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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 17:46 GMT
Disaster survivor pays for lifeboat
Newspaper clip of Lusitania
Almost 1200 people died when the Lusitania sank
An elderly woman who survived when the Lusitania was sunk in World War 1 has raised thousands for a new lifeboat to be based in Ceredigion.

American Audrey Lawson Johnston was only three months old when the liner suffered a German torpedo attack off the coast of Ireland on 7 May, 1915.

Only 764 of the 1959 people on board were rescued. Mrs Johnston lost her two sisters, who were travelling with her brother, parents and her from New York, in the disaster.

Now the 89-year-old, who lives on the Northamptonshire border, has raised 26,000 for a new RNLI lifeboat for New Quay and she will officially dedicate the vessel later this year.

I decided to try and raise the money for a lifeboat to be named after my mother because a lifeboat saved my life all those years ago
Audrey Lawson Johnston

Mrs Johnston was saved by her nanny who grabbed her from a cot and rushed to one of the liner's crowded lifeboats.

She said she has never forgotten the bravery of those who helped saved her life.

"I decided to try and raise the money for a lifeboat to be named after my mother because a lifeboat saved my life all those years ago."

The lifeboat will be named Amy Lea after Mrs Johnston's mother who was also saved by a passing tramp steamer.

Mrs Johnston's father, who was taking his family to begin a new job in the UK, managed to swim for several hours after the ship went down and was also rescued.

The lifeboat's dedication will be held on 7 May - 89 years to the day since the tragedy.

Audrey Lawson Johnston
Mrs Johnston held coffee mornings to raise money for the boat

Dedications usually take place at weekends because most lifeboat crew have jobs but this service is being moved to a Friday to mark the poignant anniversary.

"I appreciate what the lifeboat men have done in taking time off work so that the ceremony can take place on 7 May," said Mrs Johnston, who will travel to New Quay with family for the ceremony.

She has raised the thousands for the vessel through holding coffee mornings and support from her friends.

"I am the only one of my family involved in the sinking of the Lusitania and my nanny, whom I stayed in touch with all my life, passed on last year after reaching her 100th birthday."

"The dedication will obviously be very emotional for Mrs Johnston and I am sure most of the 30 or so lifeboat men in New Quay will attend the service," said George Legg of the RNLI.

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