Body 1 Walter John van Billiard

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Mar 7, 2000
Hi everyone.

According to the description of Body #1 belonging to Walter John van Billiard - 10-12 yrs of age, the biography on this site says that from the effects on the body it may have been someone else.
I was wondering if possibly it could be Filip Oscar Asplund (13) whose body was never recovered, due to the two handkerchiefs marked "A" that were found on the body.
Any input is appreciated..


Mike Herbold

Dec 13, 1999
Based on the letter A clue, it could just as easily be Eugene Joseph Abbott.
I don't understand the comment that because of the effects found that it may have been someone else. The effects were some Danish coins and the handerchiefs. Walter's father's first name, Austin, starts with an A.
The bodies of both father and son were returned to Pennsylvania for burial, and I would imagine that they were positively identified at that point. Otherwise, the child's body could just as easily have been Walter's older brother James.

Peter Kyhl

Jun 5, 2000
Laurie and Mike:

I believe that body #1 was Filip Oscar Asplund. Not just because of the handkerchiefs marked "A", but because of the danish coins. The Asplund family had travelled from Sweden through Denmark to the danish town Esbjerg from where they sailed to England. Filip probably got the few coins the family didn't use in Denmark.
It's possible, that the casket wasn't opened in Pennsylvania and identified there, remember the body was more than a month old.
I guess the only way to find out, is a DNA test or if Lillian Asplund remembers, what her brother wore that faithfull night.

Peter Kyhl, Solroed, Denmark.

Chris Dohany

Dec 12, 1999
I've actually seen it suggested that the body was that of James Van Billiard. I do find it unlikely that family didn't view the remains at some time. The body had been embalmed and in a chilled climate from the time it was pulled from the sea, be it an ice-filled hold or the curling rink, so decomposition was probably not in an advanced state. It would be nice if we had a solid source for how this body was identified in the first place.
Dec 13, 1999
I too had wondered about the identification of the van Billiard boy.You are no doubt aware that the grandparents had never seen either of their grandsons in person, no doubt they had seen photographs of them, but it would still make the task of identification difficult. I have access to the photographs of the Lusitania victims and correspondence from relatives seeking to identify bodies via these photographs. Many of these letters state that they are unable to positively identify the victim, whose remains have in this case usually been recovered in a matter of hours, and these are from people who actually knew the deceased in life rather than through photographs.
It would be nice to think that these bodies would be presented for identification looking as they had done in life, however,given the circumstances of their death, these unfortunates are often barely recognisable as human, let alone as a loved one.
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