George James Hamel was born in Liverpool, Lancashire on 12 October 1884, the son of Peter and Frances Hamel. According to his birth certificate his name was registered as being William George Hamel, and he can be found in the 1901 Census of England recorded under this name. However, in the 1891 and 1911 Census of England records, and his marriage certificate, his name is recorded as being George James Hamel.
On 10 December 1908 he married Elizabeth Ann Welch in Liverpool, and in 1915 the family home was at 97 Claudia Street, Walton, Liverpool, Lancashire. Living next door to them at 99 Claudia Street were Eugene and Martha McDermott, and their family. Martha McDermott and Elizabeth Hamel were sisters.
George was a dock labourer for many years and also found employment as a trimmer on steam ships, although it is not known how frequently he went to sea. His neighbour Eugene McDermott, who was a house painter by profession, also went to sea as a trimmer occasionally, so it is possible that they signed on for voyages together.
On 12 April 1915 at the Cunard offices at Liverpool both George Hamel and Eugene McDermott engaged as trimmers in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania, at a monthly rate of pay of £6-0s-0d, £1 of which was advanced to each of them at the time. It was not the first time that either had served on the vessel. They reported for duty on the early morning of 17 April 1915, before the liner left the River Mersey for the last time.
Having completed the liner’s crossing to New York, both men were serving on board ship on the early afternoon of 1 May, as the
Lusitania left New York on her return voyage to Liverpool. Six days into the voyage, on the afternoon of 7 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 14 hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port.
Out of 100 trimmers on board when the liner left New York, 69 perished and only 31 survived the sinking. Eugene McDermott was one of the fortunate 31, while George Hamel was among the 69 lost. He was aged 30 years. His remains were never recovered and identified, so he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
George’s widow Elizabeth received the balance of wages owed to him 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. She also received an annual pension from the Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited to compensate her for the loss of her husband, which amounted to £56-7s-8d (£56.38) payable at the rate of £4-14s-0d (£4.70) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.