William Williams was born in Tremadoc, Caernarvonshire, Wales, in 1869. In 1915, the family home was at 14, Vienna Street, Everton, Liverpool, Lancashire, England. He was a married man, but details of his wife and family are unknown.
He engaged as Master at Arms, in the Deck Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £5-10s-0d., (£5.50p.), £1-10s-0d., (£1.50p.), of which was advanced to him at the time of engagement. He joined the vessel at Liverpool Pierhead on the morning of 17th April, before she left the River Mersey, for the last ever time, bound for New York. It was not the first time that he had sailed on the
Lusitania. There were two masters at arms engaged for this voyage, the other one being 59 year old Peter Smith.
Having docked at New York on 24th April, the Lusitania began her return journey to Liverpool on 1st May 1915 and on the morning of 7th May 1915, when she was within sight of the coast of Ireland, Master at Arms Williams was put in charge of the unloading of the baggage hold and he was still at this station just after 2 p.m., when a single torpedo fired by the German submarine
U-20 struck the liner.
Third class passenger survivor Michael Doyle, gave evidence at an inquest held at Kinsale, County Cork, on Monday May 10th 1915 on five bodies landed there on the evening of 7th May and stated that he was talking to the Master at Arms, when the torpedo was seen approaching and that he, (although he did not name him) had exclaimed: -
Here comes the submarine - as sure as hell she’ll get us.
It is not clear, however whether he was referring to William Williams or Peter Smith.
After the ship had gone down, William Williams was in the sea for some time and eventually came across Captain Turner clinging to some wreckage. He was able to help the captain to stay afloat until they were both rescued by one of the ship's boats, after which they were picked up by a small steamer, the Bluebell and eventually landed at Queenstown.
Another survivor, Fireman John McStay from Widnes, told of his part in the sinking in the edition of The Widnes Weekly News, published on 14th May 1915. He also stated: -
I saw young Jack Roper, an A.B., go back to the vessel in his boat and pick up survivors. He is the lad who saved the captain. I did not see Captain Turner myself, but I believe he was one of the last survivors picked up.
If this is the case, then it must have been Able Seaman Roper's lifeboat which rescued Master at Arms Williams and Captain Turner. Williams was 46 years old at the time of the sinking.
On his eventual return to Liverpool, William Williams was officially discharged from the last voyage of the
Lusitania and was paid the balance of wages owing to him, which amounted to £4-0s-8d., (£4.3p). This sum was in respect of his service on board from 17th April 1915, until 8th May, 24 hours after the vessel had gone down!
Master at Arms Peter Smith did not survive the sinking!
1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Bootle Times, Cornish Echo, Cunard Records, I Was There, Imperial War Museum, Liverpool Echo, PRO BT 100/345, Widnes Weekly News.