Eleanor ‘Nellie’ Dodwell was born in 1887, the daughter of Henry and Mary Dodwell. Her father was an electrical engineer. In 1915, the family home was at 16 Brooke Road, Bootle, Liverpool, and Nellie was unmarried.
While still a child, or a very young teenager, Nellie began an apprenticeship as a tailoress, and as she grew older found employment manufacturing ship’s linen. Perhaps because of this, she eventually joined the British Mercantile Marine as a stewardess on transatlantic passenger liners.
She signed on as a stewardess in the Stewards' Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool on 16 April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £4.0s.0d, and reported for duty on the morning of 17 April, just before the liner sailed on her last voyage across the Atlantic.
When the Lusitania left New York on 1 May, there were 19 stewardesses serving on board. When the ship was sunk, thirteen were killed and only six survived. Stewardess Dodwell was one of those killed. She was aged 28 years.
Her body was never recovered and identified afterwards and as a consequence, she is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Mary Dodwell to compensate her for the loss of her daughter on whom she was somewhat financially dependent upon. This amounted to £14-13s-9d (£14.68½) which was payable at the rate of £1-4s-6d (£1.22½) per month.
A service of remembrance was held for her in the church where she worshipped, the Parish Church of St. Andrew, Litherland, on Stanley Road/St. Andrew’s Road, not far from where she lived, on 16 May 1915. She is also commemorated there on a wooden plaque, and also on the municipal war memorial in Stanley Road, Bootle. Her name is not on one of the bronze panels of the main memorial, but incised on a semi-circular wall around it, which suggests that it was a late addition.
Another of the Lusitania’s stewardesses, Elizabeth Dewhurst also lived in Brook Street, Bootle, at number 13. She, however, survived the sinking.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, George Donnison, Liverpool Echo, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.