Peter Romilly Crompton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States of America, on the 15th July 1914, the fourth son and sixth child of Paul and Gladys Mary Crompton, (née Salis-Schwabe). His parents were British and the main family home was at 29, Gilston Road, Kensington, Middlesex, England. He had three brothers, Stephen, born in 1902, Paul, born in 1906 and John, born in 1909, and two sisters, Catherine born in 1904, and Alberta, born in 1903.
His father was a director of The Booth Steamship Company and his work took him all over the world - and he liked to have his family with him. In fact, all the children, apart from Catherine, had been born abroad, whilst their father was engaged on business.
In the spring of 1915, the family had been living in St. Martin’s Lane, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America, where Mr. Crompton was engaged on out work on behalf of his firm. However, at that time, he was appointed to a position in the firm in London and made plans to return to Britain and take the whole family back with him. As Peter Crompton was only eight months old at that time, a nursemaid, American citizen Miss Dorothy Ditman Allen, had been engaged to look after him.
Consequently, Mr. Crompton booked saloon passage for them all on the Lusitania
which was due to sail from New York to Liverpool on 1st May 1915. The booking was made through the Booth Line’s New York office which was situated at 17, Battery Place and the ticket issued to the party was numbered 46081. Having left Philadelphia at the end of April they joined the vessel at her berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour, on the morning of 1st May.
Once on board, Peter Crompton, was no doubt carried by Miss Allen to room D62 where nurse and baby would sleep for the next six nights. All the members of the family were accommodated nearby in rooms on ‘D’ Deck and all were looked after by First Class Bedroom Steward William Barnes, who came from Wallasey in Cheshire, which was on the opposite bank of the River Mersey from Liverpool.
The liner’s departure from her berth was delayed until the early afternoon and once she sailed, Miss Allen’s responsibility for looking after her charge would have been almost total for what became the shortened voyage. On the afternoon of 7th May, the
Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20 whilst she was sailing past The Old Head of Kinsale on the coast of southern Ireland. At the time, she was only hours away from her home port of Liverpool.
Nothing is known from surviving accounts of exactly what fate befell the Cromptons and Dorothy Allen on that terrible afternoon, but the whole family party of nine persons died as a result of the torpedoing and it is possible that they were all together at the time. This tragedy represented the greatest loss of life for any one family involved in the sinking.
Peter Crompton’s body was recovered from the sea, however, not long after the liner had foundered and landed at Queenstown, where it was taken to one of the temporary mortuaries and given the reference number 214. After a positive identification had been made, however; it was then buried, on 16th May 1915 in a private grave in The Old Church Cemetery, just outside the town, in Row 15, Grave 12.
Despite the fact that the family was very wealthy, no headstone was ever put on the grave - or if one was, then it has not survived to the present day. This is probably because there were no close members of the family left to carry out the task of erecting one. The grave position has since been re-designated as number 482, in the cemetery records of today.
No property was recovered from Peter Crompton’s body so it must have been identified by a personal recognition whilst it lay in the mortuary. He was aged a mere eight months.
Bedroom Steward Barnes, who had looked after Peter Crompton and Dorothy Allen in room D62 did survive the sinking, however, and eventually made it back home to Merseyside.
U.S. Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection 1847 – 2018, Cunard Records, Ayr Advertiser, Tragedy of the Lusitania, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. D92/2/360, UniLiv.PR13/6, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Stuart Williamson, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.