William Alfred Horncastle was born in Forest Gate, London in 1885, the son of William and Mary Ann Horncastle. He was married to Elizabeth Horncastle (née Sheldrake) in London in 1904, and they lived at 39, Ocean Street, Stepney, London.
He was a professional merchant seaman and was engaged as a trimmer in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania at New York, on 30th April 1915, just in time for her fateful voyage home. His monthly rate of pay was £6.
He was killed when the ship was sunk and his body was not recovered and identified afterwards. As a consequence, he is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show his rank as fireman, but several Cunard sources show it to have been that of trimmer. By the time that the Tower Hill Memorial register was compiled in the 1920s, his widow had moved to 79, Moody Street, Bancroft, Mile End, London.
In keeping with all crew members, Cunard paid William Horncastle up until 8th May, 24 hours after the sinking and eventually, the balance of wages owing to him was forwarded to his widow Mary. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted a yearly pension to Elizabeth Horncastle to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £76-0s-4d. (£76.01½p.) which was payable at the rate of £6-6s-9d. (£6.33½p.) per month.
Elizabeth Horncastle was pregnant at the time of her husband’s death and subsequently gave birth to a daughter whom she named .... Lusitania!
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, UniLiv D92/2/451, UniLiv. D92/6/1,UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.