People's Stories

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

Elizabeth Jane Bott Brammer

Elizabeth Jane Bott Brammer

About Elizabeth Jane Bott

Elizabeth Jane Bott was born in Normacot, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, England, in 1883, the daughter of Arthur and Emily Bott.  Her father worked in the local pottery industry.

In 1905, she married Richard Harry Brammer in Stoke on Trent, and on the 5th April 1907, she gave birth to their daughter, named Edith.

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, Elizabeth and their mother, Edith, 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, Elizabeth’s friend Martha Barker’s mother became ill back in England, and as a result, Martha Barker decided to return home for a visit and bring her daughter Edith to accompany her.  Elizabeth Brammer also decided to take the opportunity to visit her own family in England, and travel in the company of the Barker’s.  She also decided to take her daughter, Edith, with her.

Consequently, they purchased second cabin tickets for the four of them with The Cunard Steam Ship Company, and having left Trenton at the end of April, the two ladies and their daughters joined the Lusitania at the company’s berth at Pier 54 in New York on the morning of 1st May 1915.

Although they were in time for the liner’s scheduled 10 o’clock sailing for Liverpool, they had to wait until the early afternoon until the steamer actually left for her last ever crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.  This was because she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war service as a troop ship, at the end of April.

Then six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20.  At that point, she was within sight of The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland and only hours away from her destination.

Fortunately, both Elizabeth Brammer and her daughter Edith 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 landed at Queenstown from where they reached their destination – Stoke upon Trent.

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, Elizabeth Brammer filed a claim for compensation for injuries to herself and the loss of both her own, and her daughter’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.

Richard and Elizabeth Brammer retired to St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida; however, when Richard died in March 1956, Elizabeth returned to Trenton to be near her daughter and son-in-law.  She died in Trenton on the 25th July 1966, aged 83 years.

Register of Births, Marriages and Death, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, 1920 U.S. Federal Census, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, 1940 U.S. Federal Census, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cunard Records, Trenton Evening Times, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 270, Florida Death Index 1877 – 1998, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.

Copyright © Peter Kelly

Elizabeth Jane Bott Brammer



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