William Wilson Hughes was born in Seacombe, Wallasey, Cheshire, England, in 1898, the youngest of six children of John Joseph and Alice Hughes. The family home was at 33 Milton Road, Seacombe.
John Joseph Hughes was drowned at sea in 1903 and William and his five brothers and sisters were brought up in The Liverpool Seamen’s Orphanage. He left there when he was about 13 years of age. It is not known when he first went to sea, but immediately before he engaged as a stewards' boy in the Stewards' Department on the Lusitania, he served on her sister ship the
He signed on for service on the Lusitania on 12th April 1915 at a monthly rate of £2-10s-0d., (£2.50p.), and he reported for duty five days later, the morning the Cunarder left on her last ever voyage from Liverpool. Although he gave his age on engagement as 17 years, he was in fact, only 16.
Family lore has it that when he left on his first ‘deep sea’ voyage, his mother went down to a riverside park in Seacombe with a white tablecloth which she waved as the ship passed by. She was also at the same place to greet the liner’s return, before she learned the tragic news of its loss and that of her son.
No trace of William Hughes’ body was ever found afterwards. As a consequence, he has no known grave and his name is embossed on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
In common with all Lusitania crew, victims or survivors, William Hughes was paid up until 8th May 1915, the balance of wages owing to him being £2-17s-8d, (£2.88p.). This was eventually forwarded to his mother.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, William Hughes, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 334.