Titanic Graves in Liverpool

A memorial to commemorate engine workers from the Titanic was unveiled one hundred years ago on 8th May 1916 at the Princes Landing Stage in Liverpool (image by Elliot Brown). The Grade II listed structure had been commissioned in 1912, the year the Titanic sank, but by 110677317536_3df55c6cf6_o916 further disasters at sea led to its dedication being broadened. It is officially called the Memorial to the Engine Room Heroes, but still commonly known as the Titanic Memorial.

Although the Titanic was built in Belfast and had sailed out of Southampton, the fact the White Star Line was based in Liverpool meant there were a number of crew members from the city on board, as well as some passengers. Around the city there are a number of graves of where people who were on board were buried or are remembered on the headstone.

One of the most senior crew members from Liverpool was Hugh McElroy, the ship’s purser. He failed to survive and his body was picked up by the rescue vessel Mackay-Bennett a week later and buried at sea. He is remembered on a family headstone at  Anfield cemetery. Also at Anfield a gravestone remembers Peter Sloan, the chief electrician, whose body was never knowingly recovered. The inscription reads ‘Also Peter, only son of the above who lost his life with other brave officers in Titanic disaster 15th April 1912, aged 31 years, faithful unto death.’

Kirkdale Cemetery has headstones remembering stewards Henry Ashe, who is buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Gordon Davies, whose body was not found. The chief officer Henry Wilde, another whose body was not found, is also henry wilde kirkdale2remembered on a gravestone there as is the carpenter John Maxwell. An inscription on the gravestone of his mother, father and sister states ‘John, eldest son of the above who was drowned through the foundering of the SS Titanic April 14th 1912 aged 29 years.’

Maxwell’s body was not found and neither was that of greaser Thomas McInerney. A 38 year old widower from Kirkdale, his name is on the headstone of his wife at the Liverpool Roman Catholic Cemetery in Ford. This cemetery also contains a memorial to another greaser, Thomas Fay who was 30 and left a widow and two children in Southampton.

One of the bodies that was recovered and brought back was first class passenger Alfred Rowe, who was on his way to visit a ranch he owned in Texas. He clung to a block of ice and froze to death, his body being picked up by the Mackay-Bennett and then shipped to Liverpool. He walfred rowe titanic survivor memorial toxteth cemetery (1)as buried in the family grave at Toxteth Park Cemetery amidst what the Daily Post described as ‘sorrowful scenes.’ This cemetery also contains a family grave with a dedication to William Farquharson, an engineer whose body was never knowingly recovered. Another body that was lost forever was that of Norman Harrison, an engineer who is remembered on a family gravestone at St John’s Church, Knotty Ash.

Finally. there are are two graves in Crosby remembering Titanic crew members. Clerk Austin Ashcroft is mentioned on a headstone at St Peters and St Paul Roman Catholic Church, while senior assistant engineer Bertie Wilson’s name is marked on his mother’s memorial in St Luke’s Church. There eventual whereabouts of both these crew members bodies was unknown.


Memorials of the May Blitz

Merseyside commemorates seventy five years of the May Blitz this month, when the Luftwaffe pounded Liverpool, Birkenhead, wallasey and Bootle for seven successive nights.

These weren’t the first bombs the area had endured during World Bootle Cemetery Blitz memorial (2)War II. There were fifty raids over a three month period over the autumn 1940, with one killing twenty two inmates at Walton gaol. The single worst incident came at Durning Road in Edge Hill on 28th November when 166 were killed when a shelter took a direct hit. Over three nights just before Christmas 365 were killed, including 74 at a shelter in Blackstock Gardens, with a memorial remembering them on nearby Vauxhall Road.

The May Blitz though saw an increased intensity of bombing with over 2,000 bombs dropped on both sides of the River Mersey over seven successive nights between the 1st and 7th of the month. 1,741 people were killed and 1,154 injured with many more left homeless. Of all the people who lost their lives during air raids on Merseyside in World War II, just under half of them did so in that one week in May. 409 of those who died were in Bootle, where a memorial stands on the site of the former chapel in Bootle Cemetery.

St Luke’s Church in the city centre was hit on the fifth night of the bombing and now stands as an empty shell in memoriam to all those killed. This was the second city centre church to be bombed in the war, the nave of St Nicholas Church on the waterfront having been hit the previous December. A statue now stands there of a boy playing with a toy plane, his mother beckoning him to come downstairs and seek shelter from the bombs.

