John Melia was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire, England, in 1865, the son of Patrick and Margaret Melia. He was married to Mary Anne Melia, (née Faulkner), in 1903, and in 1915, they lived at 4, Argo Road, Waterloo, Liverpool, Lancashire.
He was a professional sailor in the British Mercantile Marine and on the 12th April 1915, he engaged at Liverpool, as a greaser in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania, at a monthly rate of pay of £7-0s-0d., £1-0s-0d., of which he was advanced at the time. He reported for duty on board the liner at Princes Landing Stage on the morning of 17th April, before she left the River Mersey for the last time, bound for New York. It was not the first time that he had served on her liner.
Having completed her west to east trans-Atlantic crossing without mishap, the liner left the Cunard berth at Pier 54, in New York, for her return to Liverpool, just after mid-day on 1st May 1915, after a delayed start. This was caused because she had to embark passengers, cargo and some crew from the Anchor Liner Cameronia, which the British admiralty had requisitioned for war service as a troop ship, at the end of April.
Then six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk within sight of the coast of southern Ireland by the German submarine
U-20 - only about fourteen hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port.
Greaser Melia was killed as a result of this action - one of 18 greasers who lost their lives out a total of 21 who were serving on board - and as his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, in London. He was aged 50 years at the time.
In August 1915, his widow Mary was sent the residue of pay owed to him in respect of the
Lusitania’s final voyage, and this was reckoned from 17th April to the 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the great liner had foundered. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted his widow a yearly pension to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £31-14s-2d. (£31.71p.) which was payable at the rate of £2-12s-11d. (£2.64½p.) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1911 English Census, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/335, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.