Ernest Alexander Kewley was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, in 1877, the son of Hugh Stowell and Helen Kewley. On completion of his education, he became a railway clerk. He married Edith Webb in Liverpool on the 19th September 1899, and the couple had six children, although one died in infancy. The family home was at 53, Cotswold Street, Edge Hill, Liverpool. At some point after his marriage, Ernest joined the mercantile marine as a steward on ocean liners.
He engaged as a first class waiter in the Steward's Department on the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915 at a monthly wage of £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.) and joined her at 7 a.m. on 17th April 1915, before she sailed from the River Mersey for the last time. He had served on the vessel in the same capacity before.
Having crossed the Atlantic to New York without mishap, the Lusitania left there on the early afternoon of 1st May 1915 to begin the return leg of her journey home. However, she never made it, for on the afternoon of 7th May and within sight of The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20. Waiter Kewley was killed as a result of this action. He was aged 39 years.
His body was recovered from the sea, however and before it was positively identified in one of Queenstown's temporary mortuaries, it was given the reference number 206 and described as: -
Supposed to be Ernest Kewley, Steward, 35 years 5’ 8” or 9” bald on top of forehead, light black moustache long straight nose, thin features, navy blue clothes and brass buttons.
Once a positive identification had been made, however, it was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, on 17th May 1915 in a private grave situated in Row 20, Grave 4. His remains still lie there today, although the reference number for the grave has been redesignated Grave 649.
There was no headstone on this grave, however, until 85 years after his death. Then, in the year 2000, following representations by the author to The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which was initially unaware that Waiter Kewley had a known burial site, the Commission erected a headstone over his final resting place. It follows the normal Commission pattern and in keeping with other stones in the cemetery, is made from grey marble. It bears, over a Christian cross, the inscription: -
7TH MAY 1915 AGE 38
Obviously after such a passage of time, it was not possible to add a private or family inscription beneath the cross. The
M.M refers to Mercantile Marine.
Prior to the author’s information about Waiter Kewley’s grave location, the Commission had believed that he had no known grave and he was consequently commemorated on the London Tower Hill Memorial to the Missing of the Mercantile Marine. It has now amended his entry in the memorial register there, to show his actual burial place, however and has stated that should it ever be necessary to re-cast the bronze panel on the memorial which bears his details, his name will be omitted from its replacement.
In August 1915, Edith Kewley was paid the balance of wages owing to her late husband in respect of his service on board the
Lusitania, which was reckoned from 17th April 1915, until 8th May, 24 hours after the vessel had gone down! In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted Edith Kewley a yearly pension to compensate her for the loss of her husband. This amounted to £70-14s-3d. (£70.71p.) which was payable at the rate of £8-17s-11d. (£8.89½p.) per month.
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, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/8-11, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.