People's Stories

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

About George Robert

George Robert Copping was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on the 18th June 1861, the third eldest of six children, of Edward and Emma Copping (née Evans).  Both his parents had emigrated from England, and his father was a carpenter by occupation.

On completion of his education, George found employment as a clerk.  Then, on the 22nd July 1885, he married Emma Louisa Black in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario.  The couple had two sons – Norman Judson, born in 1886, and Russell Verner, born in 1890, and the family home was in Toronto, Ontario.

Sometime after his marriage, George became a commission agent before, early in the twentieth century, he formed a company manufacturing woollen garments.  This company was the G.R. Copping & Sons Manufacturing Company.  He travelled extensively within Canada, and also to the United States of America and Great Britain selling his products.

In the spring of 1915, business summoned him to Europe.  Consequently, he booked saloon passage for himself and his wife through travel agents A. F. Webster & Son, of Toronto on the May sailing of the Lusitania from New York to Liverpool.

Having left their home at the end of April, the couple arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour in time for the liner’s 10.00 a.m. scheduled sailing.  They boarded with ticket number 13104 and were escorted to their accommodation in room E75, which was under the personal supervision of First Class Bedroom Steward Alfred Wood who came from West Derby, a suburb of Liverpool.

The liner’s sailing was delayed until the afternoon as she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Lines vessel the S.S. Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war work at the end of April.  She finally left the port just after mid-day and just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20.  At that point, she was twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland and only 250 miles hours away from her destination.

Both George and Emma Copping were killed as a result of the torpedoing and although her body was never recovered and identified afterwards, his was.  Having been recovered from the sea, it was landed at Queenstown and taken to one of the temporary mortuaries set up there, given the reference number 150 and described as: -

George Robert Copping, 50 years, full moustache turning grey.  Saloon passenger

It was then embalmed and on 16th May 1915, it was put on board the Cork to Liverpool ferry and three days later it was put on the steamer S.S. Lapland, bound for New York, addressed to George Copping‘s brother at ‘Rosedale‘ Toronto.  On the 2nd June 1915, his remains were laid to rest in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

Later, property recovered from his body, which probably aided its identification, was handed over at Queenstown to a Mr. J.S. Lowry of The Imperial Manufacturing Company, of St. Stephen’s Buildings, Belfast.  This firm had been appointed accredited agents for Mr. Copping’s company!  The property consisted of  ten gold sovereigns taken from a trouser pocket, travellers’ cheques to the sum of $25, three cheques for $100 each, two cheques for $50 each, a letter of credit to The Bank of Montreal for £400, some correspondence, two note books and an Aliens Restriction card.  There was also a bunch of keys, a card case, two note books, a gold watch and chain with a guard attached, which had G.R.C. engraved on the back, a gold match box, a gold collar stud and three gold rings, one of them a heavy one with initials engraved on it.

Bedroom Steward Wood, who had looked after the Copping’s in room E75, did survive the sinking and eventually made it back to his West Derby home.

Russell Copping lodged a claim with the Canadian Commission, which had been established to deal with claims by Canadians for compensation for losses incurred as a result of the War, seeking compensation for depreciation in company stocks, and also compensation for the loss of the property that George and Emma Copping had with them when the Lusitania sank.

Presumably, his older brother, Norman, had been a party to the claim, however; he had died of pneumonia on the 3rd August 1921, long before a decision was made in the case on the 29th June 1926.  The Commission ruled that no compensation could be made in relation to the depreciation of the company stocks, but awarded the estate of George Robert Copping the sum of $4,000.00 in compensation for the property and money lost as a result of the sinking.  Just over two months after the ruling, on the 2nd September 1926, Russell Copping died as a result of a heart attack.  Both Norman and Russell were laid to rest with their father in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Ontario Canada Marriages 1826 – 1937, Ontario Canada Toronto Trust Cemeteries 1826 – 1989, 1871 Census of Canada, 1881 Census of Canada, 1891 Census of Canada, 1901 Census of Canada, 1911 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of Canada, Canadian Claims Case No. 808, Cunard Records, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLivPR13/6, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.

Copyright © Peter Kelly.

George Robert Copping



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