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Mrs. Fannie Jane Morecroft

Fannie Morecroft (1872 - 1958), 43 (given as 36), was a British national and stewardess aboard the last voyage of the Lusitania. She had been working aboard Lusitania since at least 1912. She survived the sinking and was plucked from the water by lifeboat 15, which was in turn picked up by the trawler Wanderer (Peel 11) before being transferred to the fishing boat Flying Fish.
  1. Early life and marriage
  2. Working woman
  3. The sinking of the Lusitania
  4. Later career and retirement
  5. Links of interest

Early life and marriage

Fannie Jane Chamberlain was born in London, England, in 1872 to a upper working-class family. Her father was a compositor (typesetter) for a newspaper on Fleet Street. When Fannie was 17, she met Herbert Morecroft, a widower, trained solicitor (lawyer in American speak), but practicing traveling actor. Herbert was 15 years Fannie’s senior, and also because acting was considered a disreputable profession in Victorian England, her parents opposed the relationship. When Fannie was 18, she and Herbert eloped and married in Manchester. She lied about her age on her marriage certificate, as anyone under the age of 21 had to have parental consent to marry. As Herbert was a traveling actor, Fannie also became an actress for a period of time. Their daughter Caroline Mary was born in 1893 and a son Tom was born to them in 1895. In 1901, when Caroline and Tom were only 8 and 6 respectively, Herbert Morecroft died. To find a means of supporting her family, Fannie became a stewardess aboard transatlantic liners. As her job often took her away from home for extended periods of time, her children were placed in an informal type of foster care in Liverpool.

Working woman

Fannie worked as a stewardess aboard several ships for the Cunard Line. By 1912, she was serving aboard Lusitania. Cunard records list Fannie as "Mrs Fanny Moorcroft," her age is given as 36. She had deliberately understated her age, perhaps understanding that younger women were more likely to stay employed. Much like her mother, in 1913, Caroline Morecroft married at a young age and to a much older man. Caroline was 19 and her husband was older than Fannie. Caroline became pregnant with her first child a year later. When Fannie was returning to England aboard the Lusitania’s fatal crossing, Caroline was 8 months pregnant, and Fannie was eagerly expecting the birth of her grandchild. During the last voyage, Fannie had apparently made a positive impression on Ruth Wordsworth for her friendliness.

The sinking of the Lusitania

One of Fannie’s co-workers and lifelong friends was Marian May Bird, also known as Birdie. After they retired from Cunard, they would share a house together in Sussex. Fannie and May were 2 of the 21 stewardesses aboard Lusitania and also among the 2 of the 8 who survived. Right after the torpedo hit the Lusitania, Fannie ran to the cabins in her care to get all passengers up on deck with their lifebelts. She later stated that many passengers were "running around like a bunch of wild mice". Fannie and May met on the starboard deck during the sinking. Fannie encountered a man and woman leaning against the rail, begging “in God’s name” for their children to be saved. She put the children in one of the lifeboats. Fannie would also recall that the list of the ship was such that it “made us slide right across [the deck] on to the rail”. Fannie and May jumped from the side of the ship and were picked up by lifeboat 15, which she recalled was helmed by First Officer Arthur Rowland Jones. Passenger Archie Donald recalled their escape as something different, that they had been in a boat that upset and dumped its passengers in lowering:
They cut the hanging rope and the boat went into the water, but of course was water logged. The passengers seemed to be crawling up a rope netting on the lower deck, climbing higher as the water reached them… The only woman I knew in the boat was a stewardess, May Baird [sic], and she does not clearly remember what happened.
Their boat had to have its ropes cut in order to leave the ship. The lifeboat also was caught in wires that also had to be cut to free the lifeboat from the sinking ship. Fannie believed until the end of her days that the fact that the sinking Lusitania did not suck down her lifeboat was a miracle. Lifeboat 15 was picked up by the trawler Wanderer before being transferred to the larger fishing boat Flying Fish, which took the survivors to Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland.

Later career and retirement

Fannie was eager to get home to see her family. She left Queenstown and arrived in Liverpool three days after the Lusitania sinking, still wearing the uniform she had on during the sinking, all dirty from the wreckage. Caroline did not know the fate of her mother for 24 hours. Three weeks later, Fannie’s first grandchild was born, named Margaret Morecroft Warwick. Another granddaughter, Patricia, would be born in 1917. As a safety precaution, Cunard did not allow women to serve on their ships for the rest of the war. Fannie was none too happy about this, as she had been a loyal employee. Still, she was able to make a living through several different jobs until the end of the First World War, such as being a tram conductor. After the war, in 1919, Fannie resumed her career with Cunard and eventually was promoted to Chief Stewardess aboard the Lancastria. The job came with a large private stateroom, and she often brought exotic gifts from abroad back to her family. Fannie retired in the 1930s, and she moved in with fellow Lusitania survivor May Bird to a small house in Sussex. Fannie never remarried and was a widow for more than 50 years; however, she was able to see her grandchildren grow up and have families of their own. Fannie Morecroft died on 9 July 1958 at age 86. Fannie was survived by her daughter, son, three granddaughters, one grandson, and 8 great-grandchildren.

Links of interest

The Sinking of the Lusitania: A Survivor's Story Lest We Forget: Chapter 4, Part 3
Contributors Cliff Barry, UK "LondonGirl," UK Jim Kalafus, USA Peter Kelly, Ireland Michael Poirier, USA References Kalafus, Jim, Michael Poirier, Cliff Barr,y and Peter Kelly ( 2013 ) Lest We Forget : The Lusitania Gare Maritime (ref: #10962, accessed 9th May 2013 05:28:44 AM) <> "The Sinking of the Lusitania: A Survivor's Story." Online. Accessed 8 August 2011. <>

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