Henry Edward Wood was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, on the 29th May 1877, the son of Charles and Mary Wood. His father was a shopkeeper and the family resided over the family business at 20. Robson Street, Liverpool.
On the 9th April 1907, he married Catherine Elizabeth ‘Katie’ Christian, (née Wade) in Liverpool, and they lived at 14, Priest Street, Liverpool with William Edward Christian and Sarah Millicent Christian, Katie Wood’s son and daughter from her first marriage to John Christian of Douglas, in the Isle of Man. Katie had been widowed in 1904.
Henry Wood engaged as an assistant pantry steward in the Stewards' Department on board the
Lusitania at Liverpool on 12th April 1915, at a monthly rate of pay of £4-5s-0d., (£4.25p.) and reported for duty at 7.00 a.m. on 17th April, before the vessel left Liverpool for the last time. He had served on the
His step-son, William Christian was also on board the liner, serving as Third Baker, and it is likely that they engaged together for the liner‘s voyage to the United States and back.
Having completed the first leg of her voyage to New York, on 24th April, the
Lusitania left there on the early afternoon of 1st May 1915 to return home, but she never made it, for on the afternoon of 7th May, she was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of southern Ireland by the German submarine
U-20. At that stage of her voyage she was only about fourteen hours sailing time away from the River Mersey. Neither Henry Wood nor William Christian survived and although Third Baker Christian’s body was never recovered and identified afterwards, that of Assistant Pantry Steward Wood was. He was aged 37 years at the time of his death although when he signed on for the voyage he gave his age as being 35 years!
After his body was landed at Queenstown, it was at first given the reference number 90, and described as: -
Male 30 years, 5’6”, fair hair, slight fair moustache, seems to belong to ship’s crew, wore white jacket and light green trousers.
but after a positive identity had been established, it was buried on 10th May 1915 in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown, in Mass Grave B, First Row, Lower Tier, where it lies today. Most of the victims of the sinking were buried on 10th May, following a long funeral procession from the town itself, which began outside the Cunard office at Lynch Quay.
It is likely that his body was not identified at the time his burial took place. As it was necessary to bury all the recovered bodies as soon as was practicable, for reasons of hygiene, they were all photographed in the temporary mortuaries in Queenstown before being buried. Anxious relatives of those missing were then invited to identify their loved ones through these photographs. The photographs of all the recovered dead were later posted in St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, and it is likely that relatives of Henry Wood saw the photograph of corpse No. 90 and were able to identify it as him.
At the time, Cunard said of the photograph of corpse No. 90: -
Left arm covers face. A number of people claim to have identified (him). Male, 30 years old although some say he is about 22. The Body may be that of a cook - (wearing white apron).
It was eventually accepted that it was the body of Assistant Pantry Steward Henry Wood, however and this was probably helped by the property recovered from it which consisted of a handkerchief, three keys attached to an electric switch key and a bottle opener.
Despite his having an identifiable grave site, however, this was not known by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and as a consequence he is commemorated on the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London; however, their records state that Henry’s father’s name was ‘Thomas’, when in fact it was definitely ‘Charles’.
However, once the author had established beyond doubt that he was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, the Commission agreed to erect a permanent memorial to him where he is buried and this was done in November 1998.
It takes the form of a monument of Irish limestone, sited at the head of Mass Grave B, the centre one of the three. The names of crew members buried in the three mass graves are incised on two black granite panels on the memorial, with a legend in between them, which reads: -
1914 - 1918
IN HONOURED MEMORY
OF THOSE NAMED WHO,
SERVING ON THE
DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS
SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION
ON 7 MAY 1915
AND ARE BURIED NEARBY
The name of Pantry Steward Wood is incised on the right hand panel.
The Commission has also stated that should it ever be necessary to renew the panel bearing his name on the Tower Hill Memorial, his name would be omitted from its replacement.
According to an article in the Manx newspaper The Mona's Herald of 12th May 1915, which referred to Third Baker William Christian: -
His step father, Mr. W. Wood of Liverpool was also employed on the ship and no word has been received about him up to the present.
However, this should have read Mr. H.E. Wood, which is confirmed by an entry in the Births, Marriages and Deaths column in
The Liverpool Echo for Saturday 15th May 1915, which states: -
WOOD - Lost by the sinking of the Lusitania, Henry Edward Wood and William Edward Christian, dearly beloved husband and son of Katie Wood, 14, Priest Street, Liverpool. (In the midst of life we are in death).
One can only imagine how Katie Wood must have been affected by losing her husband and son in the same incident. In August 1915, she received from Cunard, the balance of pay owed to her husband and son in respect of their 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 actually gone down. In addition, The Liverpool and London War Risks Insurance Association Limited granted her a yearly pension that amounted to £34-1s-0d. (£34.05p.) per year, payable at the rate of £2-16s-9d. (£2.84½p.) per month.
Henry Wood is also commemorated on the City of Liverpool Roll of Honour in the basement of the town hall.
Catherine Wood died in March 1929, aged 49 years.
Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1881 Census of England and Wales, 1891 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Barry Bridson, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, Denise Deighton, Douglas Herald, Liverpool Echo, UniLiv.D92/1/6-2, UniLiv. PR 13/24, PRO BT 334.