James Anderson was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England on 27 March 1881. In 1915 the family home was at 112 Paterson Street, Birkenhead. He was a married man but no details of his wife and family are known.
He was a professional steward serving in the British Mercantile Marine and he engaged as a second cabin bedroom steward in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915 at a monthly wage of £4-5s-0d, (£4.25). It was not the first time that he had served on the vessel.
He reported for duty on the morning of 17 April 1915, before the liner left Liverpool landing stage for the last time. The liner crossed the Atlantic without incident and having docked in New York, eventually left there on the early afternoon of 1 May, for her return to Liverpool. Six days later, on the afternoon of 7 May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland. At that time, she was only about 250 miles away from the safety of her home port.
Steward James Anderson was one of 51 stewards, out of the 105 on board, who survived this action and having been rescued from the sea and landed at Queenstown, he eventually made it back to Liverpool.
There he was officially discharged from the last voyage of the Lusitania and was paid the balance of wages owing to him, which amounted to £4-9s-6d, (£4.45½). This sum was in respect of his service on board from 17 April 1915 until 8 May, 24 hours after the vessel had gone down.
One of the second cabin passengers who was killed, and whose body was never recovered from the sea and identified afterwards was Richard Preston Pritchard, who originally came from Ramsgate in Kent. In an attempt to learn more of his fate, the Pritchard family first went to Queenstown to scour the mortuaries there and his brother Mostyn printed and published posters seeking information about him. Mrs. Pritchard and her son Mostyn then wrote to many surviving passengers and crew members seeking information. One of these was James Anderson and in reply to Mostyn Pritchard’s original letter he wrote two back to him which stated:
112 Paterson St
In reply to yours just received I was one of the Bedroom stewards on E Deck only just a few yards from D90 & must say that I was the only Steward of that Deck & 4 passengers & 1 child that I know of out of 120 & God knows they were very lucky to escape for you do not know or ever will know the last moments of that fate. We had on board this voyage more 2nd Class passengers then we carried before. Your son made himself very prominent for although he was not in my rooms he spoke to me several times on the voyage. I remember seeing him leave the Dining Saloon about 1.20 after lunch & am sure he was not asleep in his cabin for it was only half an hour after that the shock occurred. The Steward that looked after him I have not seen since but will look to see to your wants & I will make it my business to go to the other bedroom Stewards homes & get all the news I can for you. If the Cunard had have kept us at Queenstown we that had most to do with the passengers might have recognised them better on sight but they discharged us on reaching L’pool & have not received a penny from them since but Please do not mention this as it will do me no good. Dear Sir, if we had have had an escort this terrible affair would not have happened. I have had a letter yesterday from a lady asking for Information as regards her Husband she has not had a single word yet about him. If I were you I would make a claim so they take more precautions next time. I will let you know in a day or so from the others as I never saw him after Lunch at 1.20.
I had all the Welsh singers in my rooms he was not with them also there was nobody Ill that came home with us but my wife tells me there was a train came into Birkenhead with passengers so I will take your photo to the Borough Hospital & inquire although I do not think it will do much good because if he was alive you would have heard by now but do not give up hope until you hear from me. I remain
In case you should hear soon let me know
James Anderson raised a number of points in this first letter which have been much talked about to this day. The fact that the Lusitania was unescorted entering a known "danger zone", and that the crew members who survived, and best-knew the passengers, were hastily brought back to Liverpool when they could have been of valuable assistance in identifying the deceased in the mortuaries in Queenstown. Also, he mentions that he had not been paid any wages owed to him since his discharge. Within a few days, James Anderson wrote his second letter: -
112 Paterson St
In answer to my last letter as to getting full particulars as regards your soon I went to the Borough Hospital & they know nothing at all there.
I went to the Cunard Line Photo Depo (sic.) on 26th & they can give me no tidings also I inspected the photos & they do not meet your own photo nor anything like them they were taken from the water on the 18th & 20th. Also I went to the other bedroom Stewards & they cannot recollect seeing him at all. This morning I met the saloon Steward he has just arrived from Queenstown. I showed him your photo to try and get any information but he said the body had not been got yet. Believe me there may be Hundreds that will never hear anything at all. Have you heard anything yet at least I have done all I can so I must conclude with.
No trace of Richard Preston Pritchard was ever found.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Cunard Records, Imperial War Museum GB62, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 350.