John White Henderson was born on 28 September 1883, the son of Francis Mannin and Alice Henderson. His father was a mariner and the family resided at 73 Boswell Street, Liverpool. His mother died in 1886, leaving John’s father to raise their family.
John followed his father to sea by enlisting in the mercantile marine as a waiter on transatlantic liners sailing out of Liverpool.
In 1909 he married Beatrice Thomas, a widow, in Liverpool. They resided at 4 Rosslyn Street, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, with Beatrice’s children from her first marriage and their son Fred, who was born in 1910.
He engaged as a first class waiter in the Stewards’ Department on the Lusitania at Liverpool on 12 April 1915 at a monthly rate of £4-5s-0d (£4.25). He joined the ship on the morning of 17 April before she left the River Mersey for the last time.
Having completed her voyage to New York, he survived her sinking three weeks later on the early afternoon of 7 May, when she was torpedoed by the German submarine
U-20 off the Old Head of Kinsale in southern Ireland - only hours away from her home port on her return crossing.
Having been rescued from the sea and landed at Queenstown, he eventually made it back to his home. On arrival at Liverpool he was officially discharged from the
Lusitania’s final voyage at the Cunard offices and paid the balance of wages owing to him. These were in respect of his sea service from 17 April 1915 up until 24 hours after the liner had gone down.
John Henderson continued to serve as a waiter on transatlantic liners until illness preventing him from working and he died in Liverpool in 1930, aged 46 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, David Hambley, PRO BT 350.