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Mr. James Clarke Anderson, Staff Captain

James Anderson Staff Captain Lost
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Born James Clarke Anderson 2 February 1865 Liverpool, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
Died 7 May 1915 (age 48) RMS Lusitania At sea
Age on Lusitania 48
Body 48
Interred Kirkdale Cemetery, Longmoor Lane, Liverpool, England Non Conformist Section 7, grave #1692
Citizenship British (English)
Other names Jock Anderson
Spouse(s) Louisa Weir (? - 1915, his death)
Staff Captain James Anderson, 48, assisted Captain Turner and was second in command of the ship. Staff Captain Anderson was in charge of the port side lifeboats during the Lusitania sinking, but he did not seem to believe that the Lusitania would sink as fast as she did. Thus, he ordered people to get out of the port side lifeboats after people had already entered them, and many port side boats were not lowered. Staff Captain Anderson was lost in the Lusitania disaster.  His body was recovered, number 48. The following biography has been improved by a collaboration with Peter Kelly and the Merseyside Maritime Museum.


James Clarke Anderson was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 2 February 1865, the son of Thomas and Mary Anderson of Montgomery Street, Girvan, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. He was married to Louisa Anderson (née Weir) and in 1915 they lived at Ailsa Craig, 32 Fazakerley Road, Walton, Liverpool with their 5 children. He was always know as ‘Jock’ Anderson to his friends. His father Thomas Anderson (who was renowned in Kilmarnock as an expert angler), had joined The Cunard Steam Ship Company in the 1850s as an engineer officer and had served the company thereafter for many years. When he retired, he held the position of Commodore Chief Engineer of the company, and was chief engineer of the liner Lucania. Jock Anderson followed his father’s lead by joining Cunard in 1897, but in the Deck Department as third officer on the Aleppo. Only six years later, in 1903, he was appointed chief officer of the Saragossa. He continued to serve in this rank on board the Carmania, the Caronia, the Ivernia, the Slavonia, the Umbria, and the Ultonia, before being given command of the Caria in 1911. He held command of this ship until he was appointed staff captain on the Lusitania. The rank of staff captain was a special rank inaugurated by the chairman of Cunard, Alfred A. Booth, after the loss of the White Star Liner Titanic in 1912, to ease the burden of work suffered by large liner captains at that time. It basically covered areas such as cargo stowage, discipline and even socialising with passengers, which would leave the actual captain free to concentrate on navigating and sailing the ship. Anderson was appointed staff captain on board the vessel at Liverpool on 12 April 1915 and joined her at 7 am on 17 April, before she left the River Mersey for the last time.

Responsibilities and last voyage

Staff Captain was one of three department heads who report directly to the captain, the other two being the Chief Engineer Bryce and the Purser McCubbin. As Captain Turner himself did not like to socialize with passengers, that task fell primarily upon Staff Captain Anderson. On the ship’s last crossing, not long after leaving New York, one of the masters-at-arms arrested three suspicious characters. These three stowaways had slipped past the cordon of secret service men at New York and were hiding in a port side pantry, allegedly with photographic equipment. Staff Captain Anderson ordered them confined belowdecks. Staff Captain Anderson requested Adolph Pederson and Detective Inspector William Pierpoint to interrogate three stowaways, who were discovered to be German spies. During the voyage, Reverend Charles Clarke became friendly with Staff Captain Anderson who told him early in the voyage that six boilers were not in use and that the ship’s speed would be reduced. On Thursday 6 May, Staff Captain Anderson was present at George Kessler's party. George Kessler asked Anderson the reason why Turner still had not introduced a lifeboat drill for the passengers. “Can you explain it?” Kessler asked Anderson. “That is the Captain’s decision.” was all Anderson could say. When Anderson appeared at the Seamens' Charities Concert on Thursday night, the crowd broke into song, singing, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." Earlier in the voyage, Anderson had “scoured the ship for performers to amuse the rich passengers." On the morning of 7 May Staff Captain Anderson met Chief Steward Jones on the main companion way on C deck. Anderson said that he wished the bulkhead doors to be closed and also the ports, and he said he would go down and see it done himself. Afterwards, Anderson expressed himself as being perfectly satisfied that every thing was tight on E deck forward. Later passenger testimony states that the portholes were not closed during the sinking.


