John Mills was born in Manchester, Lancashire, England, in 1881, the son of John and Mary Mills. After schooling, he joined the Mercantile Marine and trained to be a waiter on board ship.
In 1911, he married Susan Hocking, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Hocking, of 'Elm House', Hemingford Street, Birkenhead, Cheshire. The ship’s orchestra of the ship he was on at the time, played at his wedding and the ship's head chef served up a wedding breakfast. The married couple then set up home at ‘Elm House’, with Susan’s parents. Samuel Hocking was a blacksmith. John Mills was an active freemason and a member of Mariners Lodge No. 249 of Liverpool.
By the outbreak of the Great War, Waiter Mills was serving with The Cunard Steamship Company and having served on the
Carmania and the Andania he then transferred to the Lusitania. By this time, his first child had been born and he had intended to leave the sea once a suitable job ashore turned up.
Nevertheless, he engaged as a first class waiter in the Stewards’ Department on the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915 at a monthly wage of £4-5s-0d. (£4.25p.), and joined her on the morning of 17th April, for what became her final voyage from Prince’s Landing Stage.
Having completed the liner’s crossing to New York without mishap, John Mills was still serving on board on the early afternoon of 1st May, as the
Lusitania left New York on the start of her return voyage to Liverpool. Then, six days into the voyage, 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 fourteen hours steaming time away from the safety of her home port. Waiter Mills lost his life as a result of this action. He was aged 34 years.
As his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine War Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London. He is also commemorated on the Birkenhead Municipal War Memorial in Hamilton Square and on a bronze memorial to Liverpool freemasons lost in the Great War, in The Masonic Hall in Hope Street, Liverpool.
In August 1915, his family 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. The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted his widow a yearly pension to compensate her for the loss of her husband which amounted to £45-2s-3d. (£45.11p.) which was payable at the rate of £3-15s-3d. (£3.76p.) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Birkenhead War Memorial Records, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Geoff Cuthill, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.