James Clarke Anderson was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 2 February 1865, the son of Thomas and Mary Anderson of Montgomery Street, Girvan, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. He was married to Louisa Anderson (née Weir) and in 1915 they lived at Ailsa Craig, 32 Fazakerley Road, Walton, Liverpool with their 5 children. He was always know as ‘Jock’ Anderson to his friends, presumably because of his origins,
His father Thomas Anderson (who was renowned in Kilmarnock as an expert angler), had joined The Cunard Steam Ship Company in the 1850s as an engineer officer and had served the company thereafter for many years. When he retired, he held the position of Commodore Chief Engineer of the company, and was chief engineer of the liner Lucania.
Jock Anderson followed his father’s lead by joining Cunard in 1897, but in the Deck Department as third officer on the
Aleppo. Only six years later, in 1903, he was appointed chief officer of the
Saragossa. He continued to serve in this rank on board the Carmania, the
Caronia, the Ivernia, the Slavonia, the Umbria, and the
Ultonia, before being given command of the Caria in 1911. He held command of this ship until he was appointed staff captain on the Lusitania.
The rank of staff captain was a special rank inaugurated by the chairman of Cunard, Alfred A Booth, after the loss of the White Star Liner
Titanic in 1912, to ease the burden of work suffered by large liner captains at that time. It basically covered areas such as cargo stowage, discipline and even socialising with passengers, which would leave the actual captain free to concentrate on navigating and sailing the ship.
Anderson was appointed staff captain on board the vessel at Liverpool on 12 April 1915 and joined her at 7am on 17 April, before she left the River Mersey for the last time.
After the liner was struck, three weeks later and six days out of New York, Anderson was of the opinion that she would not sink and that a landfall could be made. As a result he halted the launching of the lifeboats and ordered their occupants back onto the decks. This lapse of professional judgement undoubtedly led to many lives being lost, but it is likely that Anderson had also realised that any lifeboats launched whilst the liner was making headway would have no chance of getting into the sea without being seriously damaged.
Second cabin passenger H.G. Burgess, from Shipley in Yorkshire reported in 'The Shipley Times and Observer'
after the sinking: -
The sea was perfectly calm and the sun was shining brightly. After looking on for a time, I was rather astonished it hear the staff captain give an order for the people to be taken out of the boats which had then been partially filled, as the ship was holding.
In an article published after the sinking, in 'The Yorkshire Post' on 11 May the following extract dictated by Fireman Jacob Chadwick mentioned Captain Anderson after the liner had gone down:
Fortunately, I am a good swimmer - I was taught to swim as a boy at Kirkstall Road Baths - and I got first to one collapsible boat, which, however, overturned, and then to another one, where Staff Captain Anderson and I were able to rest on the canvas. This boat could not be opened properly, and it began to sink, so the Captain asked those who could swim to leave it.
It is possible that Fireman Chadwick may have been one of the last to see Staff Captain Anderson alive as he must have drowned some time after this, as his body was later recovered from the sea. It was taken to the temporary mortuary set up in the yard of the Cunard offices at Lynch’s Quay, where it was given the reference number 48 before being positively identified. It is a coincidence that he was also aged 48 years.
In the book 'The Last Voyage of the Lusitania', saloon passenger Oliver Bernard described seeing Anderson's corpse in one of three mortuaries he visited in Queenstown after the disaster. He stated:
In the second shelter, sunlight filtering through grimy windows glinted on some gold braid that was little clue to the identity of one whose bloated features were smeared with bloody mucous; Staff Captain Anderson had stuck to his job, and had not drowned without a hard struggle.
Others who also saw his corpse testified to the same contorted features of his death struggle. In an article entitled 'Final Voyage' written by Brian R Meister a similar view was expressed:
Many survivors, prevailed upon to view the bodies, speedily recognised staff captain John C. Anderson. Clearly he had put up a great fight with the sea, but had lost.
Anderson's body was eventually despatched to Messrs R McDougall and Co Ltd, of St Anne Street, Liverpool for burial in Kirkdale Cemetery. This took place at 3pm on 14 May 1915, in Non Conformist Section 7, grave number 1692, the burial service being conducted by the Reverend Stanley Rogers, who officiated in the church and at the graveside. The coffin was draped in a union flag and carried to the grave by six quartermasters of the Cunard Steamship Company. The chairman of the company Mr AA Booth, who had initiated the rank of staff captain three years earlier, and the general manager, Mr AD Mearns were present amongst the many mourners.
His remains still lie there today, under a standard Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone carved from sandstone. It bears the private inscription:
A PERFECT MANLY LIFE
JUSTLY, AND WELL SPENT
The 'Liverpool Echo' for Monday 10 May 1915, stated in an obituary for him:
Captain Anderson was extremely popular in maritime circles. He was a man of presence and had a fund of genial anecdotes which was apparently inexhaustible.
All of the property that was recovered from his body was sent on to his widow Louisa on 9 June 1915. It consisted of four £10 notes, one stud, one key, a $1 coin, £0-3s-0d, (£0.15) in British silver coinage, and a gold pencil with a small gold coin attached to it. The balance of his salary due to him in respect of his sea service from 17 April to 8 May 1915, 24 hours after the ship had sunk, was also sent to her in August 1915.
The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Louisa Anderson to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £118-0s-0d (£118), payable at the rate of £9-16s-8d (£9.84) per month.
The Anderson family suffered an extra loss with the sinking, as Staff Captain Anderson’s nephew Second Electrician George Edward Latham was also lost in the disaster. His body was never recovered and identified.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1871 Census of England and Wales, 1881 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Kilmarnock Herald, Kirkdale Cemetery Burial Register, Last Voyage of the Lusitania, Kilmarnock Standard, Liverpool Echo, Liverpool Post and Mercury, Lusitania Saga and Myth, Brian R. Meister, Robert O'Brien., PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 334, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLiv. PR. 13/24.