Throughout the First World War the Liverpool-based Cunard Company made their land and sea resources available to the British Government, allowing significant contributions to the war effort in terms of maritime experience and assistance. Much of Cunard’s fleet was requisitioned to be used as armed cruisers, troop transports, and hospital or prison ships, enabling the transportation of 900,000 troops and 10 million tonnes of cargo.
Perhaps not as well known is that a number of Cunard’s land-based staff signed up to serve in the conflict. An insight into their story can be gained from some of the surviving records from this time: in particular a booklet entitled Cunard Clerical Staff by Land and Sea which commemorates the office-based staff who joined up within the first twelve months of the war. Each employee’s photograph is accompanied by the name of the department they worked for and a note of which regiment they served in during the war.
One of the many thousands of men from Liverpool who signed up to join the war effort was C. F. Hopkinson, an employee of Cunard in the Accountants’ Department. This photograph of Hopkinson has been taken from the commemorative booklet. Like many of his colleagues, Hopkinson served as a member of the 17th Battalion of The King’s Regiment Liverpool which was the very first of all the Pals Battalions, raised by Lord Derby on the 29th of August 1914.
As can often be the case with business archives, very few staff records have survived within the Cunard papers, particularly for those with clerical roles. This is why staff magazines in particular can be a potential source for those seeking out information about Cunard employees. During the First World War the Cunard Line Staff Magazine was published on a monthly basis in an effort to show the company’s support and to keep up morale. Staff were encouraged to submit contributions to the magazine with many of the issues featuring articles and letters from both male and female employees. Emphasis was given to active service news, providing updates on prisoners of war and demobilisation coupled with light-hearted stories of places visited and ‘wedding bells’. Unsurprisingly it became popular with those serving at home and abroad.
In January 1919 the design of the front cover changed and is credited to “one of the Comrades on Active Service, Pte C. F. Hopkinson of the Accountant’s Department”. It is presumed that this is the same Hopkinson as featured in the commemorative booklet. Pictured is ‘The Dawn’ which is an illustration by Hopkinson taken from the same issue of the magazine.
Unfortunately we have no further information about Hopkinson’s service during the First World War or his time at Cunard as an employee. With this in mind it would be interesting to hear from anyone who has further information on Hopkinson, whether this was from his time at Cunard or his life after the war.
Siân Wilks, Cunard Archivist