Propeller from the Lusitania steamship


Propeller from the Lusitania steamship
Propeller from the Lusitania steamship

The torpedoing of the civilian ship RMS Lusitania was one of the most shocking acts of the First World War: it added weight to the argument that America should join the conflict; and became an oft repeated call to arms at home too, appearing in numerous propaganda images and articles. It also became the grave of two IMechE members. William Martin-Davey and Colin Stanley Fenton were both traveling as civilians on 7th May 1915, when the ship went down off the coast of Ireland. More than 1,100 passengers and crew perished (about 800 did not), including more than 120 Americans.

Martin-Davey was a Consulting Engineer and Naval Architect. Educated at Aberdeen Park College, London, he received his technical education at the Birkbeck Institute, London. After which (1878) he served an apprenticeship of six months in the drawing office of Messrs. Sewards; he then entered the workshops of Messrs. John Stewart and Son, until 1883. In that year he was briefly employed by Messrs. White and Co., Albert Dock and then sailed as junior engineer in the employ of the British India Steam Navigation Company until he obtained a second class Board of Trade engineer’s certificate, in 1886.

He thereupon became second engineer on board a Spanish steamer, and ultimately chief engineer on taking his first class Board of Trade certificate of competency. He was next appointed a ship and engineer surveyor to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping in 1887, but resigned the appointment four years later to commence practice as a consulting engineer and naval architect in Liverpool. Subsequently he became senior partner in the firm of Martin-Davey and Herd, of Liverpool. Thinking that there was about to be an immense development of the mercantile marine service of the United States and Canada, following upon the opening of the Panama Canal, he decided to go to Vancouver; where he opened new offices.

In the early part of 1915 he was making a semi-business visit back to the United Kingdom, accompanied by his wife and only son; all three died. He was fifty-two years of age.

A lot less is known of Fenton. He was a marine engineer with P&O Steamship Company, Sheffield. He was born in the city in 1887, attending Central Technical School during 1902. After which he studied in the Technical Department of what is now Sheffield University. He then went to study Marine Engineering at Hartlepool Technical College. Fenton was academically successful, gaining good marks in subjects such as machine drawing and design.

He was apprenticed from 1904-1908 to the Central Marine Engine Works, West Hartlepool where he turned, fitted and erected engines in the shops and fitting engines into boats. He then went onto work for P&O, presumably he was on their business when the torpedo hit.

Engineers at War: from Home Front to Battle Front

Institution First World War Honour Roll

Archive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers


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