Edith Brammer was born in Normacot, Stoke upon Trent, Staffordshire, England, on the 5th April 1907, the daughter of Richard Harry and Elizabeth Jane Brammer (née Bott). Her father was a presser, otherwise known as a moulder, in the local pottery industry, and her mother was a dressmaker.
In May 1909, Richard Brammer and his friend, Thomas Barker, whom he worked as a presser with, decided to try their fortune in the United States of America and travelled from Liverpool to New York City on board the
S.S. Cedric, arriving in early June. They very quickly found work in the pottery industry in Trenton, New Jersey, and having established themselves, both men sent for their families to join them.
On the 21st August 1909, Edith and her mother, Elizabeth, accompanied by Thomas Barker’s wife, Martha, and her two daughters – Doris and Winifred, boarded the
S.S. Cedric in Liverpool, and arrived in New York City on the 28th August. Richard Brammer and Thomas Barker were awaiting their arrival and both families made their way to Trenton.. By 1915, the Brammer family home was at 9. Charlotte Avenue, Trenton.
In the spring of 1915, her mother’s friend Martha Barker’s mother became ill, and as a result, Martha Barker had decided to return home and take her daughter, Winifred, with her. Edith’s mother decided to accompany her friend as it gave her an opportunity to visit her own family in England, and she also decided to take Edith with her. As a result, on the 1st May 1915, the two families arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York, to board the
Lusitania as second cabin passengers in time for the liner’s scheduled 10.00 a.m. sailing.
The liner’s departure for Liverpool was actually delayed until the early afternoon, to take on board passengers, cargo and some crew from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia, which had been taken up by the British Admiralty for war work as a troop ship. Then, six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland by the German submarine
U-20, and sank two miles closer inland. At that stage of her voyage, she was only 250 miles from her home port.
Both Edith Brammer and her mother survived the sinking, as did Martha Barker, but Winifred Barker was lost and no trace of her was ever found. Having been rescued from the sea, they were then landed at Queenstown from where they eventually reached their destination in Stoke upon Trent. Edith Brammer was aged 8 years at the time of the sinking.
On hearing of the sinking, and of his wife and daughter’s survival, Richard Brammer left Trenton on the 15th May, and arrived in Stoke upon Trent on the 24th May, to be reunited with his family. He was accompanied by Thomas Barker, and Thomas’s daughter, Doris, who were travelling over to Martha Barker and search for poor Winifred.
Having recovered from their ordeal, both the Barker and Brammer families boarded the liner
New York at Liverpool on the 10th July 1915, and disembarked in New York on the 18th July, and returned to their respective homes in Trenton.
On arrival in Trenton, the Barkers and the Brammers were interviewed by a reporter from the
Trenton Evening Times, and their story appeared in the 19th July edition of the newspaper: -
At the moment the Lusitania was first struck the Barkers and Brammers were at lunch in the second class saloon.
When the ship was actually struck, there were very few indeed who did not understand its import. The vessel, Mrs. Barker said, stopped almost dead, shuddered, and began to list. Of what actually happened during the next few minutes Mrs. Barker is naturally not very clear. A gentleman provided the daughter with a lifebelt, but Mrs. Barker did not secure one for herself. Mrs. Barker and her daughter got into a boat, but at the captain’s order she and the other occupants vacated it, which was unfortunate, for the ship went down that side first. The occupants of the boat were told that things were all right, that the water-tight doors had been closed, and that the ship was gradually righting herself.
The shup was righting herself when struck by a second torpedo.
They were mistaken in stating that the Lusitania was struck by a second torpedo, as only one was launched by the German submarine,
U-20. They possibly thought that the second explosion they heard and felt was a second torpedo, however; it is now known that this second explosion was either the boilers or cargo exploding. The report continues: -
Mrs. Barker held her daughter by the right hand, and they stood waiting for the end. The daughter was very brave, saying, “Don’t worry mother darling; we shall be saved.” The suction of the ship took them both down. Mrs. Barker remembers going down and down until consciousness left her. When she recovered she was on an upturned boat, to which she had been lifted by someone, but she was horrified to find that her daughter was no longer with her.
A collapsible boat came along, and Mrs. Barker was placed in it. A fishing boat then came along and took Mrs. Barker and the others on board. Later still, she was removed to a steam tug and conveyed to Queenstown, being taken to the Queen’s Hotel, there.
The ship was struck about 2.30; it was 10 o’clock at night when the hotel was entered. The wife of the United States Consul at Cork, who went over to Queenstown to render aid, was especially considerate. Mrs. Barker says she will have a warm place in her heart for Irish people as long as she lives; their behaviour, she says, was simply splendid. She remained several days, hoping against hope to hear some tidings about her daughter, but unfortunately no news reached her.
After the boat was torpedoed every one left the dining saloon and in the jam the Barkers and Brammers were separated, and it was not until they were all put on a rescue ship and on their way to Queenstown that they met again.
Arriving on the deck of the ship, after it was struck, a clergyman from Queenstown who was a passenger on the vessel, placed lifebelts on both Mrs. Brammer and her child and although both, the woman and her daughter, sank with the ship, they were never separated and were picked up later by one of the lifeboats.
The identity of the clergyman who assisted the Brammers is not known; however, there was no person on board the
Lusitania who came from Queenstown, so Elizabeth Brammer must have had her facts wrong. Continuing: -
Mrs. Brammer remembers very little of the disaster, as she lost consciousness when she sank and when revived she was in the lifeboat with her child.
After the War, Edith’s mother, Elizabeth, filed a claim for compensation for injuries to herself and the loss of both her own, and Edith’s personal belongings as a result of the sinking. The Mixed Claims Commission awarded her the sum of $200.00 personal compensation and a further $400.00 for the loss of their property.
On completion of her education, Edith found work as a stenographer with an advertising company. Then, in 1929, she married Arthur B. Fletcher in Trenton. Her husband was employed by an electricity company, and the couple had one daughter, born in 1935, whom they named Virginia.
Edith Fletcher died on the 20th April 1985, aged 78 years. Her husband, Arthur had died in 1981.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, 1920 U.S. Federal Census, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Cunard Records, Trenton Evening Times, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 270, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly