People on board
HAMILTON, Lady Alexandra Phyllis
Lady Alexandra Phyllis Hamilton was the daughter of the second Duke of Abercorn, James Hamilton, and Mary Anna Curzon-Howe, the daughter of the first Earl Howe, one of five children to grow to adulthood. Phyllis, as she was known, was born on 23rd January 1876 and lived at the family seat of Barons Court in Co. Tyrone. Her Majesty, Queen Alexandra, was one of her godmothers. Lady Phyllis did not marry and she was, sadly, the second family member to die as a direct result of World War I. Her younger brother, Captain John Hamilton, was killed in action in November 1914. Lady Phyllis was a keen amateur archaeologist and had carried out several excavations in the vicinity of her home. In 1915, Lady Phyllis took up war work, travelling with the YMCA to France to support British troops, where she corresponded with her brother Claud about the experience. Two accounts of her aboard the Leinster survive. One came via Frances, Lady Ashbourne to her mother from an officer on the ship and is quoted in Dr William J. Roulston’s book, Abercorn The Hamiltons of Barons Court.
He said he was astounded at the calmness and courage of Lady Alexandra. He saw her with another lady (her maid) on board, putting on life belts, and went to them to try to give them any help he could, but she said “oh you must leave us at once – we are strong women, and are not afraid. Go to those who want you more.” He said she was perfectly composed.
A second account, mentioned in Philip Lecane’s book, Torpedoed!, noted that she gave her life jacket to a servant and commented that she “was a strong swimmer”.
Sadly, her body was not recovered. Two memorial services, in London and at Barons Court, were held. The King, Queen and Prince of Wales were represented at the London service. Lady Phyllis and her sister Gladys are jointly commemorated on a memorial in the family’s church at Barons Court.
Text: Claire Bradley