Frederick William Burgess ‘Fred‘ Gorst was born in Seacombe, Wallasey, Cheshire, England on 21 June 1886, the son of William and Lucretia Lavinia Gorst of 16 Hartismere Road, Wallasey. He married Annie May ‘May’ Parsons in Birkenhead in 1914 and they lived at 10 Bishop Road, Poulton, Wallasey.
He first served on ships of The Cunard Steam Ship Company in 1907 and made his first voyage on the
Lusitania in September 1914, employed as a first class waiter and lounge steward in the Stewards' Department. He engaged in the same capacity at Liverpool for what became her final voyage on 12 April 1915 at a monthly rate of £4-5s-0d (£4.25) and joined the ship on the morning of 17 April before she left Liverpool landing stage for the very last time.
He was killed three weeks later, when the ship foundered within sight of the southern Irish coast and only hours away from her home port, having been torpedoed by the German submarine
U-20. He was aged 28 years.
He was last seen by First Class Waiter Noel Finucane as the ship was about to sink. Finucane's experiences of the sinking were reported in his local newspaper 'The Wallasey News' on Saturday 15 May 1915. He told how he had been about to dive over the side of the ship into the sea when he saw Fred Gorst and exhorted him to do the same. Gorst may or may not have heeded his friend's advice, but either way he did not survive the subsequent sinking or immersion in the water.
His body was never recovered and identified after the sinking, so he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He is also mentioned on the family grave in Rake Lane Cemetery in Wallasey. The inscription on the headstone states:
ALSO OUR DEAR FRED,
THE BELOVED HUSBAND OF MAY GORST,
WHO LOST HIS LIFE ON THE "LUSITANIA" 7TH MAY 1915,
AGED 28 YEARS"
In August 1915 Fred Gorst was officially discharged from the last voyage of the
Lusitania and his widow was paid the balance of wages owed to him in respect of his service on board the
Lusitania from 17 April to 8 May, 24 hours after the vessel had gone down. In addition the Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted an annual pension to Annie Gorst to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £45-4s-8d (£45.23½) payable at the rate of £3-15s-5d (£3.77) per month.
Fred Gorst's father died in March 1940 aged 80 years and his mother died in February 1937 aged 78 years.
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, Denise Deighton, PRO BT 100/345, Wallasey News, (Photo 15/05/1915), Wallasey & Wirral Chronicle, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.