Sidney Durand was born in West Derby, Liverpool, on the 29th October 1896, the son of Oscar Francis and Mary Ann Durand (née Hosier). Sidney was one of 16 children, although by 1911, only 7 were surviving. The Durand family resided for many years at Mozart St., Liverpool, but by 1915, they were residing at 33. Longfellow St., Liverpool.
Oscar Durand was a general labourer, but also fell afoul of the law as he was in a prison in Liverpool on the night when the 1911 English Census was taken.
On 12th April 1915, despite the pleas of his mother, Sidney Durand engaged as a scullery man in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool at a monthly rate of pay of £3-15s-0d., (£3.75p). He joined the vessel at her berth at Liverpool Pier Head on the morning of 17th April 1915; in time for what would become her last ever voyage out of the River Mersey. He was only eighteen years old at the time, and it was his first time going to sea.
What Sidney thought of life as a merchant seaman is unknown, but he certainly was serving in the same capacity on the return voyage when the
Lusitania departed from New York harbour on Saturday, 1st May. When the great liner was sunk on the 7th May, while off the Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland, Sidney Durand was listed as being one of the 1,198 casualties.
His body was never recovered and identified afterwards and as a consequence, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 18 years.
On hearing the news that the Lusitania had been sunk by a German submarine, riots occurred in Liverpool and many other cities and towns in the United Kingdom. Durand family folklore states that Sidney Durand’s sisters took part in the riots in Liverpool, where they attacked businesses owned by Germans. One story states that his sister, Rose, discharged a shotgun through the window of a pork butcher shop owned by a German national.
Within a short time of the tragedy, Sidney’s father, Oscar Durand presented himself at a Recruiting Office to enlist in the King’s Liverpool Regiment, who were also known as the
‘Liverpool Pals’. He gave his name as Oscar Duffy, and stated that he was aged 40 years, when in fact he was aged 56 years! After a month of basic training, he was deemed to be not likely to become an efficient soldier, but rather than being discharged, he was classified as a ‘Class B’ soldier, and transferred to the army reserve. By being placed on the reserve list, it appears likely that he was able to convince the authorities that he was sixteen years younger than he actually was!
The records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record Sidney Durand as
Sydney Dewrance; however, there is no record of a person of that name in any birth or census records, and the Durand family have confirmed his correct name as being
Sidney Durand. Attempts are being made to have the Commonwealth War Graves Commission amend their records.
Jane Elder, Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 334.