Miss Audrey Warren Pearl

Audrey Pearl Saloon Passenger Saved
[No Picture Provided]
Born Audrey Warren Pearl 5 February 1915 New York City, New York, United States
Died 11 January 2011 (age 95) Melchbourne, Bedfordshire, England, United Kingdom
Age on Lusitania 3 months
Ticket number 46071
Cabin number E 67
Traveling with Warren Pearl (father) - Amy Lea Duncan Pearl (mother) - Stuart Pearl (brother) - Amy Whitewright Pearl (sister) - Susan Pearl (sister) - Alice Lines (nurse) - Greta Lorenson (nurse)
Lifeboat 13
Rescued by Stormcock
Citizenship United States
Residence New York City, New York, United States and London, England
Other name(s) - Audrey Lawson Johnston (after marriage) - Audrey Lawson-Johnston (alternate spelling)
Spouse(s) Hugh de Beauchamp Lawson Johnston (1946 - 2002, his death)
Audrey Pearl (1915 - 2011), 3 months old, was traveling with her father Surgeon-Major F. Warren Pearl, mother Amy Lea Duncan Pearl, siblings Stuart, Amy Whitewright, and Susan, and the children’s nurses Alice Lines and Greta Lorenson. When Lusitania was torpedoed and sinking, Alice Lines took charge of Audrey and Stuart, entering lifeboat 13, which was safely lowered. They were rescued by the government patrol boat Stormcock. Her parents were saved as well, but her sisters Amy and Susan, as well as their nanny Greta, were lost. Audrey and Alice remained close friends until Alice's death in November 1997. Audrey's passing on 11 January 2011 marked the passing of the last living Lusitania survivor. She was 95.
  1. Early life and fateful crossing
  2. Torpedoed
  3. Youth and education
  4. Love and war
  5. Marriage
  6. Country life
  7. Later years
  8. Hobbies
  9. Lusitania's legacy
  10. Related pages
  11. Links of interest

Early life and fateful crossing

Audrey was born on 5 February 1915 in New York City, New York, United States, the fourth of six children born to Warren and Amy Pearl. Shortly after her birth, her father was instructed to report to the American Embassy in London. The family’s new address would be 1 Cockspur Street, London, S.W. On 1 May 1915, at three months of age, Audrey boarded Lusitania in New York with her parents, brother Stuart, sisters Amy and Susan, and two nannies Alice Lines and Greta Lorenson. Audrey’s ticket on Lusitania was 46071, and she stayed in cabin E-67, sharing a cabin with Stuart and Greta. Her parents would be in cabin E-51, and her sisters and Alice Lines were in cabin E-59. Throughout the voyage, Warren continuously instructed Amy, Alice, and Greta what to do in case the Lusitania was torpedoed. During the day Alice dined with the children in the first class nursery. In the afternoon Greta took the older children to tea in the nursery. At 6 p.m. Alice and Greta supervised the children’s dinner. Afterwards, with the children in bed, Greta looked over the children as Alice joined Warren and Amy for dinner. On Thursday evening, Alice was feeding baby Audrey while Warren and Amy were at cocktails. A steward came in to draw the curtains, saying, “We’re getting close to Ireland. We must black out the ports.” On Friday, 7 May, Alice and Greta took Stuart, young Amy, and Susan to lunch in the nursery while Audrey stayed sleeping in Alice’s room. Just before 2 p.m., Alice went downstairs to feed Audrey and took Stuart with her so that he could take a nap. Greta, young Amy, and Susan stayed above decks.


Stuart was lying down and Alice was feeding Audrey when the torpedo hit. According to Hickey and Smith’s Seven Days to Disaster, Alice wrapped Audrey in a shawl and took Stuart by the hand, saying, “Come along, we won’t wait for anything.” In an interview with Malcolm Brown, Alice recalled that when the torpedo hit, Stuart cried out, “I don’t want to be drowned, I don’t want to be drowned”. Alice crossed over to him, saying, “Hang on to me what ever happens”, and he did. Warren was in his stateroom when he heard the explosion. Flames, smoke, and splintering glass from the portholes suddenly blew into the room. Audrey's mother Amy was on deck and had seen the torpedo traveling towards the ship before impact. The force of the explosion threw her back towards the cabins. Alice, Greta, and the Pearls met up, put on their lifejackets, and went up top to the Boat Deck. According to Malcolm Brown's book, they had climbed up one flight of stairs when they felt a second torpedo impact. At that point, Greta, who was ahead of Alice, called back, “What shall I do?” Alice answered, “You look after Bunny” (little Amy's nickname). The ensuing crowd rushing out of the ship separated them. Alice had Stuart and Audrey with her and instructed Stuart to stay with her “no matter what happens”. Stuart and Audrey were still with Alice when Alice saw Greta once more with Susan, but young Amy was missing. Alice, alarmed, cried out, “What have you done with my baby?” “A stewardess took her to a lifeboat.” A visibly frightened Greta explained. “Oh, what are we to do?” “Don’t bother with anybody else.” Alice answered. “Just watch the children.” As little Amy Pearl was not among the survivors, it may be presumed that the lifeboat that the stewardess took the child to was not lowered successfully and upset. The following is from Alice’s 1915 testimony:
1781 (Solicitor-General):  What happened to you then? (Alice):  I had difficulty standing.  I was knocked towards the ship and had a hill to climb to get into the lifeboat.1782 (Solicitor-General):  But you did it with the children, did you? (Alice):  Yes, I had the baby in my arms and a little boy of five hanging to my skirt.1783 (Solicitor-General):  And you got them into the boat on the port side? (Alice):  Yes. 1784 (Solicitor General):  Did anyone help you? (Alice):  The passengers on board.  Two gentlemen helped me up the stairs.  One left me to get a lifebelt for me, but I saw him no more, and another passenger helped me into the boat. 1785 (Solicitor-General):  Were there any sailors there? (Alice):  I saw none. 1786 (Solicitor-General):  What happened next? (Alice):  We went down to the boat quite easily until we got to the bottom and the water splashed up.  It was rather difficult to get away. 1787 (Solicitor-General):  But you got away safely on the port side? (Alice):  Yes. 1788 (Solicitor-General):  And you and both the children were all right? (Alice):  Quite all right, except a few bruises.
Alice’s later recollections of the event were somewhat different. Alice claimed that she was blocked entry into a lifeboat, but a sailor forcibly snatched Stuart from her and placed her into the boat.  Alice tried to follow, but she was held back.  The boat started to lower, and with Audrey still tied to her, Alice made her way through and jumped for the boat – and missed. Screaming, she and Audrey landed in the water. Audrey cried at being doused in the cold water, but they were pulled into the boat by Alice’s long hair.  According to Ballard and Dunmore, a Frenchman (perhaps Samuel Abramowitz) then made room for her to sit down. After Alice thanked him, the man said, “You have perhaps lost your husband. Do not worry.  I am wealthy.  I will look after you.” “Thanks very much,” was all Alice could say, wondering if she had been the first woman proposed to during a sinking. Admittedly, the latter account makes a better story, but in light of the previous testimony, it seems more likely that this story was a later embellishment. While Alice testified that she entered a port side boat, none of the port side boats escaped safely. This fact, coupled with Warren Pearl's statement that smoke and flames blew into his port side room when his family's cabins were on the starboard side, indicate that Warren and Alice had confused port and starboard. Therefore, Alice, Audrey, and Stuart most likely actually escaped in a starboard lifeboat, likely #13. Warren Pearl, his wife Amy, and nurse Greta Lorenson and child Susan went down with the ship.  Warren and his wife Amy resurfaced and survived, reunited in Queenstown.  They resumed their search for their missing children. Several hours later, Warren and Amy heard of someone matching Alice Lines's description.  They found Alice, Stuart, and Audrey all safe, but of Susan, Young Amy and Greta, there was no word.  Greta, Susan, and Young Amy were lost in the disaster. Their bodies were never recovered or identified. Warren, Amy, and Alice attended the open sessions of the ensuing Mersey Inquiry.  Afterwards, Alice and the surviving Pearl family recuperated in Suffolk. Warren Pearl worked for the American consulate general in Britain, while Amy Lea became a popular hostess and charity organizer. They would have two more children, a son, Vivian Whitewright Pearl, and a daughter, Amy Susan Pearl, nicknamed Roddy.