Liverpool Cathedral had a near miss when a bomb pierced the roof of the south east transept but was deflected by an inner wall and exploded in mid air shattering several stained glass windows. A main target of the raids was the docks, where nearly half of the 144 cargo berths were put out of action. At Huskisson Dock, flames from a shed which had been hit spread to the SS Malakand which was carrying 1,000 tons of ammunition which exploded, killing four people. The subsequent fire burned for 74 hours and parts of the hull plating was found a mile away.

Amongst the casualties was stage and film actress Mary Lawson, a former lover of tennis star Fred Perry. She and her husband were killed when a bomb was dropped on  the house of a friend with whom she was staying in Bedford StrAnfield Cemetery Blitz memorialeet in Toxteth. They were both buried in Kirkdale Cemetery. A deeply personal tragedy took place in Dorothy Street in Edge Hill in the early hours of 4th May when the bodies of George Webb and his wife Sarah (age 61 and 59 respectively) were pulled from the rubble of their home. Their son George, a fireman, had been attending attending the tragic scene at Mill Road hospital, where 83 people were killed, only to return to his parents property to be greeted by his colleagues and such devastating news.

Mr and Mrs Webb were buried at West Derby Cemetery, but there were many victims of the May Blitz who were never identified, 373 of whom were amongst the 554 victims interred in a communal grave at Anfield Cemetery. The grAnfield Cemetery Blitz memorial - Copyave is 170 by 8 feet and cost £4,400 and the memorial that marks it was unveiled on 7th May 1951, ten years after the last night of bombing. The ceremony was unveiled by the Lord Mayor, Alderman H. D. Longbottom. The Daily Post reported that he told those gathered ‘The calamity of the Blitz brought us closer together. It would be a great thing today if we could recall the best of those tragic years.’ 75 years on,the victims of the May Blitz have never been forgotten and a commemoration service will take place at Liverpool Cathedral on 2nd May, hosted by Radio Merseyside.

Memorials to Mary Lawson and Francis Beaumont

A Tale of Romance and Tragedy: A Popular Actress and her RAF husband

Mary Lawson, from a 1930s publicity postcard

Mary Lawson, from a 1930s publicity postcard

Mary Lawson was a highly popular and sought-after stage and screen actress in the 1920s and 30s. From working class roots from County Durham, she made her first appearance singing for wounded soldiers during WWI at the age of five. She honed her acting and dancing abilities during her teenage years in Durham and beyond, eventually being talent spotted by Gracie Fields. Her career then went from strength to strength and she appeared in films with names such as Vivien Leigh and Bud Flanagan.

But she was to be remembered almost as much for her romantic affairs as for her acting ability. A series of high profile engagements ensued, including a spell as the fiancée of Fred Perry, at that time the world’s leading tennis player. Intense media attention and his desire to live in America made her call off the engagement.

She met her future husband, Francis William Lionel Collings Beaumont, on the set of the film Toilers of the Sea, set on the island of Sark. Francis, heir to the Seigneur of Sark, was already married with a son, but fell in love with Mary and divorce followed. Mary and Francis married in 1938 in London. It appears the marriage frowned upon by his mother, who spoke fondly of his first wife but failed to mention Mary at all in her memoirs.

After the outbreak of WWII, Sark was occupied by the Germans. Frances joined the Royal Air Force, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Having been granted a week’s leave in 1941, he and Mary were reunited and travelled with friends and family to spend a week in Liverpool, apparently staying in Toxteth. Unfortunately, their stay coincided with some of the heaviest bombing Liverpool suffered by the Luftwaffe in May of that year. On 3rd May, the air raid sirens went off, prompting Mary’s sister and others from their party to take shelter. Mary and Francis remained in their room, perhaps seeking a few moments alone together before he returned to active service. The house they were staying in was hit and both were killed. Their friends and family, who had sought the safety of the air raid shelter, all survived.

Francis Beaumont War Grave, Kirkdale Cemetery

Francis Beaumont War Grave, Kirkdale Cemetery, Liverpool

Mary and Francis were buried in Kirkdale Cemetery, Liverpool, but only Francis has a headstone to remember him. Mary’s memorial is in the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour, located near St. George’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, London and in the films that survive her.






Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.