Florence Saunders was born in Stone, Buckinghamshire, England in 1885, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Saunders (née Partridge). Her father was a potter and brick maker, and on completion of her education, Florence became a dressmaker.
In 1909, she immigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto, Ontario, where members of her family were already resident. She married Thomas Edward George Bodell in Toronto, on the 8th November 1911, and they had a son named Stanley, who was born on the 1st June 1913. Her husband was a machinist in a brass works, and might have been a partner in the business.
In the spring of 1915, the family had been living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and perhaps because of the war raging in Europe, they decided to return home. As a result, they booked third class passage on the
Lusitania and having left Toronto by rail at the end of April 1915, joined the liner at the Cunard berth in New York harbour on 1st May 1915, with ticket 37833.
The couple were forced to pay $17.50 on boarding, in addition to the $100 the ticket had originally cost him, as they had described their son as an “infant”, when in fact he was over one year old, and therefore a “child” by Cunard Steam Ship Company Regulations!
When the liner was torpedoed and sunk just six days later, within sight of the southern Irish coast and only hours away from her Liverpool destination, the whole family was wiped out! Florence Bodell was aged 30 years, although when boarding for the voyage she gave her age as being 26 years!
Although there was a report just after the sinking that Stanley Bodell had survived, this later proved to be erroneous and as none of their bodies was ever recovered and identified afterwards, none has a known grave.
Some time after the sinking, a disagreement arose between Thomas’ and Florence’s families over what was described as “a box of tools” which was being shipped over to England on another vessel. Both families laid claim to it, but eventually it was agreed that Florence’s family should have it as it was found to contain a sewing machine, books, and musical certificates belonging to her.
Florence Bodell’s father-in-law lodged a claim for the loss of his son, Florence’s husband, and the personal possessions of the family before the Canadian Commission which initially awarded him $1,500.00 in respect of the loss of his son, and another $1,500.00 in respect of the personal possessions of the family. However; the Commission later decided that her father-in-law, being a British subject, and not a Canadian, was not entitled to any compensation from them for the loss of his son, but increased the award for the loss of the personal possessions of the family to $2,000.00, with interest of 5% per annum from the date of the sinking to the date of the settlement, which was on the 12th January 1927.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of Canada, Ontario Canada Marriages 1801 – 1928, Canadian Claims Case No. 846, Cork Examiner, Cunard Records, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/225, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.