Archibald ‘Archie’ Bryce was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1861, the elder son of William and Mary Bryce. He had six sisters and one brother. His father had begun the family tradition of serving the Cunard Steam Ship Company as an engineer in 1848 when he first joined one of the company’s paddle steamers and had ended his service as Chief Engineer of the
Gallia in 1886.
Archie Bryce followed him into the company as a junior engineer in 1884, at the age of 23 years, and in late 1897 he married Margaret Christina Finnie in Conway, Caernarvonshire, Wales. In 1915 the family home was at 'Rydal', 5 College Road, Great Crosby, Lancashire, England.
He served on many of Cunard’s ships such as the Saragossa, and the
Tarifa on the Mediterranean trade and the Aquitania, the Aurania, the
Bothnia, the Campania, the Carmania, the Caronia, the
Etruria, the Lusitania herself, the Mauretania and the
Scythia on the transatlantic run.
The Carmania was his first turbine steamer and he became her Second Engineer in November 1905 and her Senior Second Engineer in September 1906. In November 1911 he joined the
Mauretania as Intermediate Second Engineer and was promoted to Senior Second Engineer one month later. He first served on the
Lusitania in January 1913 as Senior Second Engineer and in July 1914 was promoted as her Chief Engineer. For a brief spell he served in the same capacity on the RMS Aquitania, but when she was taken up by the Admiralty for use as a hospital ship in 1914, Archie Bryce returned to the Lusitania.
He did not join the Lusitania for her last voyage out of the River Mersey until the morning she sailed, 17 April 1915, as a substitute for Chief Engineer George Patterson, who had previously engaged for the voyage.
When the ship left New York, at noon on 1 May 1915, he still held the position of Chief Engineer on board, (at a monthly rate of pay of £35-0s-0d) and he was killed one week later after she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, ten miles off the coast of southern Ireland.
In an account published in 'The Widnes Weekly News' on 14 May 1915 a member of the crew who did survive, First Electrician George Hutchinson, told of seeing Engineer Bryce after the ship was struck:
"I was in my room at the time we were struck, preparing my list in readiness for reaching Liverpool. Then there was a bang, and I rushed to the alley-way and met the chief engineer."
After going below and trying in vain to fix the dynamos, Electrician Hutchinson then returned to the deck and his own electrical room.
"When I came out of it I again met the chief engineer, and he said "Come on Hutch, come down and see what we can do" I replied "Perhaps we will all be below shortly". I shook him by the hand and said "Goodbye, old chap, I think it is everyone for himself, now.” This was in the last few minutes."
Bryce's corpse was not recovered until six weeks later when, on 18 June, it was washed up on Boffin Island, off the west coast of Ireland. It was not initially identified, however, probably because of its condition after being immersed for so long in the sea and was given the reference number 6, which showed it was the sixth body washed up in the area of the Doolin and Arran Islands. When a positive identification was made, however, probably from property found on it, it was despatched to Messrs. John Waugh and Sons, Funeral Directors of Liverpool, for burial.
This took place at Kirkdale Cemetery, Liverpool, at 2pm on 25th June 1915 in Non Conformist Section 1, Grave No. 315. The burial service was conducted by the Reverend David Tripney. Chief Engineer Bryce was aged 54 years.
His remains still lie there today in a grave covered by a most ornate granite stone, with the initials AB in monogram form, on the top. The inscription is made up from lead characters, many of which, unfortunately, have been removed. It states: -
"In Loving Memory of
AGED 54 YEARS.
CHIEF ENGINEER R.M.S. "LUSITANIA"
WHO WAS LOST AT SEA THROUGH
THE TORPEDOING OF THE SHIP
BY THE GERMANS OFF KINSALE
MAY 7TH 1915
BODY RECOVERED ON BOFFIN ISLAND
WEST OF IRELAND ON JUNE 18TH
AND INTERRED HERE
JUNE 25TH 1915."
His widow Margaret is also buried in the grave. She died in May 1936, aged 75 years. The property found on her husband's body was sent to her on 22 June 1915.
She also inherited all his effects which amounted to £2,235-10s-2d (£2,235.50), which was a considerable sum in those days. In August 1915 she also received the balance of wages owed to him by Cunard for his service on the last voyage of the
Lusitania. She later moved to 8 Hertford Road, Bootle. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited paid her a yearly pension to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £191-5s-8d (£191.28½) payable at the rate of £15-18s-11d (£15.94½) per month.
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.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1861 Census of England and Wales, 1871 Census of England and Wales, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, George Donnison, Lawrence Evans, Kirkdale Cemetery Burial Register, Liverpool Echo, Marine Engineers’ Association Journal, Probate Records, Widnes Weekly News, UniLiv D92/2/438, PRO BT 334, UniLiv. PR 13/24.