Miss Doris Maud Charles

Doris Charles, 21, was the daughter of Joseph Charles of the Musson Book Company. Joseph was taking Doris overseas as a precaution. Doris had been in a serious relationship with a man named Elliot Lawler, and her parents thought that Doris was too young to be married. Doris and her father survived the Lusitania disaster, and she later married Elliot Lawler.

Lusitania


Joseph was traveling aboard Lusitania on business as well, as he was taking manuscripts over to England. While on the docks, Doris had been amazed at the “huge wide escalator” carrying luggage onto the ship. She also found Lusitania to be “so big and beautiful”.

Doris’ ticket was 13106 and she stayed in cabin D-14, near actress Rita Jolivet. She had a different ticket number and cabin deck than her father. Joseph’s ticket was 10858 and cabin was B-66. Perhaps Joseph had long planned the trip aboard Lusitania and the decision to bring Doris was more spontaneous, in effort to get Doris away from her boyfriend, Elliot Lawler.

When the Charles’ reached their staterooms, they found gifts from their New York publishing friends that numbered piles of books, five-pound boxes of Hardy’s Candies, and bouquets of roses. Doris felt that she was on the verge of “something so new in my life.”

The Charles’ were friendly with the Loney family of Allan, Catharine, and Virginia. The two families often sat in the saloon (first class) lounge and music room together.

When the torpedo impacted Lusitania, Doris was in her room. She grabbed her lifejacket, put it on, and ran out, passing Rita Jolivet in the hallway.

After the ship sank, Doris recalled that the dead and drowning were “dotting the sea like seagulls.” She saw “a person who had died in the water and another person sitting on top of that person trying to survive.”

While perhaps not an isolated incident, second cabin passenger Grace French used a dead man for flotation before she was rescued.

Doris and her father were rescued by a fishing smack. Doris was in an exhausted state and was put in a bunk, where two fishermen gave her hot rum from a small enamel dish. She slowly revived. The fishermen wrapped her feet in newspapers to warm her up, tying the newspapers around her ankles with string.

Joseph and Doris Charles found Virginia Loney in Queenstown. Virginia had lost her parents and maid in the disaster, so the Charles’ took responsibility for her. Virginia wrote, “Mr. Charles and daughter, of Canada, who were rescued from the Lusitania were very kind to me, taking me to London with them. I stayed in London overnight, then a maid arrived from my cousins, with whom I was to visit.”

Doris later married Elliot Lawler.

In Diana Preston’s Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy, Doris is referred to as Doris Lawlor.

Contributors
Jim Kalafus, USA
Michael Poirier, USA

References
Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget : Part 1 ET Research. <http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/lusitania-lest-we-forget.html>.

Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002.

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