Museum tells ship’s tale in numbers

An image on exhibition at Cobh Credit Union Lusitania Centenary Photographic Collection in Cobh. For more see Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

An exhibition which opened a month ago at Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool reveals that there were more passengers on board the Lusitania when it was sunk than official figures show.

In the days following the sinking, newspapers reported numerous lists of survivors and victims, obtained from various sources.

Omitted from the previous official figures for Lusitania are fireman Gontes Cloules, waiter F Hill and passenger Robert Anderson, taking the figures for people on board from 1,959 to 1,962.

It was March 1916, when an official booklet known as the ‘Cunard Confidential Report’ was published, which became the official source. However, it was discovered early on that this report contained errors, and there were at least two subsequent amendments to this, the last-known published in March 1917.

Find more content related to the sinking of RMS Lusitania in our special report

Gontes Cloules, F Hill and Robert Anderson were not included in the official lists of crew and passengers but were on board, as historian Peter Kelly discovered after spending 20 years searching a variety of sources on the Lusitania.

Museum tells ship’s tale in numbers

Passengers relaxing in the Cunard exercise room.

“The figures have always been out there, except that not many of us have looked for them or been able to find them,” said Kelly.

“It’s not unusual for records to have been incomplete or incorrect in those times. It was an age before technology, when passenger names were often taken phonetically and misspelt, or maybe people were travelling under a different name.

“I’m not alone in researching this data and trying to tie it down so that everyone who was on-board Lusitania is recognised — whether they lost their lives when the ship went down, or survived this terrible tragedy. We all have our various theories on the names of a number of people who are recorded as having sailed on the ship, and it’s a difficult process to work through due to the amount of records and personal accounts out there, some of which provide conflicting information.

“I’m at the point now where the research I’ve done has led me to believe these new figures are true, accounting for the three extra people that were on-board. The story of the Lusitania has always had some mystery surrounding it, and if more information comes to light about those who were on-board, the figures will be updated again.”

Kelly’s figures are included in the exhibition as part of an interactive resource, which can also be accessed online.

Fireman Gontes Cloules was a Maltese who served on the Lusitania. He does not appear in the Cunard Steamship Company’s list but a record of crew members who came on board in New York includes a Cloules Goutes.

Museum tells ship’s tale in numbers

Lusitania in New York for its maiden arrival; this photos is among those

on show in Cobh Credit Union. Image: Courtesy of National Library of Ireland

“Presumably some mistake was made and Goutes was thought to be his surname,” says Kelly. “The names are too similar for it to be anything else, although there is no Goutes listed amongst the missing either. There is no record of Gontes (or Goutes) having died or survived.”

Waiter F Hill (forename unknown) was a professional sailor from Glasgow engaged to sail to England from New York on the Cunard liner SS Cameronia.

However, at the end of that month, the Cameronia was taken up from trade by the British Admiralty for war work and on May 1, 1915, all the passengers and cargo and some of the crew were transferred to the Lusitania. Hill was offered the monthly rate of pay of £4-5s-0d. He was amongst the survivors. Having been rescued from the sea and landed at Queenstown (now Cobh), he eventually made it to Liverpool where he was paid the balance of wages owing to him. This was in respect of his sea service from May 1 until May 8, 1915; 24 hours after the liner had gone down.

The most curious passenger unveiled by Kelly is Irishman Robert Anderson, a 40-year-old merchant living in New York. In spring 1915, he decided to return home to Ireland — and consequently booked third class passage on the scheduled May sailing of the Lusitania.

Although he was presumed to have died, his body was never recovered and it may be that, he in fact, survived and his name confused with Robert Anderson McKenzie, a Scot merchant living and working in Dublin.

Also aged 40, he was a fish and poultry merchant. He was in his cabin when the ship was torpedoed. He saw many lifeboats swamp and helped load some lifeboats. Mackenzie survived the Lusitania sinking but was killed the following year in the Easter Rising.

The May 10, 1915, edition of The Irish Times relates Robert had finished lunch and was in his room when the Lusitania was torpedoed. He first heard a “dull thud” followed by “an explosion in the hold” but very little noise and only a slight shock where he was standing.

At once, he made his way to the saloon cabin deck which were practically deserted except for a few stewards. He recalled that there was no panic, and the stewards seemed rather confident that the ship was going to reach shore.

He saw many boats launched from what the Irish Times reports as the “port side” that were quickly swamped, but as almost none of the port side boats could be launched, perhaps the report is mistaken and meant the starboard side.

As Senan Moloney notes in his 2004 book, Lusitania: an Irish tragedy, Mackenzie and other passengers helped load and launch some of the lifeboats, and he saw one get swamped by a funnel as the ship was heeling over. He then jumped six feet into “the last boat,” which before it got clear became tangled in the wireless lines. Fortunately, the lifeboat was able to get free of the lines before the sinking ship dragged them down with her, and the lifeboat floated between two funnels. From this description, it sounds like Mackenzie escaped in lifeboat 15, which was the last lifeboat successfully launched.

His lifeboat rescued some women and children clinging to the bottoms of two overturned collapsible boats. It was also while in this boat that Mackenzie learned from radio operator Robert Leith that the torpedo explosion had put the main and emergency apparatuses out of order. They then rowed to a fishing boat that couldn’t move because of the lack of wind, and was thus unable to sail to the scene to render assistance. The survivors were put aboard the fishing smack before the crew rowed back to the site of the sinking to pick up more survivors.

Mackenzie was taken off the fishing trawler and onto a tugboat around 7pm that evening and brought to Queenstown.

He had managed to survive the worst of German warfare but he was not so lucky when he returned home to Dublin.

He was shot dead in the Easter Rising the following year for refusing rebels the use of his premises for reconnaissance purposes.

Kelly concedes that Robert Anderson and Robert Anderson McKenzie may, in fact, be one and the same man and that the Anderson who is recorded as having died on the Lusitania may have been the Dublin merchant who survived only to be killed in the Rising.

“There is a school of thought that they are the one person,” Kelly says. RA McKenzie appeared in the original passenger list whereas Robert Anderson didn’t.

“You very often get discrepancies like this for a variety of reasons. Crew members, for instance, would often travel under an assumed name if they had received a poor work review from their previous captain.

“With passengers, it could be anything from fleeing creditors to a criminal record to wife desertion to make them travel under false names.

“I traced an openly gay male couple on board the Lusitania which would have been very unusual at the time. They were both lost in the sinking.”


Total number of people on board:

1,962 (total people

previously — 1,959).

Everyone on board:

Survived: 771 (survived

previously — 761).

Lost: 1,191 (lost

previously — 1,198).

Compared passenger

/ crew survival rates:

Passengers: 480.

survived, 786 lost.

— 1,266 total passengers

(total passengers

previously 1,257).

Crew: 291 survived,

405 lost — 696 total crew

(the total crew previously 702).

- The ‘previous official figures’ refers to data taken from Cunard’s list of crew published by The Cunard Steam Ship Company in March 1915 and list of passengers lost and saved published by The Cunard Steam Ship Company in March 1916.

Museum tells ship’s tale in numbers

A newspaper advert seeks to recover a missing body.

Find more content related to the sinking of RMS Lusitania in our special report

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