The Home Port of R.M.S. Lusitania Lusitania Online Charlie Porter
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THE RICHARD HANNAY OF THE LUSITANIA. The sinking of the Lusitania has always been a controversial subject and one that we have become fully used to dealing with over the last sixteen years on this website. But the centenary year has unearthed something a little different, which though still a little sketchy at this moment in time, is nonetheless so fascinating that I thought I would share what we have so far and hope that someone else out there may be able to help fill in some of the blanks. Peter Lawrence contacted us recently about a not too distant relative of his by the name of Charlie Porter. Peter, now 81, has a degree in American History and knew Charlie as a younger man, due to Charlie being Peter's Mother's Cousin. Charlie was, by all accounts, one of those truly remarkable people we all love to meet. He calmly but confidently went about meeting other people with the intent of helping them if he could.  Peter is sure that Charlie's contribution was a key factor in the success of Cunard's liners.  Cunard obviously wanted to be a commercial success. But in addition Charlie wanted to care for his passengers so that they could cruise in luxury.   The first family record of Charlie that Peter has is a postcard he sent from Aden in 1907. He was then with P & O on the SS. Victoria taking immigrants to Australia. From then on he was simply a seafarer to the family. This was his profession and as far as Peter is able gauge the family just accepted that without going into great detail as to his exact role on the ship. So when he later transferred to the Lusitania, the family were pleased he had gained promotion but otherwise just accepted that Lusitania was his new ship and that he was now working that Atlantic between Liverpool and New York. Peter followed on with rather the same outlook until now. That is that whilst he took a general interest in Lusitania and knew Charlie had served on the ship, he did not probe deeper to get finer detail. His interest has been reawakened this year by the centenary of the loss of Lusitania. The event has clearly drawn together much of the fine research others have been doing. But Peter says he found he simply could not believe what he had been reading and most particularly concerning Captain Turner's survival.   The family at the time were clearly like many others and were severely distressed that they might have lost a cherished relative. Hence their concern was not what job did Charlie have on liner but how did he manage to save himself when many others had sadly succumbed to the sea.   Charlie always said:  " Nearing the end of the ship, he returned to the Bridge and the Captain said to him; "Charlie I thought I gave the order "Abandon ship!" ". Charlie replied "You did sir. I am doing my duty and also helping the passengers". Captain Turner tried again " We cannot lower any more lifeboats. Mr. Porter I give you a personal order. Abandon ship!"  Charlie replied "Sir, when you leave the ship, so will I ". With that Turner went into the chartroom and retrieved the chart he'd been working on. Having stuffed it into his tunic and come back out past the wheelhouse, both men were then washed off the ship as the water engulfed the Bridge; fortunately both were good swimmers and could get well away from Lusitania before she sunk. Photos of Charlie Porter and some of his family. Peter and Beryl Lawrence/Lusitania Online.   Few would dream of defying the Captain like that; few would think it at all necessary to stay on board when the danger of sinking was so imminent. Peter says he can only suggest that the clue is in the word "Duty".  What duty was Charlie actually engaged on at that time?  Why was Charlie so special that Captain Turner give him special attention in the midst of the emergency that had engulfed him? Why does Charlie Porter not appear on crew and passenger listings? Peter and I can only suggest that as we know the Government were insisting that Lusitania was on a purely civilian journey, that they took the most thorough steps to make sure that Charlie's name never came into the picture either when the ship departed New York nor after her sinking nor at Lord Mersey's subsequent Inquiry. But why? Peter's first E-mail mentioned that Charlie was instrumental in equipping and furnishing the Queen Mary when it was new and ended up being the subject of a cartoon in a local Southampton newspaper that bore the tagline "Charlie Porter buys up Southampton".  Does this give us a lead as to what Charlie was doing at that earlier date of 1915?  It is a guess I must admit, but I guess a good guess that if the facts had been known and known more openly we could have had a 1915 cartoon  reading: "Charlie Porter buys up New York's military supplies!". In other words Charlie Porter, whilst employed by Cunard, was also the British Government's Agent. His role had to be absolutely secret. Captain Turner knew that, but virtually no one else. There were munitions as such on board, but there certainly were other, equally vital military supplies to enable the UK to fight WW1 also aboard the Lusitania. Someone on board had to arrange such purchases in New York and then know exactly where they were safely and secretly stored on the ship. Someone on the ship had to be in a position to pass this vital imformation on to the munitions manufacturers when the ship reached Liverpool.   