Kenneth McKenzie was born in Belfast, County Antrim, Ireland, in 1891, the son of Kenneth and Ellen McKenzie. In 1915, he lived at 3, Mainwaring Road, Seacombe, Wallasey, Cheshire. By this time his father had died and his mother had re-married Sergt. John Thomas Purcell, Royal Irish Constabulary, and was living in Gweedore, County Donegal.
He engaged on the Anchor Liner S.S. Cameronia as a waiter at Glasgow on 15th April 1915, but having crossed the Atlantic Ocean on board her, at the end of April 1915 the British Admiralty requisitioned her for use as a troop ship and at New York on 1st May 1915, nine crew members not needed for her new rôle, (stewards, stewardesses and a matron) were transferred to the
Lusitania. Kenneth McKenzie was one of these and he re-engaged as a waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania, just in time for her final trans-Atlantic crossing. His rate of pay was £4-5s.-0d, (£4.25), per month.
His engaging proved to be a costly mistake for him, as he was killed exactly six days later, when the
Lusitania was sunk off the southern coast of Ireland by the German submarine
U-20, only hours away from the safety of her home port of Liverpool! He was aged 24 years.
His body was recovered from the sea after the sinking, however, and was landed at Queenstown where it was given the reference number 140, in one of the temporary mortuaries set up there. After a positive identification had been made, however, it was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, on 10th May 1915 in Mass Grave C, Second Row, Upper Tier. This was the day when most of the victims of the outrage were buried, after a long funeral procession which began outside the Cunard offices at Lynch’s Quay in Queenstown itself.
Despite the fact that he has an identifiable burial site, however, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of the fact and after the Great War, 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, which reads: -
1914 - 1918
IN HONOURED MEMORY
OF THOSE NAMED WHO,
SERVING ON THE
DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS
SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION
ON 7 MAY 1915
AND ARE BURIED NEARBY
The name of Waiter McKenzie is incised on the right 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.
Property found on his body was forwarded to his sister, Mrs. Marion McBride at Olive Bank, Salisbury Drive, Belfast, on 18th September 1915. It consisted of a bunch of keys, a brass brooch pin, a knife some assorted British and American coinage, a card which stated ’B’ Deck, R.M.S. Lusitania, Table No. 81, seat 10 and a card with the name
Reginald Bryan, New York, printed on it. It is not known to whom the card referred, - perhaps a former passenger - as there was no Reginald Bryan on the
Lusitania’s last voyage!
His name is spelled MacKenzie in Cunard records, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which is usually the most accurate source, spells his name as shown above!
1901 Census of Ireland, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/239, UniLiv. D92/6/1, PRO BT 334.