Charles William Cameron was born in Sialkot, Punjab, India, (Pakistan since 1947), in 1872. His father, William Cameron, was a warrant officer in the British Army, but details of his mother are unknown. It is not known if he had any siblings. Although no details of his mother are known, it is known that in 1912, she lived at 25. Colmer Road, Streatham, Surrey.
Nothing is known about his early life, and when he came to England, but he became an accomplished musician. He readily found work as a musician on ocean going liners, and worked regularly on trans-Atlantic liners operated by the Cunard Steam Ship Co. Ltd..
On the 24th October 1912, Charles married Mabel Kate Whitmore at St. Peter’s Church, Liverpool. The best man at his wedding was another member of the band on the
Lusitania – Edward Carr-Jones. The couple began their married live at 162, Liverpool Road, Birkdale, Lancashire.
For many years prior to 1915, Charles was the Bandmaster in charge of the Orchestra on board the
Lusitania. This consisted of five musicians, and the others were, Bandsman E. Carr-Jones, Bandsman G. Drakefold, Bandsman J. W. Hawkins and Bandsman J.W. Hemingway.
Charles Cameron was engaged by Cunard for what became the Lusitania’s
final voyage and left Liverpool on board ship on 17th April 1915. Having reached New York safely on 24th April, the liner began her return journey on the early afternoon of 1st May 1915 after a delayed start. This had been scheduled for 10.00 a.m. but the liner had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner Cameronia, which had been requisitioned by the British Admiralty for war service at the end of April. The
Lusitania finally left port just after mid-day and just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20. At that point, she was twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland and only 250 miles hours away from her Liverpool destination.
From the orchestra, only Drakeford, Hawkins and Hemingway survived the sinking, Charles Cameron and his good friend, Edward Carr-Jones being killed. Bandmaster Cameron's body was subsequently recovered from the sea, and having been landed at Queenstown, it was given the reference number 105 in one of the temporary mortuaries set up there and described as: -
Male, 43 years, Cameron - Bandmaster, dark hair turning grey, 5’ 9”, very stout, large clean shaven face and head, brass buttons on vest.
Then, on 10th May 1915, his remains were buried in the Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, in a private grave, Row 18, No. 5. It was on this day that most of the victims of the sinking were buried following a long funeral procession which began at the Cunard Office at Lynch’s Quay in on the water front. Charles Cameron’s wife left Liverpool on Sunday 9th May and arrived in the town in just enough time to attend his funeral.
His remains still lie there today, although the grave has been re-designated Row 18, Grave 580. There is no sign of there ever having been a headstone on it.
Although he was employed by The Cunard Steam Ship Company as Bandmaster in charge of the orchestra on board the
Lusitania, he was not registered as a seaman with the Board of Trade so was not officially part of the ship’s crew. As a result, although killed in the same manner as any other crew member, he was still actually classed as a civilian and as such, he is not commemorated in any way, by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission unlike the crew members, nor was he awarded any medals for his service.
However, in the first list of survivors and dead, from the ship, published by Cunard in March 1916, he was listed, with the other members of the orchestra, as a member of the crew. This was rectified in company records, in February 1917, when he was instead accorded second cabin passenger status.
Property belonging to Bandmaster Cameron was forwarded to his widow on 13th October 1915 at 'The Mount', Glencrutchery Road, Douglas Isle of Man. It is likely that she was staying there to help her get over her loss. The property included a penknife, an American one cent coin and a pair of nail clippers.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Liverpool England, Church of England Marriages and Banns 1754 – 1952, 1911 Census of England & Wales, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Lancashire Daily Post, Liverpool Echo, Yorkshire Post, 14/07/1915, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Tom McDonough, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.