If this reading of the situation is correct, it would explain at once why Captain Turner was so anxious for Charlie Porter to survive that despite having his hands full, the Captain still took the trouble to give Charlie personal instructions. In effect he was saying Charlie you must survive as you are vital to Britain's war effort. Charlie for his part seems to be saying I am on a ship that I had believed to be almost unsinkable, hence I stand by my "duty" to keep guard of our war supplies, but if Captain Turner himself leaves the ship, then and only then, it becomes a different situation for I would know my turn of duty is over and has no further practical value on this ship, so I too can leave with the Captain.   Captain Turner eventually retired to his home in north Liverpool. A wise choice when the world had left Turner with few friends. Charlie Porter and his wife Nora lived not far away in south Liverpool at 13,Normanton Avenue. We do not know but we'd like to hope that meant that perhaps Charlie would meet up with his old Captain from time to time so that Turner had some more friendly company. Now all of this is fascinating in its own right of course, but it lacks documentary evidence. Or does it? One of the things that puzzled us when we got hold of the ship's original manifest, were the initials CP in monogram form, against just about every single listing on all the pages. Up till now, we guessed that it may possibly have stood for Chief Piper, the ship's Chief Officer. Now we had another possibility: Charlie Porter. If only we had a sample of Charlie's handwriting!!! I told Peter of the monogram, invited him to look at it on our website's copy of the manifest and asked him for his opinion. He replied by sending me four postcards that Charlie had sent home whilst on his travels in 1908, when he worked for P&O. It was most interesting to compare the handwriting between the different cards. Charlie's hand appears to have been going through a sort of transitional stage, between the more upright character formation, and the sloping hand. For me, the card addressed C/O Lady Ewing offers the most tantalising resemblance to the monogram on the manifest. The P in Porter and in Pont Street could easily, given a gradual change toward a sloping hand, have been the seed of the monogram on the manifest seven years later. The Algeciras card which is nearly all sloping, shows a markedly less florid style, far more functional and more purposeful; compared to the others, especially the two where, as you say, the P is almost a work of art in itself. If you just look at the development of the capital P starting with the Alameda Grand Parade card, then Christmas Greetings from The Rock, through Dalada Maligawa Temple, where it is markedly shorter formed and has begun to slope, to the capital C of Charlie on the Algeciras card. I think we are seeing the birth of the manifest monogram, which of itself is entirely functional yet still seems to retain a little something of his personal flair, don't you think? I am rather inclined to think we have our man! Peter and I did have a further thought on the (Roosevelt) primary manifest, namely: The scheme by which each item in the supplementary (or late) luggage is initialled 'CP' strikes us as a little odd.  Why not a single signature for clearance of the whole consignment? Our guess is that each item actually travelled under an individual codename (for specific war munitions). The initials are there, we suspect, to confirm that the correct code has been used for each package. Look at all those strange symbols listed as carton/crate markings on each entry of the manifest. On the hoped for arrival in Liverpool the Royal Artillery people on seeing a thoroughly checked manifest should then have been able to interpret the coded descriptions with confidence. Given those codings and the more than diligent initialing beside each individual listing, Charlie definitely seems to have been a sort of very senior checker/chargehand, who was ostensibly a Cunard employee, but who in reality was far more than that. It is another of those ironies that if Charlie had been included on the crew list and given a title such as Chief Cargo Officer, nobody would have been any the wiser as to his activities! Turner was great friends with the ship's Chief Engineer, that was no secret. Why would he not have been equally such good friends with any of his other Chief Officers, as he evidently was with Charlie? By the authorities' deliberate omission of Charlie's name altogether, we have his now clandestine presence aboard such a controversial ship and more questions! Is there anyone out there who can possibly answer some of those questions?
Photos of Charlie Porter and some of his family. Peter and Beryl Lawrence/Lusitania Online.
