William Henry Griffiths was born in Bebington, Birkenhead, Cheshire in 1858, the son of John and Jane Griffiths. He was married to Ann Margaret Griffiths and they lived at 167 Old Chester Road, Tranmere, Birkenhead.
He engaged as a refrigerating greaser in the Engineering Department on board the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915. At nearly 60 years of age, he had spent nearly all his working life at sea and on the outbreak of war he was already contemplating retirement. However, he decided to take the place of another crew member who was called up for active service and reported for duty on the morning of 17 April before the liner began her last ever crossing to New York.
He was killed when the Lusitania was sunk three weeks later and his body was never found and identified afterwards. Consequently he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 56.
He is also commemorated on the County Borough of Birkenhead War Memorial in Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, Merseyside.
William’s widow Ann received the balance of wages owed for his service on board the liner in August 1915 and in common with all crew members, this was reckoned to be from 17 April to 8 May, 24 hours after the liner had gone down. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted an annual pension to Ann Griffiths to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £16-11s-10d (£16.59) payable at the rate of £1-7s-8d (£1.38½) per month.
For many years during and after the war Ann Griffiths continued to remember her husband through the
'In Memoriam' column of the local newspaper 'The Birkenhead News and Advertiser'.
William Griffith's son Corporal Alfred Eric Griffiths was another casualty of the First World War. On St George's Day 1918, whilst serving with the 15th Battalion, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (London Welsh) on the Western Front, he was severely wounded by shrapnel which pierced his left shoulder and necessitated the amputation of his left foot. He managed to survive his wounds.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1861 Census of England and Wales, 1871 Census of England and Wales, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Birkenhead News, Birkenhead War Memorial Records, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, UniLiv. PR13/24, PRO BT 334.