James Wilkinson was born in Bootle, Lancashire on the 20th July 1894, the son of James and Elizabeth Wilkinson. He was the eldest of five children, although one of his siblings had died by 1911, and his father was a ship’s steward.
On the 14th April 1915, he married Marion Buck at the Parish Church of St. Philips, Litherland, Liverpool, and the couple set up their home at 5, Ismay Road, Litherland.
Like his father, who was deceased by 1915, James became a steward in the British Mercantile Marine, and signed on as an Engineer’s Mess Steward in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool for what proved to be her final voyage. He reported for duty at 7.00 a.m. on the morning of the 17th April for her departure for America, just three days following his marriage. He was aged 20 years.
When the liner was sunk, just three weeks after she left Liverpool on her return trip from New York, James Wilkinson was killed. As his body was not recovered and identified afterwards, he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London.
A list of crew members published by Cunard in March 1916 records his surname as
Wilkins, but the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and those of the Probate Office show it as Wilkinson.
When his will was proven on 5th July 1915, administration was granted to his widow and his effects amounted to £50.
In August 1915, his widow Marion was given the balance of wages due to him in respect of his sea service on the
Lusitania’s final voyage. This was reckoned to be from 17th April to 8th May 1915, 24 hours after the steamer had gone down. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her a yearly pension that amounted to £26-6s-8d. (£26.33½p.) per year, payable at the rate of £2-3s-11d. (£2.19½p.) per month.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, David Irving, Robert O'Brien, Probate Records, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334