John Crank was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1881, the son of John Francis and Elizabeth Crank. He married Margaret Ellen Crank (née Parkinson) on 6 July 1908 at Liverpool registry office, and they lived at 49A Windsor Road, Tuebrook, Liverpool, Lancashire. They had two children, John and Elizabeth Olga.
He engaged at Liverpool as Baggage Master in the Deck Department on the Lusitania on 13 April 1915 at a monthly wage of £8-0s-0d, and reported for duty at 7am on 17 April, in time for the liner’s last ever departure from the River Mersey. Having completed the vessel’s journey to New York, he began her journey home with the rest of the passengers and crew on the afternoon of 1 May 1915.
At about 2pm on 7 May he visited Junior Third Officer Albert Bestic in his cabin to request his presence in the baggage hold to supervise the bringing up of luggage onto the deck. Such a move always required the presence of an officer and Bestic told him that he would join him as soon as he had changed out of his new uniform - only recently purchased in New York. The job, even of supervision, was always a dirty one.
There are two possible reasons why Crank had been ordered to bring up luggage from below. The first is that as the weather was fairly good at the time, luggage brought up on the Friday afternoon could safely remain on the deck and make the unloading of the vessel in the early hours of the following morning at Liverpool much quicker. The other, which it has not been possible to confirm after all this time, is that the ship had been ordered to put into nearby Queenstown, because of the perceived threat from submarine attack.
Not long after Crank’s conversation with Bestic, the Lusitania was struck by a torpedo fired by the German submarine
U-20 and all the baggage handlers, including Baggage Master Crank were killed as a result. The baggage hold was immediately above where the torpedo had struck, so it is presumed that the men there were either killed by the explosion or trapped between decks in the luggage cages and subsequently drowned when the liner sank.
John Crank was aged 33 years. As body was not found and identified afterwards, his name is embossed on the Mercantile Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
Albert Bestic was still on the bridge deck when the Lusitania was struck as he had been delayed by changing his uniform, so he survived.
On 12 July 1915 administration of John Crank’s will was granted to his widow at Liverpool. His effects amounted to £140-0s-0d. In addition the Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Margaret Crank which amounted to £80-6s-4d (£80.31½) payable at the rate of £6-14s-9d (£6.73½) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, John Crank, Cunard Records, Probate Records, Seven Days to Disaster, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.