Mr. Walter Dawson Mitchell

Walter Mitchell, 27, was traveling aboard Lusitania with his wife Jeanette and their son, also named Walter, and Jeanette's brother, John Moore.  Walter and Walter, Jr., were both lost in the Lusitania disaster, but Jeanette and John were saved. Walter was the second son of Reverend G. P. Mitchell, rector of Drumbo, Lisburn, County Antrim, Ireland, and grand-nephew of Canon Pounden of Lisburn. He and Jeanette had been childhood sweethearts.  Walter had been an apprentice at the Island Spinning Company in Lisburn and was offered a job as the assistant manager of the Marshall Mills in Kearny, New Jersey, United States in December of 1912.  Taking this opportunity, Walter proposed to Jeanette.  They married and lived with Mrs. R.M. Crozier of 177 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey.  Walter junior was born to them in August 1914.  Jeanette and Walter regularly sent photographs of their child 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, Jeanette, their ten-month-old son, and John sailed on Lusitania on 1 May 1915.  Jeanette recalled that when the ship passed by where Titanic sank in 1912, some passengers threw wreaths into the sea.  On 7 May, The Mitchells 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.”  Taking the baby, the Mitchells and John 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. Walter, Jeanette, and their baby all struggled in the water, with Walter 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 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 did not revive, either. John saw Jeanette and Walter 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. Walter's body was #56 and placed in an oak casket, the breastplate of which was inscribed with:
W.D. Mitchell Died May 8, 1915
Walter, Jr., was body #122, male, age 6 months [sic, actually 9 months], and buried in Common grave C in the Old Church Cemetery in Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland. On Saturday evening, Reverend Mitchell received a wire stating that Jeanette and John were safe, but his son and grandchild had been lost.  Another telegram stated that Jeanette and John would arrive in Lisburn by the midnight train from Dublin.  Reverend Mitchell and Mr. Moore (Jeanette and John’s father) received them at the Lisburn train station.  They were still in shock and grief-stricken and were unable to give any account of what had happened to them. Years later, after Jeanette had  remarried, had two children, and lived out the rest of her life, she was buried with Walter in Lisburn. 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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