The Lusitania Resource > People > Deck Crew List > Mr. Peter Smith, Master-at-Arms

Mr. Peter Smith, Master-at-Arms

Peter Smith (1856 - 1915), 59, was one of two Master-at-Arms aboard the last voyage of the Lusitania, with William Williams. As Master-at-Arms, he would have been in charge of the stowaways arrested right after the ship left New York. Smith was lost in the Lusitania disaster. His body was either not recovered or not identified. Smith may have been the master-at-arms standing next to passenger Michael Doyle and saw the submarine fire the torpedo that sank the Lusitania. This biography was made possible by Peter Kelly and a collaboration with the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Biography


Peter Smith was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, in 1856, the son of Thomas and Ann Smith.  The family owned the firm of Potter's Shipbuilding in Blackston Street, Liverpool, Lancashire.  In 1915, he was living with his wife Faith Eaton Smith (née Marlow), whom he married in Liverpool on 24 July 1879, at the family home, 48, Monfa Street, Bootle, Liverpool, Lancashire.  He was a prominent Freemason and a member of Trafalgar Lodge, No. 225 based in Liverpool. He joined the Cunard Steamship Company in the 1880s and at the time of his death, had completed over 30 years of service with the company.  By 1915, he was employed as a master at arms in the Deck Department on board the Lusitania, a position which was to all intents and purposes, that of ship's policeman. On 12 April 1915, at the Cunard offices at Water Street, Liverpool, he engaged in this rank for the Lusitania’s voyage to New York which was scheduled to leave Princes Landing Stage on the morning of 17 April.  His rate of pay was £5-10s-0d., (£5.50p.), £1-10s-0d., (£1.50p.), of which was advanced to him at the time.  There were two masters at arms engaged for this voyage, the other one being 46 year old William Williams. Having successfully completed the liner’s westward voyage, Master at Arms Smith was still serving in the same capacity when the Cunarder left New York after a delayed start just after mid-day on 1st May, to begin her return to Liverpool.  Then, on the afternoon of 7th May 1915, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20, off the southern coast of Ireland and only about twelve to fourteen hours away from the safety of her home port. Peter Smith unfortunately lost his life as a result of this action and as his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, he has no known grave.  Consequently, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.  He was aged 59 years.  Despite being a Freemason, however, his name is not embossed on the bronze roll of honour dedicated to Merseyside Freemasons lost in the Great War, at the Masonic Hall in Hope Street, Liverpool. In Kinsale Court House, in Kinsale, County Cork on 10 May 1915, an inquest was still in progress, held by Coroner John J. Horgan, into the deaths of five bodies landed there on the evening of 7th May. Third class passenger survivor Michael Doyle, gave evidence to the inquest and said that he was talking to the Master at Arms, when the torpedo was seen approaching and that he, (although he did not name him) had exclaimed:
"Here comes the submarine - as sure as hell she’ll get us."
It is not certain whether Mr. Doyle was referring to Peter Smith or William Williams. Master at Arms Williams did survive the sinking and made it back to Liverpool. In August 1915, Peter Smith’s widow Faith was sent the balance of wages owed to her husband in respect of his engagement on the Lusitania’s last voyage, which was reckoned from 17 April to 8 May 1915, 24 hours after the Lusitania had foundered. In May 1917, Faith Smith was paid £13-0s.-2d. in compensation by The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited who also granted her an annual pension of £13-1s-7d. (£13.08p.), payable at the rate of £1-1s-9d. (£1.09p.) per month.

Links of interest


Peter Smith at the Merseyside Maritime Museum Contributors: Peter Kelly, Ireland Senan Molony, Ireland Ellie Moffat, UK References: Molony, Senan. Lusitania: An Irish Tragedy, pg. 31. Mercier Press, 2004. Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths 1881 Census of England and Wales 1891 Census of England and Wales 1901 Census of England and Wales 1911 Census of England and Wales Bootle Times Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cunard Records Imperial War Museum PRO BT 100/345 PR. 13/24 PRO BT 334

About the Author