Youth and education

Audrey attended several schools before going to North Foreland Lodge in Kent. North Foreland Lodge was the only school to offer the course "Husband Hunting." Audrey was active in sports and excelled at lacrosse, swimming, cricket, tennis and netball. Audrey had a gift for languages. French was the easiest for her, as she had been sent to a finishing school in Paris. They provided visits to museums and galleries, lectures, and a total immersion in French culture. While in Paris she also took piano lessons. One thing that Audrey did not learn is how to cook. As family friends related, "her idea of cuisine was a tin opener and a loaf of white bread". In 1927, When Audrey was 12, she was among the massive crowd that watched Charles Lindbergh land at Croydon airfield for the first solo trans-Atlantic flight. Following this event, Audrey decided to keep a diary, and recorded her life religiously from 1928 onwards. Her diary documents every book that she had read in that year, every play that she had seen, every film she had seen, every dinner she had attended, and every place to which she had traveled. Audrey was presented at Court in 1933 on her 18th birthday and met Queen Mary. Audrey recalled the queen-consort's heavily accented English. She spent weekends in the country, skied with the Kennedys in St. Moritz, Switerland, and hosted Prince Chichibu of Japan, the younger brother of Emperor Hirohito. Audrey recorded how she listened to King George V on the radio, followed the abdication of Edward VIII, and celebrated the coronation of King George VI in 1937. Audrey's 21st birthday present was a trip on the maiden voyage aboard Cunard's new Queen Mary to visit family in New York. She became mid-Atlantic table tennis champion during the voyage. Apparently, the Lusitania disaster had secured the Pearl Family a lifetime 25% discount with Cunard, so the ticket had cost £40 instead of £53.

Love and war

Audrey attended numerous Debutante Balls, including her own at the Hurlingham Club. At one of these balls she met lifelong friend Laura Pearl Lawson Johnston (known to her friends as Pearl), who introduced Audrey to her brother, Hugh. As Audrey had already received half a dozen other marriage proposals, she was not seriously considering any proposals until the end of the Second World War. Audrey, inspired by her mother as a charity organizer, had a lifelong dedication to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI), the Red Cross, St George's Hospital, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), and other charities. Audrey was thoroughly involved with the war effort during World War II. During World War II, Audrey devoted herself to charity, especially for the Red Cross, and driving for St. George's Hospital. In 1940, Audrey was employed by the United States Government to provide assistance to the governments-in-exile of the seven occupied European countries then at 40 Berkeley Square. Her boss was Tony Biddle, who had eluded the Germans when they invaded Poland by escaping through the embassy windows. Audrey traveled to and from work by bicycle or by bus during a blackout, narrowly missing the German bombs that fell on London during the Blitz on Mount Street and Farm Street, just a few blocks away from where she worked. Due to the nature of her work, she may have had access to military intelligence, as her diary for 1944 is marked with dates of Allied advances and victories and their slow but unstoppable progress towards Berlin.


After the Allied victory, Hugh Lawson Johnston's persistence paid off. On 18 July 1946, Audrey and Hugh were wed at the Anglican church of St. Margaret's in Westminster Abbey in front of 1,000 guests. People who knew the couple thought of them as an unlikely pair. He was a conservative English gentleman from the country and she was a free-spirited American debutante from the city. Yet, they would be happily married for 56 years until Hugh's death in 2002. Hugh's own diaries recount his own devotion for Audrey. Hugh came from an illustrious family. His maternal grandfather was Beauchamp St John, 16th Baron St John of Bletso. Beauchamp was a descendant of the Earls of Bolingbroke and Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. Hugh's paternal grandfather, John, had invented the meat extract Bovril. Hugh's father George had been created the 1st Baron Luke for his charitable contributions, such as donating their London home to the Red Cross during World War I. This house is now the site of the Churchill Hotel. Audrey and Hugh had three daughters. As Hugh had inherited the Bovril business, Audrey accompanied him on his seven business trips to Argentina. Her warm personality and ability to get along with people made her a perfect companion in business and in personal life, and was seen when Hugh became High Sherriff of Bedfordshire in 1966.

Country life

They eventually moved to Northamptonshire and then Melchbourne, Bedfordshire. The St John family home had fallen into disrepair in the late 1930s and was used for storage by Bovril. During the war the house was used by the USAAF as a supply depot and a place for performances by the Glenn Miller Band. As a committed countryman, Hugh converted the old house into their new country home. Audrey and Hugh spent more and more time in the country, eventually giving up their London residence. Audrey gave up the life that she was used to to be with Hugh. Audrey was not a fan of riding and hunting, but she remained active in village events. She played tennis, entertained guests, participated in cultural activities and charity work. Hugh's sister Pearl also lived with Audrey and Hugh in Melchbourne. Pearl was an accomplished woman in her own right. She was Dame of the St John's Ambulance Corps, head of the WVS in postwar Berlin and Hiroshima, and had accomplished many other charitable endeavors.

