Alice Winifred Bingham was born in Brighton, East Sussex, England, in 1880, the only girl in a family of eight. She was the daughter of John and Alice Bingham (née Steer). Her father was a builder, who died in 1885. She was educated at the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls at Battersea, London. Her eldest brother, Horace, was an inspector in the Brighton Police Force.
A devout worshipper at St. Luke's Church, Queen's Park, Brighton, she began her working life at Reasons Manufacturing Company in the town, before joining The Southern Publishing Company. After this, she worked in the City of London.
Some time before the war, her mother and some of her brothers had immigrated to Canada and in 1911 she joined them, working as a shorthand typist in a large business house in Toronto, Ontario.
In early 1915, she decided to leave Toronto and return to Brighton to set up a business partnership and as a consequence, booked passage as a second cabin passenger on what became the
Lusitania's last ever trans-Atlantic crossing. Having left New York on board the Cunarder just after noon on 1st May 1915, she was killed just six days later on the afternoon of 7th May when the liner was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20. At that time, the steamer was within sight of the southern Irish coast and only hours away from her Liverpool destination. Alice Bingham was aged 35 years, although on boarding the
Lusitania she stated her age to be 27 years!
On 15th May 1915, a letter arrived at the Cunard office at Lynch’s Quay in Queenstown, forwarded from New York, with a description of Miss Bingham, which stated :-
Age 27 years. Gold signet ring with the initials A.W.B. Inside inscription “In Memory of E.F.C.” Notifying The Hoseasons Tourist Agency 746 Rouge Street Toronto Canada.
Despite this description and the fact that one of her brothers travelled from London to Queenstown to search for her, no trace of her, dead or alive was ever discovered. As a consequence, she has no known grave.
Alice’s widowed mother, who resided with her up to the time of her death, lodged a claim in Canada in which she sought compensation for the loss of her daughter and the personal possessions she had on board at the time of the sinking. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bingham died in 1923 – before a decision was made on her claim. As she was dependant on Alice, her estate was granted the sum of $3,200 for the loss of her daughter, which was calculated at $400 per annum from the date of the sinking in 1915, to the date of Mrs. Bingham’s death in 1923, and a further $350 for the loss of Alice’s personal effects, making a total of $3,550.
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, Brighton Herald, Cunard Records, Brighton Evening Argus, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.PR13/6, Canadian Claims Case No. 791, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly