Mrs. Alfred Duckworth (Elizabeth Ann Smith)

Elizabeth Duckworth
Third Class Passenger
Saved
[No Picture Provided]
Born Elizabeth Ann Smith
1863
Blackburn, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
Died 1955 (age 92)
Taftville, Connecticut, United States
Age on Lusitania 52
Lifeboat 21
Rescued by Wanderer (Peel 12)
Occupation Textile mill worker
Citizenship British (England)
Residence Taftville, Connecticut, United States
Other names Elizabeth Rushworth (first marriage)
Spouse(s) - Mr. ? Rushworth (? – ?, his death)
– Alfred Duckworth (? – ?, his death)

Elizabeth Duckworth (1863 – 1955), 52, of Taftville, Connecticut, United States, was aboard Lusitania to travel to her old home in England.  On board, she made friends with Alice Scott and her son Arthur.  During the sinking, she assisted Arthur into a lifeboat.  She almost boarded lifeboat #17, which overturned, killing Alice Scott.  Elizabeth was rescued by the fishing trawler Wanderer (Peel 12) and displayed heroism by going back into the lifeboats to rescue more people out of the water.

Contents

  1. Twice married
  2. Homesick
  3. Lusitania
  4. Heroism
  5. Queenstown
  6. After Lusitania
  7. Links of interest

 

Twice married


Elizabeth Duckworth was born as Elizabeth Ann Smith in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom.  Her father, John Smith, was a blacksmith from Ribchester.  While in England Elizabeth married a man by the name of Rushworth.  They lived at 56 Bastwell Road, and she worked at the Oozebooth Mill.  When Mr. Rushworth died, she emigrated to the United States where she met Alfred Duckworth, her second husband.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth was widowed again upon Alfred’s death.

Elizabeth worked at the textile mill in Taftville, Connecticut.

 

Homesick


She was traveling on the Lusitania with the destination of Blackburn, Lancashire in mind.  She was homesick.  She was also on her way to see an old friend of hers, Mrs. Sowerbutts, who also lived on Elizabeth’s neighborhood of Bastwell Road.  Despite warnings from her son-in-law, Bill Smith, that it was too dangerous to sail, Elizabeth had made up her mind.  Elizabeth was an independent woman and she had no intention of changing her ways.

On 30 April, Elizabeth, with the assistance of Bill, boarded the electric trolley that would take her to New London, and then the train to New York.  With her were two large, overpacked straw suitcases.  She would spend the night with friends in Brooklyn before sailing on the Lusitania the next morning.

 

Lusitania


Aboard the Lusitania, Elizabeth made friends with Alice Scott and her son, Arthur.

On the day of the disaster, Elizabeth had just finished lunch and went to walk on deck with Arthur when they saw what they thought was a fish.  Alice was in her room at that time, recovering from a headache.  Then the torpedo struck.  Elizabeth felt the ship shake from “stem to stern” and with hot cinders raining down they rushed to their forward deck.  There, they were told that was a “gaping hole” in the Lusitania’s side and that the ship was indeed going to sink by the bow, where they were standing.  The Lusitania was beginning to roll over and it seemed that it was only a matter of time before the ocean reached them.

Panicking, Elizabeth and Arthur started climbing the ship’s rigging.  An officer, perhaps Second Officer Hefford or First Officer Piper, ran after them and persuaded them in a calm voice to come down.  He told them that a lifeboat was ready for them on the Promenade Deck.

Elizabeth then told Arthur Scott to slide down the rope ladder and that she would catch him.  Arthur was too scared to do so, but Elizabeth shouted, “Come on, you will be lost!”

Arthur finally gathered himself together and slid down.  Elizabeth, however, missed catching him and Arthur landed on the deck on his back, with the wind knocked out of him.  It took Arthur a few seconds to recover and now with Alice, the three headed toward the lifeboat on the starboard side.  Upon arrival, another officer told them, “We can get the little boy in, but we can’t get you in.”

