David March Spendley was born in Sunderland, County Durham, on 1st March 1886, the son of David Cole and Catherine Campbell Spendley (née Forcer). His father was a printer/stationer and in 1915, the family home was at 26 High Street West, Sunderland.
In 1908, David Spendley went to New York, where he found work as a printer in a hotel. Also working in the hotel was Kate Bermet, an Austrian emigrant. The two fell in love and married in Manhattan, New York City, on the 31st January 1914. In 1915, the couple decided to travel to Sunderland so that David Spendley could introduce his wife to his family and it is also possible that he intended to enlist in the Army. Consequently, they travelled to New York, where a third class ticket, numbered 1709 was bought for Kate on the Lusitania, which would leave Pier 54 just after mid-day on 1st May 1915.
It is possible that both of them had initially intended to travel as passengers and that for financial reasons, when they got to the New York, David Spendley decided, instead, to sign on as a member of the crew. At this time of the war, it was not uncommon for liners making the west to east crossing of the Atlantic to be short of crew members. This was because some crew engaging for a voyage to America and back would ‘jump ship’ in America to avoid the possibility of military service in England, thus leaving gaps in the crew, for the return journey.
Thus, David Spendley was able to engage as a waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania on 30th April 1915. It is also possible that he was skilled in that trade, as there is some suggestion that he might have worked for some time as a waiter in a large hotel in New York. His monthly rate of pay on the
Lusitania was £4-5s-0d, (£4.25p.).
It is not known whether or not the new husband and wife were able to meet up on the crossing, but when the liner was sunk, six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, they were parted in life as they had been parted on the voyage, for although Kate Spendley, survived the sinking, her husband did not.
As no trace of his body was ever recovered and identified afterwards, he has no known grave and as a consequence, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 29 years.
Kate Spendley was rescued from the sea after the sinking and eventually made her way to her husband's family in the north-east. According to a letter written to the author in October 1996 by David Spendley's great, great, niece, Mrs. Lorna Scott: -
His wife .... survived and my grandmother remembered the family meeting her on Sunderland station - a lost soul in an assortment of ill-fitting clothes. She eventually returned to live in Canada.
In August 1915, Kate Spendley received the balance of wages owed to her husband in respect of his engagement on the
Lusitania’s last voyage, which was reckoned until the 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the great ship had foundered. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her an annual pension of £32-7s-1d. (£32.35½p.), payable at the rate of £2-14s-0d. (£2.70p.) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345. Lorna Scott, UniLiv. D92/2/150, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.