William Edward Osborne was born at 1 Lewis Terrace, Norwood in Surrey on 14th April 1879. He was the second child and eldest son of William Osborne, a gardener whose family had lived in the Camberwell area for several decades, and Barbara Hume, who had married at Currie Manse in Edinburgh, in January 1876. William had then been a seaman which presumably explains how he came to marry so far from home. Barbara had been born in Edinburgh and was married previously, already being a widow at the age of only 22.

William and Barbara must have moved back to the London area almost immediately as their first child, a daughter named Elizabeth, was born in Lower Norwood, Lambeth, in December 1876. She was followed by William Edward in 1879 and a further 7 children over the years to 1898.

William Edward was recorded living with his parents in 1881, when they were living in Birkbeck Place, Streatham, and again in 1891, when they had moved to Elm Grove, Norwood. At this time, he was recorded as being Edward, presumably to distinguish the growing boy from his father; he had no occupation recorded, making it unclear as to whether or not he was attending school.

By 1901, William Edward had left home and it seems probable that he was living in Cromwell Road, Reigate, where he was a boarder in the home of a Charles Foster, a paperhanger and coffee house proprietor. William himself appears to have been working as a grocer's assistant although for whom is unknown.

Presumably this occupation did not hold any great attraction as William subsequently joined the 'White Star Line', then a major shipping company. Exactly when, where and why he signed up for a life at sea is unknown but when the 1911 census was conducted, on 2nd April in that year, William was recorded living as a boarder at 234 Millbrook Road, Southampton, unmarried and described as being a ship's steward with the 'White Star Line'.

There is some inconsistency in the records with regard to the date on which William actually enlisted for the 'Titanic'. The web site 'Encyclopedia Titanica' states that he first embarked in Belfast on 1st April, a date which seems unlikely as the ship only undertook its initial sea trials on 2nd April; it then left Belfast in the evening of the same day to steam to Southampton, where it arrived late on the following day. The original crew agreement gives a date of 4th April 1912 for William's engagement, while the list of discharges and terminations, which was not filed at the Registry until 31st October, records the date as being 9th April; whichever is the case, William certainly signed on at Southampton as a steward at a wage of £3:15s per month. The original crew agreement recorded that he was then living at 7 Hewitts Road, Southampton, that he had previously served on the 'Titanic's' sister ship, 'Olympic' and that he was to board the 'Titanic' on 10th April, the date of departure.

The 'RMS Titanic' sailed from Southampton shortly after noon on 10th April 1912, carrying 922 passengers and about 885 crew. It sailed first to Cherbourg where 24 passengers disembarked and 274 boarded, and then went on to Queenstown in Ireland where a further 120 boarded and 7 disembarked, while one crew member apparently jumped ship. There may also have been a few other additions to the passenger list as the final number recorded in official documents was somewhat more than these figures would suggest.

The ship finally started off across the Atlantic early in the afternoon of 11th April and sailed uneventfully for more than 3 days. As a steward, William Osborne would have been at the 'beck and call' of passengers within his area of responsibility. It seems that he may have been employed in one of the saloons aboard ship, in which case he would presumably have been serving drinks and other items to the passengers and generally seeing to their every whim. He might have expected to supplement his pay quite considerably through tips received from passengers pleased with his services.

Whether he was on duty or resting when the ship suffered its fatal collision at about 11:40pm on the 14th April (ship's time - 2:40am April 15th GMT) is, and will remain, unknown, as is how he behaved once it became known that the ship was doomed. Although there were more than 2,200 people on board, the ship had lifeboats for less than 1,200; consequently, a policy of 'women and children first' was adopted, with those in the First Class cabins inevitably being given priority. As a male member of the crew, and a relatively unimportant one at that, William had little chance of gaining a place in a lifeboat, even though many of them departed only partially full. Crew inexperience, lack of training and, probably, a degree of incompetence resulted in far fewer people being saved than could have been.

What is certain is that William was one of the almost 700 male members of the crew, almost 80% of the total, who lost their lives. He was accompanied by over 800 more who met their ends, one way or another, in the freezing waters of the north Atlantic at around 2:20am on the morning of 15th April 1912 (ship's time - 5:20am GMT). Only 710, less than one third of those on board, survived.

When he died, William Osborne was just 33 years old, having celebrated his birthday on the previous day. The owners of the 'White Star Line' determined that he, along with many of his colleagues, was entitled to pay, up to the date of his death, of 15s.; the crew agreement specifically absolved the owners from any further claims. William did not leave a Will but there is a record of the Administration of his estate, which was granted to his father on 22nd June 1912. His estate amounted to £119:9s:1d., presumably including his arrears of pay. What his parents and many siblings felt about the loss of their son and brother is, as yet, another unknown.

William Edward Osborne, born 14th April 1879 and died 15th April 1912, was my 3rd cousin 3 times removed. RIP.

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