Sylvia Ellen Milsom was born in North Muskham, Nottinghamshire, England, on the 29th September 1880, the daughter of James and Martha Milsom (née Roper). Her father was a railway signalman, and Sylvia was the youngest of four children. On completion of her education, she became a dressmaker.
She married Cyrus Crossley, who was a master joiner, in 1901, and later that same year, she gave birth to a son – Victor Cyrus Crossley. He was her only child.
On the 19th September 1903, the family arrived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on board the
Bavarian, and from there, they made their way to Toronto, Ontario, where Cyrus Crossley set himself up in business as a master joiner. In December 1903, the family travelled to Ohio to visit an uncle of Sylvia Crossley.
Her husband had established a very successful joinery business in Toronto, however; tragedy struck the family when their son, Victor, died on the 2nd May 1907, aged 5 years. In 1913, the couple returned to England for a three month holiday – their first visit home in ten years!
The effects of the Great War had so seriously affected his business, however, that in early 1915 Mr. Crossley decided to return once more to England and to travel to Shaw, near Oldham, Lancashire, England, to stay with Sylvia Crossley's sister and brother-in-law, Sergeant and Mrs. Jackson. Sergeant Jackson was in charge of the police station at Shaw.
As they wanted a quick passage across the Atlantic, they decided not to sail from a Canadian port, but instead went by rail to New York, where they booked as second cabin passengers on the
Lusitania which sailed from there just after mid-day on 1st May 1915.
They both survived the sinking and Cyrus Crossley later gave his account of the sinking to a reporter of
The Oldham Standard at his brother-in-law's home at Shaw Police Station, on Sunday 9th May.
He told of how he and his wife managed to get into a crowded lifeboat lowered from the starboard side of the stricken vessel and after rowing around the sea for some time they were eventually picked up by the fishing smack
The Peel 12, before being taken off by the tug Flying Fish.
They were both eventually landed at Queenstown some ten hours after the sinking, where they were put up in The Queens Hotel. Eventually, they arrived at Shaw on Sunday 9th May.
That afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Crossley were interviewed by a reporter from a local newspaper,
The Oldham Evening Chronicle, and the published report, appeared the following day. It stated: -
Mrs. Crossley was still suffering from her terrible experience, and was greatly upset and nervous, as might be expected. She recalled on the lady being mentioned to her, having met Miss Woodcock, the Oldham lady on board the vessel, in the music room, during the voyage, and had chatted with her about her being from Oldham.
Miss Woodcock, the Oldham lady on board the vessel was Miss Sarah Woodcock from Royton, Oldham, who perished in the sinking and whose body was never recovered and identified afterwards.
The experience suffered by Cyrus and Sylvia Crossley so upset them that they decided to stay in England until the war was over and on 12 June 1915, The Lusitania Relief Fund, which was administered by The Lord Mayor of Liverpool granted the sum of £5-0s-0d for Mr. Crossley to purchase new joinery tools. This did not satisfy him, however, and he applied for further compensation, eventually receiving another £2-0s-0d. At that time, their address was given as 11, Eastcroft Road, Wallasey, Cheshire. Another place that they lived at was 28, Poulton Road, Seacombe, Wallasey, Cheshire.
While they were residing at Poulton Road, the couple received a letter from a Mrs. Prichard, whose son Richard Preston Prichard was, like the Crossley’s, a second cabin passenger on the
Lusitania, and was one of those lost. Mrs. Prichard had written to many of the survivors seeking information on her son, and on receiving her letter, Sylvia Crossley replied: -
28. Poulton Rd.
I am very sorry to say that we do not remember seeing the young man on the boat or after. As there are so many faces to see. We were on E.Deck. We were not on the boat you mentioned. Am returning the photo and hope you may be able to get some information. It was a terrible time and we feel very sorry that you have not been able to get any word about your son.
The Crossley’s never returned to Canada, and settled at 172. London Road, Oldham, Lancashire, where they remained for the rest of their lives. Cyrus Crossley continued working as a master joiner until his eventual retirement.
Sylvia Crossley died at Dr. Kershaw’s Cottage Hospital, Royton, Lancashire, on the 16th March 1962, aged 81 years. Her husband, Cyrus, had died on the 17th June 1954.
Administration of her estate was granted on the 3rd May 1962 to Edwin Milsom Harvey, described as a wholesale chemist’s buyer, and who most likely was a nephew or grand-nephew. Her estate amounted to £646-12s.-0d. (£646.60p.).
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Ontario Canada Deaths and Deaths Overseas 1869 – 1947, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of Canada, 1939 Register, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, U.S. Border Crossings from Canada to U.S. 1895 – 1960, Cunard Records, IWM GB62, Probate Records, Liverpool Record Office, Manchester Evening News, Oldham Evening Chronicle, Oldham Standard. Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.