William Baxter was born in Bingham, Nottinghamshire, England in 1879, the son of Alfred and Annie Theresa Baxter (née Huckerby). His father was a labourer and when he reached maturity, William Baxter became a machinist.
In 1902, William married Annie Eliza Ripley) in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and they had a son, also named William, who was born in 1909.
He and his wife ran a post office at Shireoaks, in Worksop, for six years until 1908, after which they took on a greengrocery and general stores shop in Potter Street, Worksop. In June 1912, however, they immigrated to Canada, presumably because of better work opportunities there and settled in Welland, Ontario. They arrived in Quebec on the 28th June on board the
On 24th January 1915, William Baxter’s mother-in-law died and because of this and perhaps also because of the war, the family decided to return to England to look after Mr. Ripley who was a stove grinder and lived at 155, Kilton Road, Worksop. As a result, they booked second cabin passage on the Lusitania and joined her before she left Pier 54 at New York for the last time, on 1st May 1915.
When the liner was torpedoed and sunk, six days later, tragedy befell the family because the two male members of the family were killed. Neither of their bodies were ever recovered and identified after the sinking and as a result, they have no known grave. Only Annie Baxter survived and on her eventual return to Worksop, she described the incident and the last time she had seen her husband. This was then printed in local newspaper
The Worksop Times on Friday 14th May 1915 and stated: -
Mrs. Baxter says that 1.40 p.m., she and her husband and little son, Willie, the latter six years of age, were in the dining room , when the huge vessel was struck, right under their feet. The crash was terrific and the noise like thunder. All three of them came up on deck and calmly awaited their doom, hand in hand. Mrs. Baxter had an opportunity of getting into the women's boat, and was urged to do so, but stoutly refused, preferring to stay with her husband and child. There was no panic whatsoever.
There was, says Mrs. Baxter, a man standing beside them wearing a lifebelt and her husband asked him if he would transfer it to his wife, which he very promptly did, and it is doubtless due to this chivalrous act on the part of the unknown, that Mrs. Baxter's life was saved. "I do hope that gentleman was saved," pathetically said Mrs. Baxter to our representative. Although there was no panic, there was a rush for the lifeboats by some of the men, and her husband remarked to a few, "Be brave, be brave. What do you want to run to the lifeboats for? Give the women and children a chance."
A few minutes later, the vessel listed and all three, husband, wife and son slided (sic) down as it were, into the water together. Almost immediately afterwards, the doomed ship disappeared, and she could feel the suction of the water as it went under. When she looked round, - being kept up by the lifebelt - she could see nothing of her husband and son, neither of them had lifebelts ..... .
William Baxter senior was aged 36 years.
In the summer of 1915, his mother in Sheffield, Yorkshire, applied for financial help to The Lusitania Relief Fund, which had been set up after the disaster by The Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other worthy dignitaries, to help those survivors and relatives of the dead, who found themselves in difficulties as a result of the sinking.
The committee administering the fund awarded her the sum of £2-4s-0d., (£2.20p.), in respect of the loss of her son, to be paid at a rate of £0-2s-0d., (£0.10p.), per week until the end of 1915, at which time she was due to receive an old age pension!
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, Cunard Records, Liverpool Echo, Liverpool Record Office, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO BT 100/345, Worksop Guardian, UniLiv D92/2/11, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Lawrence Evans, Winifred Hull, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly