William Henry Doyle

Date of birth: 1860
Place of birth: Barbados
Service No.: Not known
Rank: Quartermaster
Vessel: HMHS Glenart Castle
Battalion: Mercantile Marine
Died: 26th February 1918 aged 57 years
Death location: At sea, off Lundy Island


Life before the War
William’s parents were Henry Horatio and Julia, nee Jones, and they married in Barbados on 14th April 1855.

William was the husband of Beatrice Fanny Fedore, nee Knapp, whom he married in Southampton in 1882.  Beatrice was born in Southampton in 1863 and died 1949.  During the 1911 census the family were living at 21 Parsonage Road, St. Mary’s.  They had 3 children:

Beatrice Julia   b.1898 Southampton and d.1903 also in Southampton.

Winifred Elizabeth   b.1902 Southampton and d.1994 in the New Forest. 

William George   b.1903 Southampton and d.1982 also in Southampton.

Service history
His Majesty’s Hospital Ship (HMHS) Glenart Castle was originally built as the Galacian in 1900, it was renamed in 1914.  The vessel had left Newport, South Wales, on 26th February 1918,  bound for Brest in France.  Fishermen in the Bristol Channel at the time remembered that she had green lights all round, plus the obligatory red cross on either side, an international indication of a hospital ship.

When in the waters off Lundy Island she was hit by a torpedo in the number 3 hold, fired from U boat UC-56, captained by Kapitanleutnant Wilhelm Kiesewetter.  The blast destroyed most of the lifeboats while the subsequent pitch of the vessel hindered attempts to launch the remaining boats.  In the 8 minutes it took for the vessel to sink only 7 lifeboats were launched.

162 people were drowned with only 38 survivors; William was one of the unfortunate ones.  There was evidence that the submarine crew may have shot at those struggling in the water in an attempt to cover up the atrocity.  The body of a junior officer was recovered with two gunshot wounds.  He also wore a lifejacket, indicating he was shot at in the water.

Kiesewetter was arrested after the war and interned in the Tower of London with the intention of charging him with war crimes.  However, he was released before any trial could take place.  Britain was told that it had no right to hold a detainee during the Armistice.

William’s name is on the Tower Hill Memorial, London, which commemorates
almost 12,000 men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died
in both World Wars and who have no known grave.  As with Southampton’s Cenotaph,
the WWI section of the Tower Hill Memorial was also designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.  


Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published.: 13th January 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

If you have any additional information about the person named above please complete the Comments section below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s