George Knill was born in Bootle, Lancashire, England on the 18th January 1899, the son of Charles George Knill, an insurance agent, and his wife, Elizabeth. He was one of fifteen children, ten of whom were alive when the Census of England was taken in 1911. The family home was at 61, Gloucester Road, Bootle. His eldest brother, John, was a steward in the mercantile marine, and it is probable that he assisted him in securing a position in the mercantile marine as a sculleryman.
On 12th April 1915, he engaged as a sculleryman in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool at a monthly rate of pay of £3-15s-0d., (£3.75p). He joined the vessel at her berth at Liverpool Pier Head on the morning of 17th April 1915; in time for what would become her last ever voyage out of the River Mersey. Although he was only sixteen years old at the time, it was not the first time that he had sailed on the liner.
Having successfully completed her voyage across the Atlantic to New York, sculleryman Knill was on board still when the liner left there from Pier 54 just after mid-day on the 1st May 1915, for the start of the return leg of her voyage back to Liverpool.
Just six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk within sight of the coast of southern Ireland, by the German submarine
U-20. At that stage of her voyage, she was only about 250 miles away from her home port.
Sculleryman Knill was able to escape from the sinking ship successfully and after having been rescued from the sea, he was landed at Queenstown, from where he was able to get back safe and sound, to Liverpool.
There, he was officially discharged from the last voyage of the Lusitania and paid the balance of wages owed to him in respect of his service. The sum amounted to £4-1s-10d., (£4.9p) and was reckoned from the date he engaged, until 5th May 1915. 24 hours after the liner had foundered.
Some time after the sinking, he met Mary Elizabeth Blythyn, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert William Blythyn. Robert Blythyn had been a Smokeroom steward on the
Lusitania’s last voyage and was killed as a result of the ship’s loss, but the two had never met. George and Mary married in Liverpool in 1928 and resided at 20. Brook Road, Bootle, Liverpool.
George Knill eventually became a ship’s cook in the Mercantile Marine and continued to serve in that capacity until his untimely death on the 21st February 1931, aged only 32 years. He actually died at Greenwich Seaman’s Hospital in London in an endowed bed named in memory of the Lusitania!
On the 21st March 1931, administration of his estate was granted to his widow, his effects amounting to £145-4s-8d, (£145.23½p).
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cunard Records, NGMM DX/1055/1/13, NGMM DX/1055/4/1, Probate Records, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 350.