Master Eric Clarence Gardner

Eric Gardner, 16, was a British subject returning to New Zealand from North America aboard Lusitania with his parents James and Annie and his brother William.  The family was originally from Dunedin, New Zealand. The Gardners, with another brother, Leonard, had been living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for 13 years and were planning to establish a market garden in Nelson, New Zealand.  James and Annie were lost in the Lusitania tragedy.  Eric and William survived the sinking.  Leonard had traveled to New Zealand in advance and was not on board Lusitania. Annie fainted when the ship was torpedoed and could not be revived.  She may have been the fainting woman Archie Donald helped carry from the second cabin dining saloon.  James went down with the ship with Annie. According to Herbert Ehrhardt’s account, Ehrhardt roomed with two brothers who were young men and traveling with their father.  The brothers survived and the father did not.  From looking at the second cabin passenger list, the Gardners are the only family that matches this description. According to Ehrhardt, after the ship sank, Eric and William swam to two lifeboats that were next to each other.  One was right-side up, the other was upside down.  William got in the one that was right-side up.  Eric climbed aboard the one that was upside down.  Ehrhardt soon joined Eric on his upturned boat, and the two boats quickly drifted apart. Eric found his father, dead, lying across the bottom of an upturned lifeboat.  James Gardner is not on the list of recovered or identified victims. Eric and Herbert pulled several people out of the water and onto their boat, including a man who broke down after being pulled aboard because he saw the body of his wife also on the boat. Eric and William stayed in a hotel near Euston Station in London, England, before pressing on to New Zealand. Eric enlisted in the army the following summer and joined the Auckland Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 3rd Battalion.  He was shot in the head and killed in the Passchendaele Offensive on 15 October 1917.  He was a lance corporal and 21 years old.  His service number was 30932.  Eric is buried in the Nine Elms British Cemetery just west of Poperinge in West Flanders, Belgium.  He is noted as the “[b]rother of L[eonard] J. W. Gardner, of Upper Moutere, Nelson, New Zealand.”

Links of interest

Lest We Forget Part 2: As the Lusitania Went Down – Encyclopedia Titanica Eric Gardner – Casualty Details: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Contributors: Jim Kalafus, USA Michael Poirier, USA References: Commonwealth War Graves Commission :: Casualty Details.  Gardner, Eric Clarence.  <> Commonwealth War Graves Commission :: Cemetery Details.  Nine Elms British Cemetery.  <> 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 2:  As the Lusitania Went Down.  ET Research. <> “The Lusitania.” Otago Daily Times. Putanga 16381. 12 Haratua 1915, page 5. PapersPast. Web. Accessed 16 May 2013. <——-10-ODT-1—-0bodley–>.

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