William Edward Matthews

Date of birth:                 1882Poppies
Place of birth:                Southampton
Date of marriage:         1908
Place of marriage:       Southampton
Rank:                                Able Seaman
Regiment / Division:  Mercantile Marine
Battalion/Ship: S.S. “Glenart Castle”
Died:                                 26th February 1918 aged 37 years
Death Location:           At Sea


Life before the War


William’s father, Charles was born on 19th March 1854 and dying on 2nd December 1937. His mother was Alice Hannah nee Biles who was born on 10th November 1855 and died 11th December 1898. Charles and Alice married in 1876 Southampton. William’s siblings were:

Charles Henry b.1876
Harriet Amelia C  b.1879
Alice Alma b.21st December 1884, married Albert Francis Stone, died 1st April 1949.

Charles with his children lived at 2, Albert Street, St. Mary’s Parish, Southampton in 1891. Charles was a Bootmaker. Although he states he was married, his wife was not entered on the census return. The census shows Charles and his children were all born in Southampton.

In the census for 1901, Charles is a widower. He, with his sons Charles and William, who are both Seaman and daughter Alice, a Housekeeper, are still at the same address. In this return, Charles states that he, with his children, were all born in Portsmouth.

William married Annie Eliza Stedman in 1908 Southampton. Ernest Frederick was born 1910. When the census was taken, William and Annie had one child.

By the 1911 census, William, his wife Annie and son Ernest were living at 16, Andersons Road, Southampton. William was employed with the Merchant Service as a Seaman.

War Service


tower hill memorialx2

Tower Hill Memorial

William is Remembered with Honour on the Mercantile Marine Memorial, Tower hill, London. The Memorial reads:


“Williams, A.B. William Edward. S.S. “Glenart Castle” (Southampton). Drowned, as a result of an attack by enemy
submarine, 26th Feb., 1918. Age 37. Son of Charles and the late Mrs. Matthews; husband of Annie Eliza Matthews (nee Stedman),
of 111, Ashley Terrace, Millbank St., Southampton. Born at Southampton”



 Historical Information – S.S. “Glenart Castle”


On 26th February 1918, “Glenart Castle” was returning to the UK. Fishermen in the English Channel saw her clearly lit up as a hospital ship. John Hill, a fisherman on “Swansea Castle”, remembered “I saw the Hospital Ship with green lights all around her – around the saloon. She had her red side lights showing and mast-head light, and also another red light which I suppose was the Red Cross light.” At 04:00, “Glenart Castle” was hit by a torpedo in the No. 3 hold. The blast destroyed most of the lifeboats, while the subsequent pitch of the vessel hindered attempts to launch the remaining boats. In the eight minutes the ship took to sink, only seven lifeboats were launched. Rough seas and inexperienced rowers swamped most of the boats.

Only a few survivors were reported. A 162 people were killed including the Captain, Bernard Burt, eight nurses, seven Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) medical officers and 47 medical orderlies. The matron of “Glenart Castle”, Miss Kate Beaufoy, was a veteran of the South African War. Her family kept her diary and her writings describe life on the ship.

Evidence was found suggesting that the submarine may have shot at initial survivors of the sinking in an effort to cover up the sinking of “Glenart Castle”. The body of a junior officer of “Glenart Castle” was recovered from the water close to the position of the sinking. It was marked with two gunshot wounds, one in the neck and the other in the thigh. The body also had a life vest indicating he was shot while in the water.

Researched by Becky Lonergan December  2013


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