Mr William Henry Taylor was born at 75 Trafalgar Terrace in Northam, Southampton, Hampshire, England on 1 December 1883.
He was the son of Thomas Taylor (b. 1840), a mariner, and Fanny Joyce (b. 1851), natives of Burnley, Lancashire and Southampton respectively who had married in the latter city in Christ Church on 18 September 1870.
One of eleven children born to his parents, William's known siblings were: Ellen Louisa (b. 1870, later Mrs Albert William Clapp), Margaret Sophia (b. 1872), Mary Jane (b. 1874), Annie Elizabeth Sarah (b. 1877), John (b. 1881), Bessie (b. 1886), Frances May (b. 1889), Rose Maud (b. 1894) and Albert Sidney (b. 1897).
William first appears on the 1891 census living at 28 Elm Street, Southampton; his seafaring father was absent, presumably away at work whilst his mother was described as a charwoman. By the time of the 1901 census William was absent, his whereabouts unclear, but his family were listed as living at 41 Bond Street, Southampton and his father was then described as a general labourer. His parents appear on the 1911 census as residents of 56 Bond Street.
Taylor was married on 28 January 1907 to May Calloway (b. 1 May 1888) at Southampton Register office in a ceremony witnessed by Frank Wells and Ada Richards. They lived at 2 Broad Street, Southampton and welcomed their only child, daughter Margaret Alice, on 29 October 1910.
On the 1911 census May Taylor and her infant daughter were listed at their Broad Street address but William was absent, presumably at sea.
Reportedly at sea for eight years by 1912, when Taylor signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 he gave his address as 2 Broad Street, Southampton and his previous ship as the Orotova. As a fireman he could expect monthly wages of £6.
On the night of 14 April Taylor was off duty and asleep in his quarters. An alarm bell outside the firemen's quarters roused him and he got up and made a quick inspection but saw nothing amiss and returned to his bunk where he waited for about ten minutes. Someone then reported that water was flooding number one hatch.
Taylor and his bunkmates packed their belongings and took them to the mess where they waited about for orders. An approaching officer instructed the men to get lifebelts so Taylor went to the boat deck where he stated he saw lifeboat 15, reportedly his assigned boat, being the only boat still in the blocks; it was swung out and he was ordered in.
Taylor recalled that lifeboat 15 first received her compliment of crew from the boat deck before being lowered to the promenade deck (A-deck) to receive passengers, mainly third class, noting that a crowd of stewards were conducting affairs on that deck. When no more women came forward a crowd of male passengers got in. He also recalled there being six fireman and three identifiable stewards aboard.
After launch Taylor stated that lifeboat 15 rowed about a quarter of a mile away from the ship towards a light in the distance which, eventually, disappeared. As day broke he said there many icebergs around.
Taylor was called as a witness to the US Inquiry of the sinking and gave evidence on day 7.
Taylor lived at 2 Broad Street for the rest of his life but appears to have favoured land-based dock work as opposed to going to sea. On 12 March 1914, whilst working at Southampton docks and in the act of dismantling a dockside holding pen for animals, Taylor was crushed by a large post, or principal, weighing in at a tonne. The accident resulted in Taylor having a fractured leg and spine and perhaps internal damage; he was rushed to the Royal South Hants and Southampton Hospital for treatment.
After lingering for ten days, William Taylor died from his injuries on 22 March 1914 aged 29. His death was recorded as accidental. He was buried at the Old Common Cemetery, Southampton (section C175, plot 205).
His widow May remarried in 1915 to Joseph Albert Macey (1871-1952), a slaughterman and a widower since 1913 who had five children. They had a son of their own in 1922, Ronald William Arthur who was killed in action during WWII on 16 February 1945. May lived for many years on James Street, Southampton where she died on 3 March 1955.