William Campbell was born in Dundee, Angus, Scotland, in 1883, the son of William and Jane Campbell (née Westwater). His father was a joiner, and sometime after William’s birth, his family relocated to Manchester, Lancashire, England. He was one of eight children.
On completion of his education, William became an apprentice joiner, probably to his father, and then, on the 26th July 1909, he boarded the
Lucania at Liverpool and travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to New York. From there, he travelled overland to Chicago, Illinois, to join a friend or relative named Anderson, and the hope of finding work. He was successful in his endeavours and readily found work building houses in and around the city.
In late 1910 or early 1911, William returned to Manchester and married his sweetheart, Amy Elizabeth Oliver. Shortly afterwards, on the 25th March 1911, the couple boarded the
Baltic at Liverpool, and commenced their journey to Chicago, via New York City, where they disembarked from the
In early 1915, William Campbell decided to return to England to join his father in business and he and his wife booked their return to England as second cabin passengers on the
Lusitania, which was scheduled to leave New York for Liverpool on the morning of 1st May 1915. Having arrived at the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York harbour in time to make her scheduled 10 o’clock sailing, the couple then had to wait until the early afternoon before the liner left port. This was because she had to load cargo and embark crew and passengers from the recently requisitioned Anchor Liner
The voyage home would result in tragedy for both of them, for six days out of New York; the liner was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of southern Ireland by the German submarine
U-20, only hours away from the safety of her home port.
Amy Campbell later told her experiences to the press and her story was reported in the 15th May edition of
The Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News. It stated: -
Describing the awful circumstances of the disaster, Mrs. Campbell said that they were at lunch in the saloon when the liner was torpedoed. There was no time to get life-belts from their cabin but they got into one of the boats that were being lowered. The ropes gave way and they dropped a considerable distance into the water, throwing out all the occupants. It was then that Mrs. Campbell lost sight of her husband and she has not seen him since.
She would never see him again, in fact, as he perished in the disaster and his body was never recovered and identified afterwards. He was aged 32 years.
1891 Census of England & Wales, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, 1911 Census of England & Wales, New York Passenger Lists 1820 – 1957, Cheshire Daily Record, Cunard Records, PRO BT 100/345, Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.