Owen Alfred Ipsen was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 7 April 1875, the son of Annias Matias and Alice Jane (née McEvoy) Ipsen. His mother died shortly after Owen was born and he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Annie McEvoy. His father, who was Danish and a ship’s carpenter, re-married in 1880, and at least two of Owen’s older siblings lived with their father and step-mother.
In April 1889 Owen found work as a clerk with the London and North Western Railway Company, and remained in this employment for at least ten years. He worked at Crown Street Station in Liverpool. Sometime later he enrolled in the mercantile marine, serving as a waiter.
Owen married Catherine Levesley in Liverpool on 31 January 1897, and in early 1915 they lived at 16 Olive Street, Abercromby, Liverpool with their four children; Joseph, Ellen, Agnes, and Catherine.
On 12 April 1915 at Liverpool he engaged as a third class waiter in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania, at a monthly rate of pay of £4-5s-0d (£4.25). He reported for duty on the morning of 17 April, before the liner left the River Mersey for the last time on her way to New York. It was not the first time that he had served on the vessel.
He was on board in the early afternoon of 1 May when the Lusitania left New York. Six days later, on the afternoon of 7 May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland and only about 14 hours steaming time away from the safety of her Liverpool base.
Waiter Ipsen survived the sinking and having been rescued from the sea he was landed at Queenstown, from where he travelled back to Liverpool. There, at the Cunard office in Water Street, he was given the balance of pay owed to him in respect of his service on board ship from 17 April to 8 May, 24 hours after the Lusitania had foundered. This amounted to £4-9s-6d (£4.47½).
On 18 March 1919 Owen Ipsen’s widow wrote to inform the Cunard Steam Ship Company at Liverpool that he had:
"...recently died and his death was inadvertently due to the sinking."
The letter also stated that Ipsen had saved two people during the sinking and his widow sought compensation for his loss.
Cunard referred her to the Liverpool and London War Risks Association, who it thought would examine her claim, probably under The Workmen’s Compensation Act.
He had in fact died on 6 February 1919 of mitral valvular disease of the heart, from which he had suffered for a year, at the Olive Street address in Liverpool. His death certificate, which lists his occupation as
Ship Steward and Postman, does not mention his ordeal on the Lusitania. As he had only developed heart trouble a year earlier, it is extremely unlikely that his widow would have benefited from any compensation scheme.
He was aged only 43 years at the time of his death.
Owen’s only son and eldest child, 308271 Private Joseph Arthur Ipsen, 1st/8th Battallion The Kings (Liverpool Regiment) died on the Western Front on 20 November 1917. His remains were not recovered from the battlefield, so his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. He was aged 19 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, General Register Office, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv.D921/1, Commonwealth War Graves Commission.