“All right, get him in.”  was Elizabeth’s reply.  Elizabeth and Alice headed for the next boat down, but there was not room in that one either.  A sailor then pointed them to a boat that was “the last one down the long line of swaying starboard-side boats” (Hoehling, 114).  Elizabeth stumbled, but an officer helped her back up and dragged her to the “last boat.”  That officer then helped her into the lifeboat, #17, with Alice Scott.  Elizabeth accidentally stepped on someone’s leg in the process.

The sailors seemed to be having much trouble with the rollers and were taking too long to get the lifeboat underway.  Elizabeth hitched up her skirts and got out.  Alice remained in the boat.  The lifeboat finally managed to get underway, but to Elizabeth’s horror, the boat overturned and threw passengers against the side of the ship before they landed in the water.  She saw Alice go under, but never saw her come back up.  Immediately she started to recite the 23rd Psalm.  Next to her three Irish girls who had been singing “There Is a Green Hill [Not?] Far Away” cheerily during lunch were now singing the same song in thin, fightened voices as if to reassure themselves that land was near.

 

Heroism


Elizabeth finally managed to find a lifeboat that got away safely, lifeboat #21.  Witnessing the horror, she recited the 23rd Psalm again.  She then saw a man in the water not far from them and she asked the mate, “Can’t we help him?”

The mate then replied, “No.”

Adamant, Elizabeth snapped back with a “Yes, we can.”

The officer took a long look at Elizabeth and ordered the rowers to stop.  With a “very hard struggle” the occupants of the lifeboat pulled the man in.

With Elizabeth at the oars, her lifeboat made towards Queenstown.  Even though they were heavily laden, her boat managed “to make the fastest time of any of the lifeboats.”  It was not long before they came upon the fishing smack Wanderer, also known as the Peel 12.  Her lifeboat was the first to reach the fishing trawler.

Not long after Elizabeth stepped aboard Peel 12, another lifeboat drifted by with only three persons in it.  A petty officer of her boat asked the people in the lifeboat what had happened, and the answer was that the boat had capsized and they needed help to row back to rescue some of the drowning.

“I can’t spare anyone.”  the officer shouted back, shaking his head.

“You can spare me!”  Elizabeth shouted, and having carefully measured the distance between the Peel 12 and the lifeboat, Elizabeth jumped the gap between the two and grabbed an oar before anyone could do or say anything to stop her.

Elizabeth and her four companions fished about forty out of the water.  She also saw the vessels City of Exeter and Etonian approaching and then vanish back on the horizon.  She thought grimly that the ships “knew nothing of our predicament.”  In reality, a third ship in the area, the Narragansett, had spotted what seemed to be a torpedo across her bows and warned the ships away.

When Elizabeth and her companions came back to the Peel 12, she was helped back onboard and greeted with cheers.

 

Queenstown


Upon reaching land was the first time that Elizabeth broke down.  She was treated for exposure and taken to the Westbourne Hotel.  Elizabeth stayed there for the night.  She stayed in Queenstown long enough to identify the body of Alice Scott.  She then found Alice’s son Arthur, who was to be taken to relatives in Nelson, England by a missionary.

When word reached Connecticut that the Lusitania had been torpedoed, all her son-in-law said was, “Well, she was told not to sail but you know how it is, some people have to learn the hard way.”

 

After Lusitania


After a period of recuperation, Elizabeth reported for war duty at the Royal Arsenal Ammunition Factory in Blackburn, Lancashire, England.  She eventually returned to the United States, and after a five-hour wait on Ellis Island, she was readmitted.  Elizabeth Duckworth remained active in her later years before passing in her sleep Taftville, Connecticut, in 1955.  She was ninety-two.

Authors A. A. Hoehling and Mary Hoehling credit Elizabeth Duckworth’s life as being the catalyst for them to write their book, The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.

Links of interest


Cotton Town:  The Sinking of the Lusitania – Local Connections


Contributors:
Michael Poirier

References:
Duckworth, Alan.  “The Sinking of the Lusitania – Local Connections.”  Cotton Town – Blackburn with Darwen.  Online.  <http://www.cottontown.org/page.cfm?pageid=3129&language=eng>.

Ellis Island Records.  <http://www.ellisisland.org>.

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

Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002.

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