Master Walter Dawson Mitchell, Jr.

Walter Mitchell, Jr. (1914 - 1915), 9-months old, was traveling aboard Lusitania with his parents Walter Dawson Mitchell, Sr., and Jeanette Mitchell, and his mother's brother, John Moore.  Walter Jr., and Sr., were lost in the Lusitania disaster. Jeanette and John were saved. Walter Mitchell, Jr., was born in August 1914 in Newark, New Jersey, United States to Walter Dawson Mitchell, Sr., and Jeanette Mitchell (born Moore), both originally from Ireland.  Jeanette and Walter regularly sent photographs of Walter, Jr. to their families back to Ireland. In the spring of 1915, the Mitchells decided to return to Ireland to visit their parents in Lisburn. Walter had been asked to return and the Mitchells were “discouraged by conditions caused here [in the United States] by the war.” Also traveling with the Mitchells would be Jeanette’s brother, John Moore, who had been living in Connecticut since 1911 and planned to enlist for the war effort once he reached Ireland. Walter, Jr., his parents, and Uncle John sailed on Lusitania on 1 May 1915.  On 7 May, Jeanette, Walter Sr., and John had just finished lunch, and Jeanette went to the cabin to see the baby when they felt “a great crash, which shook the ship.”  With Walter, Jr., they followed the rest of the passengers to the upper decks to find out what had happened.  As the ship was listing to starboard, only the starboard side boats were being lowered properly and lifebelts were being handed out.  John did not take a lifebelt, but he managed to get into a lifeboat which overturned while lowering. The Mitchells were in the water, clinging to a capsized lifeboat, with Walter, Sr., holding the baby.  Jeanette saw her husband slip into unconsciousness, his last words to her being, “I can’t hold on any more Nettie.”  She knew her husband had died when his skin turned dark and he had froth on his mouth.  Jeanette herself was barely alive when men pulled her out of the water and onto a minesweeper (perhaps the Indian Empire, which John was also on board).  Walter, Sr., and the baby were also brought on board, and attempts were made to resuscitate the husband and wife on ship and on shore.  The baby was lost, and Walter, Sr., did not revive, either. John saw Jeanette and Walter, Sr., lying among the corpses on the harbor steps of Queenstown.  He thought he saw Jeanette’s eyelids move and realized she was alive.  He managed to resuscitate her.  All three Mitchells had been listed on Sunday, 9 May’s list of missing and probable dead, which was erroneous in light of Jeanette’s survival. On Saturday, John took Jeanette to buy some clothes when she overheard a group of sailors talking about the sinking.  One sailor had described a “beautiful baby” that he had taken out of the water and Jeanette rushed over to him, insisting that the child was hers.  She begged him to tell her what he had done with the child’s body, to which the sailor answered, “Listen, love, where your baby is now, there is nothing more you can do for him.” Per the list of interments at the Old Church Cemetery in Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, Master Walter Dawson Mitchell was body #122, male, age 6 months [sic, actually 9 months], second-cabin passenger, Common grave C. Contributors: Senan Molony Judith Tavares References: “Ulster Victims Lisburn Man and Child.”  Irish Post and Telegraph, 15 May 1915, page 11. Molony, Senan.  Lusitania:  An Irish Tragedy.  Mercier Press, 2004, pages 61-62, 64. “Finds Friend is Survivor:  Woman Gets Letter from Mrs. W. D. Mitchell of the Lusitania.”  New York Times, Tuesday, 25 May 1915, page 4.

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