Joseph McLoughlin was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, in 1895, the son of Joseph and Sarah McLoughlin. He was educated at Our Lady's Roman Catholic School and had one brother, John and two sisters, 'Florrie' and 'Nellie'. In 1915, the family home was at 280, Brook Street, Birkenhead.
On 12th April 1915, he engaged as a sculleryman in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool, at a monthly wage of £3-15s-0d., (£3.75p.) and reported for duty on board, at Liverpool Pierhead five days later at 7.00 a.m. in time for her last ever sailing out of the River Mersey. It was the first time that he had ever served at sea and his decision to do so was a fateful one for him!
The liner crossed the Atlantic without incident and having docked in New York on 24th April 1915, eventually left there on the early afternoon of 1st May, for her return to Liverpool. Then, six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland. At that time, she was only about 250 miles away from the safety of her home port.
Joseph McLoughlin was killed as a result of this action and as his body was not recovered from the sea and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London. He was aged 20 years. He is also commemorated on the headstone of the family grave in Flaybrick Hill Cemetery in Birkenhead.
The headstone consists of a yellow sandstone rectangular block, set on a base of similar sandstone and the inscription which refers to Sculleryman McLoughlin states: -
AND OF JOSEPH, THEIR SON
DROWNED - R.M.S. LUSITANIA
7TH MAY 1915, AGED 20 YEARS.
Cunard crew records published in March 1916 spell his name McLaughlin, but the Tower Hill Memorial register gives the spelling shown above. This anomaly is further compounded by the fact that his younger brother John was also killed in the Great War, but his surname is also spelled McLaughlin in Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.
He served as 201457 Private John McLaughlin with the 1/4th Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment, which was the local Territorial Force battalion. After service in Egypt and Palestine, during which he was wounded three times, the final one proved fatal and he died on 9th May 1918, aged 22 years. He is commemorated on the Jerusalem War Memorial in Israel.
Although the family headstone in Flaybrick Hill Cemetery gives details of Joseph McLoughlin senior, who died in 1914, there is no mention of the fate of Sarah McLoughlin, the two McLoughlin sisters, or John McLoughlin. This may simply be because there was no room left to inscribe further information.
In August 1915, Joseph’s mother Sarah received from Cunard, the balance of pay owed to him in respect of his service on the
Lusitania’s last voyage. This was reckoned to be from 17th April 1915 until 8th May - 24 hours after the liner had been sunk.
1911 English Census, 1901 English Census, Birkenhead News, Cheshire Regiment War Diary, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Peter Threlfall, PRO BT 100/345, PRO BT 334.