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Mr. Percy Hefford, Second Officer

Percy Hefford Second Officer Lost
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Born Percy Hefford 1881 Rugby, Warwickshire, England, United Kingdom
Died 7 May 1915 (age 34) RMS Lusitania
Age on Lusitania 34
Body Not recovered or identified
Citizenship British (English)
Residence Wallasey, Cheshire, England, United Kingdom
Other name(s) "Heppert" by Captain Turner
Spouse(s) Elise Maude Nevanas (1915 - 1915, his death)
Percy Hefford (1881 - 1915), 34, was second officer aboard the Lusitania for the ship's final voyage. He had been on the bridge and seen the torpedo approach the ship. Hefford gave Quartermaster Hugh Johnston the orders to keep watch on the ship's list. Hefford was reportedly last seen on the bridge and perhaps in the water helping people onto a lifeboat. Hefford was lost in the disaster, and his body was not recovered. This biography is made possible by a collaboration with Peter Kelly and the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool.

Biography


Percy Hefford was born in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, in 1881, the son of David and Maria Hefford.  His father died when Percy was an infant and his mother then married a Mr. William F. Wood who was a hatter and hosier and who lived in Sheep Street, in Rugby. From being a small boy, it had always been Percy Hefford’s ambition to serve at sea - especially on the great trans-Atlantic liners and after basic education; he trained for a career as a deck officer in the Mercantile Marine. In early 1915, he was married to Elsie Maude Nevanas and they lived at 12 Aylesbury Road, New Brighton, Wallasey, Cheshire.  This was across the River Mersey from Liverpool and allowed him easy access to Liverpool docks and the Cunard liners, on which by this time, he was serving. According to a small article in The Northampton Mercury for 14th May 1915: -
A few weeks ago, he was married to a New Brighton lady.
so it is possible that he was only recently married. On 12th April 1915, he engaged at Liverpool as Second Officer in the Deck Department for what would be the Lusitania’s final voyage, at a monthly rate of pay of £16-0s-0d. and he joined the liner five days later on the morning that she sailed out of the River Mersey for the last ever time. During the voyage, Second Officer Hefford advised Junior Third Officer Albert Bestic on how to perform his duties, as the Junior Third Officer was new and many of Cunard's old hands were fighting for the Royal Navy. As with Bestic, Captain Turner had a habit of botching Hefford's name, often calling him "Heppert" instead. Lusitania crossed the Atlantic without incident and having docked in New York on 24th April 1915, left there on the early afternoon of 1st May, for her return to Liverpool.  Then, six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland.  At that time, she was only about 250 miles away from the safety of her home port.  Percy Hefford lost his life in the disaster. In a deposition given to an officer of the Board of Trade on 12th May 1915, survivor Able Seaman Hugh Johnston remembered Second Officer Hefford being on the bridge before the liner went down:
I was at the wheel and heard a very loud explosion and felt the ship quivering.  Just before the explosion I heard Mr. Hefford, Second Officer sing out from the bridge “Here is a torpedo” and immediately afterwards the Captain gave me the order “hard a starboard”, and I put the wheel to 35 degrees and I reported to the Captain “helm is hard a starboard” and he replied “all right boy.”  ... After the Captain gave the order “Hard a starboard” when the vessel was head on to Kinsale, I heard him say to the Second Officer W. Hefford, “Have a look what list she has got”, and Mr. Hefford answered “She is listing 15 degrees to starboard, Sir.”.  Then I heard the Captain sing out “Watch if she goes any further” and the Second Officer watched the indicator on the compass until he got some other order which I did not hear from the Captain and Mr. Hefford told me to watch the indicator and sing out if she went any further.
The Northampton Mercury article also reported:
Mr. W.F. Wood of Sheep Street, Rugby, has received from an officer friend of Mr. Hefford a message to the effect that Mr. Hefford was last seen standing on the bridge of the liner and wearing a lifebelt.
However, in The Tragedy of the Lusitania privately published in 1915, second cabin passenger Frederick S. Judson described reaching a lifeboat, in which he found Second Officer Percy Hefford and Able Seaman Francis Hennessy.  He said:
Between them these two men saved at least a dozen lives.  Hennessy dived repeatedly and brought women up.
If Mr. Judson was correct, then Percy Hefford must have died some time after this.  As Judson did not name Hefford, however, but merely called him the second officer, it could be that he was referring to another officer and mistook his rank. Either way, Hefford’s body was not recovered and identified after the disaster and consequently, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. In an account of her experiences of the sinking, second cabin passenger Annie Richardson also later stated: -
With my friend’s help we went to the Cunard office, where numbers were laid out in rows for identification.  One lady lay with her baby tightly clasped to her, the second officer was also among them, what a gruesome sight ...
She must have been mistaken, however and probably saw the body of Staff Captain James Clarke Anderson, and confused the rank. When Percy Hefford’s will was proven, on 20th July 1915, his effects amounted to £433-1s-6d, (£433.7½p.).  In August, the balance of wages owing to him, paid up to 8th May, 24 hours after the sinking, was forwarded to his widow Elsie.  Some time after her husband's death, she moved to 34, King's Gap, Hoylake, Cheshire.  In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted a yearly pension to Elsie Hefford to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £55-4s-6d. (£55.22½p.) which was payable at the rate of £4-13s-9d. (£4.68½p.) per month. In an article about the sinking published in The Wallasey News, on 15th May 1915, Second Officer Hefford's address is shown as Molyneaux Drive, New Brighton, but this must be a mistake.

Links of interest


Percy Hefford at the Merseyside Maritime Museum Contributors Peter Kelly, Ireland Ellie Moffat, UK References Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths 1881 Census of England and Wales 1891 Census of England and Wales 1901 Census of England and Wales Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cunard Records Hickey, Des and Gus Smith. Seven Days to Disaster, G. P. Putnam and Sons, 1981. Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling. Last Voyage of the Lusitania, Madison Books, 1956. Northampton Mercury Probate Records PRO ADM 137/1058 Tragedy of the Lusitania Wallasey News The Wallasey and Wirral Chronicle UniLiv. PR 13/24 PRO BT 334.

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