William Mitchell was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England, in 1878, the son of William Henry and Ellen Mitchell. He was married on the 30th January 1910 to Isabel Eliza McNab in Liverpool, and they lived at 8, Tudor Avenue, Seacombe, Wallasey, Cheshire. In 1912, the couple had their first child, a daughter named Alice I..
He engaged as an assistant linen keeper in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool, on 12th April 1915 and reported for duty five days later before the liner left the Mersey for the last time. His wage was £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.), per month.
He was on the smoke-room when the vessel was struck but having survived the sinking, described his ordeal to a reporter of his local newspaper,
The Wallasey News, which was published on Saturday 15th May 1915, a week after the disaster. He also defended the current accusation that a disproportionate number of crew members had survived the sinking.
People will ask why so many of the crew have been saved. My answer to that is that the crew took the chance of going over the side and clinging to anything that might be floating about and that is why so many were saved.
When the great ship began to settle, first slowly and then with an increased rapidity I went on deck and the only person I saw was Mr. Frohman, the noted theatrical manager. He questioned me as to whether the boat was likely to sink and as I went past him I said '”he's settled fourteen feet down now. She'll be gone soon.”
But I must tell you of one act of gallantry which was noticed and which had reference to one of the stewards a Mr. William Neems of Dalmorton Road, New Brighton. He was last seen on the boat struggling to save two children. The attempt cost him his life. It was a fine chivalrous deed.
Saloon passenger Charles Frohman, noted theatrical manager, perished in the disaster as did First Class Waiter William Francis Neems.
In keeping with all the liner’s crew, survived or perished, William Mitchell was paid up to the 8th May, 24 hours after the liner had sunk, the balance of wages owing to him being £4-9s-6d., (£4.47½p.). This amount was given to him at Liverpool when he was officially discharged from the Lusitania’s last voyage.
Despite his good fortune in surviving, William Mitchell was not to enjoy a long life as he died of pneumonia on the 28th March 1916 at Birkenhead. He was aged 39 years. At the time of his death, his wife was pregnant with their second child, a daughter named Leonora, who was born some four months after his passing. Following his death, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted his widow a yearly pension which amounted to £69-16s-8d. (£69.83½p.) which was payable at the rate of £5-16s-5d. (£5.82p.) per month.
William’s wife, Isabel, died in Birkenhead on the 25th June 1922, aged 47 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1911 English Census, 1901 English Census, 1891 English Census, 1881 English Census, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, Wallasey News, (Photo 15/05/15), Wallasey & Wirral Chronicle, Probate Records, UniLiv D92/2/240, UniLiv. PR 13/24.