People's Stories

Everyone on the Lusitania's last voyage, including passengers and crew.

William George Gardner

William George Gardner

About William George

William George Gardner (known as George) is believed to have been born in Herefordshire, between 1857 and 1861, the son of Benjamin and Anna Gardner. He was married to Hannah Gardner (née Bebington) in Liverpool in 1882 and they lived at 17 Ferndale Park, Waterloo, Liverpool, Lancashire. They had four children.

He was a professional steward serving in the Mercantile Marine and he engaged as a second class waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915 at a monthly wage of £4-5s-0d (£4.25). He joined the liner at Liverpool Pier Head five days later in time for the vessel’s last ever sailing out of the River Mersey.  His previous ship had been the Lusitania’s sister ship the RMS Mauretania.

Having arrived without mishap in New York, he was on board serving in the same capacity on the early afternoon of 1 May, as the Lusitania left on her return voyage 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 14 hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port. George Gardner lost his life as a result of this action. He gave his age as being 46 years when signing on for the voyage, but was clearly much older than this.

His body was recovered from the sea and given the reference number 20 in one of the temporary mortuaries set up in Queenstown - probably the one in the yard of Cunard’s offices at Lynch’s Quay. It was described there as:

"Male, 50 years, Crew, serge clothes with buttons."

He was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, in Mass Grave C, Row 6, Lower Tier on 10 May 1915.  This was the date upon which most of the burials of Lusitania victims took place, following a long funeral procession which began outside the Cunard office on the waterfront.

Despite the fact that he has an identifiable burial site, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of the fact and commemorated him on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.

However, once the author had established beyond doubt that he was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, the Commission agreed to erect a permanent memorial to him where he is buried and this was done in November 1998. It takes the form of a monument of Irish limestone, sited at the head of Mass Grave B, the centre one of the three.  The names of crew members buried in the three mass graves are incised on two black granite panels on the memorial, with a legend in between them:

"1914 - 1918

IN HONOURED MEMORY

OF THOSE NAMED WHO,

SERVING ON THE

RMS LUSITANIA,

DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS

SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION

ON 7 MAY 1915

AND ARE BURIED NEARBY"

The name of Waiter Gardner is incised on the left hand panel.

The Commission has also stated that should it ever be necessary to renew the panel bearing his name on the Tower Hill Memorial, his name would be omitted from its replacement.

Cunard handed over what remained of his property to his son Mr HL Gardner at the Waterloo address on 6 June 1915. It consisted of a 5 dollar bill, almost 18/- (£0.90) in British coinage, some keys, a watch, a chain with pencil case attached, two purses and a gold ring inscribed with the initials HG.

In August of the same year he was officially discharged from the last voyage of the Lusitania and his widow Hanna was paid the balance of wages owed to him in respect of his service on board the Lusitania from 17 April to May, 24 hours after the vessel had gone down. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Hannah Gardner to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £26-18s-9d (£26.93½) payable at the rate of £2-4s-11d (£2.24½) per month.

References

Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.

Name:
William George Gardner

Outcome:
Lost

Type:
Crew

Age at time of sailing:
late 50s

Address at time of sailing:
17 Ferndale Park, Waterloo, Liverpool
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