The Lusitania Resource > People > Second Cabin (Second Class) Passenger List > Mrs. Joseph Phillibert René Marichal (Yvonne Jessie Emerson)

Mrs. Joseph Phillibert René Marichal (Yvonne Jessie Emerson)

Jessie Marichal (née Emerson), 39, was the wife of Professor Joseph Marichal.  She was traveling to Birmingham, England with her husband and children Eve, Phyllis, and Maurice.  She was pregnant at the time.   The family was at lunch in the second cabin dining saloon when the torpedo hit.  The family escaped in lifeboat 21 and was rescued by Wanderer, also known as Peel 11.
  1. Causing trouble for love
  2. Life in Canada
  3. Lusitania
  4. Travails to reach home
  5. Continued misfortune
  6. Between wars
  7. Later years

Causing trouble for love

Although an English girl, Jessie became engaged to Joseph while in France.  Once Joseph got into trouble for forging a weekend pass for himself to see her, and got in trouble again for marrying Jessie without his colonel’s permission.  As a result, Marichal was summoned before a military tribunal and was invited to resign his commission in 1908.  While what happened to Marichal was not truly a court-martial, it would later prove damaging to his record.

Life in Canada

The Marichals had two daughters, Eve and Phyllis, and a son, Maurice.  The family emigrated to Canada.  In 1912, Joseph was a lecturer in Romance Languages at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  In the spring of 1915, Jessie was pregnant with another child.  In April 1915, Joseph resigned his position and booked second-cabin passage for his family on the Lusitania.  They would reestablish themselves in Birmingham, England.  Knowing the danger posed by German submarines, they had booked the Lusitania in preference of a fast ship over an American one.


Lusitania departed New York on 1 May 1915.  As the ship neared Ireland it seemed possible that they would reach England unscathed.  Then after 2 p.m. on 7 May, when the family was at lunch, the torpedo hit.  Joseph, who had been trained in munitions during his time in the French army, believed that the torpedo had detonated munitions on board Lusitania that the ship was carrying illegally.  Glass, china, and chandeliers crashed as the ship listed violently to starboard. Joseph and Jessie had insisted that their children dine with them in the main second-cabin dining room instead of in the children’s nursery, and was thus able to keep the family together during the sinking. Joseph took hold of Eve and Phyllis under each arm while Jessie took Maurice.  They "made with all speed for the lifeboat" for fear that the exploding ammunition would send the Lusitania to the bottom at once.  Believing that their lives were more important than their possessions, they did not gather any of their belongings. The ship listed "[v]ery badly after the second explosion".  The list and the crush of people jostling up the stairs made it difficult to get up to the upper decks.  On deck they saw three crew members, two of which were attending to a boat.  A third rushed by Jessie with a lifebelt on and when she asked for assistance, she was pushed back and given "a black arm."  There had been several women and children on deck, but after the upsetting of lifeboats, many others were scared away. Joseph loaded Jessie and Maurice into lifeboat #21.  The list was so great that Marichal had to toss Maurice across the gap between the ship and lifeboat.  He was worried that in his wife's delicate condition that she would not be able to also take care of Eve and Phyllis so they made for lifeboat #17.  As they made for that lifeboat, it upset and tossed everyone in it into the sea.  They went back to lifeboat #21, which was lowered safely with 54 people aboard. According to later stories, Joseph swam alongside the lifeboat, although this is not supported by his 1915 testimony. The lifeboat had plenty of oars but no rowlocks.  They also had a mast but no sail.  The boat was also leaking and they had to bail out with a pail and Jessie’s shoes.  The lifeboat picked up extra people in the water until the load was 63.  Later on, they were picked up by the fishing smack Wanderer, also known as Peel 12.

Travails to reach home

Their boat landed in Queenstown between 8:30 and 8:45 that night.  They were wet, cold, and hungry and had to wait two hours in the Cunard Company offices before "having the privilege . . . of telling our names, where we came from, whether we had passports or not, and finally being directed to a hotel."  At 7 the next morning Marichal went to the Cunard office again to find out when the first train to leave Queenstown was, but as the office didn't open until 9 "under any circumstances," Marichal had to wait. The Marichals were not able to get the Cunard Company to cover their money and belongings lost, although Joseph was able to get a few supplies after much hassling at the Cunard Office.  When it came to purchasing a coat for Jessie, "I was told I had exhausted the amount of credit given to me[.]" The Marichals lined up at the train station about 2:30 p.m. to buy tickets on Sunday, 9 May, but as the line was so long they were not able to purchase their tickets until 4 or 5 that afternoon.  They would have to wait until 8:30 for the next train.  The Marichal family was able to procure space in a third class compartment, and they reached Dublin at 4 on Monday morning.  Stopping at Dublin's Grosvenor Hotel, Joseph recounted that they were given "a single room with two beds from 5 to about 8 in the morning; one egg each, five cups of tea, bread and butter for the sum of 14s. 6d.; and they knew we were survivors of the Lusitania." Marichal and his family finally reached Birmingham at 7 Tuesday evening.

Continued misfortune

Jessie Marichal miscarried as a result of the disaster and was an invalid for sometime afterward.  As the family was broke, the children were separated from Marichal and living on the charity of the Birmingham City Council. Joseph Marichal demanded compensation from the Cunard Company but was not given any.  Joseph also testified at the Mersey Inquiry stating that he believed that munitions had caused the second explosion aboard Lusitania and caused the ship to sink in 18 minutes.  Unsettled by these claims, the British Government ran a smear campaign against Joseph that was published in the newspapers to discredit his story. The trouble that Joseph had caused while he was courting Jessie was now brought up.  On 8 July the papers reported that Marichal had been found guilty by court-martial of brawling and concealing his identity.  Two weeks later he was cashiered from the army and then was convicted of fraud.  Apart from maximizing his offenses it had updated them by over ten years in a gross distortion of the truth. The Marichals moved to live with other family in Hereford near Worcester, England.  Joseph went to war for the French Army.  Jessie was widowed when Joseph was killed in action at Hemwood in the Battle of the Somme on 12 August 1916, one year after the sinking of the Lusitania.  Jessie Marichal was left to bring up her family in Hereford. References: “Last [sic] living link to a marine tragedy.”  This is Herefordshire.  Web.  < > (now offline). Minutes of Evidence as given at the Mersey Inquiry. Simpson, Colin.  The Lusitania.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1972.

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