Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Bretherton was born in Los Angeles, California, in the United States of America on the 4th February 1914, the daughter of Cyril Herbert Emanuel and Norah Annie Bretherton (née Keating) of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. She had an older brother, named Paul, born in 1912, and her father was a Los Angeles attorney.
Her father had been born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, and had immigrated to the United States of America in 1906, while her mother had been born in Brighton, Sussex, England, and had immigrated in 1910 to marry him. In 1915, her mother decided to visit her family in Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, where they now resided, and also decided to bring Betty and her brother, Paul, with her. Consequently, the three of them booked as second cabin passengers from New York to Liverpool on the
Lusitania, which sailed just after mid-day on 1st May 1915. The family were in cabin C.14.
When the ship was sunk, six days later, although Mrs. Bretherton and Paul survived, little baby Betty was killed. She was just fifteen months old.
On 10th May 1915, local newspaper The Cork Examiner carried the following advertisement: -
MISSING A BABY GIRL, 15 months old; very fair hair, curled; fit and rosy complexion; in white woollen jersey and white woollen leggings. Tries to walk and talk. Name Betty Bretherton. Please send any information to Miss Browne, Bishop’s House, Queenstown.
Her body was eventually recovered from the sea and landed at Queenstown and maybe this description aided its identification.
Because her mother had been educated at The Ursuline Convent, in Blackrock, Cork City, Betty’s body was buried there on the afternoon of 12th May 1915.
The annals of The Ursuline Convent contain the following information for that date: -
This afternoon a touching ceremony took place in our little cemetery, the burial of the infant daughter (aged 15 months) of one of our old pupils, Nora
(sic) Bretherton (née Keating) a niece of one of our nuns, Sr. M. Liguori, and one of five sisters educated here. The little one was among the victims of the Lusitania torpedoed by the Germans May 7th. When the infant’s body was brought into Queenstown yesterday the afflicted mother begged to have it buried here and the community would not refuse her the sad consolation.
Betty Bretherton’s body lays there still, the inscription on her headstone reading: -
In Loving Memory
AGED 1 YEAR 3 MONTHS
INFANT DAUGHTER OF
NORAH & CYRIL BRETHERTON
DROWNED AT THE SINKING OF THE
OFF QUEENSTOWN 7TH MAY 1915
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN TO
COME UNTO ME
When her aunt died, she too, was buried in the same grave.
In 1916, Cyril Bretherton filed a claim with the American State Department for the death of Betty Bretherton and the loss of his family’s personal belongings as a result of the sinking. He claimed $10,000.00 for the loss of his daughter, and $400.00 for the loss of the personal belongings. He later increased the value of the personal belongings, first to $1,500.00, and then $4,115.00.
On 25th February 1925, the Mixed Claims Commission awarded Cyril Bretherton the sum of $7,500.00 in compensation for the loss of his daughter, and $1,500.00 for the loss of the family’s personal belongings. Interestingly, no claim was made for any injuries suffered by Norah or Paul.
California Birth Index 1905 – 1995, Cunard Records, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 1263, PRO BT 100/345, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1915, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Ursuline Convent Annals, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Paddy O'Sullivan, Stuart Williamson, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.