Peter Robertson Duncan was born in Walton, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, in 1886, the second son of John and Jane Duncan. He lived at 12, Penuel Road, Walton, Liverpool, Lancashire, and was unmarried.
He began his marine engineering career in 1907, following in the footsteps of his father, when he served his apprenticeship with the firm of C. and H. Crichton of Liverpool and his first spell at sea was with The Houston Line, which lasted for twelve months, after which he joined The Leyland Line for a similar time period. In 1909, he passed his Second Class Board of Trade Certificate and afterwards joined The Cunard Steam Ship Company, with whom he served for the rest of his life.
He engaged as Senior Fourth Engineer in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool, on 13th April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £13-0s-0d., and reported for duty four days later, before the liner left the River Mersey for the last time.
He was killed when the liner was sunk, exactly one week after she had left New York and
The Journal of the Marine Engineers’ Association for June 1915 reported: -
It is fitting herein to state that at the very moment the torpedo struck the ship he was on deck and immediately announced what had taken places to his colleagues and implored them to take life-belts at once. He was seen by his brother officers fixing life-belts on women and children, and whilst some of the survivors may be numbered amongst those whom he helped in this way, he is amongst those lost.
His body was not recovered and identified afterwards and as a consequence, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 29 years.
He is also commemorated on the family grave in Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool. The pink marble headstone has once had its inscribed letter picked out in gold, but today they are very weathered and difficult to read. However, the inscription on the headstone reads: -
ALSO PETER R. DUNCAN ..... ,
LOST AT SEA ON R.M.S. LUSITANIA
7TH MAY 1915 AGED 29 YEARS
Administration of Engineer Duncan’s estate was granted to Elizabeth Hornel Jack, wife of Thomas James Jack at Liverpool, on 26th June1915 and his effects amounted to £20-17s-3d, (£17.86p). It is possible that Elizabeth Jack was his sister.
His father John also lost his life at sea, at the age of 39 years, with the sinking of the S.S. Naronic in February 1905. His mother, Jane Duncan, also predeceased him at the age of 46, in June 1900.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Probate Records, Liverpool Echo, Marine Engineers’ Association Journal, Maurice Rigby, PRO BT 334.