Master Thomas William Docherty

Thomas William Docherty, five weeks old, was the youngest passenger aboard Lusitania.  He was traveling with his mother Mabel Docherty.  He was often addressed by his middle name as William or Billie.  Both mother and son survived the Lusitania sinking, escaping in lifeboat 15 and picked up by the Wanderer (Peel 11) before being transferred to the Flying Fish. William was one of only four infants to survive. William and Mabel were United States citizens and with Mr. William Docherty in Westbury, Long Island, New York. William, Jr. was born in March of 1915, making him the youngest passenger aboard Lusitania. During the voyage, baby William's mother Mabel made friends with Jessie Murdoch. On Friday, 7 May 1915, Mabel and William were having lunch in the second cabin dining saloon when the torpedo struck.  The following is Mabel’s account as published in The Tragedy of the Lusitania by Captain Frederick D. Ellis. Curiously, the published account describes Mabel’s son William, or Billie, as a daughter, Millie.
“I took the baby down to lunch with me Friday. Why, I don’t know, as I had not taken her into the dining saloon before. This day, though, I instinctively took her [sic] with me. We were eating when the terrible explosion came. With others I rushed to the deck. There were hundreds there, but little panic. Only a few were trying to get away in the lifeboats, because nobody seemed to think the great vessel would sink. “But soon the Lusitania listed so far that it was difficult to stand on the slanting deck, and I scrambled to a safer position between the two forward funnels. By this time scores were at the boats and a few jumping into the sea.
Mabel carried baby William in her left arm and hauled herself up to the boat deck on a slippery, swinging rope.  She had forgotten her fear in that moment.  When she reached the starboard lifeboats, an officer told her, “There is no need to hurry, madam.  Stay where you are.  The ship is quite safe.” Mabel ignored the officer’s advice.
“I didn’t know what to do and could just keep my balance with one hand and hold Millie [sic] with the other. I stood there afraid to attempt to cross the deck until the last lifeboat [lifeboat 15] was being prepared to lower. Then a man, I don’t know who he was, spied me and helped me across the deck into the boat which had been freed, but by the time our boat was on the surface of the sea, only the great funnels of the Lusitania appeared above the water. “Suddenly two of these towering stacks collapsed and fell — one forward, one aft on either side of us. One we thought was going to fall directly into our boat, and I was horrified, but it just missed us. It came so close though, that the sharp gust of air took off Millie’s [sic] loosely tied bonnet and covered her [sic] hair with soot. “Two hours later we were picked up. Millie [sic] didn’t cry a tear during all the awful time. Her [sic] good cheer gave us all heart.”
Their lifeboat was picked up by the Flying Fish. Mabel had found that her friend Jessie Murdoch had survived as well.  With her son William, a smiling Mabel posed for newspaper photographers from all over the British Isles.  Mabel wrote to her former employer of her experience and how the women in Ireland loved her child:
I took the baby down to lunch with me. We had just ordered dessert, and he was asleep. I said to Jessie, ‘After lunch I will take him to the cabin.’ Then the crash came and immediately everyone jumped and made a dash for the staircase. I stood back with baby. Jessie said ‘Come along, the boat is going down fast.’ The steward took my arm and helped me and took baby up the stairs, and helped us along the deck over a rope ladder into the last boat, just as the funnels came down. Our boat was between them. We were only about fifty yards from the boat when it went down, and the German submarine was sailing around watching all the people in the water. The crew was fine, and helped every one, but there was not much chance as she went down in fifteen minutes. We were picked up by a fishing boat and then by a mail steamer and taken to Queenstown. All this time I never let anyone have baby. I clung to him like glue. The American Consul took us to his house in Queenstown and treated us beautifully. Then we had to go to Dublin and over the Irish Channel to Liverpool before we got home. Every one was crazy about baby, as he was the youngest one saved, and at Queenstown the Irish women nearly ate him up. Of course, we have nothing left. All baby’s clothes and mine are gone. But, thank God, we are safe.
Mabel Docherty returned to the United States, where she died at age 77, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in May 1966. William Thomas Docherty, Junior, the youngest survivor of the disaster, died in Haverford, Pennsylvania, on 27 October 1972, at the age of 57.

Links of interest


Mabel and William Docherty at Lest We Forget – Encyclopedia Titanica

Contributors Cliff Barry, UK Jim Kalafus, USA Peter Kelly, Ireland Mike Poirier, USA References Ellis, Frederick D. The tragedy of the Lusitania: embracing authentic stories by the survivors and eye-witnesses of the disaster, including atrocities on land and sea, in the air, etc. Internet Archive. Web. 9 July 2011. <http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924006692796/cu31924006692796_djvu.txt>. Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania, pg 222.  Madison Books, 1956. Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster, pgs 193, 216, 232-3.  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981. Jim Kalafus, Michael Poirier, Cliff Barry and Peter Kelly (2013) “Lest We Forget : The Lusitania.” Gare Maritime. (ref: #10962, accessed 27th April 2015 03:24:39 PM) URL : http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/lest-we-forget-the-lusitania.html

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