Thomas Edward George Bodell was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, in 1881, the son of Thomas Frederick and Mary Ann Bodell (née Swallow), of Havelock Road, Luton, Bedfordshire. His father worked in a brass works and Thomas and some of his brothers also found work in the industry on the completion of their education.
In May 1905, Thomas immigrated to Canada and found employment as a machinist in a brass works. It is possible that he was a founding member and partner in the business. He married Florence Saunders in Toronto, Ontario, on the 8th November 1911, and they had one son named Charles Talbot, affectionately known as ‘Stanley’, who was born on the 1st June 1913.
In the spring of 1915, perhaps because of the Great War, or to introduce his son to their families in England, the family decided to return to England and as a consequence, booked as third class passengers on the early May 1915 sailing of the
Lusitania and left Toronto at the end of April, to join her.
They boarded the vessel at Pier 54 in New York harbour on the morning of 1st May 1915, with ticket 37833, in time for her early afternoon sailing, but Thomas was forced to pay $17.50, in addition to the $100 the ticket had originally cost him, as he had described his son as an “infant”, when in fact he was over one year old, and therefore a “child” by Cunard Steam Ship Company Regulations!
Six days later, the family ceased to exist after the liner was torpedoed and sunk within sight of the southern coast of Ireland.
None of their bodies was ever recovered and identified afterwards and as a result, none has a known grave, although it was thought immediately after the sinking, erroneously, as it turned out, that Stanley might have survived. Thomas Bodell was aged 33 years.
Some time after the sinking, a disagreement arose between Thomas’ and Florence’s families over what was described as “a box of tools” which was being shipped over to England on another vessel. Both families laid claim to it, but eventually it was agreed that Florence’s family should have it as it was found to contain a sewing machine, books, and musical certificates belonging to her.
The parents of both Thomas and Florence Bodell lodged claims for compensation with the British government as a result of them losing their lives, stating that they both received an allowance from Thomas and Florence, and were in some way financially dependent upon them. The British Reparation Claims Department dealt with their parents after the War but it is not known how they ruled. Both Thomas Bodell’s father and Frank Saunders, a brother of Florence, and administrator of their estate, lodged claims in Canada for compensation. Thomas Frederick Bodell claiming for the loss of his son, and Frank Saunders for the loss of money and personal effects of the Bodell family as a result of the sinking. In 1923, a decision was made to award Thomas Bodell’s father the sum of $1,500, and their estate $1,500; however, as the committee failed to completely agree on the decision, the matter was left for further consideration, and in January 1927, the Commission decided that Thomas Frederick Bodell, having never resided in Canada, was not entitled to succeed in his claim and that the initial award to the Bodell estate was too low and increased the award to $2,000.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, Ontario Canada Marriages 1801 – 1928, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, Cork Examiner, Cunard Records, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/25, Canadian Claims case No 846, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly