Thomas Cain was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1861, the son of Patrick and Mary Cain. He had been married to Julie Cain who predeceased him. In 1915 he lived at 13 Silvester Street, Liverpool.
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. His previous vessel had been the Cunarder SS Caronia. He reported for duty on board the Lusitania at 8am on 17 April 1915, before the vessel left her home port for the very last time.
Having completed her last ever east to west crossing of the Atlantic, the
Lusitania left New York on the early afternoon of 1 May 1915, for her return voyage to Liverpool. She never made it however, for on the afternoon of 7 May she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20 off the Old Head of Kinsale, only about 12 to 14 hours away from the safety of her home port. Fireman Cain was not listed as one of the survivors. He was aged 54.
His body was recovered from the sea and before it was positively identified in one of Queenstown's temporary mortuaries, it was given the reference number 177. On 14 May it was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, in Mass Grave A, 6th Row, Lower Tier, where it lies today.
Despite the fact that he has an identifiable burial site, however, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware of the fact and after the Great War, commemorated him on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
However, once the author had established beyond doubt that he was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, the Commission agreed to erect a permanent memorial to him where he is buried and this was done in November 1998.
It takes the form of a monument of Irish limestone, sited at the head of Mass Grave B, the centre one of the three. The names of crew members buried in the three mass graves are incised on two black granite panels on the memorial, with a legend in between them, which reads:
"1914 - 1918
IN HONOURED MEMORY
OF THOSE NAMED WHO,
SERVING ON THE
DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS
SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION
ON 7 MAY 1915
AND ARE BURIED NEARBY"
The name of Fireman Cain is incised on the left hand panel.
The Commission has also stated that should it ever be necessary to renew the panel bearing his name on the Tower Hill Memorial, his name would be omitted from its replacement.
In August 1915 his family received the balance of wages owed to him in respect of his sea service from 17 April 1915 until 8 May, 24 hours after the great ship had foundered.
Eventually on 29 October 1915, property taken from his body was handed over to his daughter Miss M Cain at her home, 46 Potter Street, Great Homer Street, Liverpool. It consisted of a shaving brush, a brooch, three US cent coins and a key.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10.