William Bennett was born in Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, in 1876, one of ten children of William and Susan Bennett (née Ross), originally of 12, Cobden Street, Lochee, Angus. His father was an iron turner.
In 1897, William married Helen Steel (or Dalziel) in Dundee, and the couple had eight children, the oldest being born in 1897, and the youngest in 1913, although by 1911, two of their children had died! The family home was at 2. Campbell Street, Dundee, Forfarshire; however, for a period the family resided at 163. Neptune Road, Wallsend, Northumberland, England. William was a shipwright by occupation.
By 1911, his father and some of his siblings had immigrated to Canada and settled in Vancouver, British Columbia. William travelled to Canada in 1913, presumably in the hope of making his own fortune in Canada, while his family remained behind in Dundee.
However, in the spring of 1915, because of the war, he decided to return to Scotland to join the Army and as a consequence, he booked a ticket as a third class passenger on the Lusitania, to sail across the Atlantic to Liverpool.
He left Vancouver at the end of April and was on board the liner when she left Pier 54 at New York just after mid-day on 1st May 1915 for her last voyage from America. Six days later, after she had been torpedoed and sunk, William Bennett was dead!
His body was not recovered and identified afterwards and consequently, he has no known grave. He was aged 39 years.
In the summer of 1915, his widow applied for financial assistance 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 had become financially distressed by the sinking.
Taking into account that the local Parish Council in Dundee was paying Mrs. Bennett £0-10s-0d, (£0.50p.), per week, the committee administering the fund awarded her the sum of £6-10s-0d., (£6.50p.), at the rate of £0-10s-0d, (£0.50p.), per week, for three months. In December 1915, the Lusitania Relief Fund Committee reviewed the circumstances of the family and decided to continue the payments to Mrs. Bennett, and decided to give an additional £0-2s-6d. per week for each child.
Seven of the sons of Mr. and Mrs. William Bennett senior were involved in the Great War in one way or another. As stated, William junior was killed on the
Lusitania, John and David Bennett served in the Canadian Army, James Bennett served in the Australian Army, George Bennett served in the British Army, in The Black Watch, and Hector and Charles Bennett both worked on munitions. William’s brother, 703578 Private David Bennett, 102nd Bn. Canadian Infantry, was listed as being killed in action on the 27th September 1918, and is buried in Bourlon Wood Cemetery, off the main Cambria to Bapaume road, in Pas-de-Calais, France. As far as can be ascertained, all his other brothers survived the war.
1881 Census of Scotland, 1891 Census of Scotland, 1901 Census of Scotland, 1911 Census of England & Wales, Cunard Records, Liverpool Record Office, People’s Journal, PRO BT 100/345, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, UniLiv D92/2/11, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Maureen Reid, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Lawrence Evans, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly