People's Stories

Everyone on the Lusitania's last voyage, including passengers and crew.

About William Broderick

William Broderick Cloete, always known as Broderick Cloete, was born on the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, in 1851, the son of Peter Lawrence Graham and Helena Hendrina (née Van der Bijl).  He had a least seven siblings – five brothers and two sisters.

His father was a government surveyor, and at some point in the 1860’s, Broderick, his parents, and some of his siblings immigrated to England, settling in London.  Broderick attended The Queen’s College, Oxford University, in 1870 and graduated with a B.A. in 1874, and an M.A. in 1877.  His family were very wealthy as Broderick is described as a ‘gentleman’ during this period, and lived accordingly, without the need to earn a living.

In 1901, Broderick was living at 31. Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London, and employed a butler, cook, and a domestic servant, thus demonstrating his comfortable circumstances.  On the 18th July 1902, he married Violet Kate Henley in St. Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, London.  His bride was 31 years younger than him!

Although he had a residence in San, Antonio, Texas, where he was an official of the San Antonio National Bank, his main business interests were in England and he and Mrs. Cloete lived mainly at Upper Hare Park, Six Mile Bottom, Newmarket, Cambridge, England.  Newmarket was and is the centre of the horseracing world in the Cambridge area and as Broderick Cloete was a very keen trainer of racehorses, it is almost certain that he chose to live there for that reason.

In late April 1915, he set out from San Antonio, to travel to England as a saloon passenger on board the Lusitania and when he joined the liner at New York with ticket number 46067, on the morning of 1st May, he was allocated room B25, which was the personal responsibility of First Class Bedroom Steward James Holden, who came from Liverpool.

In a letter written to his family after the event by Frederick Orr-Lewis, a saloon class survivor, Mr. Cloete is mentioned: -

“…On Thursday night they had a splendid concert and I believe some £128., was collected for the Seamens’ Orphanage in Liverpool.  The chairman of the concert was Mr. Cloete, who was an old friend of Mr. Albert Vickers and had just returned from seeing their properties in Mexico”.

It is not known who Albert Vickers was, he certainly was not on board the liner, but it would appear that he was a business partner of Broderick Cloete.

Six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Cunarder was sunk by the German submarine U-20 within sight of the coast of southern Ireland and only hours away from her Liverpool destination.  Broderick Cloete was one of 180 saloon passengers who perished as a result of the action.  He was aged 58 years, although he stated that his age on boarding was 50 years!

His wife Violet had gone to Liverpool to await the arrival of the liner and was there when the news of her sinking was announced.  Following this, his valet, a Mr. Brown went to Queenstown to identify the body, should it be recovered and identified, but it never was, and as a consequence Broderick Cloete has no known grave.

The Cork Examiner for Friday 14th May 1915 under the title WELL KNOWN SPORTSMAN AMONGST THE MISSING, mentioned a little of Cloete’s main interest in life: -

Mr. Broderick Cloete was a prominent owner of racehorses.  He did not keep many in training but met with a fair amount of success winning the Two Thousand Guineas with Paradox in 1885 and the Oaks with Cherimoye in 1911.  The last named was sired by that useful horse Cherry Tree, whose dam, Cherry, was the first to win a race for Mr. Cloete.  Paradox was purchased as a yearling for 100gns and only lost the Derby to Melton by a head.  He however, won the Grand Prix de Paris.  Mr. Cloete also bred a City and Suburban winner, Mushroom, who when sent up to auction as a yearling, failed to reach his reserve of 100gns and was afterwards disposed of privately for 80gns.

Bedroom Steward Holden, who had looked after Mr. Cloete in room B25, also died when the ship went down.

Cloete’s business interests in England meant that he left effects in London.  On 13th July 1915, administration of his estate was granted to William George Wilde, whose occupation was described as Gentleman and his effects amounted to £58,888-19s-1d, (£58,888-95p.), a considerable amount in 1915!

An account in The New York Times for 10th May 1915 states that Broderick Cloete was a member of a London firm with extensive holdings in Mexico connected with mining and plantations and that he had gone to San Antonio, in December 1914.

On the 3rd March 1921, Violet Cloete married Bertram Sackville Thesiger, who at that time was a Captain in the Royal Navy, in Malta.  Her husband later became Admiral Sir Bertram Sackville Thesiger KBE CB CMG.  Violet died in Kensington, London on the 21st May 1973, aged 91 years.

Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Westminster Marriages, 1871 Census of England & Wales, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, UK City and County Directories 1766 – 1946, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Oxford University Alumni 1500 – 1886, Cambridge Independent Press, Cork Examiner, New York Times, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, Cunard Records, Probate Records, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/311, USB Archives, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Lawrence Evans, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.

Copyright © Peter Kelly.

William Broderick Cloete



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