Later years

As she aged, Audrey kept good humor about her declining faculties, employing wit, wordplay, creativity, and deliberate mishearing. She enjoyed sitting in her kitchen with her snifter, looking outside, commenting, "England at its loveliest, don't you agree?" no matter the weather. Her husband Hugh had predeceased her in 2002. Hugh's sister Pearl passed away in 2008. In 2007, Audrey welcomed special visitors from India. One of her grandsons became engaged to a girl from Mumbai. As Audrey would not be making the journey to India for the wedding, the girl's parents came to visit Audrey to pay their respects. In an elaborate and colorful ceremony, the mother of the bride knelt for Audrey's blessing and then urged everyone else to kneel to be blessed by Audrey. As the bride's mother bowed, Audrey had whispered in her ear, "Now I know why I was saved from the Lusitania" - to live a full life with love of family. Audrey passed on 11 January 2011 at the age of 95, after complications from a stroke in early December. She was the last Lusitania survivor. Audrey's memorial service was held on her birthday, 5 February. Her daughter Maggie Clarke stated, "She was so witty, to the end," she said. "That's what we want her funeral to be, full of colour. We want people to laugh." Audrey was blessed with ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.


Audrey loved music and dancing, often dancing around the house with her younger sister Roddy. Audrey had also once had tea with Cole Porter. Audrey loved music and the arts. She listened to a wide variety of music from the Classics to Broadway musicals. She also enjoyed furry animal toys, especially the wind-up ones that dance or play music.

Lusitania's legacy

Reportedly, Audrey never liked talking about the Lusitania tragedy, but she had her own view of the sinking, stating, "I never blamed the sea because it wasn't the sea's fault. It was the Germans' fault and that was that." Audrey Lawson Johnston remained close to Alice Lines (later Alice Drury) until Alice's death in 1997 at the age of 100. Like her mother, Audrey Lawson Johnston became an active fundraiser for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. She raised £26,000 for a new lifeboat for New Quay, Ceredigion. This lifeboat, a IB1-type D class lifeboat, D-616, was christened in 2004 by Audrey, where she was the guest of honor. The lifeboat was named Amy Lea after her mother. In front of the attending crowd, she was helped onto the dais. She held onto the microphone stand with her left hand and a glass of champagne in her right, her speech was reported as being on par with a monologue of a stand-up comedienne. In the Amy Lea's first month of service, she saved seven lives. "I was put on this earth for some reason, I was saved for some reason," Audrey had once said. In a BBC interview, Mrs. Lawson Johnston said: "I hope I'm living up to worth being saved."

Related pages

Warren and Amy Pearl at the Mixed Claims Commission

Links of interest

Audrey Lawson-Johnston Audrey's Obituary at The Telegraph Royal National Lifeboat Institution Bovril
Contributors: Paul Latimer Joe Mankowitz, UK Michael Poirier, USA Eric Sauder, USA Judith Tavares References: Audrey Lawson-Johnston. Web. Accessed 4 July 2011. < http://mmmatmelchbourne.yolasite.com/audrey-lawson-johnston.php > Deposition of Major F. Warren Pearl. "Bedfordshire Lusitania survivor keeps story alive". BBC News. Web. Accessed 30 June 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/threecounties/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8664000/8664902.stm> "Last known Lusitania survivor, 95, dies". BBC News. Web. Accessed 30 June 2011. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-12161194> "Lusitania survivor's lifeboat". BBC News. Web. Accessed 30 June 2011. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/mid_/3691747.stm> Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster.  G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1981. McKittrick, David. "Audrey Lawson-Johnston: Last known survivor of the sinking of the 'Lusitania' ". The Independent. Web. Accessed 30 June 2011. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/audrey-lawsonjohnston-last-known-survivor-of-the-sinking-of-the-lusitania-2213730.html> The New York Times, Monday, 17 May 1915, page 9. Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002. "Naval Obituaries: Audrey Lawson-Johnston". The Telegraph. Web. Accessed 30 June 2011. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/naval-obituaries/8253489/Audrey-Lawson-Johnston.html>

About the Author