William George Cook was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, on the 22nd February 1881, the son of George William and Caroline Cook (née Smith). When his birth was registered, and when he was baptised, his name was given as George William Cook! His father was a cab driver at the time of his birth, and later became a labourer.
On completion of his education, William became a plumber, and in 1903, he married Beatrice Mary Ann Jelf in Birmingham. By 1911, the couple were residing at Rawlings Road, Smethwick, Worcestershire, and they had a daughter, named Beatrice Mary, who was born in 1905.
On the 26th May 1911, William Cook, and his wife and daughter, arrived in Quebec, Canada, on board the
Ausonia. They travelled to Toronto, Ontario, where William found work as a chauffeur. By the spring of 1915, however, he decided to return home, perhaps because of the war, and as a result, booked as a third class passenger on the
Lusitania, which sailed from Pier 54 at New York, on 1st May 1915.
He survived the torpedoing and sinking of the vessel six days later, and having been rescued from the sea and landed at Queenstown, he eventually made it back to Birmingham where he was re-united with his family, although clearly suffering from the effects of his ordeal. He spent ten weeks recovering in Queenstown Hospital before he was deemed fit to travel, and was escorted home by his sister, a Mrs. Dibbs. He took up residence at 84. Franchise Street, Perry Barr, Birmingham.
After the sinking, The Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other local dignitaries set up The Lusitania Relief Fund to give financial help to passengers and their relatives who had suffered difficulties because of the sinking. William Cook obviously applied for help from this fund, as a surviving archive states: -
COOKE, W.G. BIRMINGHAM Survivor Awaiting Doctor's report. Seems to be serious.
On learning of her husband’s demise, his wife travelled back to England, and as he was unable to work, she found employment at a munitions factory. She did not remain there long, however, as her husband needed constant care and she gave up her job to nurse him. He was eventually awarded £20-0s-0d. from the Lusitania Relief Fund.
William spent over a year in a sanatorium, and by January 1917, he was described as being “quite helpless” and suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, however; he gradually recovered and returned to Canada, where he took up residence in Nakusp, Central Kootenay Regional District, British Columbia. He became a partner in a farm, and also continued working as a plumber.
William Cook died on the 30th March 1958 in Nakusp, aged 77 years, and is buried in Nakusp Cemetery beside his wife, who died in 1952.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England & Wales, 1891 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, 1921 Census of Canada, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, U.S. Border Crossings from Canada to U.S. 1895 – 1960, Cunard Records, Liverpool Record Office, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/308, UniLiv D92/2/11 Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.