Miss Susan Whitewright Pearl

Susan Pearl (1914 - 1915), 14 months, was traveling aboard Lusitania with her parents, Warren and Amy Pearl, brother Stuart, sisters Amy and Audrey, and nurses Alice Lines and Greta Lorenson. In the confusion following the torpedoing of the Lusitania, Stuart, Audrey, and Alice were separated from the rest of the family and saved. Parents Warren and Amy were also saved, but daughters Amy and Susan and nurse Greta were lost. Susan Whitewright Pearl was born in London, England on 26 February 1914 to Warren and Amy Pearl. As the Pearls already had two other children, Stuart and Amy, they needed extra help and hired nurse Alice Lines. When war broke out in August, the Pearls were in Stockholm, Sweden and Warren secured passports for Petrograd, Russia (formerly St. Petersburg and later Leningrad) in hopes of applying his military experience there. Their plans had to change in Helsingfors, Denmark under threats of bombardment. Warren left for England hoping to enroll Stuart at Eton. Pearl was returning to Denmark via Belgium when two German officers arrested him in Lübeck under suspicion for being an English spy. Amy went to the American Ambassador in Denmark and demanded Warren's freedom. Two weeks later Warren Pearl was released and ordered to leave for Copenhagen by steamer. In the absences of both Warren and Amy, Alice Lines had hired Danish girl Greta Lorenson to help look after the children. Amy was expecting another child and returned to the United States in December 1914. Another sister, Audrey Warren, was born on 6 February 1915 in New York. In the spring of 1915, Warren was instructed to report to the American Embassy in London, England. The Pearl family and their nurses booked passage on the Lusitania. On the Lusitania, the Pearls’ staterooms were E 51, 59, and 67. Throughout the voyage Warren continuously instructed Amy, Alice, and Greta what to do in case the Lusitania was torpedoed. Greta and Alice divided their roles between them. 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, while Alice listened to the orchestra and had afternoon tea on deck. 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 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 with Stuart to look after Audrey while Greta remained above decks. The torpedo hit just after 2 p.m. Greta, Alice, and the Pearls met up, put on their lifejackets, and went up top to the Boat Deck. The ensuing crowd rushing out of the ship, however, separated them. In an interview with Malcolm Brown, Alice recalled that 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”. The ensuing crowd rushing out of the ship separated them. Alice, with Audrey and Stuart found Greta with Susan later, but young Amy was missing. Alice alarmed, cried, “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.” Warren and his wife Amy spotted Greta and Susan standing by a boat swung out and ready to be launched. However, they had lost track of Alice, Stuart, and Audrey, not knowing that they had escaped safely in a lifeboat. The ship was listing to starboard and soon righted herself.  The Pearls and Lindon Bates separated to continue to look for the missing children without success.  The Lusitania was on a fairly even keel by that time and a boat filled with people crashed inboard, crushing people on deck.  Just then the Lusitania made a plunge to starboard and water rushed over the forecastle.  The missing children were still not found and Warren found two planks for him, Amy, Greta, and Susan. The sea came charging at them, throwing everyone on deck into the sea as the ship plunged underneath.  Greta and Susan were lost in the disaster. Their bodies were never recovered or identified. Contributors: Eric Sauder References: Deposition of Major F. Warren Pearl. Ballard, Dr. Robert D. with Spencer Dunmore. Exploring the Lusitania. Warner Books, Inc., 1995. Brown, Malcolm. The Imperial War Museum Book of The First World War: A Great Conflict Recalled in Previously Unpublished Letters, Diaries and Memoirs. Sidgwick and Jackson, 1991. Hickey, Des and Gus Smith. Seven Days to Disaster. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981.

About the Author