Roll Back the Clouds, my new novel about the Lusitania, releases on March 17. Many of the passengers aboard the ill-fated, final voyage appear alongside main characters, Geoff and Rosaleen Bonnard. I’ll be profiling several of them here. This week, meet Marguerite, Lady Allan, and her daughters, Anna and Gwen.
Lady Allan was the wife of Canadian shipping magnate, Sir Hugh Montagu Allan. They had four children: Marguerite Martha (known as Martha), Hugh, Gwendolyn, and Anna.
When the Great War began in 1914, the family planned to spend the war years in England. Sir Montagu set up a hospital for Canadian soldiers wounded at the front. Lady Allan would work at a convalescent hospital and with the Red Cross.
Daughter Martha secured a nursing qualification, bought an ambulance, and went to France a month ahead of her mother. Lady Allan took along Gwen, 16, and Anna, 15, along with their two maids and eighteen steamer trunks of belongings. Her husband remained in Montreal to finish up some business.
When the Lusitania sank, the Allans went into the water together, but were separated. A family friend, Frederick Orr-Lewis, was with them and later stated that explosion of the boilers sent him to the surface. Lady Allan suffered a broken collarbone, either from debris or the keel of a lifeboat, and may also have broken an arm or hip. Gwen’s body was recovered and buried in the family plot in Montreal. Anna was never found.
Two years later, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Hugh Allan was shot down and killed while flying a patrol over German trenches in Belgium. His sister, Martha, died in 1942. Sir Hugh and Lady Allan outlived all four of their children.
In Roll Back the Clouds, Rosaleen Bonnard meets the Allan ladies and feels intimidated in her simpler attire, but the girls admire her embroidery and set her at ease.
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