Joseph Butler was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1877, the son of Peter and Mary Butler. He was married to Julia Ann Butler (née Curran) and in 1915 they lived at 10 Darwen Street, Athol Street, Liverpool, Lancashire.
He engaged as a fireman in the Engineering Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915, at a monthly rate of pay of £6-10s-0d (£6.50), £1-0s-0d of which was advanced to him at the time. He joined the vessel at Liverpool Pier Head at 8am on 17 April, before the liner left the River Mersey for the last ever time. He had served on the Cunarder before.
The Lusitania completed her journey to New York without mishap and left there on the early afternoon of 1 May to begin the second leg of her voyage with a return to Liverpool. She never made it however, for on the afternoon of 7 May, whilst sailing within sight of the Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, and sank within 18 minutes. At that time she was probably only about 12 to 14 hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port.
One of the victims of this action was Fireman Butler who lost his life as a result. He was aged 38 years at the time.
As his body was not recovered and identified afterwards he has no known grave and as a consequence his name is embossed on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial to the Missing of the Mercantile Marine, at Tower Hill, London.
In August 1915 Fireman Butler’s widow Julia received the balance of wages owed to him by Cunard in respect of the
Lusitania’s last voyage. This covered the time period from the morning of 17 April 1915 until the afternoon of 8 May; 24 hours after the liner had gone down. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted a yearly pension to Julia Butler to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £24-15s-8d (£24.78) payable at the rate of £2-1s-4d (£2.06) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Record, PRO BT 100/345s, UniLiv. PR 13/24.