Joseph Bowden was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1868, the only son of Joseph and Margaret Bowden. He had a younger sister named Ann, who was born in 1872. He was a professional seaman in the British Mercantile Marine and in 1915 he lived at 20 Almond Street, Toxteth, Liverpool.
He engaged as an able seaman in the Deck Department on board the Lusitania on 12 April 1915 at Liverpool, at a monthly rate of pay of £5-10s-0d, (£5.50), £1-10s-0d, (£1.50) of which was advanced to him at the time. He then reported for duty at 7am on 17 April, before the liner left the River Mersey for the last time. He had previously served on the White Star liner SS Arabic.
Having completed the Lusitania’s crossing to New York without mishap, Able Seaman Bowden was still serving on board on the early afternoon of 1 May, as the vessel left New York on the start of her return voyage to Liverpool. Then, six days outward bound, on the afternoon of 7 May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland. At that time, she was only about 14 hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port.
Joseph Bowden survived this action, one of 28 deck seamen who did out of the 47 on board when the vessel left New York. Having been rescued from the sea, he was landed at Queenstown, from where he was able to get back to Liverpool.
Once there, he reported to the Cunard office in Water Street and was officially discharged from the
Lusitania’s last voyage and given the balance of wages owed to him as a result of it. This amounted to £4-19s-8d, (£4.98) and represented his service from 17 April 1915 until 8 May 1915, 24 hours after the great ship had gone down.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, Lawrence Evans, PRO BT 100/345.