Walter Lewis Hetherington was born in Liverpool, Lancashire on 21 December 1877, the son of Jonathan and Mary Ellen Hetherington. His father was a pilot who guided merchant vessels through the River Mersey, and the family home was at 48 Langdale Road, Sefton Park, Liverpool, Lancashire. By 1915 his father had died, and his mother was a partial invalid. Walter resided at home with his mother and a sister. He had another sister who worked away from the home. All were unmarried.
On 12 April 1915 he was appointed Third Senior Third Engineer in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania at a monthly rate of pay of £15-10s-0d (£15.50). He reported for duty at 7am on 17 April 1915, in time for the liner’s last ever sailing out of the River Mersey. It was not his first voyage on the vessel.
Having successfully completed her crossing to New York, he was on board when she left New York just after midday on 1 May for the return leg of her voyage to Liverpool. Six days later, on the afternoon of 7 May, he was killed when the Lusitania was torpedoed by the German submarine U-20, off the south coast of Ireland. At that stage of her voyage, she was no more than 14 hours away from her home port.
As Walter Hetherington’s body was never found and identified afterwards, his name is embossed on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial at Tower Hill, in London. He was aged 37 years.
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 August 1915 his family was given the balance of wages owed to him in respect of his service on board from 17 April up until 8 May, 24 hours after the ‘greyhound of the sea’ had foundered. He had a life assurance policy for £200, which presumably was paid out to his family.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 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, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/141, UniLiv D92/2/428, UniLiv D92/11, PRO BT 334.