Henry Adams was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, on the 13th May 1856, the son of William and Susan (née Gunstone) Adams. His father was a butcher, and the family resided over his butcher shop at 10. High St., Tenby. Henry did not follow the family business, but became a commercial traveller and eventually a tea merchant and a director of The Mazawattee Tea Company Limited, of Tower Hill, London, where he had made his home.
On the 9th November 1886, he married Mary Ann Lloyd (née Evans), always known as ‘Pollie’, who was a divorcée from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, and the former wife of one Frederick Lloyd, who also was a merchant. The couple had no children, and on the 30th December 1913, Pollie died at Gower House, Tenby, which was the home of Henry’s sister, Mrs. Ben White. She was buried on the 2nd January 1914 in Tenby (St. Mary’s) Cemetery.
Henry travelled to the United States of America on a regular basis from 1907, residing for part of each year in Boston, Massachusetts, and Chicago, Illinois. He was the manager of the American branch of the Mazawattee Tea Company Limited by this time, thus the reasons for dividing his time between London and the United States. While he was in the United States, it would seem that his wife divided her time between London and Tenby and did not accompany him overseas.
On the 5th April 1915, Henry married Annie Elizabeth Macnutt at St. Margaret’s Church in Washington D.C.. Having decided to bring her to Tenby to meet his family, he booked passage for them both as saloon passengers on the
Lusitania, which was scheduled to leave New York at 10.00 a.m. on 1st May 1915. He had been back to Tenby himself the previous August.
Consequently, at the end of April 1915, the couple left Boston and arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York port on the morning of 1st May. Once they had boarded, (with ticket number 1298) they were allocated room B27 for the trans-Atlantic voyage. This room was the personal responsibility of First Class Bedroom Steward James Holden, who came from Liverpool.
The liner’s departure from the port was delayed until the early afternoon because she had to embark cargo crew and passengers from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia, which the British Admiralty had requisitioned for use as a troop ship at the end of April. Then, just six days later, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, off the Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland, only about twelve to fourteen hours steaming time away from her Liverpool destination. Henry Adams was killed, although his new wife survived.
After being rescued from the sea, Annie Adams was landed at Queenstown, where she related her story to the press. This was later featured in a book
The Tragedy of the Lusitania, written by Captain Frederick D. Ellis and published not long after the sinking, and that part of it which referred to Henry Adams stated: -
“My husband and I were married in Washington on April 5," she said. "We were coming to London to make it our home. He did not wish to sail on the Lusitania because of the threats of the German Embassy, but some of my relatives are Cunard officials and I have always been a confirmed Cunarder, so I insisted on the Lusitania. On the night before we were torpedoed, something prompted my husband to try on the lifebelts. We got them down from the top of the wardrobe, and after putting them on, left them under the berths.
When the shock came we were both in the writing room on the top deck. I knew the ship was doomed, but my husband was just as sure she could not sink. However, we went down to the stateroom, got our life-belts and ran back to the top deck, preservers in hand. The ship was listing so that it was very difficult to walk. On two occasions while ascending the stairs my husband was struck and knocked down. On deck he wanted to stand and listen, but I kept in the lead and helped him climb the sloping deck and reach the rail on the higher side.
Here we saw a boat ready to be lowered. Some one shouted, 'Women first,' but I refused to get in, insisting on staying with my husband. He seemed dazed and almost unconscious. I put a life preserver on him and then put on my own. In the meantime the captain had ordered the boats not to be lowered. A bosun, standing beside me on the deck, said, 'We're resting on the bottom. We cannot sink.' This statement calmed most of those about us.
My husband sat down on a collapsible boat. He seemed unable to stand. There we remained for several minutes, holding on to the rail in order to keep from sliding down the inclined deck. Suddenly I saw a great wave come over the bow and instantly my husband and all of us were engulfed.”
His body was not recovered immediately after the sinking, but on Saturday 22nd May, the Royal Naval tender H.M.S.
Elf discovered it in the sea in Dingle Bay, County Kerry, on the south west coast of Ireland - about 100 miles from where the
Lusitania had sunk. It was landed at Queenstown on Monday 24th May and was positively identified in one of the temporary mortuaries there, by letters on it and by a distinctive gold watch with a platinum chain - and given the reference number 237. The body was embalmed there and then put in a lead shell within an oak coffin before being placed on board the steamer S.S.
Cygnet bound for Fishguard, in Pembrokeshire. From there, it was sent to Tenby for burial.
It arrived in Tenby on Wednesday 26th May and was taken to Gower House, in Tudor Square. From there on Thursday 27th May 1915, it was taken to Tenby (St. Mary’s) Cemetery, where it was buried in the presence of his widow, at 3 o’clock, under a special coroner’s warrant. He was buried alongside his first wife, Pollie. In the burial register, the column headed
Abode states simply: -
A victim of the Torpedoing of the S.S. Lusitania by a German Submarine on the 7th day of May 1915 off the Old Head of Kinsale.
The property recovered from his body was later sent on 17th June 1915, to his widow Annie, care of a Mr. G.H. Champion, of Winchester House, Old Broad Street, London E.C., who was presumably a solicitor. Cunard had already recorded it as: -
Property. Gents gold watch Elgin (Peacock) No. 6086982. Platinum (or silver) chain, silver match box, bunch of keys, 2 pocket books containing newspaper cuttings and addresses, 1 cent, spectacles in case, toothpick (silver) Kohinoor pencil, plain gold wedding ring, bottle opener, penknife, 2 handkerchiefs bearing name “H .Adams” on one corner, 1 pair gold and pearl cuff links, receipt for subscription for £6. 5. to National Liberal Club, London. Torn portion of an envelope contain name of deceased.
When Henry Adams’ will was proven on 3rd August 1915, his money and effects amounted to £764-15s-3d, (£764. 76p.), which he left to his wife, Annie Elizabeth Adams.
Bedroom Steward Holden, who had looked after both Mr. and Mrs. Adams in room B29, also perished in the sinking and never saw his Liverpool home again!
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1861 Census of England & Wales, 1871 Census of England & Wales, 1881 Census of England & Wales, New York Passenger Lists 1820 -1957, Cunard Records, Probate Records, Pembroke County Guardian, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, Tenby Burial Records, Tenby Observer, Tragedy of the Lusitania, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, UniLiv.D92/1/1, UniLiv. PR13/6, Graham Maddocks, Stuart Williamson, Fred T. Adams, Les Nixon, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly