James C Clarke was born in Dublin, Ireland on 11 July 1889. In 1915 he lived at 12 Kew Road, Birkdale, Lancashire, England and was a professional steward in the Mercantile Marine.
He engaged as a second class waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915 and reported for duty five days later before the ship left Princes Landing stage for the final time. His monthly rate of pay was £4-5s-d (£4.25). He had served on the
He survived the sinking three weeks later and his experience was related in the Tuesday 11 May edition of 'The Yorkshire Post':
"Clarke was on the upper deck, and seeing the torpedo coming, he dived right into the water, saying "This is my only chance". After the explosion he clung to a piece of wood for hours before being picked up by a boat."
As it seems most unlikely that James Clarke would have dived overboard as soon as he had seen the torpedo, this would seem to be either an exaggerated account or fanciful reporting.
He told a similar story to a reporter of 'The Lancashire Daily Post'
which was also published on 11 May and also added in this account that he had last seen fellow crew member Third Class Waiter George Brooks standing on the deck wearing a lifebelt. This had obviously not saved him however, or he may have given it away, as Brooks was numbered amongst the lost.
When he eventually got back to Liverpool James Clarke was officially paid off from the voyage and given the balance of wages owing to him. This amounted to £4-9s-6d (£4.47½). In keeping with all crew members from the ship, he was paid up to and including 8 May, 24 hours after the vessel had sunk.
James Clarke continued to serve in the Mercantile Marine as a steward for many years following his ordeal. Among the vessels he served on were the Cunard vessel,
Aquitania, and the United States Lines flagship liner, Leviathan, formerly the
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Cunard Records, BT 100/345, PRO BT 350, Lancashire Daily Post, Yorkshire Post.