Miss Phyllis Marichal

Phyllis Marichal, 2, was traveling to England aboard Lusitania with her parents Joseph and Jessie Marichal, sister Eve, and brother Maurice.  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 12. Phyllis and her family were in Canada when World War I began, where her father Joseph was a language professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.  In the spring of 1915, Jessie was to have another child, and the family was to relocate to Birmingham, England.  They booked second-cabin passage aboard Lusitania, aware of the German submarine danger that lay ahead of them, for Lusitania was much faster than any neutral American ships in service. The ship 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 was trained in munitions in the French army, believed that illegal munitions caused the second explosion that caused Lusitania to sink in 18 minutes.  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 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 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. 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". 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 his pregnant wife, "I was told I had exhausted the amount of credit given to me[.]" The Marichal family 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.  Dublin's Grosvenor Hotel gave them a single room with two beds from 5 to about 8 in the morning with a small breakfast for the sum of 14s. 6d. The Marichals reached Birmingham at 7 Tuesday evening. 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 Marichals moved to live with other family in Hereford near Worcester, England.  Joseph went to war for the French Army.  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.  Phyllis was 5. Phyllis married a man by the name of Madigan.  She died on 6 August 1992 in Nottingham, England.  She was 79 years of age. Contributors: Paul Latimer Michael Poirier, USA References: “Last [sic] living link to a marine tragedy.”  This is Herefordshire.  Web.  < http://www.thisisherefordshire.co.uk/herefordshire/archive/2001/09/20/hereford_news_latest110ZM.html > (now offline). Minutes of Evidence as given at the Mersey Inquiry.

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