Florence Saunders was born in Stone, Buckinghamshire, England in 1885, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Saunders (née Partridge). Her father was a potter and brick maker, and on completion of her education, Florence became a dressmaker.
In 1909, she immigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto, Ontario, where members of her family were already resident. She married Thomas Edward George Bodell in Toronto, on the 8th November 1911, and they had a son named Stanley, who was born on the 1st June 1913. Her husband was either the owner, or co-owner, of a brass works, and also the manager of the business.
In the spring of 1915, the family decided to return home and sold their home and business in Toronto. They then booked third class passage back to England on the
Lusitania, and having left Toronto by rail at the end of April 1915, joined the liner at the Cunard berth in New York harbour on 1st May 1915, with ticket 37833.
The couple were forced to pay $17.50 on boarding, in addition to the $100 the ticket had originally cost him, as they had described their son as an “infant”, when in fact he was over one year old, and therefore a “child” by Cunard Steam Ship Company Regulations!
When the liner was torpedoed and sunk just six days later, within sight of the southern Irish coast and only hours away from her Liverpool destination, the whole family was wiped out! Florence Bodell was aged 30 years, although when boarding for the voyage she gave her age as being 26 years!
Although there was a report just after the sinking that Stanley Bodell had survived, this later proved to be erroneous and as none of their bodies was ever recovered and identified afterwards, none has a known grave.
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, 1911 Census of Canada, Ontario Canada Marriages 1801 – 1928, Cork Examiner, Cunard Records, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/225, Canadian Claims Case No. 846, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly