Joseph James Bostock was born in Chekley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England in 1872, the son of Herbert and Mary Bostock. In 1915 he was married to Harriet Bostock (née French) and they lived at 52 Havelock Street, Stoke-on-Trent, with their three children.
Joseph Bostock was professional steward in the British Mercantile Marine, and whilst going to sea he lived at 70 Leinster Road, Wavertree, Liverpool, Lancashire, where he probably had lodgings. Before embarking on his maritime career, Joseph Bostock had been a solicitor's clerk.
Having served on the Lusitania before, he engaged at Liverpool as an assistant engineer's mess steward in the Stewards' Department for her final voyage out of the River Mersey on 12 April 1915, at a monthly wage of £4-5s-0d, (£4.25). He reported for duty five days later on the morning of 17 April.
He was killed three weeks later, when the vessel was sunk on her return to Liverpool, by the German submarine
U-20. At that time she was some 12 to 17 hours sailing away from her home port, off The Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland. As his body was never found and identified, his name is embossed on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 42 years.
Cunard records show his rank to be that of assistant engineers' mess steward, whilst those of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission show it as waiter.
However, in a tragic letter written after the sinking by Harriet Bostock, his status as assistant engineers' mess steward is confirmed. The letter, which sought information about Steward Bostock states: -
"52, Havelock St
Stoke on Trent
May .8. 15
Will you (if possible) let me know if J. Bostock, Steward, Engineers Mess, is a survivor of the Lusitania. I have waited till I can wait no longer for news of him. I am his wife so if it lies in your power to give me any information about him I would be so thankful.
(Mrs) H Bostock"
Mrs Bostock was visited by a Cunard official on 11 May 1915, only to be given the worst possible news concerning her husband's fate.
Joseph Bostock's brother, Mr LH Bostock and his sister Mrs Appleby both lived in Scarborough, Yorkshire, and Joseph had sent a postcard from on board the liner on her outward journey, to his sister in law from "at sea" to her home in Britannia Street, on 23rd April 1915. It simply stated:
"I am just letting you know we are still going across in spite of all. We are now about 300 miles from New York, but expect to make that city about midnight tonight. We leave again on Saturday, May 1st, and are due back to Liverpool on Friday, the 7th. We had decent weather this trip."
Tragically, the postcard arrived after the news that the Lusitania would never put in her Liverpool home port again.
According to 'The Scarborough Mercury' of Friday 12 May, Mrs Appleby also received a postcard from her sister in law, Harriet Bostock, on Sunday 9 May which said:
"No news of any sort. What am I to do? I cannot believe it is true. I know if he was safe he would let me know. It is too terrible. I feel so much alone in the world now."
At that time Mrs Appleby lived at Adamson’s Cottage, Burr Bank.
Eventually, in August 1915, Harriet Bostock was paid the residue of the wages owing to him for the liner’s last voyage. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted a yearly pension to Harriet Bostock to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £44-6s-4d (£44.31) payable at the rate of £3-13s-11d (£3.69) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Lawrence Evans, Cunard Records, Hull Times, Newcastle Daily Chronicle, Scarborough Mercury, UniLiv. PR/13/16, PRO BT 334, UniLiv. PR 13/24.