William Affleck Anderson was born in Sedgefield, County Durham, England in 1881, the son of William John and Ann Anderson of 'Winterton', Ferryhill, County Durham. His father was clerk of the works at the Durham County Asylum at Sedgefield and his brother was a Superintendent Engineer.
He was married to Lilian Ethel Anderson (née Telford) and they lived at 77 Trevor Road, Walton, Liverpool, Lancashire, with their two children. The couple had previously resided at 77 Cobham Avenue, Walton, Liverpool.
He was a professional marine engineer and had begun his apprenticeship with Messrs Richardson, Westgarth and Company at Hartlepool Engine Works, in County Durham. In 1907 he joined The Cunard Steam Ship Company and served in the engineering branch on many of its vessels thereafter.
On 12 April 1915 he engaged on the Lusitania at Liverpool as Senior Fifth Engineer at a monthly rate of pay of £12-0s-0d and reported for duty five days later before the liner left Liverpool for the last time, bound for New York. Having completed her voyage there, she was torpedoed and sunk six days out on her return journey, on the afternoon of 7 May, by the German submarine
U-20. At that time she was within sight of the southern Irish coast and only hours from home.
Engineer Anderson did not survive the sinking, but his body was recovered from the sea not long afterwards and landed at Queenstown, where it was taken to the temporary mortuary set up in the yard of the Cunard office at Lynch’s Quay. There it was given the reference number 52, until it was positively identified.
On 12 May it was shipped to Liverpool for burial, which took place at 3.30pm on 15 May 1915, at Kirkdale Cemetery, in Non Conformist Section 7, grave number 1359. He was aged 33 years. The service in the chapel and at the graveside was conducted by the Reverend James McMurchy of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Orrell Lane, who had officiated, the previous day, at the funeral of another
Lusitania crew member, Extra Chief Steward Arthur Ford. Engineer Anderson's coffin was carried to the grave by six representatives of Cunard's Engineering Department, Messrs Curror, Bolting Hedderley, McFarlane, Morrison and Reade.
As well as family mourners, the Cunard Steam Ship Company was represented by the chairman Mr AA Booth, the general manager Mr AD Mearns, the assistant manager Mr H Litchfield and the assistant superintendent engineer, Mr M McGregor.
His remains still lie there today, under a standard Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone carved from sandstone. It bears the private inscription:
IN THE MIDST OF LIFE
WE ARE IN DEATH
He was also commemorated on a war memorial inside Trinity United Reformed Church, formerly Trinity Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Rice Lane and Orrel Lane in Orrel Park, Liverpool. The memorial took the form of a stained glass window, with the names of the fallen incised below it on two brass panels. Unfortunately at the end of the 1990s the church closed down and a decision on the future of the panels has not yet been made.
His name was also engraved on a brass plaque belonging to The Liverpool Branch of The Marine Engineers' Association which used to be in The Britannia Rooms in The Cunard Building in Liverpool. Underneath the badge of the association was engraved:
ROLL OF HONOUR
A TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF
THE MEMBERS, WHO LOST THEIR LIVES
THROUGH ENEMY ACTION IN THE
GREAT WAR. 1914 - 1919
and then followed the names of the 226 former members.
The memorial is not in the building today however and its present whereabouts, if it has survived, are not known.
In the June 1915 edition of 'The Journal of the Marine Engineers’ Association', it was said of him:
Mr. Anderson will be remembered as a young man possessing a very genial disposition and in consequence was very popular amongst his colleagues.
Such property as was found on his body was handed over to his widow Lilian on 29 November 1915 at 33 Park Road, Consett, County Durham. It is probable that she was staying with relatives at the time. She had already received the balance of wages owed to him in respect of the Lusitania's last voyage, during August. The property consisted of £1-2s-6d (£1.12½) in British gold and silver coinage and a pair of razors.
Some time after Engineer Anderson's death, his widow and children moved to 'Delaford', Haigh Road, Waterloo, Liverpool, and this is the address shown in Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.
The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Lilian Anderson to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £76-6s-1d (£76.30½) which was payable at the rate of £6-7s-3d (£6.36) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Bootle Times, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, George Donnison, Illustrated Chronicle, Kirkdale Cemetery Burial Register, Marine Engineers‘ Association Journal, Robert O‘Brien, PRO BT 334, UniLiv. PR. 13/24.