James Vose was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, in 1869, the son of John and Elizabeth Vose. His father was a cotton spinner.
On the 11th October 1888, he married Mary Hannah Whiteley in Halifax, and the couple had one child, a daughter named Martha Ellen, born in 1889. The family moved to Bolton sometime after Martha’s birth, but then James left home, apparently in search of work, leaving his wife and child in financial difficulties, and when he eventually returned, it would appear that it was only for the briefest of periods as he then enlisted in the Royal Navy in May 1890!
His wife heard no more from him until sometime in 1893, when he sent her £5-0s.-0d. (£5.00p.), and it was not until 1896 that she met him again when she accidently encountered him at a relative’s home! On that occasion, he remained with her for five days before returning to his ship.
While serving in the Royal Navy in Plymouth, Devon, he met widow Louisa Jane Richards, (née Colliet), around March 1900. The couple married in Penzance, Devon, on the 11th September 1900. In 1902, James was discharged from the Royal Navy and found work as a labourer in Penzance.
On the 4th December 1903, James Vose appeared in a Penzance Court, having been charged with bigamy. The case against him was heard at Cornwall Assizes in January 1904, and he was found guilty, but dealt with leniently, and escaped imprisonment.
In June 1909, his first wife, Mary Hannah, was granted a decree nisi in the Divorce Court, and custody of their child on the grounds of desertion and bigamous marriage. James did not oppose her application for a divorce.
Perhaps of the scandal, and also because of work opportunities, James and Louisa moved to Liverpool. Louisa already had five children from her first marriage, Ernest, James, Ethel, Mabel and Christine, and together, they had four more, William, Maud, Louisa and Dolly. The family home was at 135, Green Lane, Old Swan, Liverpool. Curiously, in the 1911 Census, they were using the family name ‘Richards’, Louisa’s name from her marriage to her first husband!
James joined the mercantile marine as a trimmer and fireman, and whereas he had sailed previously on the Cunard liner,
Mauritania, his last two voyages were on her sister ship, the Lusitania. He engaged for the final time on board that ship at Liverpool, on 12th April 1915 and reported for duty at 8 a.m. on 17th April, for what would be the liner’s final voyage to New York. As a trimmer in the Engineering Department, his monthly wage was £6-0s-0d.
He was killed when the Lusitania was sunk and as his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 45 years.
In a letter written to the Graham Maddocks in 1998, his granddaughter Gladys Anderson told of circumstances surrounding her grandfather’s loss: -
“Granddad had written home to Gran and said they would be all right when he came home, as he had won a big share in the Calcutta Sweepstake. The money was in his money belt and needless to say, she didn’t receive it.”
“Granddad didn’t want to sail on the ‘Lucy’, he said ‘I know what she is carrying!’. He had to go because it was wartime and they were not kind to deserters!”
This last part is probably family speculation, as any part of the cargo that might have led to the
Lusitania’s destruction would have been loaded in New York and in any case, a trimmer would have been unlikely to have known what the ship was carrying! Gladys Anderson also told a bizarre story concerning the ship’s loss: -
“Mum was six years old when he died and a day or two before the ship went down she was out walking with Gran and her two sisters, (her brother Willie died when he was five with pneumonia) and Gran pointed to the clouds in the sky. The clouds formed the shape of a liner like the ‘Lucy’, on end, with the funnels to the left and she said ‘That looks like your Dada’s ship.’. This was before they knew she had gone down and apparently that is the way she went down.”
All crew members, whether survivors or victims were paid up until 8th May, 24 hours after the ship had gone down and eventually the balance of wages owing to him, £5-12s-0d., (£5.60p.) was forwarded to his widow Louisa. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Louisa which amounted to £44-11s-4d. (£44.56½p.) which was payable at the rate of £3-14s-4d. (£3.71½p.) per month.
James’ forename appears as George Vose in some Cunard lists but this is clearly an error.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1871 Census of England and Wales, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Gladys Anderson, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, The Cornishman, Sheffield Independent, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.