Miss Hilda Ellis

Hilda Ellis was from St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.  She was the nurse of Avis Dolphin and work colleague of Sarah Smith.  Hilda and Sarah were traveling aboard Lusitania to send Avis to school in England and to also go on vacation.  Through Avis, Hilda and Sarah befriended Professor Ian Holbourn during the voyage.  Hilda and Sarah were lost the Lusitania sinking.  Avis and Ian survived.

When the torpedo struck, Hilda and Sarah were at lunch with Avis and coffee had just been served.  The Lusitania listed so suddenly and violently that dishes crashed to the floor.  The stewards shouted, “No danger, keep to your seats!”  Except for a few screams, the atmosphere in the dining room was one of “absolute calm.”

The lights went out and the passengers scrambled to get up and out.  Ian shouted to Avis and her nurses, “Stay where you are!”

Ian took Avis with him to get lifebelts and Hilda and Sarah met them on the boat deck.  Sarah did not have a lifebelt and Ian offered her his.  Sarah refused, saying that “his life was of more value than hers as he had a wife and children” (Holbourn, 248).  Ian would later comment strongly on the need of lifebelts on the boat decks.  They agreed that Ian would keep his lifebelt if he could find a boat for Avis, Sarah, and Hilda.  Ian attempted to get them away in a portside lifeboat, but they saw one smashed in launching.  They saw another launched empty, and some men stripped and swam for it.

Sensing that the starboard side was their only hope, the group moved forward and Professor Holbourn placed Avis, Sarah, and Hilda in a starboard lifeboat, possibly #17.  As the lifeboat was being lowered, two men tried to jump into the boat from the deck while the boat was still being lowered and capsized the boat.

Avis survived the wreck and was reunited with Ian Holbourn; Hilda and Sarah were lost.  Sarah and Hilda, if their bodies were ever recovered, were never identified.

References:
Ballard, Dr. Robert D. with Spencer Dunmore.  Exploring the Lusitania.   Warner Books, Inc., 1995.

Holbourn, Ian B. Stoughton.  The Isle of Foula and “Memoir” by Marion C. Holbourn.  Johnson & Greig, 1938.  Reprinted, Birlinn Books, 2001.

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