Here is her service record from CWGC
Name: TEARLE, LOUISA Initials: L Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Stewardess Regiment/Service: Mercantile Marine
Unit Text: S.S. “Falaba,” Age: 37
Date of Death: 28/03/1915
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: “C.” 272. Cemetery: NEWQUAY NEW CEMETERY
Locally, this is called the Crantock Street Cemetery, Newquay, on the Cornwall coast, and it is managed by the Restormel Borough Council. In addition to her listing on CWGC, you can see more of her story here, in the Lees section of the Australian Leaver family site.
This is a sad story; Louisa married Henry James Tearle in Lambeth, London in 1902 and they had five children, of whom I can find only three; Gertrude Louisa 1906, Donald Stanley 1910 and Ivor – for whom I have no birth date. Firstly their father was killed in Lagos, Nigeria in 1914 while working for the Elder Dempster Steamship Line. I have no information on the circumstances of Henry’s death. Sue Albrecht of NZ says that Henry was himself in an orphanage from the age of 10 and his sister, Fanny 1868, lived with her grandparents Joseph and Martha Hart from at least 1881, as shown in the 1881 and later Northampton censuses. Henry James was the son of James 1835 of Leighton Buzzard and Mary Emma nee Hart. James was in the Royal Marines, along with at least three of his brothers. His grandparents were John Tearle 1780 Northall and Sarah nee Claridge, so he is a member of the Theatrical Tearles family, which includes Sir Godfrey Tearle.
Louisa also worked for the Elder Dempster Steamship Line and in 1915, while she was a stewardess on the merchant ship “Falaba,” she was killed at sea, with 103 others, when the ship was sunk by a torpedo from a German submarine.
The Leaver site says: “The ship was torpedoed with the loss of 104 lives. March 28th FALABA. Steam Liner. 38 miles W. of Smalls enroute from Liverpool to Sierra Leone. Torpedoed by Baron Von Forstner’s U.28. Grave ref. C 272.”
Louisa’s younger sister Margaret Lees married a John Hastings and when they went to Australia, they took Donald Stanley Tearle with them. Donald signed up with the ANZACs for WW2 and was a prisoner of war in Changi, and won the Military Medal. Ivor stayed in England and died at 16yrs. Bill Babbington of Australia tells the full story of this family in the Leaver family site. I have added Margaret and John Hastings to the Tree because of their familial relationship in the story of Donald.
They are on the branch of William 1749.
I was of the understanding that there was a memorial to Louisa and the crew of the Falaba in London, and I found it on the Merchant Navy Memorial in Tower Hill Gardens, Tower Hill, London.
Here is the crew list; Louisa is Gearle S.
This view of the WW1 memorial building (above) has the Tower of London to my right, just across the road. Louisa’s memorial is on the far end, at the top of all the names.
It is indeed a shame that Louisa’s name is recorded incorrectly, but no doubt it was taken from a hand-written crew list.
In Newquay, North Cornwall, where the wind hurls huge waves at the rocks that line Fistral bay, where the surfers enjoy a long right break, and Rick Stein makes perfect fish and chips, we found the Crantock St Cemetery and within it an odd mystery. Firstly, we found it at the post code TR7 1JW and here is the gateway:
You can almost see Louisa’s headstone from this view, and it certainly did not take long to find it. Interestingly, it is a CWGC headstone with a gap in front of it. That must surely mean that there is a body, and the family have asked for the epitaph at the base.
There are no other casualties of the “Falaba” mentioned in this cemetery, and Newquay does not seem to be the closest landfall to the place where the “Falaba” was torpedoed, and where one would expect the victims to be buried. Where are the other 104 graves, or was Louisa the only casualty who was rescued, but died?
Here is the headstone itself: