Mr. Francis Bertram Jenkins

Francis Bertram Jenkins
Saloon Passenger
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Born Francis Bertram Jenkins
11 November 1885
Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom
Died March 1922 (age 38)
Brewster, New York, United States
Age on Lusitania 29
Ticket number 46137
Cabin number A 30
Traveling with none
Lifeboat 12 (upset), picked up by 13
Rescued by – fishing boat
Stormcock (?)
Interred St. Lawrence O’Toole Catholic Cemetery, Brewster, New York, United States
Occupation Businessman (manager)
Citizenship British (England)
Residence New York City, New York, United States
Spouse(s) Elaine Nichols
(1907 – 1922, his death)

Francis Bertram Jenkins (1885 – 1922), 29, was the manager of Holland and Sherry, wool importers, in New York City, New York, United States.  He was a British national who had moved to the United States.  On the Lusitania, Jenkins’ stateroom was A-30 and his ticket was 46137.  When the Lusitania was sinking, Jenkins, along with Max Schwarcz, assisted Josephine Brandell and Mabel Crichton to the lifeboats, which subequently upset.  Jenkins and Brandell survived.

Life


Francis Bertram Jenkins was born on 11 November 1885, in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom. In 1907, he married Elaine Nichols. They had two children; a daughter, Josephine, and a son who died in infancy. As of 1915, Jenkins was the manager of Holland and Sherry, wool importers, in New York City.

Lusitania


Aboard Lusitania‘s last voyage, Jenkins’ stateroom was A-30 and his ticket was 46137.  His table companions in the first class dining saloon were Max Schwarcz, Josephine Brandell, and Mabel Crichton. During the voyage, Jenkins had pointed out the lack of lifebelts aboard the ship. “ I had previously observed that no lifebelts were on the deck at all. I had spoken about it to several friends on board.”

Brandell disagreed with Jenkins’ recollection saying, “There were plenty of lifebelts on board.”

The day of the disaster, Josephine had just finished making a collection for the musicians and sat down with Mabel Crichton, Francis Bertram Jenkins, and Max Schwarcz. Then the torpedo hit, causing the ship, in Jenkins’ words, to “shiver from stem to stern.” Everyone at the table jumped up. Mabel Crichton exclaimed, “They have done it!”

Josephine recalled that one of the officers shouted for everyone to be calm, and Jenkins and Schwarcz assisted the women to the boat deck.

From his testimony before Lord Mersey:

1838
(Mersey): At the time she was struck on the afternoon of the 7th May, were you at luncheon in the first class saloon?(Jenkins):  I was.1839
(Mersey):  And with you there was a Mrs. Crichton

(Jenkins):  Yes.

1840
(Mersey):  Who was unfortunately one of the drowned?
(Jenkins):  Yes.

1841
(Mersey):  After the vessel was struck did you take her upstairs to one of the boats?
(Jenkins):  I did and I assisted in taking another young lady [Josephine Brandell] up who was saved.

1842
(Mersey):  On which side of the ship was the boat that you took them to?
(Jenkins):  We came out on the port side.

In his account that was published in the New York Times, Jenkins elaborates further:

“There was a general rush for the staircase, (the dining saloon was four decks below the boat deck,) although I should like to point out emphatically that there was absolutely now [sic, no] panic. The two ladies who were with Mr. Schwarcz and myself clung to us, asking us to stick with them, which we assured them we would do. We got them to the boat deck as quickly as possible. This took, perhaps, some five minutes, as the boat listed very badly immediately [after] the torpedo struck her. The list grew momentarily worse as we climbed the staircase. There were no lifebelts on deck, as they were all kept in the staterooms, and it was an impossibility to get to them, owing to the boat’s list to port [sic, actually a list to starboard]. It was also impossible for me to leave the ladies, as I was anxious to get them into a boat.

“… By this time the crew had tried unsuccessfully, own to the way the boat was listing, to launch several boats, and they were then lowering another. The boat was then on the level of the deck, and there were some seven or eight ladies in it, and one of the two men getting the oars loose. I first handed in Miss Josephine Brandell, who was wearing a lifebelt. I should like to place it on record that this lifebelt was placed on her by Mr. Edward [sic, Edgar] Gorer, of Bond Street, who was wearing it when we came on deck. His cabin was on the boat deck, and he, being on deck at the time of the torpedoing, was able to run into his cabin and get it. I shall never forget this noble deed of self-sacrifice. He, poor fellow, although, I believe, a strong swimmer, was drowned.

“I was standing with one foot on the deck of the Lusitania, and the other on the side of the lifeboat, handing in Mrs. Crichton, when (whether the sailors loosed their hold or the rope or the ropes broke I do not know) the boat suddenly fell into the water, I necessarily falling with it.”

Also from his account in the New York Times:

The last I saw of my dear friend and companion of the voyage, Max Schwarcz, as I was thrown into the sea, was walking along the deck shouting, ‘Ladies first!’ This man was certainly one of the whitest and finest men it has ever been my lot to meet. I shall mourn his death very deeply.”

The lifeboat that they attempted to enter may have been #12.

From his testimony before Lord Mersey:

1844
(Mersey):  Having got her into the boat, what happened?
(Jenkins):  She was partly in the boat, I was standing with one foot on the deck of the Lusitania and one foot on the lifeboat, when one of the ropes broke or one of the sailors loosed their hold and the thing collapsed and went into the water.  I seemed to go down a long way, and when I came up I was under the boat.  It was bottom-upwards. Then I saw an open porthole about two feet above me, and I clutched it but could not hold on.  Then I saw a rope hanging down, which I got hold of and some twenty others took hold of it. We seemed to be sinking and some could not swim. I let go and then I saw a champagne case which I swam to but let go, and then swam for an oar. Then I saw a long piece of wood some distance ahead of me, which I swam for and in an exhausted condition reached it.

From the New York Times:

“Just at that time my attention was attracted to three girls clinging to a deck chair, tow of them wearing lifebelts, the third without, but supporting herself partly on the deck chair and partly by holding on to the lifebelt worn by one of the other girls. They were about twenty yards away from me at this time. I took careful aim and pushed the piece of wood over in their direction. Fortunately my aim was good, and the girl without the lifebelt caught it. I afterwards saw this girl at Queenstown safe and well.

“I then looked about for other means of support and caught sight of another oar which I sawm for, and after a mighty effort succeeded in reaching it. I had to swim with my right arm and two the other oar with my left, which naturally impeded my progress considerably. I was again utterly exhausted. However, I had sufficient presence of mid to place the oars one on either side of me, then go them under my armpits and wound my parms around them and gripped them with my hands, then I got my legs across them, one on either oar.

“All this time people around me were calling out in their misery: ‘O God! save us!’ One poor fellow went mad; others I saw drowned within a few feet of me, notwithstanding the fact that they were wearing lifebelts, but, unfortunately they had them put on the reverse way, which forced them forward into the water instead of backward. It was hell.

“About this time I saw the Lusitania take her final plunge into the sea. I was at this time a mile or more from the boat and could see about a dozen lifeboats on what had been the port side of the boat. I lay there on my oars for what seemed an eternity of time, and the water seemed intensely cold. The shouting around me was getting less and weaker, and still no lifeboats came near us. Shortly after this I suffered very much from cramp. It was this fact that saved my life, as otherwise I should have released my hold from the oars with complete exhaustion. I must have lost consciousness shortly afterward.

Mersey testimony continued:

1845
(Mersey):  And, ultimately I believe you were picked up?
(Jenkins):  Yes, I was picked up about 4 o’clock. I must have been unconscious some two hours.  I was picked up by one of the lifeboats, in which here some 80 other passengers.

Continuing with his account from the New York Times:

“When I came to I was on the deck of a fishing smack which took us from the lifeboat which had picked me up. I was unconscious for an hour and a half, and I am told by people who were on the boat that I was frequently given up for dead, as they could not make me regain consciousness. Two nurses who came out on the fishing smack had, after trying for an hour, given me up for dead, and I owe my life to the fact that two ladies and one gentleman persisted in trying to bring me to a state of consciousness, and half an hour later they succeeded. I shall never forget what I suffered in the process. My one thought was to die and get out of it. I was shuddering with cold as though with some chronic disease.

“We were shortly after this taken on to a steam trawler which had come out from Queenstown – this was about 8:30 P.M. I was thrown into the sea about 2:20 P.M. and was picked up in the first boat about 6 o’clock. My first desire on fully regaining consciousness was for a cigarette, and the man who gave me this was afterward spoken to by one of the nurses in question, who remarked: ‘I just saw that poor chap die in those ladies’ arms.’ He answered, ‘That’s funny; he just asked me for a cigarette.’ All the latter part, I am, of course, repeating from what I was afterward told. I may add that I was informed that the lifeboat that picked me up was No. 13.

“Perhaps the worst experience of all was going through the various improvised mortuaries looking for the remains of my friends who were drowned. The ghastly sights I saw have printed themselves on my memory forever – children varying in age from three months old, men and women with expressions on their faces which showed the hell they must have gone through; mothers clutching their young babies in their arms. I certainly saw, notably Charles Frohman, which a look of absolute serenity on his face….

“I should like to add a tribute to the magnificent bravery of all the women on board whom I saw.”

After Lusitania


Jenkins never recovered from his Lusitania experience. He was described as being “extremely nervous” by those who knew him, and in 1920, moved with his wife and daughter to then-rural Brewster, New York, “where the quiet agreed with him.” He made his final transatlantic business crossing in early 1922. His Ellis Island record noting him as being “epileptic.”

Jenkins returned to Brewster where he contracted pneumonia while working his spring garden, dying at age 38. He was laid to rest at St. Lawrence O’Toole Catholic Cemetery in Brewster, NY

The Brewster Standard carried his obituary on 24 March 1922. The Putnam County Courier headlined his death on the front page but, oddly, described him as a Titanic survivor.

Contributor
Jim Kalafus, USA
Michael Poirier, USA

References
“Swam Four Hours From Lusitania.” The New York Times. 6 June 1915.

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