Mr James Forward was reportedly born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on 24 November 1884. No records for his birth or any appearances for him on UK censuses prior to 1911 have been uncovered.
He appears on the 1911 census, residing at the Sailor's Home in Southampton and described as an unmarried able seaman.
When he signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 Forward gave his address as the Sailor's Home, Southampton. His previous ship had been the Oceanic and as an able-bodied seaman he received monthly wages of £5.
On the night of the sinking Forward and his mate Ernest Archer were ordered into lifeboat 16; an additional crewman, master-at-arms Henry Bailey, later slid down the falls and took command of the boat.
James Forward survived; he was not called to testify at either the American or British Inquiries into the sinking but received expenses of £8, 12s, 6d for his detention at the latter. He later returned to working at sea.
In March 1915 he was able seaman aboard Euripides, operating between London and Sydney. On 6 October 1915, in Lyttleton, New Zealand, he and another seaman were sentenced to one month's imprisonment for the use of obscene language. He was described as standing at 5' 4¾" and with dark hair, grey eyes and a fresh and medium complexion. His tattoos were listed as: an eagle, rose and leaves on his chest; a woman, flag and sword on right arm; and a Japanese woman, bird and flower on the left arm.
By 1916 Forward was on the same run but aboard the Wiltshire. In June 1917 he was an able seaman aboard SS Apapa of the African Steamship Company; his then address was stated as the sailor's home in Wells Street, London. By March the following year Forward was serving on the Ionic. On 22 October 1918, he was able seaman aboard the Pannonia and throughout 1922 and into 1923 he was serving aboard Homeric.
James Forward, who apparently never married, settled in Australia where he worked on ships between Newcastle and Melbourne, one ship being the collier Christina Fraser. That ship went missing, presumed sunk in June 1933 with the loss of all eighteen crew members. Although not aboard at the time James Forward, a former able seaman aboard was called to give evidence about the seaworthiness of the vessel, which he referred to as a "cranky ship" and aboard which he described having been thrown from his bunk on one occasion due to heavy pitching:
THE LOST COLLIER - WAS SHE SEAWORTHY?
James Forward, formerly an A.B. on the collier, said that seamen had several times complained to the mate and the engineer regarding water in the aft end of the No. 2 hold of the vessel. - The Age [Melbourne], 3 August 1933
James continued to work at sea and made his home in Darling Harbour in Sydney; he appears on the 1931 electoral roll at 106 George Street and on the 1937 roll at 89 George Street; on both occasions, he was listed as living alone and described as a seaman.
In June 1940 whilst serving aboard the SS Aroona and, in mysterious circumstances, James Forward went missing from his ship whilst 22 miles off the coast of Wilson's Promontory in Victoria, Australia. He was presumed dead.
SEAMAN LOST OVERBOARD
PORT KEMBLA, Friday - When the S.S. Aroona arrived at Port Kembla this afternoon, Captain Watson reported that when the ship was 22 miles off Wilson's Promontory it was discovered that James Forward, a seaman, was missing.
A search of the ship was made and as no trace of the missing man was found, it was presumed that he had fallen overboard.
He was a native of London [sic] and had not been in good health for some days. - Daily News, 29 June 1940
It was reported the following week that an inquest would be held, the outcome of which is unknown.