The Lusitania Resource > People > Third Class Passenger List > Miss Edith Middleton Williams

Miss Edith Middleton Williams

Edith Williams
Third Class Passenger
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Edith Middleton Williams
27 March 1906
New Jersey, United States


12 May 1992 (age 86)
California, United States

Age on Lusitania 9
Traveling with - Annie Williams (mother)
- John Edward Williams (brother)
- George Albert Williams (brother)
- Ethel Williams (sister)
- Florence Williams (sister)
- David Williams (brother)

- British
- United States

Residence Scotch Plains, New Jersey, United States
Other name(s) Edith Watchel
Spouse(s) Mr. (?) Watchel (? - ?, divorced)

Edith Williams (1906 - 1992), 9, was daughter of Harry John Williams (hereafter referred to as John) and Elizabeth Annie Millman (hereafter referred to as Annie).  Edith was one of six Williams children traveling aboard Lusitania, her siblings being John Edward, George Albert, Ethel, Florence, and David.  Mother and children were traveling back to England aboard Lusitania after a few years’ settlement in Scotch Plains in the Plainfield, New Jersey area.  John Williams had departed ahead of the family on Lusitania’s last completed eastbound crossing.  Edith was saved by shipboard acquaintance Rose Howley.  Edith and her brother Edward were the only members of the family to survive the sinking.

  1. Family background 
  2. Aboard Lusitania
  3. Rescue 
  4. Reunion with Father and suit against Germany
  5. Later life
  6. Related pages
  7. Links of interest


Family background

John Williams and Annie Millman were married in Manchester, England in 1896.  In April of 1904, they emigrated to the United States and settled in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.  Edith was born on 27 March 1906 in New Jersey.

John claimed that their infant, David, was their ninth child, but only six are named in his court case against Germany: Edith, John Edward, George Albert, Ethel, Florence, and David.  John left ahead of the family and claimed that he had gone to prepare a place in Manchester, England for his family, but Edith claimed that he was abandoning the family.  Annie and her children had been so destitute that their neighbors in New Jersey collected funds for their ticket back to England.


Aboard Lusitania 

Aboard Lusitania, Edith helped her mother Annie take care of David, the youngest child who was only three months old.  The Williams family became acquainted with fellow passenger Rose Howley, who would later save Edith’s life. Edith recalled taking a walk with her mother on deck the day of the disaster.  When the ship was sinking, Edith was on the ladder between the boat deck and funnel deck, holding onto Florence’s hand.  They stayed on the ship until the very end, when the ship disappeared beneath them, taking everyone into the water.  Edith felt her sister’s hand slip from hers as the ship’s suction pulled the girls apart.  Florence was lost in the disaster.  Edith would always be haunted by the memory of losing her sister’s hand.



Rose Howley rescued Edith.  Rose was making her way to an upturned boat when she felt a tugging sensation. She saw that a child was tugging on her dress. Only after pulling the child onto the upturned boat with the assistance of some of the men, did Rose recognize the child as Edith. Edith was in an exhausted state, and one of the men on the boat rubbed her until he was sure Edith had been revived. They were on the boat for four hours before they were rescued.

In Queenstown, Edith would ask, “Where’s mother? Where’s baby?” not yet knowing that she and Edward were the only members of the family to survive. None of the rest of the Williamses were either recovered or identified. The survivors were taken to hotels, and when the American Counsel inquired if any American citizens were present, Rose Howley told him that Edith had been born in New Jersey. The counsel took charge of Edith, and on Saturday morning, a woman from Cork relieved him. Edith and Edward would be sent on their way to Manchester to be reunited with their father.

Some time after the disaster, an attempt was made to reunite Rose Howley and Edith. Rose, however, said that she had only done her duty as a Christian and was not a hero, and did not see the need for such a get together and would not participate.


Reunion with Father and suit against Germany

John collected Edith and Edward, and Edith, perhaps despising her father for previously abandoning the family, ran away for a period of time.

John brought Edith and Edward back to the United States in 1916, but were soon returned to England.  John Williams filed suit against Germany for $40,000.00 in the United States for the loss of his wife and four children, and $250.00 for the loss of their personal effects. His suit was dismissed, for as a British national could not make his claim in the US courts.

Edith and John Edward Williams’ suits in the US and UK both failed on the same grounds: pain and suffering caused by the loss of a loved one, by 1925 standards, was not cause for a financial settlement. Neither child could prove direct financial support provided by Annie, and their father who was suing in the same court system would not have been likely to admit desertion at the possible cost of his $40,000.00

“….the record is barren of any statement of fact which would enable this commission to measure the damages, if any, sustained by the two surviving children of Mrs Williams and resulting from her death.  There is not a scintilla of evidence in the record throwing any light on Mrs Williams’ character, pursuits, habits, relations to and influence over her children, or any fact on which the commission could base a conclusion that the surviving children had suffered pecuniary damages resulting from her death. It must be assumed that no such evidence of damages exists. At all events the claimants have wholly failed to discharge the burden resting on them to prove their case.”

- Edwin Parker, 5 March 1925

The only money John would see from this disaster, apparently, would only be the 5 pounds sterling given him by the Lusitania Relief Fund.


Later life

Edith completed 15 years of schooling and married a man by the name of Watchel, whom she later divorced.  She lived in the Sacramento, California area in Carmichael, California.  She was employed by Good Samaritan Hosptial where she worked as a registered nurse for 49 years.  The immediate cause of her death, on 12 May 1992, was cardio respiratory arrest.  She was cremated, with her ashes scattered at sea near San Francisco.


Related pages

The Williams Family at the Mixed Claims Commission


Links of interest

Encyclopedia Titanica - Lest We Forget: Part 1

Jim Kalafus
Michael Poirier
Eric Sauder

Ballard, Dr. Robert D. with Spencer Dunmore.  Exploring the Lusitania.   Warner Books, Inc.,  1995.

Hoehling, A.A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956.

Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget : Part 1 ET Research. <>

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