Ailsa Booth-Jones was born in Bowden, Cheshire, England, on the 14th December 1906, the daughter of Edward and Millichamp Booth-Jones (née Percival), initially of The Old Cottage, Richmond Road, Bowden, and later of Old Palace Terrace, The Green, Richmond, Surrey. She had a brother named Percival, who was born in 1909.
In October 1914, the family had gone to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America where Ailsa’s father, who traded in antiques, had been conducting business. They had been staying at the home of Dr. and Mrs. P.A. McCarthy of 136, Price Street, Germanstown, and whilst there, Ailsa continued her education at the Friends’ School, Green Street and at School Lane, Germanstown.
For their return to England Ailsa’s father had booked second cabin passage for them on the May sailing of the
Lusitania, which was scheduled to leave the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in new York, on the morning of 1st May 1915. In the event, the liner did not leave on schedule, as her sailing was delayed so that she could embark passengers, some crew and cargo from the Anchor Lines vessel Cameronia, which the British Admiralty had requisitioned as a troop ship, at the end of April. The
Lusitania finally left the Hudson River for the last time just after noon and after a fairly uneventful crossing of the Atlantic, was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of southern Ireland on the afternoon of 7th May, by the German submarine
Unfortunately, the whole family was wiped out by this action. Ailsa Booth-Jones was aged only 8 years at the time
After news of the disaster reached North Wales, her uncle, Mr. Griffiths Jones of Rhos-on-Sea went to Queenstown to search for the children, who were at first believed to have survived. Pathetically, he inserted the following advertisement in the
Cork Examiner of Tuesday 11th May: -
SURVIVORS OF THE LUSITANIA
Wanted, any information regarding a girl eight years of age, light golden hair, blue eyes, nice complexion, very pretty, believed to be wearing blue dress, named Ailsa Booth Jones. Also a boy aged five, short black hair, short stature, rather thin face, named Percival Booth Jones. Believed to have been rescued from the 'Lusitania'. Any information that will lead to their recovery will be gratefully received.
Imperial Hotel, Queenstown.
It was thought at one point that one of the children had been saved but this survivor turned out to be a baby named Nigel Frederick Booth, who was not related to the family.
Eventually, Ailsa's body and that of her mother were recovered from the sea and having been landed at Queenstown Ailsa’s body was given the reference number 213 and described as: -
Female, Ailsa Booth-Jones S/C aged 9 or 10 years, slight build, straight nose, fair hair and complexion, nose slightly pointed, 2 large teeth in upper jaw, broad forehead, wore a white cotton bodice, green velvet dress, blue knitted jersey with turn down collar (about 3 inches in front) buttoned in front with two white bottoms, light black stockings, strong laced up boots with toe caps.
Property. Jewellery, imitation gold brooch with figures of flags and crest of the Lusitania, gold appendage resembling an American coin with light gold chain around neck.
Then, on 16th May 1915, it was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown in the same private grave as her mother, Grave 18, Row 15. It lies there today although the grave has been re-numbered 487. The inscription on the headstone, which is very weathered and indistinct, reads: -
"TOGETHER IN LIFE, IN DEATH
THEY ARE NOT DIVIDED"
IN LOVING MEMORY
MILLICHAMP LETTON BOOTH JONES
AND HER DAUGHTER
WHO TOGETHER WITH HER HUSBAND
EDWARD BOOTH JONES
AND SON PERCIVAL
LOST THEIR LIVES ON THE
S.S. "LUSITANIA" MAY 7TH 1915.
Property taken from her body was forwarded to her other uncle, Mr. Thomas John Jones, at Dinarth Hall, Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire, on 9th June 1915.
The family is also commemorated on a large memorial on the family grave in St. Asaph's, The Parish Church of Rhos-on-Sea, Clwyd. The grave itself is in white stone, with cast bronze figures forming the centre piece, with family details inscribed on bronze panels on its base. The details relevant to those lost on the ship state: -
ALSO IN MEMORY OF EDWARD BOOTH
......... WHO WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO
CHILDREN WERE DROWNED IN THE
LUSITANIA MAY 15 1915
The date of the sinking is obviously wrong and should read MAY 7th 1915.
The Imperial Hotel, where Ailsa Booth-Jones' uncle Griffiths stayed during his tragic visit is still in existence today, but is now called The Atlantic Inn.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1911 Census of England & Wales, The Cork Examiner, Cunard Lists, Ellis Island Records, Newcastle Daily Chronicle, North Wales Weekly, Philadelphia Public Ledger, Scarborough Mercury, Surrey Comet, UniLiv. PR13/6, Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News, The Welsh Coast Pioneer, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly