John William Wallen

Date of birth: 1870
Place of birth: Plymouth, Devon
Date of marriage: 1894
Place of marriage: Plymouth, Devon
Service No.: Not known
Rank: Lieutenant
Service: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Vessel: HMPMS Ascot
Died: 10th November 1918 aged 48 years
Death location: At sea


Life before the War
John was born in 1870 in Plymouth, Devon. His parents were John William and Grace, nee Beer, who married in Plymouth in 1868. John senior was born in 1848 in Plymouth and died 1889 in the city. Grace was born 1851 Modbury, Devon.

John was their eldest child and he had 3 sisters:

Ellen Grace born 1872

Alice Emily born 1874

Elizabeth Maud A born 1876

John lived and grew up in Plymouth.  His father was a Fisherman and John junior was also working as a Fisherman in 1891.

John married Bessie (aka Bessey Lapthorn), nee Gregory in 1894 Plymouth.  Bessie was born in 1870 in Kingsbridge, Devon and died in 1968 in Southampton.  She never married again after her husband John died. They had 5 children:

Harriett Sylvia G born 10th November 1895 and died June 1983.  Harriett never married.

John William born 3rd July 1897 and died March 1978.

Ernest James born 3rd November 1901 and died December 1985.

Henry born 8th April 1904 and died December 1982.

Louis Edward Lapthorn born 22nd January 1908 and died February 1991.

In 1901 the family were living at 12 Julian Street, Plymouth, Devon, where John was employed as a Mariner.

By 1911 the family had moved to Southampton and were living at 3 Britannia Road.  John was still working as a Mariner whilst his wife Bessie had her own business as a Dressmaker and worked from home.  Living with them was Bessie’s mother, Lois Gregory, also a Dressmaker and her brother Silvanus who was in the Navy.


John’s National Probate
“Wallen John William of 3 Britannia Road Southampton sub lieutenant R.N.V.R. died 10 November 1918 at sea. Probate London 8 January to Bessey Lapthorn Wallen widow. Effects £269”


War Service
John died on the eve of the Armistice when the ship on which he served was sunk by the German sub UB-67.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial
John is Remembered with Honour on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Southsea Common, Hampshire:
“Wallen, Lieut. John William. R.N.V.R. H.M.P.M.S. “Ascot”. Killed in action with submarine off Farne Islands 10th Nov., 1918. Age 48. Son of John William and Grace Wallen; husband of Bessey Lathorn Wallen, of 3, Britannia Rd., Southampton. Native of Plymouth. Ref.31”

John was entitled to the Victory and British Service Medals.

UB 148 at sea 2.jpeg

A U-boat similar to UB-67


Historical Information
HMS Ascot was the first of the paddle-steamer minesweepers, a class of twenty-four ships named after Racecourses.  Five were lost at sea with 9 officers and 72 men.  Each ship was fitted to carry two seaplanes. Ascot was commissioned April 1916, and was employed in the Firth of Forth till August, 1917: then at Grimsby till May 1918, and Portsmouth till October 1918.

The Great War was drawing to close on 11th October 1918 and this order was sent via wireless to all U-Boats “Engage men of war only. The Merchant war is over”.  This order however, was either not received by all U-boat commanders or it was ignored, as a number of merchant and other small craft continued to fall victim to German submarines.

On 20th October 1918 a further signal was sent ordering all U-boats to return to Kiel, but again merchant ships continued to be sunk. The last ship sunk by UB-67 was the paddle minesweeper HMS Ascot on November 10th 1918. Nobody survived the sinking and the 53 men who went down with her were the last casualties of the war at sea, the day before the announcement of the armistice.


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