Paul Bretherton was born in Los Angeles, California, in the United States of America, on the 10th January 1912, the son of Cyril Herbert Emanuel and Norah Annie Bretherton (née Keating) of Los Angeles, California. He had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who was affectionately known as “Betty”, and his father was an attorney.
His father had been born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, and had immigrated to the United States of America in 1906, while his mother had been born in Brighton, Sussex, England, and had immigrated in 1910 to marry him.
In 1915, his mother decided to visit her family in Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, where they now resided, and also decided to bring Paul and his sister, Betty, 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.
Six days later, after the liner had been struck, the family was divided, as Paul and his mother survived, but his sister was killed.
Having been rescued and brought to Queenstown, Paul and his mother stayed at the Bishops House, Queenstown. His mother searched the town frantically for his sister, Betty, but unable to locate her, Paul and his mother travelled to England to be reunited with his mother’s family. On Tuesday, 11th May, they arrived at the home of his mother’s sister, Kathleen, who was married to Major Frederick P.C. Keily, and was residing at 61. Dorset Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex. Another sister of theirs, Mrs. Mary Osborne, resided at Heatherdune, Bexhill-on-Sea.
Betty’s body was recovered from the sea on the 10th May, presumably after Paul and his mother had left Queenstown, and they learned of this shortly after they arrived at Bexhill-on-Sea. Betty was buried in the grounds of the Ursuline Convent, Blackrock, Cork City, County Cork, on the 12th May.
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.
Paul attended Oxford University, and in March 1931, found himself before a magistrate for damaging a plate on the City Treasurer’s Office. He was convicted of the offence and fined £2, and ordered to pay 5/- (25p.) damages.
On completion of his education, Paul followed his father into the world of journalism. In the mid-1930’s he was the Berlin correspondent for the
Daily Mail, therefore saw the rise of Nazism first hand.
In 1944, he married Margaret Clingan in Chelsea, London, and the couple had one child, a daughter named Teresa, who was born in early 1945. The family resided at various times in London, Kent, and Berkshire.
Paul Bretherton died of bronchopneumonia, a complication of cancer of the vocal cord, at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on the 19th August 1980, aged 68 years.
California Birth Index 1905 – 1998, Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Cunard Records, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 1263, PRO BT 100/345, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Ursuline Convent Annals, NARA, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Paddy O'Sullivan, Stuart Williamson, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.