and poor Allan, forgetting, or rather putting his own sorrow on one side put his arm around her to try and comfort her.  But soon again she smiled at us thro' the tears and held up well to the end of the journey, but every station at which we stopped was crowded with people who gazed upon us as if we were beings of another world, and the feeling was not comforting.  At Chester we had to change again and here they brought tea, sandwiches and cake.  We took the tea for we were all so thirsty.  Between five and six in the evening we arrived at Woodside (B'head) Ferry and here were more heartrending scenes, wives & children & other relatives of passengers and crew, being gathered there to see if their own dear ones were among the survivors.  Many were the piteous enquiries I had made of me.  It made me heartsick.  Eventually, we were taken across the river, and here the crowds of people were so dense, that policemen had to make a passage way for us to the cabs they had in readiness to take us to the Cunard Offices where again our names were taken and refreshments offered.  Then I went with Mrs. Baxter & Allan, (one of the officials accompanying us) in a taxi to the Adelphi Hotel, where Allan's father was staying.  The meeting between Father and Son I shall not forget.  What the sight of it meant to Mrs. Baxter is beyond me to say.

Some time after the sinking, Winifred Hull write to Mrs. Swanton, who had looked after her and Annie Beattie: -

I don't know whether Mrs. Baxter or Allan Beattie have communicated with you but I heard from both last week and they had neither of them had any news of their loved ones.  I fear that it is almost hopeless now.  That brave little woman bore up wonderfully all the time and poor Allan met his father at L.pool, which was some consolation to both of them.  I saw Mrs. Baxter off on the train to Worksop the Monday following our arrival in Liverpool.  Her father and sister-in-law came to fetch her so we all felt much relieved to know she would be taken care of on the journey.  Poor little woman, tis an awful bereavement to lose both husband and child together.

In the summer of 1915, Annie Baxter successfully applied to The Lusitania Relief Fund for financial help.  This fund was set up by The Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other local dignitaries after the sinking to give aid to passengers who had suffered financial hardship because of the sinking.  She was awarded the sum of £15-0s-0d, which was sent to her on 30th July 1915, via the Mayor of Worksop.  The Committee later decided to award her a grant of £0-5s-0d. per week for a period of twelve months from December 1915, and to review her situation at that time.

It was her intention, as stated to the fund’s awarding committee, to act as housekeeper to her father when she had recovered from the shock of the sinking and her personal loss!

In 1919, Annie married William Forbes Richard Hardisty in Sheffield.  He was a journalist, and the couple had no children.  William died on the 11th September 1929.  Less than three years later, in 1932, Annie married George Frederick Galpin in Worksop.

Annie Galpin died in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, on the 18th October 1936, aged 55 years.  At the time of her death she was residing at 10. The Willows, Stubbing Lane, Worksop.  Probate went to James Hannah Howard, described as a newspaper editor, and William Henry Tomlins, described as a journalist.  Her estate amounted to £164-0s.-7d. (£164.03p).

Register of Births, Marriages & 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, Winifred Hull, Liverpool Echo, Liverpool Record Office, Ships of the Royal Geoff Whitfield, Navy, Worksop Guardian, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, UniLiv D92/2/11, Probate Records, Chris Bailey, Graham Maddocks, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.

Copyright © Peter Kelly

Annie E. Ripley Baxter



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