George Edwards 'Hutch' Hutchinson was born in Frodsham, Cheshire, England, in 1888, the son of Andrew and Mary Hopkins Hutchinson. In 1915, the family home was at ‘Manor House’, Frodsham, Cheshire, but Hutch lived at 54, Bank’s Road, Liverpool, Lancashire, whilst pursuing his career as a sea-going electrical engineer from the River Mersey.
He engaged as First Electrician in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 13th April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £12-0s-0d., and joined ship before she left Liverpool Landing Stage for the last time, at 7 a.m. on 17th May.
Three weeks later, he was lucky enough to survive the sinking of the Lusitania, on the afternoon of 7th May 1915, by the German submarine
U-20, off the coast of southern Ireland. He was in the sea for some four hours, however, clinging onto a plank, during which time he claimed to have saved the lives of two men and two women. Eventually, he was picked up by one of the
Lusitania's collapsible boats whose occupants were then rescued by the Royal Naval trawler H.M.S.
Brock. Having been landed at Queenstown, he ultimately was able to board a boat for Holyhead. He finally got back to Frodsham on the afternoon of Sunday 9th May 1915.
He then recounted his experiences after the torpedo struck to a representative of the local press and this was published in
The Widnes Weekly News in the edition of 14th May. He had told the representative: -
I was in my room at the time we were struck, preparing my list in readiness for reaching Liverpool. Then there was a bang, and I feared that the ship was doomed. I rushed to the alley-way and met the chief engineer. Then I rushed below deck to see to the dynamos, and by this time the water tight doors had been closed. When I got down the lights failed, and knowing that nothing could be done with the dynamos I hurried on deck to render what assistance I could. I got a lifebelt and dashed to the wireless cabin to see that the operator was getting his current. For some few minutes I remained with him and left him when he received an answer from Queenstown. The ship was now listing very badly and I returned to my room.
When I came out of it I again met the chief engineer, and he said "Come on Hutch, come down and see what we can do" I replied "Perhaps we will all be below shortly". I shook him by the hand and said "Goodbye, old chap, I think it is everyone for himself, now."
This was in the last few minutes and asking him to follow I slid on my back down the side of the ship and felt many of the rivets. The force with which I went down was such that I went to some considerable depth in the water and when I rose to the surface the huge propellers were up in the air over my head. Some debris fell and knocked me under the water again and when I came to the top a second time, the 'Queen of the Atlantic' had disappeared below the sea. It was a beautiful sunny day and the water was calm and it was owing to these conditions that so many were saved. The water, however, was very cold, but it could have been worse.
The first woman I met in the water was struggling desperately to keep herself afloat and I gave her my lifebelt, but what became of her I could not say, although I don't think she was saved because she was nearly dead then. There was a man shouting for help. His lifebelt was not properly adjusted; in fact he had not got his head through it. I went to his assistance and he shouted "I am Vanderbilt". I was treading the water and it was extremely difficult for me to give him help. I did all I could to save him, but I had no lifebelt myself. He went despite my efforts. I was with him for quite a long while. Swimming about for some time, eventually I was lucky enough to get a plank, one of those I had seen many a time on board.
The chief engineer referred to was 54 year old Archibald Bryce from Bootle, Liverpool, who did not survive and
Vanderbilt was the famous American millionaire, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, whose body was never found afterwards, despite a reward of £100-0s-0d., being offered for its recovery.
He also related a curious and pathetic incident which occurred once he had got to Holyhead. He said that he was met by a lady who was seeking news of her daughter, a Miss Grace Hutchinson, as she had seen the name
G. Hutchinson amongst the rescued. When the First Electrician told her that he knew nothing of a Miss G. Hutchinson, but he was of that same name and initial, the poor lady fainted.
This story does not tally exactly; however, as there was no Grace Hutchinson, on board the
Lusitania. There was a Phyllis Hutchinson, who came from Birkenhead, Cheshire and was travelling as a saloon passenger. She was lost and her body was never recovered. It is possible that George Hutchinson was confused when he related the story.
He was certainly overcome by emotion when he was met by his mother and some friends at the transporter car across the River Mersey at Runcorn, en route for his Frodsham home. He told
The Widnes Weekly News reporter: -
I played the man until I reached Runcorn, and then I broke down and played the child.
Some time later, at Liverpool, he was officially discharged from the Lusitania’s final voyage and paid the balance of wages owing to him, in respect of his sea service from 17th April until 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the liner had gone down.
Private 79314 George Hutchinson, 4th Bn. Cheshire Regiment died on the 1st June 1919 at Cathay Military Hospital, Cardiff, and is buried in Frodsham (St. Lawrence) Cemetery, Frodsham, Cheshire. He left £272 13s. 10d. in his will which was administered by his father.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, Marine Engineers’ Association Journal, PRO BT 100/345, Widnes Weekly News, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Probate Records.