Arthur Howell Burden was born in London, Middlesex, England in 1889, the son of John Thackaburry Howell and Louisa Amy (née Strange) Burden. In 1915 the family home was at Manor Villa, 90 Chiswick Lane, Chiswick, London. As a boy he was a member of the 3rd Chiswick Boy Scout Troop and acted as a server at All Saints' Church, Chiswick Lane where he sang in the choir and later became a Sunday School teacher. His father was a commercial traveller.
Arthur Burden’s first job was in an office, but seeking a healthier occupation he decided to go to sea, first working for the Pacific and Orient Steam Ship Company and then joining The Cunard Steam Ship Company. He was on board the armed merchant cruiser
Carmania, the former Cunard liner, when she sank the German armed merchant cruiser
Cap Trafalgar on 14 September 1914 off Brazil and he wrote an account of the action which was later published in his local newspaper, 'The Chiswick Times'.
On 17 April 1915, the morning that the Lusitania’s was due to begin her last westward journey across the Atlantic and her 100th transatlantic voyage, he engaged as an assistant purser in the Deck Department on board ship at Liverpool, at a monthly rate of pay of £12-0s-0d. He had previously served on the vessel in the same capacity.
Arthur Burden was still serving as one of the assistant pursers when the liner left New York on the afternoon of 1 May to make her return voyage to Liverpool. She never made it however, for on the afternoon of 7 May, whilst steaming past the Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland, she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-20
and sank a mere 18 minutes later.
Assistant Purser Burden did not survive this action. His body was recovered from the sea fairly soon afterwards and having been landed at Queenstown it was taken to the temporary mortuary set up in the yard of the Cunard office at Lynch’s Quay and given the reference number 11.
Once a positive identification had been made of it, his parents were informed and they requested that the body be sent home for burial. Consequently it was despatched from Queenstown on 11 May 1915, to funeral directors WG Barratt of the High Road, Chiswick. He was 25 years of age.
On the afternoon of Saturday 15 May 1915, the body left the family home draped in a union flag and was received by a guard of Boy Scouts from Assistant Purser Burden's old troop. After a service at his former church, conducted by the Reverend JG Byrne, it was taken to Chiswick Burial Ground - now Chiswick (Old) Cemetery - where it was laid to rest in Grave 18 PB.
There were many mourners at the graveside, including representatives from the Cunard Steamship Company, the local council, the scout movement and the family, including his parents, his brother Reginald, who was a munitions worker and his sister. Another brother George who also served in the Mercantile Marine sent a floral tribute as did more than 60 others. These included a Miss Connie Thing, who was also at the graveside with her family and from the message on her tribute - "To my darling Arthur from his sorrowing Connie", was possibly his fiancé.
The headstone is made of white marble and consists of a cross mounted on a plinth, bearing the inscription: -
"IN LOVING MEMORY
OUR DEAR SON
ARTHUR HOWELL BURDEN
(ASSISTANT PURSER OF THE LUSITANIA)
WHO WAS DROWNED MAY 7TH 1915.
AGED 25 YEARS.
THY WILL BE DONE."
Despite his having an actual burial place, the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission originally showed that he had no known grave and consequently commemorated him on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial at Tower Hill, London. However following information about his actual burial place sent to it by the author, it has amended its records to show his actual burial place and has stated that should there ever be a need to alter the bronze panel featuring his name at Tower Hill, that name will be removed.
At London on 19 June 1915 administration of his estate was jointly granted to his father and a clerk named Harcourt Barker. His effects amounted to £300-0s-0d.
Mr Barker was an old friend, who had attended Burden's funeral, at the time sending a floral tribute with the inscription:
"With deepest regret and sorrow at the loss of my dear old chum."
Altogether, there were six members of the pursers’ department on board the
Lusitania beside Arthur Burden; Junior Assistant Purser George Beesley, Second Purser P Draper, Assistant Purser William Harkness, Junior Assistant Purser Alfred Harrod, Purser James McCubbin and Junior Assistant Purser Leonard Sloane. Of these only Draper and Harkness survived, all the others perished.
What remained of Arthur Burden's property, probably removed from his body, was sent to his father in Chiswick on 16 July 1915. This consisted of a watch, a pipe, a bunch of keys, a fountain pen and two collar studs. In August 1915 the balance of pay owed to him in respect of the Lusitania‘s last voyage was also sent there. Like all members of the
Lusitania’s crew, survived or perished, his pay was reckoned from 17 April 1915 until 8 May, 24 hours after the great liner had foundered.
His father died in December 1935, aged 68 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Paul Courtney, Chiswick Times (Photo 28/05/1915 p.5), Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, London Borough of Hounslow, Probate Records, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 334, UNiLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLiv D92/2/250.