James William Holden was born in Hereford, Herefordshire, England, in 1865, the son of James William and Ellen Holden. His father, who was a policeman, died in 1866, and his mother later married a man named Thomas Davies. James married Emily Lewis Haines in Liverpool in October 1884, and they lived at the family home, 67, Vine Street, Liverpool, Lancashire, with their six children, Bert, Dorothy (Dora), Edith, Frederick, Lilian and William.
He signed on as a first class waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool, on 12th April 1915 at a monthly rate of pay of £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.), and embarked for New York on the Cunarder, at 7 a.m. on 17th April, the last time she left the River Mersey.
According to a saloon class passenger list in the Public Record Office in Kew, Surrey, his personal responsibility on board ship was for rooms B23 to B31 in the saloon class accommodation, which would tend to indicate that he was serving as a first class bedroom steward, not a waiter, on the liner’s final voyage.
He was killed when the liner was sunk, aged 49 years.
His body was not found and identified afterwards and as he has no known grave, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
In keeping with all crew members, Cunard paid James Holden up until 8th May, 24 hours after the sinking and eventually, the balance of wages owing to him was forwarded to his widow Emily. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited also granted a yearly pension to Emily Holden to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £39-10s-5d. (£39.52p.) which was payable at the rate of £3-5s-11d. (£3.29½p.) per month.
She was also granted administration of his effects, on 6th July 1915. These amounted to £95-7s-11d, (£95.40p), quite a large sum of money for a seaman in those days and representing the wages that he could have earned in two years full and continuous employment.
Their son Frederick also went to sea as a steward, obviously undeterred by his father’s fate.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1871 Census of England and Wales, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Joan Davies, Edith Easdown, David Irving, Robert O'Brien, Probate Records, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.