Walter Robert Bird was born in Hoylake, Cheshire, England in 1882, the son of Samuel Henry and Mary Bird. His father was a retired sea captain and the family home was at 22 Grove Road, Hoylake. The family was well known in the Hoylake area.
After leaving school in Hoylake, Walter Bird became apprenticed to Mr WG Burgess, butcher of Market Street, Hoylake, and then continued his training with Albert and Septimus Davies of Crosby and Waterloo, Liverpool where he met Catherine Morrison, who was to become his wife. They married on 11 April 1904 at the Church of St Thomas of Canterbury, in Waterloo. They lived at 32 Derby Lane, Stoneycroft, Liverpool, Lancashire, with their four children; Walter, born in 1908, Kathleen, born in 1910, Pauline, born in 1912 and Joseph born in 1914.
At some time before the war he joined the Cunard Company as a butcher and served on the
Mauretania, Ivernia, Franconia and Aquitania, by which time he had acquired the rank of Chief Butcher in the Stewards' Department.
He only joined the crew of the Lusitania because the Aquitania was laid up prior to her conversion by the Admiralty to a hospital ship. He signed on for his second voyage on board the
Lusitania on 12 April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £6-10s-0d, (£6.50) and reported for duty at 7am five days later, before she left England for the final time.
He was killed three weeks later after the Cunarder was torpedoed. He was aged 32 years.
His body was not amongst those recovered and identified after the sinking and despite his brother and sister-in law, Mr and Mrs Joseph Fitzsimmons, travelling to southern Ireland to search for him; no more was ever seen or heard of him again. Consequently he has no known grave. He is commemorated however on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London and on the municipal war memorial in Waterloo, Merseyside.
In common with all crew victims of the sinking, Cunard paid his wages up until 8 May, 24 hours after the sinking and eventually, the balance owing to him was forwarded to his widow. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted a yearly pension to Catherine Bird to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £106-6s-11d (£106.34½) payable at the rate of £8-17s-3d (£8.86) per month.
Some time after the sinking, a surviving crew member who had known Walter Bird visited his widow Catherine, at Derby Lane and told her that he had last seen her husband standing on the deck as the ship was sinking, throwing heavy deck chairs into the sea, so that people could use them to keep afloat.
At the time of the sinking, Catherine was pregnant again and in November 1915 she gave birth to their fifth child, another daughter, Margaret, who would never know her father.
1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Joseph Bird, Birkenhead News, (photo 12/05/1915 p.2 c.4), Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345UniLiv. PR 13/24.