Edmund Thomas ‘Ned’ Bartlett was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, on the 19th August 1863, the son of Mr. & Mrs. Edmund Francis Bartlett. Details of his mother are unknown and it seems likely that she died while Ned was quite young. At various times, his father was a licensed victualler and a mining agent. By 1880, his father had remarried, his second wife being twenty years his junior, and the family were residing in Bootle, Liverpool, Lancashire.
On completing his education, Ned became an assistant victualler to his father, and met a local girl, Edith Birt, whose mother; Mrs. Louisa Birt, was the superintendent of the Sheltering Home for Destitute Children in Liverpool. This home catered for abandoned, destitute, and orphaned children, and in most cases children were sent from this home to various similar homes in Canada from where they would be fostered or adopted.
It is not known when Ned returned to Canada, but on the 13th May 1893, Ethel Birt, accompanied by her mother and sister, Lillian, arrived in Canada to see the facilities of one of their Canadian children’s homes at Knowlton, Quebec. Here, on the 15th August 1893, Ned married Ethel.
The couple had one son named Arthur Gordon and two daughters named Ethel Louise and Jean Macpherson, and continued to reside for some years at Knowlton, where Ethel worked in the children’s home, which was being managed by her mother. Ned had been chief clerk to the secretary of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company before entering banking and becoming a broker.
The family returned to Liverpool and resided at resided at ‘Oakley’, Abbotsford Road, Blundellsands, on the outskirts of Liverpool, before taking up residence at 1, Sugnall Street, Myrtle Street, Liverpool, which in 1883 had been established as a sheltering home for young girls. It is likely that Ethel was employed here and that accommodations for herself and her family were included in her terms of employment.
Ned travelled back and forth between England and Canada in connection with his work as a broker on a regular basis.
Whilst in Canada, Ned had served as a captain in the Canadian Militia and after the outbreak of the Great War he had sought an appointment in that rank in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, but he was presumably turned down, perhaps because of his age!
In October 1914, Ned travelled to Canada on business s for his firm, W. Larmours of London and deciding to return to Liverpool in the Spring of 1915, he travelled to New York City in the United States of America, from where, he had booked second cabin passage on the Lusitania. The vessel was scheduled to leave her berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour on the morning of 1st May 1915.
Arriving in time to board her on that morning, he and his fellow passengers had to wait until just after mid-day for her sailing to commence, as passengers, cargo and some crew were transferred to her from the Anchor Lines vessel the
Cameronia, which the British Admiralty had requisitioned for war duties at the end of April. Then, six days later, with the liner just hours away from her home port and in sight of the coast of southern Ireland, she was torpedoed and sunk, by the German submarine U-20.
Ned Bartlett jumped into the sea as the liner was sinking and was lucky enough to be picked up out of the water and landed at Queenstown.
The first intimation that he had survived came from a telegram sent from Queenstown at 10.30 p.m. to the Sugnall Street address on the evening of the sinking, which simply stated: -
RESCUED AND WELL NED.
This was followed up the following day with another telegram from Cunard which stated: -
MR. E.T. BARTLETT SAVED.
On his return to England, he wrote a brief account of his experiences in the hope of interesting a newspaper into paying for his story. Although this did not in fact happen, the original document survives in a family archive and states: -
The ship was torpedoed about 2.10 pm just as I was stepping out of the Companion Way after lunch - she sank in about 20 minutes.
I jumped overboard when nothing more could be done (about 100 ft drop) and my watch stopped at 2.35 as it was not water tight - was picked up by a boat after being in the water between 2 + 3 hours and transferred to a mines
(sic) sweeper and landed in Queenstown.
1198 were reported lost - 700 odd were saved. Purser McCubbin was to have retired upon reaching Liverpool but was among the lost.
The ship plunged bow first a few minutes after my leap with hundreds on the poop going down with her; it was a terrible sight.
Purser James Alexander McCubbin came from Bootle, in Lancashire and his body was later recovered and returned to Liverpool for burial.
Although Ned survived the sinking of the Lusitania on the 7th May 1915, the same day, his mother-in-law, Louisa Birt, died!
At the time of the sinking, Ned Bartlett’s son Gordon Bartlett, was serving in the British Army in Flanders as 3010 Corporal A.G. Bartlett, with the 1/10th Battalion, The King's (Liverpool Regiment), (Liverpool Scottish), (Territorial Force). When the news of his father‘s rescue was confirmed, his mother sent him a telegram which simply stated: -
LUSITANIA TORPEDOED FATHER RESCUED = BARTLETT
He would later write home, on 16th May 1915, from support trenches near St. Eloi in Belgium, with his own congratulation on his father’s survival: -
My Dear Father
Yours of May 10th safely to hand. You can imagine how glad I was to get a telegram from Mother saying that you were O.K. although for 12 hours before I had very little hope. My word! you have fairly been through it, and after 2½ hours in the water I don’t wonder you were done up. I am sure I could never have stood it! However, you are safe, and that is the main thing.
It is a glorious day, and we are simply lazing away the time in support trenches where we are “billeted” for a few days, (number at present unknown) Had a glorious sleep this morning, from 4 a.m. to noon, the best sleep for weeks. We haven’t had a night’s sleep for many moons, it being the nefarious custom of this brigade to send us out on fatigue every night, when in the trenches + out of them. It is the unanimous opinion of the brigade that we are the navvies of the B.E.F., in fact I don’t think they could get on without us. The Germans have been afraid to attack us for six months; they are waiting for the Home Battalion of the Prussian Guard to come out before they do that.
Must close now, with much love from
Your Affectionate son,
The brigade referred to was the 111th Brigade of the 37th Division and on the day that Corporal Bartlett wrote the letter to his father, he had himself, exactly one more month to live!
The first major battle, in which the Liverpool Scottish took part in the Great War, was The Battle of Hooge, more properly known as The First Attack on Bellewarde. The action took place just off the Menin Road near Ypres in Belgium, on 16th June 1915. The Battalion is known to have charged into battle that day with the war cry
Remember the Lusitania and although initially successful, the attack foundered under remorseless artillery fire and counter attack. By nightfall, casualties had been heavy - in fact 92% of the officers and 73% of the other ranks had become casualties.
One of those killed was Corporal Bartlett who still had his mother’s telegram informing him of his father’s rescue, in his pocket. His body was not recovered and identified after the war, however, and as a consequence, his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing of Ypres Salient in Ypres itself and he is also commemorated in The Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle. However, he
had been properly buried at the time!
Nearly twelve years after the battle, in the spring of 1927, his mother received a letter from a former German officer, a P. Schwirzke, who was also present at the action. After it was all over, in a section of trench which he and his men had recaptured, he had found the bodies of three dead soldiers from the Liverpool Scottish, one of whom was Gordon Bartlett. Before having the three soldiers buried, he had gone through their pockets and recovered a letter written to Corporal Bartlett by his mother on 9th April 1915 and the ‘Lusitania’ telegram both of which he had kept, because he was mindful of the great tragedy which had befallen the family! Both of these he returned to a doubtlessly grateful Ethel Bartlett!
On 15th June 1947, the day before the 32nd anniversary of his son’s death, Ned Bartlett went to a souvenir of his
Lusitania survival - a copy of the liner’s daily newspaper The Cunard Daily Bulletin
for 5th May 1915, which had been in his pocket when the liner was sunk. The newspaper contained daily appraisals of the war situation and had on its reverse a war map showing the European territories of the Central Powers. Bartlett appended the following information to it: -
Memorandum of the ill fated steamship Lusitania which was torpedoed by a German submarine off the Old Head of Kinsale on May 7th 1915. The boat sank in 20 minutes and 1198 persons were lost. The final attached bulletin issued by the boat on May 5 1915 was in my pocket when I jumped overboard and shows the marks of its submersion.
One of the ship’s collapsible boats was picked up by a fellow passenger who was a master mariner on his way to take command of a boat in England. He was picking up people floating in the water including myself. - We were finally transferred to a mine sweeper and taken into Queenstown - obtained some refreshment there and ultimately taken to Liverpool.
Mr. McCubbin, the purser, was going home for retirement but unfortunately was doomed. - Also on board was Mr. Elbert Hubbard, of I think, Aurora in the United States and I also think was the publisher of what may have been the “Philistine.” - He also lost his life. Other particulars may subsequently occur (?) to me. The bulletin referred to above is undoubtedly the only one in existence.
June 15th 1947
Popular author of the day and saloon passenger Elbert Hubbard, from East Aurora in New York State, who
was in fact the publisher of the magazine The Philistine, died as a result of the sinking of the
Lusitania, along with his wife Alice.
After the Great War, Ned Bartlett continued to travel back and forth to Canada, and after a lifetime speculating in mining companies - most of it without any great success, he died in the late 1940s.
The pocket watch which he was wearing when he jumped into the sea is still in the family’s possession today. The original copy of the
Cunard Daily Bulletin also still exists, in the possession of the family of the late Graham Maddocks, thanks to the generosity of his grandson Tony Bridgewater, of Richmond, Surrey.
Ned Bartlett’s daughters Jean and Louise both died in 1985.
1881 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of Canada, 1911 Census of England & Wales, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, Bravest of Hearts, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Daily Bulletin, Cunard Records, Liverpool Scottish Regimental Museum, Tony Bridgewater, Tony and Linda Swift, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly