The Lusitania Resource > People > Second Cabin (Second Class) Passenger List > Professor Joseph Phillibert René Marichal

Professor Joseph Phillibert René Marichal

Prof. Joseph Marichal Second Cabin Passenger Saved
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Born Joseph Phillibert René Marichal c. 1877 Vezun, Haute-Saône, France
Died 12 August 1916 (age 39) Somme, France
Age on Lusitania 38
Traveling companions - Jessie Marichal (wife) - Eve Marichal (daughter) - Phyllis Marichal (daughter) - Maurice Marichal (son)
Lifeboat 21
Rescued by Wanderer (Peel 12)
Citizenship French
Residence Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Spouse(s) Jessie Emerson (? - 1916, his death)
Joseph Marichal, 38, was a professor of Romance languages traveling from Kingston, Ontario, Canada to Birmingham, England with his wife Jessie, daughters Eve and Phyllis, and son Maurice. He and his family were at lunch when the torpedo hit. Marichal believed that the second explosion following the torpedo impact was caused by exploding ammunition. Marichal testified to this during the Mersey Inquiry, but the British assessors, not wishing for any such suspicions to seem credible, did what they could to destroy Marichal's reputation. Marichal enlisted to fight in the First World War to rehabilitate his reputation and was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
  1. Early life
  2. In trouble for love
  3. Life in Canada
  4. Lusitania
  5. Travails to reach home
  6. Continued misfortune
  7. Reputation smeared

Early Life

Marichal was born near the French-Swiss border near the town of Vezun in Haute-Saône and graduated from the Sorbonne with a degree in European languages.  Upon leaving the university in 1902, Marichal was drafted as a second lieutenant into the French army and stationed at Lille as part of the 8th Regiment.

In trouble for love

At the time, Marichal was engaged to an English girl, Jessie Emerson, and got into trouble.  One time he forged for himself a weekend pass, and another he married 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

Marichal and his family emigrated to Canada afterwards and in 1912 took up the position as a lecturer in Romance Languages at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  He resigned from this position in April 1915 and booked passage on the Lusitania to reestablish his family in Birmingham, England.  At the time, his family consisted of his pregnant wife Jessie, daughters Yvonne and Phyllis, and son Maurice.  They had booked the Lusitania in preference of a fast ship over an American one.


On the day of the disaster, Joseph Marichal and his family were sitting down to lunch in the second cabin dining saloon when the torpedo struck.  What followed was another explosion "similar to the rattling of a machine gun for a short period."  From his experience in the French Army, Marichal had deduced that a second torpedo had set off ammunition carried onboard.  The following is from his testimony at the inquiry:
2056 (Cotter):  You state that you thought that some ammunition caused a second explosion? (Marichal):  In my opinion, yes. 2057 (Cotter):  Have you ever been in the vicinity of a steam pipe when it has burst? (Marichal):  Yes.  I know what a steam pipe explosion is and what a boiler explosion is. 2058 (Cotter):  The effect of a steam pipe explosion would give a rattling sound, would it not? (Marichal):  Yes, but not anything of the magnitude of that one.
At once Marichal took hold of each child under his arm while his wife took the baby.  They "made with all speed for the lifeboat" for fear that the exploding ammunition would send the Lusitania to the bottom at once.  They did not gather any of their belongings. The ship listed "[v]ery badly after the second explosion" and the list made it difficult to get up the stairs.  While on deck and previously in the dining room, Marichal and his wife heard the order given, "attend to the mails," which they though ridiculous at such a time.  On deck they saw three crew members, two of which were attending to a boat.  A third rushed by his wife 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. Marichal loaded his wife 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 Yvonne 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 persons. Marichal found the lifeboat with 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 Madame Marichal's shoes.  The lifeboat picked up extra people in the water until the load was 63.  They then passed lifeboat #19 and Marichal and others were indignant to find the other boat with only 18 to 20 members of the crew who had pulled away from the ship as quickly as possible as to avoid collecting people in the water.  Later on, they were picked up by a fishing smack, 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. Marichal was told that the first train to leave Queenstown was at three that afternoon.  Marichal then asked if his family could obtain any money or clothing as they had lost all of their belongings in the sinking.  He was told that the company "would not even lend me £1."  Marichal then tried local stores and was told that he needed a written order from Cunard.  Marichal went back to the Cunard office where after much hassling he was able to get a few supplies, but when it came to purchasing a coat for his pregnant wife, "I was told I had exhausted the amount of credit given to me[.]" The next day Marichal and his family lined up at the train station about about 2:30 p.m. to buy tickets, 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 that morning.  Stopping at Dublin's Grosvenor Hotel, 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 the next evening, "two days and two nights without any help from the Cunard Company in the condition in which we were."

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. Marichal then wrote to the Cunard Company threatening legal action unless he received substantial compensation.  He added that if he could file a claim against the German Government he would do so as well.

Reputation smeared

On 1 July 1915, Lord Mersey held an additional session of the inquiry into the Lusitania disaster at the Westminster Palace Hotel.  Perhaps Mersey feared that if he did not call Marichal, the German Government, among others, would be able "to cast doubt on the breadth of evidence taken by the inquiry" (Preston, 328). Marichal did not have his own counsel and was thus not treated to kindly with regards to his claims, especially on his allegations that the discharge of ammunition was what caused the ship to sink so rapidly:
2100 (Cotter):  . . . this gentleman has made a general statement about the crew, the company, and everybody else, and he seems to have a grievance.  I do not know what effect it may have on the Inquiry, but I do not want it to get into the press that what he says are facts . . .. . .

2117 (MacMaster):  Did you send anything to the press with regard to your misfortunes? (Marichal):  No, I should not do that while the matter was the subject of inquiry.

2118 (MacMaster):  I mean, up to this time you have done nothing of the kind? (Marichal):  Not yet.

2119 (Mersey):  You intend do, I rather gather? (Marichal):  It depends on the result of the Inquiry, my Lord.

. . .

2145 (Mersey):  I am very sorry it is told you, but I do not believe you.  If you tell me that that language does not mean that you wanted money in order to keep your mouth closed, I say I do not believe you? (Marichal):  That is your misfortune; but it did not mean that.  I meant that I should take action against the [Cunard] Company immediately, and should produce more evidence.  I have some more evidence.

The next morning, The Times regarded Professor Marichal's allegations disparagingly.  Marichal also wrote to Lord Mersey enclosing copies of his letters to Cunard and the Quai d'Orsai, "more evidence" that he had promised to present, and the following:
My impression is that you were exclusively bent on causing some sensation which would divert attention from very serious allegations against the Cunard Company.  Had it not been so it was clearly your duty if convinced that I was untruthful while under oath to have had me prosecuted for perjury and not to insult me . . .
Marichal asked Lord Mersey to rehabilitate his character when he delivered his judgment, or else he would continue his action against Cunard.  Marichal's actions disturbed the British Government so that it made inquiries into his background. 8 July the British Embassy in Paris, France received a reply that was forwarded to the Exchange Telegraph to almost every English newspaper.   Referring to Joseph Marichal of Birmingham as Jules Marechal of Soho, 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. Professor Joseph Marichal never received any compensation.  He was killed in action at Hemwood in the Battle of the Somme on 12 August 1916 while serving as a private soldier in the 44th Infantry Regiment.  In doing so, France awarded him the Croix de Guerre. Marichal's middle name has sometimes been recorded as "Pierre," though a relative has said that this was not the case.

Links of Interest

The Battlefields of the Somme (Official Site) Battle of the Somme (Spartacus Schoolnet) Battle of the Somme (Beaumont-Hamel Memorial Page)
Contributors: J. E. Marichal (grandson of Joseph Marichal), UK Anne-Marie Paris (granddaughter of Joseph Marichal), France Michael Poirier, USA References: Minutes of Evidence as given at the Mersey Inquiry. Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002. Simpson, Colin.  The Lusitania.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1972.

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