Wilfred Deable Seward was born in Shoreditch, London, England on 5 March 1887. He was the son of William Henry Seward (b. 1865) and Alicia Louisa Trout (b. 1865).
His father was from Shoreditch and his mother was a native of Co Cork Ireland. They had married around 1886 in Ireland, going on to have ten children in total, nine of whom lived past infancy: Colonel William (b. 1890), Kathleen Alicia (b. 1892), Frederick John (b. 1895), Lord Arthur (b. 1898), Nora Emmie (b. 1903), Harry (b. 1904), Samuel Richard (b. 1905), Annie Janet (b. 1908) and Wilfred. The family as a whole appear to have lived in various locations over the years, including Birkenhead, Liverpool, Essex and Tottenham.
Wilfred first appears on the 1891 census living with his mother and brother Colonel at 40 Parkhurst Road, Tottenham, Middlesex. His father is absent at the time. On the 1891 census Wilfred and his father, described as a wine agent, are listed as visitors at an address in Toxteth Park, Liverpool. Wilfred, aged 14, is already described as a ship's steward.
By the time of the 1911 census Wilfred's family are living at 3 Ebeneezer Road, Liverpool and his father is described as a theatrical agent. Wilfred and his brother William are not listed at this address but at 5 Shirley Road, Southampton and both are described as ship's stewards. Also lodging at this address are future Titanic-crewmen, stewards Ernest Hamilton and Frank Morris.
Seward, who was unmarried, had transferred from the Olympic and was on board the Titanic for her trip from Belfast to Southampton although he does not appear to have signed-on for the trip. When he did eventually sign-on to the Titanic on 4th April 1912, he gave his local address as 5 Shirley Road, (Southampton)1. As Chief Pantry Steward he received monthly wages of £4 10s.
On the night of the sinking, Wilfred recalled:
I remember one of my staff coming to the cabin and telling me that the ship had bumped something. I didn't think it was anything important so I just lay on my bunk, and read on. Shortly afterwards, someone called, 'You'd better get up, there's something wrong.' I went on deck and was told we had hit an iceberg.
When he arrived on deck he said he helped passengers on with their life-jackets, then he made his way to lifeboat 5 but then went to his allocated boat (#3.)
I was ordered into a boat; there were about fifty or sixty other people with me. When we were being lowered and still a long way above the water, the boat capsized us and we were all pitched into the water.2
When Seward testified at the British Inquiry. He did not mention the boat being capsized and other survivors accounts only mention difficulty with lowering the boat. For his attendance on the fifteenth day of the hearing he received expenses of £10.8s. He continued his career at sea.
Two years later, on 29 August 1914, Wilfred Seward enlisted in the 10th (Scottish) Battalion, The King’s Liverpool Regiment. On 1 November he landed in France, only to be discharged and sent home four weeks later. His invalidity certificate records that he was suffering from rheumatism and reports that:
This man was on board the Titanic when she went down. He was in the water 2½ hours….Causation of the disability - immersion at sinking of the Titanic.
Wilfred therefore returned to civilian sea duties, serving on various ships including the Queen Mary. In 1917 he was married to Lylla Marion Box (b. 1891 in London) and they had two children, Doris (b. 1920) and Peter (b. 1926) and they lived in the Islington area of London for a number of years.
Upon his retirement in 1954 Wilfred and his wife settled in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland to be close to their daughter Doris, and they lived in Glebeside.
Wilfred Seward died in Ballymoney on 12 December 1963 aged 76 and he was buried in Ballymoney Borough Council Cemetery, Knock Road, Ballymoney. When his wife died in 1967 she was buried with him. Their resting place lay unmarked until April 2013 when, through the efforts of the Ballymoney Museum and local historians, a headstone was erected:
WILFRED DEABLE SEWARD
Survivor of the Sinking of The R.M.S. Titanic
And His Wife
LYLLA MARION SEWARD, Née BOX