The Young Cook Aboard Titanic

Forty-three passengers aboard the Titanic were employed by other passengers. They included: three chauffeurs, twenty personal maids, two secretaries, two governesses, one clerk, one personal cook, two nursemaids, eleven servants (valets), and one nurse.

The youngest of these was the personal cook for the Allison family, eighteen-year-old Amelia Mary Brown. The family purchased second class tickets for Amelia and their chauffeur, George Swane, although the family traveled in first class.


Amelia Mary Brown

(photo credit: British Titanic Society)

When the ship was sinking, Amelia didn’t want to get out of bed until her roommate told her she was probably the last person on the ship still in bed. When she made her way to the Boat Deck, she was put into Lifeboat 11. Amelia wrote a letter to her mother from the rescue ship Carpathia.

My dear Mother,

At last I have made myself sit down to write. I don't know how the time has gone since the wreck But I can't help thinking how lucky I was to be amongst the rescued. There were 2000 people about that on board and only about 700 were rescued. If happened at 11.30 Sunday night. Our boat ran into an iceberg and within 1 1/2 hours the vessel had sunk I couldn't believe that it was serious and would not get up until Swain [sic] came and made me that was the last / saw of him poor fellow. No sooner was I on deck that I was bustled to the first class deck and pushed into one of the boats and I found nurse (Alice Cleaver) and the baby (Trevor Allison) were there. It was awful to put the lifebelt on it, seemed as if you really were gone. Then came the lowering of the boats I shut my eyes in hopes I should wake up and find it a dream. Then came the awful suspense of waiting till a vessel happened to pass our way. The wireless telegraphy had beer used and this vessel that was southward bound came miles out of its way to pick us up. By the time we had got out of reach of the suction we stopped to watch her go down and you could watch her go too. It went in the front until it was standing like this then all the lights went out. Shortly after we heard the engines explode and then the cries of the people for help. Never shall I forget it as long as I live. I don't let myself think of it. We were on the water from 12 till 6 in this small boat. Thank goodness it was a calm clear night or I don't know what would have happened. We were nearly frozen as there were Icebergs all round us. Ever since I have been on here I have felt in a stupor. Everything seems too much trouble and I don't care what happens to me. I found Sallie (Sarah Daniels) had got on alright but poor girl she keeps worrying about her things, of course we have lost everything bar what we stand up in. I had my watch on my arm in fact it hasn't left it since we sailed and my money was in my pocket. I have not seen Mr and Mrs Allison. I suppose they have gone under but there is just the hopes that they may have been picked up by another- boat but still I am not going to worry about that as they have several friends on board and then there are the partners of the firm. We have been offered a home until they can find us a place suitable. This vessel has turned back to New York with us. I have slept on the Dining Room floor both nights. We had a most awful thunderstorm last night and today it's that foggy. I shall be glad to be on terra firma again. We had a bad start. The New York broke adrift and ran into us at Southampton Harbour. Well I won't write any more now. Will you let Neil read this and Aunt Em or anyone that you think as I don't feel like going all over it again. Don't worry about me as I shall be well looked after and I have made several well-to-do-friends.

Lots of love to all, From your ever loving daughter Millie

Mr. and Mrs. Allison were lost in the sinking. Amelia later returned to England and married in 1931. She died at the age of 82.

The Allison Family Tragedy

Alice Catherine Cleaver, 22, had worked as a nursemaid for wealthy English families since her teen years. In 1912, young Montreal millionaires Hudson and Bess Allison hired her to look after their children, two-year-old Loraine and eleven-month-old Trevor. The family had been in England for Trevor’s baptism and to purchase several horses for their racing stable, and booked passage home on Titanic in order to travel with friends. In addition to Alice, the family also traveled with a lady’s maid, a cook, and a butler.

When the ship struck the iceberg on the night of April 14, some claimed that Hudson Allison immediately went to see what happened and returned to find his wife in hysterics. She’d told him a steward had come to their cabin and insisted they put on lifebelts and head to the boat deck, and Alice immediately left with baby Trevor. Hudson and Bess took their daughter Loraine and went to the boat deck but refused to board a lifeboat without first knowing the whereabouts of Alice and their son. But stories conflicted from survivors who knew them. Some said Alice had told Bess she planned to find the other servants and would meet Mr. and Mrs. Allison at the boats; other said Alice had simply grabbed Trevor and disappeared.


Trevor Allison with his nurse, Alice Cleaver

A dinner companion of the Allison's, Major Peuchen, stated Bess and little Loraine had somehow been forced into his lifeboat, #6, even though Bess still was searching for Trevor. But when Bess heard that her husband was on the opposite side of the ship, she climbed out of the lifeboat with Loraine and went after him. “Apparently,” the major said, “she reached the other side to find Mr. Allison not there. Meanwhile, our boat had put off.”

An hour later, the family’s butler, George Swane, saw Alice, Trevor, and the cook, Mildred Brown, safely board Lifeboat #11. The lady’s maid, Sarah Daniels, had managed to get on an earlier boat. It’s possible that Swane informed the Allison’s of their son’s safety, if he indeed found them, but by then it was too late. All the lifeboats had left the Titanic.

Hudson and Bess Allison, their daughter Loraine, and George Swane all perished. Bess was one of five women traveling in first class to die in the sinking, and Loraine was the only child. Only the bodies of Hudson Allison and George Swane were recovered. Then a woman claiming to be Loraine Allison came forward in 1940, saying she’d been handed to a man in one of the lifeboats and raised on a farm in the Midwest. Although she stood by her story until her death, her claim was always denied by the Allison family. It wasn’t until 2012 when her daughter agreed to DNA testing that her story was finally proven false. The two families were not related in any way.

bess, loraine, and trevor allison

Bess Allison with her children, Loraine and Trevor

For some time after the sinking, Alice Catherine Cleaver was mistaken for Alice Mary Cleaver, who had murdered her infant son in 1909, born out wedlock. Confusion still exists among some historic records. But Alice Catherine, who had taken Trevor and boarded Lifeboat #11, turned him over to his aunt and uncle in New York and returned to England until the rumors quieted. She eventually married, had two daughters, and lived to be 95.

But the Allison family was to meet with more tragedy. Trevor Allison, who had survived the sinking and been raised by his aunt and uncle in Canada, died of ptomaine poisoning at the age of 18.