Jane Ellen Howdle was born Jane Ellen Hughes in 1882 at Seaforth, Lancashire, England, the daughter of John and Jane Hughes. She married Benjamin Howdle, a former Deputy Borough Surveyor of Wallasey Borough Council, in 1906. After her husband died in 1912, aged 42 years, she lived with her parents at Claremount Villa, 89 Northbrook Street, Wallasey, Cheshire, with her three children; Harold Raymond, Ronald Payne, and Benjamin Donald. At some time, also, possibly during her marriage, she had lived at Pantysaer, a farm at Benllech, on the island of Anglesey in North Wales.
She engaged as a stewardess in the Stewards' Department on 12th April 1915, at Liverpool, on board the
Lusitania at a monthly rate of pay of £4-0s-0d. and joined the vessel on the morning of 17th April before she left on her last ever voyage out of the River Mersey. Stewardess Howdle’s previous sea service had been on the Anchor Liner
Having completed her voyage to New York without mishap, the Lusitania
left that port on the afternoon of 1st May 1915 for what became her last ever trans Atlantic crossing. Six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk within sight of the southern Irish coast by the German submarine
U-20, only hours away from her home port. Jane Howdle was killed as a result of this action, one of thirteen out of 22 stewardesses on board who perished. She was aged 33 years.
Her body was recovered from the sea, however and taken to one of the temporary mortuaries in Queenstown, where it was given the reference number 183. Once formal identification had been made, on 16th May 1915, it was buried in Mass Grave B, 5th Row, Lower Tier, in The Old Church Cemetery, just outside the town.
Despite the fact that she has an identifiable burial site, however, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of the fact and after the Great War, commemorated her on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
However, once the author had established beyond doubt that she was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, the Commission agreed to erect a permanent memorial to her and other crew members where she is buried, and this was done in November 1998.
It takes the form of a monument carved out of Irish limestone, sited at the head of Mass Grave B, the centre one of the three. The names of crew members buried in the three mass graves are incised on two black granite panels on the memorial, with a legend in between them, which reads: -
1914 - 1918
IN HONOURED MEMORY
OF THOSE NAMED WHO,
SERVING ON THE
DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS
SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION
ON 7 MAY 1915
AND ARE BURIED NEARBY
The name of Stewardess Howdle is inscribed on the left hand panel.
The Commission has also stated that should it ever be necessary to renew the bronze panel bearing her name on the Tower Hill Memorial, her name would be omitted from its replacement.
She is also commemorated on a wooden panel on The North Wales Heroes’ Memorial Arch, at Bangor, Gwynedd, which records, by county and parish, the Great War dead of the six counties of North Wales. She is listed under the parish of Llanfair-Mathafarn-Eithaf, in which the town of Benllech lies.
The only property recovered from her body, was a gold wedding ring, and this was sent to her brother, Mr. W.G. Hughes, at 17, Station Road, Liscard, Wallasey, on 8th June 1915. In August of the same year, the balance of wages owed to Stewardess Howdle in respect of her service on the Lusitania's final voyage was sent to her parents. This balance was reckoned to be for the time period from 17th April to 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the liner had gone down.
By the time that the Tower Hill Memorial register had been compiled in 1918, her parents were living with her brother at Station Road, Liscard.
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, Clive Hughes, PRO BT 100/345, Wallasey News, PRO BT 334.