William Henry Williams was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, in 1876. He was married to Eliza Jane Gillard in Lichfield, Staffordshire, in 1910, and his wife’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Gillard, lived in Rugeley, Staffordshire. In 1915, William Williams’ family home was at 11, Poulton Road, Wallasey, Cheshire, on the opposite bank of the River Mersey from Liverpool.
He engaged as a first class bedroom steward in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915 for her voyage to New York and back, at a monthly wage of £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.). He joined the vessel at Liverpool landing stage on the early morning of 17th April, in time for her last ever sailing out of the River Mersey. It was not his first voyage on the Cunarder and his job as a first class bedroom steward was to look after the occupants of even numbered saloon rooms B2 to B22.
Having completed the liner’s last ever east to west crossing of the Atlantic ocean, he was on board when she left New York for the last time in the early afternoon of 1st May 1915 - having delayed her departure because she had to embark passengers, crew and cargo from fellow Cunarder Cameronia, which the British Admiralty had requisitioned for war work as a troop ship at the end of April.
Then, just six days later, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania
was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland and only about fourteen hours from the safety of her home port.
William Williams survived this action, however and having been rescued from the sea, he was landed at Queenstown from where he eventually made it back home.
On 15th May 1915, Staffordshire newspaper The Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel
reported his experiences after the Lusitania was struck, when it stated: -
Mr. Williams was employed as bedroom steward on the boat, and with many others he rushed to the deck and endeavoured to calm the passengers. As the vessel commenced to list badly, he put on a life belt and dived into the sea.
He was in the water nearly three quarters of an hour before he was picked up and then he assisted in saving other people who were clinging to pieces of wreckage. Whilst in the water, he received injuries to his head and leg.
Mr. Williams has spent the greater part of his life on the sea, and has travelled in most of the large boats belonging to the Cunard Company. For five years, Mr. Tom Gillard, the youngest son of Mr. Gillard found employment on the Lusitania, and did 10 voyages in her.
Once back in Wallasey, Bedroom Steward Williams reported to the Cunard offices in Water Street, Liverpool, where he was paid the balance of wages owed to him. This was in respect of the whole voyage, which began on 17th April and officially ended on 8th May, 24 hours after the liner had gone down. These wages amounted to £4-9s-6d., (£4.47½p.).
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel.