James Bennett Grant was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England in 1878, the son of William and Isabella Grant. He was a professional steward in the mercantile marine, serving on transatlantic liners. He married Mary Armour in Liverpool on 7 August 1909 and they lived at 17 Douglas Road, West Derby, Liverpool.
He engaged as a first class bedroom steward in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915, at a monthly wage of £4.5s.0d (£4.25) and he joined the ship at 7am on 17 April before she sailed from Princes Landing Stage for the last time. His responsibility on board ship was for the saloon passengers in the 11 rooms even numbered B28 to B44.
He survived the sinking three weeks later and was landed at Queenstown having been rescued from the sea. On his return to Liverpool he was officially discharged from the liner's final voyage by Cunard and paid the balance of wages owing to him. This amounted to £4-9s-6d (£4.47½) and represented his service from 17 April to 8 May; 24 hours after the
Lusitania had gone down.
He was called to give evidence, along with Chief Steward Frederick Jones, at an inquest held on 18 May by the Liverpool City Coroner, to investigate the death of fellow
Lusitania survivor Night Watchman Charles Knight. Knight had been injured by floating wreckage whilst in the water after the liner had sunk and had died ten days later from his injuries.
At the inquest, the Chief Steward spoke first then James Grant was called to tell of his experiences, which were reported that day in the local newspaper 'The Liverpool Echo':
"James Bennet (sic.) Grant, first class bedroom steward, said he, too, was on 'B' deck when the torpedo struck. He collected some lifebelts and went to his own boat, No.4 on the port side, but he found that owing to the list, the port boats were swinging in.
He crossed to the starboard side and helped lower two boats. There was no panic. When the Lusitania sank, he dived without a belt as he had exhausted his stock, and giving his own belt to a passenger.
After swimming for twenty minutes he boarded a drifter and went back to help people in the water, deceased being among the number eventually rescued. Witness bound up the deceased's injured arm and next day, medical aid was provided."
The Coroner congratulated Bedroom Steward Grant on his escape and commended his courage.
The verdict of the inquest on the cause of death of Night Watchman Knight was:
"Injuries owing to the torpedoing of the Lusitania by a German submarine."
James Grant didn’t live long after surviving the sinking of the Lusitania, dying in West Derby, Liverpool, on 15 February 1917, aged 38 years. On 30 March 1917 administration of his estate was granted to his widow Mary, and his effects amounted to £308-19s-4d.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, Liverpool Echo, Liverpool Inquest Register 1915-1918, PRO BT 100/345, Probate Records.