After the ship was torpedoed, Staff Captain Anderson saw Ogden Hammond on deck and reassured Hammond that nothing was the matter and that he should go back to the lounge. The ship’s list to starboard, however, resulted in the port side lifeboats being swung inboard, and had to be pushed “uphill” to get them over the side of the ship. Staff Captain Anderson inspected the launching attempt, and ordered all the women and children already inside the boats to get out. Anderson then came up with an idea to right the ship. “Go to the bridge and tell them they are to trim her with the port [ballast] tanks,” Anderson ordered Junior Third Officer, Albert Bestic. Bestic quickly made his way to the bridge to relay the message to Second Officer Hefford, who then repeated the order. The answer soon came back that it “was impossible.” Any remaining crew members who could have trimmed the tanks were already on the boat deck. Bestic returned to his station to assist in lowering lifeboat 10. Passengers and crew successfully pushed lifeboat 10 against Lusitania‘s list and over the side of the ship. They lowered the boat by one foot when Staff Captain Anderson gave the order, “Stop lowering the boat. Clear the boat.” Anderson then proceeded the assure the passengers, announcing, “She’s not going to sink; there is no danger.” It had been 10 to 12 minutes since the torpedo struck the ship. Lusitania would remain afloat for only another 6 to 8 minutes. Anderson has subsequently been criticized for not lowering the lifeboats on the port side, perhaps believing that the ship would not sink so quickly. In fact, passengers recalled members of the crew shouting "No danger" and "the ship is not sinking" just before the final plunge. Harold Boulton recalled Staff Captain Anderson or Captain Turner shouting, “Don’t lower the boats. Don’t lower the boats. The ship can’t sink. Will the gentlemen kindly assist me in getting the women and children out of the boats and off the upper deck?” James Leary and Thomas King saw Staff Captain Anderson was standing on a little bridge, shouting, “lower no more boats. We have closed certain bulkheads in the ship and she won’t sink, and we can get into port.” Second cabin passenger H.G. Burgess, from Shipley in Yorkshire reported in The Shipley Times and Observer after the sinking:
The sea was perfectly calm and the sun was shining brightly.  After looking on for a time, I was rather astonished it hear the staff captain give an order for the people to be taken out of the boats which had then been partially filled, as the ship was holding.
In an article published after the sinking, in The Yorkshire Post on 11 May the following extract dictated by Fireman Jacob Chadwick mentioned Captain Anderson after the liner had gone down:
Fortunately, I am a good swimmer - I was taught to swim as a boy at Kirkstall Road Baths - and I got first to one collapsible boat, which, however, overturned, and then to another one, where Staff Captain Anderson and I were able to rest on the canvas.  This boat could not be opened properly, and it began to sink, so the Captain asked those who could swim to leave it.
It is possible that Fireman Chadwick may have been one of the last to see Staff Captain Anderson alive as he must have drowned some time after this, as his body was later recovered from the sea.

Recovery and burial

Anderson's body was recovered in a battered condition, taken to the temporary mortuary set up in the yard of the Cunard offices at Lynch’s Quay, where it was given the reference number 48 before being positively identified. It is a coincidence that he was also aged 48 years. Saloon passenger Oliver Bernard described Anderson's corpse in one of three mortuaries he visited in Queenstown:
In the second shelter, sunlight filtering through grimy windows glinted on some gold braid that was little clue to the identity of one whose bloated features were smeared with bloody mucous;  Staff Captain Anderson had stuck to his job, and had not drowned without a hard struggle.
Others who also saw his corpse testified to the same contorted features of his death struggle. In an article entitled 'Final Voyage' written by Brian R. Meister a similar view was expressed:
Many survivors, prevailed upon to view the bodies, speedily recognised staff captain John C. Anderson. Clearly he had put up a great fight with the sea, but had lost.
Anderson's body was eventually despatched to Messrs R. McDougall and Co. Ltd., of St. Anne Street, Liverpool for burial in Kirkdale Cemetery, Longmoor Lane, Liverpool. This took place at 3 pm on 14 May 1915, in Non Conformist Section 7, grave number 1692, the burial service being conducted by the Reverend Stanley Rogers, who officiated in the church and at the graveside. The coffin was draped in a union flag and carried to the grave by six quartermasters of the Cunard Steamship Company. The chairman of the company Mr A. A. Booth, who had initiated the rank of staff captain three years earlier, and the general manager, Mr A. D. Mearns were present among the many mourners. His remains still lie there today, under a standard Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone carved from sandstone. It bears the private inscription:
The Liverpool Echo for Monday 10 May 1915 ran an obituary for him:
Captain Anderson was extremely popular in maritime circles. He was a man of presence and had a fund of genial anecdotes which was apparently inexhaustible.
All of the property that was recovered from his body was sent on to his widow Louisa on 9 June 1915. It consisted of four £10 notes, one stud, one key, a $1 coin, £0-3s-0d, (£0.15) in British silver coinage, and a gold pencil with a small gold coin attached to it. The balance of his salary due to him in respect of his sea service from 17 April to 8 May 1915, 24 hours after the ship had sunk, was also sent to her in August 1915. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Louisa Anderson to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £118-0s-0d (£118), payable at the rate of £9-16s-8d (£9.84) per month. The Anderson family suffered an extra loss with the sinking, as Staff Captain Anderson’s nephew Second Electrician George Edward Latham was also lost in the disaster. His body was never recovered and identified.

Links of interest

Staff Captain Anderson at the Merseyside Maritime Museum Contributors Philip Hirst (relative of Staff Captain Anderson) Cliff Barry, UK Peter Kelly, Ireland Brian R. Meister Ellie Moffat, UK Robert O'Brien Judith Tavares References "Captain James Clarke Anderson." Web. 18 August 2011. <>. Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster.  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981. Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956. Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget : Part 1 ET Research. <> Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget Part 2:  As the Lusitania Went Down ET Research. <> Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002. Ramsay, David. Lusitania: Saga and Myth. W.W. Norton and Company, 2002. Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths 1871 Census of England and Wales 1881 Census of England and Wales Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cunard Records Kilmarnock Herald Kirkdale Cemetery Burial Register Kilmarnock Standard Liverpool Echo Liverpool Post and Mercury PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 334 UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLiv. PR. 13/24.

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