William Henry Martin

Date of birth: 1866
Place of birth: Brixham, Devon
Service No.: Not known
Rank: Lieutenant
Service: Royal Navy Reserve
Vessel: HM Yacht Aries
Died: 31st October 1915 aged 50 years
Death location: At sea in the English Channel


Life before the War
William’s parents were Stephen and Sophia. Stephen was born in 1842 Totnes, Devon, whilst Sophia was born in Bristol in 1845. William had 7 brothers, Frank Albert Pitt b.1864,Walter Hurford b.1867 d.24th October 1951. He left £1539 4s 11d to his wife.

George L b.1870,Arthur Henry H b.1879, John b.1873, Frederick Stephen b.1876, Charles Edward b.1882, Ernest James b.1884, Richard Simon M b.1889. He also had 2 sisters Alice Maud b.1878 who  married James Collings Pitman 1901, d.1919  and Lucy b.1872

In the 1871 census, the family lived in Brixham, Devon, where Stephen was a Tin Plate Worker.

The family were still living in Brixham in both the 1881 and 1891 census returns, at 10, Burton House. In 1881, Stephen was a Plumber and William was working as a Gardener. Most of the family were employed in 1891. Stephen was a Plumber and Gas Fitter, William a Mariner, George a Shoemaker, Lucy had her own account as a Laundress, John was an Apprentice and Frederick a Gardener Assistant.

In the census of 1901 William was married his wife Selina, was living by herself  at 5, Clifton Terrace, Brixham. William was not at home on the night the census was taken, so he was probably at sea.

In the 1911 census, they were living at 131, Clifford Street, Southampton. William was a Master Mariner. They entered onto the return that they had one child who had died. They also confirmed they had been married for 19 years, although unable to find the correct marriage in the indexes.


National Probate Calendar
“Martin William Henry of Aberfoyle Hillside Avenue Bitterne Park Southampton died 31 October 1915 at sea. Administration London 27 January 1916 to Selina Martin widow. Effects £922 10s”


War Service
William died when the vessel on which he was serving, HM Yacht Aries, hit a mine off the Kent Coast.

On the 31st October 1915, HMY Aries was sunk by a mine from the German submarine UC-6, Kapitanleutnant Matthias Graf von Schmettow, off Leathercoat. In total, 22 crew members died.

William is Remembered with Honour on the Portsmouth Memorial, Southsea Common, Hampshire. The memorial reads:

“Martin, Lieut. William Henry. R.N.R. H.M. Yacht “Aries”. Killed by mine explosion off South Foreland 31st Oct., 1915. Age 50. Son of Stephen and Sophia Martin, of Higher Brixham, Devon; husband of Selina Martin, of “Aberfoyle”, 97, Hillside Avenue, Bitterne Park, Southampton”


Historical information – HM Yacht Aries (extracted from http://www.kentfallen.com)

Built in 1880 by the Barrow Shipbuilding Co Ltd, for the Victorian industrialist Sir James Ramsden, to his own design, as an ocean-going steam yacht. “Aries” later passed into the ownership of the Duke of Leeds, and she became a familiar sight at Cowes during the 1890’s. The yacht was offered to the Admiralty for wartime duties in August 1914, and was both gladly and gratefully accepted for same, at that time she became H.M. Yacht Aries. Whilst in service an armed yacht she was mined in the English Channel off the coast of Leathercoat Point, near St. Margaret’s Bay, Kent.

Although several crew members are commemorated on the Trawlers & Minesweeping Patrol Memorial, one of those notably missing from same is 46 year old Assistant Paymaster, Francis Hugh Bacon, Royal Naval Reserve, who was a famous former Hampshire and England cricketer. Francis was educated at St Augustine’s College, Canterbury, Kent. James Ramsden the vessels first owner was a former superintendent of the railway and first mayor of Barrow. In view of where H.M.Yacht Aries was sunk, it perhaps should be pointed out that Leathercoat Point, near St. Margaret’s Bay, Kent is also the cliff top location of the Dover Patrol Memorial.

Please select the link to Francis Bacon’s name to read more of his story.


Researcher: Becky Lonergan
Published: 2013
Updated: 3rd September 2015

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