The Home Port of R.M.S. Lusitania Lusitania Online Charlie Porter
Comments and suggestions to    admin@lusitania.net
THE RICHARD HANNAY OF THE LUSITANIA. Photos of Charlie Porter and some of his family. Peter and Beryl Lawrence/Lusitania Online. The sinking of the Lusitania has always been a controversial subject and one that we have become fully used to dealing with over the last sixteen years on this website. But the centenary year has unearthed something a little different, which though still a little sketchy at this moment in time, is nonetheless so fascinating that I thought I would share what we have so far and hope that someone else out there may be able to help fill in some of the blanks. Peter Lawrence contacted us recently about a not too distant relative of his by the name of Charlie Porter. Peter, now 81, has a degree in American History and knew Charlie as a younger man, due to Charlie being Peter's Mother's Cousin. Charlie was, by all accounts, one of those truly remarkable people we all love to meet. He calmly but confidently went about meeting other people with the intent of helping them if he could.  Peter is sure that Charlie's contribution was a key factor in the success of Cunard's liners.  Cunard obviously wanted to be a commercial success. But in addition Charlie wanted to care for his passengers so that they could cruise in luxury.   The first family record of Charlie that Peter has is a postcard he sent from Aden in 1907. He was then with P & O on the SS. Victoria taking immigrants to Australia. From then on he was simply a seafarer to the family. This was his profession and as far as Peter is able gauge the family just accepted that without going into great detail as to his exact role on the ship. So when he later transferred to the Lusitania, the family were pleased he had gained promotion but otherwise just accepted that Lusitania was his new ship and that he was now working that Atlantic between Liverpool and New York. Peter followed on with rather the same outlook until now. That is that whilst he took a general interest in Lusitania and knew Charlie had served on the ship, he did not probe deeper to get finer detail. His interest has been reawakened this year by the centenary of the loss of Lusitania. The event has clearly drawn together much of the fine research others have been doing. But Peter says he found he simply could not believe what he had been reading and most particularly concerning Captain Turner's survival.   The family at the time were clearly like many others and were severely distressed that they might have lost a cherished relative. Hence their concern was not what job did Charlie have on liner but how did he manage to save himself when many others had sadly succumbed to the sea.   Charlie always said:  " Nearing the end of the ship, he returned to the Bridge and the Captain said to him; "Charlie I thought I gave the order "Abandon ship!" ". Charlie replied "You did sir. I am doing my duty and also helping the passengers". Captain Turner tried again " We cannot lower any more lifeboats. Mr. Porter I give you a personal order. Abandon ship!"  Charlie replied "Sir, when you leave the ship, so will I ". With that Turner went into the chartroom and retrieved the chart he'd been working on. Having stuffed it into his tunic and come back out past the wheelhouse, both men were then washed off the ship as the water engulfed the Bridge; fortunately both were good swimmers and could get well away from Lusitania before she sunk. Photos of Charlie Porter and some of his family. Peter and Beryl Lawrence/Lusitania Online.   Few would dream of defying the Captain like that; few would think it at all necessary to stay on board when the danger of sinking was so imminent. Peter says he can only suggest that the clue is in the word "Duty".  What duty was Charlie actually engaged on at that time?  Why was Charlie so special that Captain Turner give him special attention in the midst of the emergency that had engulfed him? Why does Charlie Porter not appear on crew and passenger listings? Peter and I can only suggest that as we know the Government were insisting that Lusitania was on a purely civilian journey, that they took the most thorough steps to make sure that Charlie's name never came into the picture either when the ship departed New York nor after her sinking nor at Lord Mersey's subsequent Inquiry. But why? Peter's first E-mail mentioned that Charlie was instrumental in equipping and furnishing the Queen Mary when it was new and ended up being the subject of a cartoon in a local Southampton newspaper that bore the tagline "Charlie Porter buys up Southampton".  Does this give us a lead as to what Charlie was doing at that earlier date of 1915?  