James “Jimmy” Reid, and his twin brother, William, were born in Liverpool, Lancashire, on the 29th March 1894, the sons of James and Mary Ellen Reid. A few years later, their brother, John, was born. In 1915, the family home was at 14, Harlow Street, Toxteth, Liverpool, Lancashire. All three brothers served apprentices as seamen, commencing their training in their early teenage years, no doubt following in their father’s footsteps, he being a boatswain in the British mercantile Marine
James joined the mercantile marine, and he engaged as a fireman in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania, at Liverpool, on the 14th April 1915. He reported for duty on board at 8 a.m. on 17th April before the liner left the River Mersey for the last ever time and having crossed the Atlantic Ocean without incident the
Lusitania docked in New York on 24th April 1915. She then left there on the early afternoon of 1st May, for her return to Liverpool and six days later, on the afternoon of 7th 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 fourteen hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port.
James Reid was killed as a result of this action and his body was never recovered and identified afterwards. His name is embossed on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 21 years.
The records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission show his rank to be that of able seaman, but a list of the crew published by Cunard in March 1916 shows his rank as that of seaman. The Cunard list is the more likely one to be accurate.
On the 11th May at Liverpool, four days after the sinking of the Lusitania, and the loss of his twin brother, William Reid enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery as L17876 Gunner William Reid. He was listed as a deserter, however, on the 29th October while stationed at Heytesbury, Wiltshire. It is possible, like many other seamen who enlisted in the British Army at that time that he deserted to return to sea and do his bit for the war effort in a way he knew better. He certainly was serving in the mercantile marine after the war, which makes this scenario very probable. He died at sea on Christmas Day 1942 when he fell 35 feet down into a cargo hold while serving as boatswain on the
King Frederick. His remains were interred in Basra, in present day Iraq, where they lie today.
The King Frederick was sunk when torpedoed by the German submarine,
U-181, in the Arabian Sea on the 19th July 1944, with the loss of 27 of the 56 persons on board.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 334.