John James Whelan was born in Liverpool, Lancashire in 1878, the son of James and Elizabeth Whelan. He was married to Annie Bickerstaffe in Liverpool in 1913, and in 1915, they lived at 10, First Avenue, Fazakerley, Liverpool.
He was a professional seaman in the Mercantile Marine and engaged as a fireman in the Engineering Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915. He reported for duty at 8 a.m. on 17th April for the liner’s last voyage out of Liverpool. His monthly rate of pay as a fireman was £6-10s-0d., (£6.50) and he was granted a £1 advance form this, when he engaged. He had served on the Lusitania before.
When the ship was sunk, three weeks later, he was not amongst those who were saved.
As his body was not recovered and identified after the sinking, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 37 at his time of death.
In August 1915, his widow Annie was given the balance of wages due to him in respect of his sea service on the
Lusitania’s final voyage. This was reckoned to be from 17th April to 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the steamer had gone down. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her a yearly pension that amounted to £21-14s-10d. (£21.74p.) per year, payable at the rate of £1-16s-3d. (£1.81p.) per month.
Although members of the crew were covered, for insurance purposes, by the Workmen’s Compensation Act, Annie Whelan also applied to The Lusitania Relief Fund, administered by The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, in the summer of 1915, for financial help. Her application was almost certainly turned down, however, as the fund was solely for civilian passengers.
Mark Beynon, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Liverpool Record Office, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.