It is a guess I must admit, but I guess a good guess that if the facts had been known and known more openly we could have had a 1915 cartoon  reading: "Charlie Porter buys up New York's military supplies!". In other words Charlie Porter, whilst employed by Cunard, was also the British Government's Agent. His role had to be absolutely secret. Captain Turner knew that, but virtually no one else. There were munitions as such on board, but there certainly were other, equally vital military supplies to enable the UK to fight WW1 also aboard the Lusitania. Someone on board had to arrange such purchases in New York and then know exactly where they were safely and secretly stored on the ship. Someone on the ship had to be in a position to pass this vital imformation on to the munitions manufacturers when the ship reached Liverpool.   If this reading of the situation is correct, it would explain at once why Captain Turner was so anxious for Charlie Porter to survive that despite having his hands full, the Captain still took the trouble to give Charlie personal instructions. In effect he was saying Charlie you must survive as you are vital to Britain's war effort. Charlie for his part seems to be saying I am on a ship that I had believed to be almost unsinkable, hence I stand by my "duty" to keep guard of our war supplies, but if Captain Turner himself leaves the ship, then and only then, it becomes a different situation for I would know my turn of duty is over and has no further practical value on this ship, so I too can leave with the Captain.   Captain Turner eventually retired to his home in north Liverpool. A wise choice when the world had left Turner with few friends. Charlie Porter and his wife Nora lived not far away in south Liverpool at 13,Normanton Avenue. We do not know but we'd like to hope that meant that perhaps Charlie would meet up with his old Captain from time to time so that Turner had some more friendly company. Now all of this is fascinating in its own right of course, but it lacks documentary evidence. Or does it? One of the things that puzzled us when we got hold of the ship's original manifest, were the initials CP in monogram form, against just about every single listing on all the pages. Up till now, we guessed that it may possibly have stood for Chief Piper, the ship's Chief Officer. Now we had another possibility: Charlie Porter. If only we had a sample of Charlie's handwriting!!! I told Peter of the monogram, invited him to look at it on our website's copy of the manifest and asked him for his opinion. He replied by sending me four postcards that Charlie had sent home whilst on his travels in 1908, when he worked for P&O. It was most interesting to compare the handwriting between the different cards. Charlie's hand appears to have been going through a sort of transitional stage, between the more upright character formation, and the sloping hand. For me, the card addressed C/O Lady Ewing offers the most tantalising resemblance to the monogram on the manifest. The P in Porter and in Pont Street could easily, given a gradual change toward a sloping hand, have been the seed of the monogram on the manifest seven years later. The Algeciras card which is nearly all sloping, shows a markedly less florid style, far more functional and more purposeful; compared to the others, especially the two where, as you say, the P is almost a work of art in itself. If you just look at the development of the capital P starting with the Alameda Grand Parade card, then Christmas Greetings from The Rock, through Dalada Maligawa Temple, where it is markedly shorter formed and has begun to slope, to the capital C of Charlie on the Algeciras card. I think we are seeing the birth of the manifest monogram, which of itself is entirely functional yet still seems to retain a little something of his personal flair, don't you think? I am rather inclined to think we have our man! Peter and I did have a further thought on the (Roosevelt) primary manifest, namely: The scheme by which each item in the supplementary (or late) luggage is initialled 'CP' strikes us as a little odd.  Why not a single signature for clearance of the whole consignment? Our guess is that each item actually travelled under an individual codename (for specific war munitions). The initials are there, we suspect, to confirm that the correct code has been used for each package. Look at all those strange symbols listed as carton/crate markings on each entry of the manifest. On the hoped for arrival in Liverpool the Royal Artillery people on seeing a thoroughly checked manifest should then have been able to interpret the coded descriptions with confidence. Given those codings and the more than diligent initialing beside each individual listing, Charlie definitely seems to have been a sort of very senior checker/chargehand, who was ostensibly a Cunard employee, but who in reality was far more than that. It is another of those ironies that if Charlie had been included on the crew list and given a title such as Chief Cargo Officer, nobody would have been any the wiser as to his activities! Turner was great friends with the ship's Chief Engineer, that was no secret. Why would he not have been equally such good friends with any of his other Chief Officers, as he evidently was with Charlie? By the authorities' deliberate omission of Charlie's name altogether, we have his now clandestine presence aboard such a controversial ship and more questions! Is there anyone out there who can possibly answer some of those questions?