The Lusitania Resource > People > Saloon (First Class) Passenger List > Mr. Clinton “Will” Percival Bernard

Mr. Clinton “Will” Percival Bernard

Clinton Bernard
Saloon Passenger
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Clinton Bernard
Image credit:  US National Archives/Michael Poirier.
Born Clinton Percival Bernard
10 April 1888
Jamaica, Queens, New York, United States
Died 30 January 1967 (age 78)
Jamaica, Queens, New York, United States
Age on Lusitania 27
Ticket number 46155
Cabin number E 56
Traveling with None
Lifeboat None
Rescued by minesweeper
Occupation Mining engineer
Citizenship United States
Residence New York City, New York, United States
Other name(s) Will Bernard
Spouse(s) Pauline Dillman (1918 – ?)

Clinton Bernard (1888 – 1967), 27, was on board Lusitania en route to Greenland as the head of a geological expedition.  He survived the sinking of the ship by climbing onto an upturned boat.  He also saved Dorothy Conner from the water. The two had a brief romance following the Lusitania disaster.

Youth and education


Clinton Bernard was born in Jamaica, New York, United States on 10 April 1888 to Percival Joseph Bernard and Fanny Hewlett Ryder.  He attended Jamaica High School and later Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.  In his class book, he writes under his picture, “The girls call me Will.”  At Yale he rowed crew and enrolled in the Sheffield Scientific School.  There he earned a Ph.B. in Mining Engineering in 1909.

Lusitania


In the spring of 1915, Bernard was on his way to Greenland as the head of a geological expedition and booked passage on the Lusitania.

In the New York Times from Sunday, 9 May 1915, Clinton said this:

“The noise of the explosion was not very great.  The first torpedo burst with a big thud, and we knew that we were doomed.”

The following is his account as printed in the Daily Missoulian of Sunday, 9 May 1915:

Queenstown, May 8 — Via London — Clinton Bernard of New York City, one of the first cabin survivors of the Lusitania, had this to say of his experiences:

“When I saw the ship was sinking, I jumped overboard, just as I was.  I had no lifebelt, but I picked up a bit of flotsam.  Finally I got to an upturned boat and with some other swimmers I managed to right it.  We climbed in and started to rescue as many as we could.

“The German submarine made no attempt to save anybody.  We saw it for a moment before it dove.

“The first torpedo struck between the first and second funnels.  The Lusitania shook and settled down a bit.  Two other torpedoes followed and soon finished our ship.  Four or five of our lifeboats went down with her and the tremendous suction as the liner was engulfed dragged many people down also.

“We had floated about two hours in our small boat before the first rescue steamers arrived.  Previous to this some small shore boats and fishing smacks came along and helped us.”

Clinton’s story of three torpedoes does not match the official history of one torpedo, or the two-torpedoes testimony desired by Lord Mersey’s Inquiry.  It is more likely that the explosions that he felt later in the sinking were from exploding boilers and not torpedoes.

On their raft, Clinton and a nurse saw an unconscious woman in the water and brought her onto the upturned boat.  Clinton would later know her to be Dorothy Conner.  When they pulled her onto the boat, the other people around them weren’t even sure if Dorothy was alive.

Upon reaching Queenstown, where the survivors parted ways, Dorothy saw Clinton Bernard on the train, and they made plans to see each other again.  Clinton became a frequent visitor of Dorothy’s as she recovered from her sinking experiences in London, England, at the house of her sister Julia Reckitt.

Travels and marriage


Clinton spent the summer of 1915 in South Greenland and then the Congo Free State.  In Congo, Bernard was engaged in geological and propecting work.  When the United States joined the Great War, Bernard became a candidate at the Field Artillery Central Officers’ Training School at Camp Zachary Taylor in October and November of 1918.

Bernard married Pauline Dillman, daughter of Dr. Edward L. and Louise Dillman.  Dates in class histories conflict on whether Bernard and Pauline were married on 24 October or 17 February of that year.  Pauline attended the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Among Bernard’s travels, he logged miles across Europe, Africa, Greenland, and North and South America.  In 1929 alone he traveled 6,000 miles through the Soviet Union.  His business headquarters was at 61 Broadway, New York City, New York.  He had residences at 110 Shelton Avenue, Jamaica, New York and 8866 Crestwood Avenue, Hollis Park Gardens, Hollis, New York.

Bernard was a Republican and member of the Mining Club of New York City, The American Institute of Mining Engineers, the Castle Club, Woodhull Lodge, A.F. and A.M., and the Aurora Grotto, Scottish Rite.

The 1923 class history of 1909 said of him such, “Anybody who has been almost to the bottom of the ocean and to the top of the world ought to have had enough thrills to stir the most blasé.”

Bernard died on 30 January 1967 in Jamaica, Queens, New York, at age 78.

Contributors
Christine Connolly, Yale University Archives
Paul Latimer
Michael Poirier

References
Class History 1909 Sheffield Scientific School, Yale University, Volume I, 1909, pg 43.

Class History 1909 Sheffield Scientific School, Yale University, Volume III, 1929, pg 33-4.

Class History 1909 Sheffield Scientific School, Yale University, Volume IV, 1935, pg 34.

“Survivors Tell About Sinking.”  The Daily Missoulian, Sunday, 9 May 1915, page 3.

Poirier, Michael.  “Dorothy Conner:  Heroine of the Lusitania,” Voyage 47, Spring 2004.

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