Alfred ‘Alf’ Wood was born in Denby Dale, near Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England in 1863, the son of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Wood. His father was a music teacher by profession.
On the 26th July 1897, he married Ada Mary George in Liverpool, and in 1915, they lived at 19, Brookland Road, Liverpool, Lancashire.
He engaged as a first class bedroom 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.). He reported for duty five days later, on the morning of 17th, before the liner sailed out of the River Mersey for the last time.
Having completed her voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, the liner left the Cunard berth at Pier 54 in New York port just after noon on 1st May 1915, to commence her return to Liverpool. Steward Wood’s responsibility was for rooms E57 to E75, alternate numbers only, which included six members of the Pearl family from New York and their two maids.
Six days out of New York, on the afternoon of 7th May, the Lusitania was torpedoed twelve miles off the coast of southern Ireland by the German submarine
U-20, and sank just eighteen minutes later. At that stage of her voyage, she was only 250 miles from the safety of her home port.
Alf Wood survived this action after diving into the sea from the stricken ship to avoid being struck by one of her funnels. He also played a big part in the survival of second cabin passenger Mrs. Amy Campbell, who related her story in The Cheshire Daily Echo of May 1915: -
All I remember is that I went down and down. I cannot swim and my head kept coming against pieces of wreckage. I was conscious the whole time yet how long I was in the water. I don't know. Wood a first cabin steward told me afterwards that as he was swimming about, his hands caught in my hair and he pulled my head above the water.
Alfred Wood managed to get himself and Mrs. Campbell onto a raft, from where they were later picked up by the patrol boat H.M.S.
Bluebell and landed at Queenstown.
He eventually got back to Liverpool where he was officially paid off from the
Lusitania’s final voyage, the balance of wages owing to him being £4-9s-6d, (£4.42½p.). This included payment up until 8th May, 24 hours after the liner had gone down.
In an interview with the author in August 1998, survivor Audrey Lawson Johnston (Audrey Pearl at the time of the sinking), stated that on a trans-Atlantic crossing in 1939, on the R.M.S. Queen Mary, the family met one of the stewards who had looked after them on that fateful day in 1915. Logically, this must have been either Alf Wood or Vincent Settle from Anfield, but both would have been aged at least 74 years of age at the time!
1901 Census of England and Wales, 1911 Census of England and Wales, Cheshire Daily Echo, Cunard Records, New York Times, PRO BT 100/345.