Master Desmond Francis Cox

Desmond Cox (1913 – 2000), 17-months old, was a British citizen and Irish national living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was traveling his mother, Margaret Cox, to Ireland. Both mother and son survived the Lusitania sinking, escaping in lifeboat 15, which was later picked up by the Wanderer, also known as Peel 12.

Desmond was born in Winnipeg on 13 November 1913. He was only 17-months old when he and his mother traveled aboard Lusitania‘s last voyage.

During the crossing, Margaret and Desmond had become acquainted with Emily and Barbara Anderson.

Margaret and Desmond were at lunch when the torpedo hit. Everyone in the dining room made for the door, but a steward told her to go back as there was plenty of time. Margaret went back, but upon seeing the mass of people crowded around the staircase she asked another steward what to do, as she had to get her baby away. He told her to get up onto the deck.

Margaret found herself and Desmond on the high (port) side of the ship, where she saw the crew attempting to ready the boats there. Michael Ward of Pittsburgh helped her to a boat, and she was holding up “a delicate lady, who had two children” with one hand while cradling Desmond in the other.

As the boats on the high side could not be lowered, she was told to go to the starboard side. Along the way down the slanting deck, Desmond was knocked out of her arms several times. A young man about 23 years old helped her pick up Desmond every time she lost hold of him. On the starboard side, Margaret was turned away from one boat because it was too full and was sent to a second boat. She was going to be turned away from the second boat (#15), but she refused to budge. She insisted, “You will have to take the baby, and I will be all right.”

Someone took the baby, and Mrs. Wilson (Minnie?) caught Desmond. Margaret had no recollection of how she got into the lifeboat and thought that perhaps she had been thrown in.

Men had to cut the ropes holding the lifeboat to the ship to get it away. She thought that the first lifeboat that she had been turned away from had upset. Their lifeboat went right under the funnels and the people in the boat feared that they would be drawn down by the suction.

Their lifeboat was filled past capacity with 85 people. The men worked hard to row the boat away from the ship as the Lusitania disappeared. Baby Desmond became hyterical. Lifeboat 15 rowed to another boat that only had one man in it and transferred some of its people into it.

Margaret and Desmond were in Dublin during the Easter Rising of 1916. They were in Phoenix Park when a man in front of them was mowed down by machine gun fire.

Desmond was educated at St. John’s College and the University of Manitoba. He worked in the insurance industry, spending the last 15 years of his career until 1969 as President of Desmond M. Cox Limited. He was a very active member of the St. James Kiwanis Club. Desmond lived to be 86 and died in Winnipeg on 15 September 2000.

Contributors:
Kris Kreen
Paul Latimer
Michael Poirier
Judith Tavares

References:
Daily Express. 10 May 1915, pg.6.

Hickey, Des and Gus Smith. Seven Days to Disaster. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1982.

Kreen, Kris. “Memorable Manitobans: Desmond Francis Cox (1913-2000).” The Manitoba Historical Society. Online. Accessed 22 May 2013. <http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/cox_df.shtml>.

Molony, Senan. Lusitania: An Irish Tragedy, pg. 27 – 28. Mercier Press, 2004.

Winnipeg Free Press, Monday, 18 September 2000, page 44.

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