Alfred ‘Alf’ Gardner was born in Seaforth, Lancashire, England in 1894, the son of Robert and Sarah Gardner. He had eleven siblings. He married Margaret McKevitt on 9 March 1915 and they lived at 16 Boreland Street, Marsh Lane, Bootle, Lancashire.
He engaged as a trimmer in the Engineering Department on board the Lusitania on 12 April 1915 at Liverpool at a monthly wage of £6-0s-0d, £1-0s-0d. of which was advanced to him at the time. He joined the vessel before she left the River Mersey for the last time on the morning of 17 April. He had served on the Lusitania before.
Having completed the liner’s crossing to New York, Alf Gardner was performing his tasks as a trimmer on the early afternoon of 1 May as the
Lusitania began her return voyage to Liverpool. Six days later on the afternoon of 7 May, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland, the steamer was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20. At that time she was only about 250 miles away from the safety of her home port. Trimmer Gardner lost his life as a result of this action. He was aged 21 years at the time, although when he engaged he gave his age as 23.
His body was never recovered and identified after the sinking and he was initially posted as missing.
As it was necessary to bury all the recovered bodies as soon as was practicable, for reasons of hygiene, they were all photographed in the temporary mortuaries in Queenstown before being buried. Anxious relatives of those missing were then invited to identify their loved ones through these photographs. This was difficult in certain cases because of injuries they had received as a consequence of the sinking or because they had been in the water for a long time. Some time after the sinking all the photographs were displayed in St George’s Hall in Liverpool.
Margaret Gardner had obviously seen the photograph of body number 82 there and thought that it might be that of Alf Gardner. She then communicated with Cunard to provide more information about her missing husband and stated that he had:
"Dark hair, Height 5’ 8”, Eyes blue, Tattoo on arm 'Maggie, a rose, a five pointed star'."
This obviously did not match the description of body number 82, which was never identified, nor was Trimmer Gardner’s body ever recovered and identified either. Consequently he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
He is also commemorated on the municipal war memorial in Stanley Road, Bootle, Merseyside. His name is not on one of the bronze panels on the main memorial, but on a semi-circular wall around it, where later additions are displayed.
In August 1915 his widow Margaret was paid the balance of wages owed to him in respect of his service on the
Lusitania’s last voyage, which was reckoned to be from 17 April to 8 May, 24 hours after the vessel had gone down.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England and Wales. 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Denise Deighton, UniLiv.D92/1/6-2, PRO BT 334.