William Blanchard Bancroft was born in San Francisco, California, in the United States of America, on the 10th June 1887, the third of five sons of William Blanchard and Genevieve Bancroft (née Cox). His father was a publisher, and his mother a writer.
On the 14th April 1897, Genevieve Bancroft and her five children arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, on board the
Circassia, having sailed from New York. William’s father had arrived sometime earlier and his family were coming to join him. The family eventually settled at 58. Harley Road, Harrow, Middlesex.
William’s parents separated in 1904, divorcing in 1908. After the divorce, Elizabeth continued to reside in London with her children, mainly William, who was unmarried and was described as an “advertising expert”. His income was estimated as varying between $4,000 and $15,000 per annum. William frequently travelled between England and the United States of America in relation to his work.
In the spring of 1915, he intended returning to England and consequently booked second cabin passage on the
Lusitania’s May sailing from New York to Liverpool. He was travelling with Mrs. Florence Armitage, who was either his cousin, or the daughter of a friend of his mother.
Having arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in the harbour, on 1st May 1915 in time for her 10.00 scheduled sailing, he had his last view of his native city just after mid-day, when the liner began her delayed sailing out of the port.
The delay was caused by her having to embark passengers, crew and cargo from Anchor Liner the
Cameronia, which the British Admiralty had taken up from trade to use as a troop ship at the end of April.
Six days later, William Bancroft was killed after the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk on 7th May, within sight of the southern coast of Ireland, by the German submarine U-20. At that point in her voyage, she was only hours away from her home port.
As his body was never recovered from the sea and identified afterwards, he has no known grave. He was aged 27 years.
After the War, the Mixed Claims Commission awarded his mother the sum of $20,000.00, and his estate was awarded $2,000.00, which was for the loss of his property in the sinking. As well as his parents, he was survived by his brothers, Earl, Basil, Gerald, and Kenneth.
1901 Census of England & Wales, U.S. Passport Applications 1795 – 1925, New York Passenger Lists 1840 – 1957, Cunard Records, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 2271, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. D92/2/3, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly