William Richard Cass Dowsett

Date of birth: 14th July 1894
Place of birth: Peckham, London
Regiment / Division: Royal Navy
Vessel: HM Submarine D5
Rank / Service No: Signaller, J/8219 (PO)
Died: 3rd November 1914, aged 20 years
Commemorated: Portsmouth Naval Memorial


William was the sixth of 7 known siblings born to John William and Lucy Marian Dowsett (nee Cass), who married in Southwark on 12 October 1880.

It must be assumed that one other sibling died in infancy.


John was born in Norwood in 1853 and he died in Camberwell in 1910. Lucy was born in St. Helier in 1853 and she passed away in Lewisham in 1938, although she had lived at 9 Testwood Road, Millbrook in her later years.



Alice Maud   b. 1881 Peckham   d. 1976 Southampton    Married Albert E. Cass (!!) in Southampton in 1911.

Kate Lucy   b. 1882 Peckham   d. 1961 Surrey   Married John Russell Tyler (died before 1911 C) in Camberwell in 1907. Married Herbert J. Knight in Southampton in 1921.

Emily Florence   b. 1884 Peckham   d. 1977 Winchester   Married William Grout in Shirley in 1912.

John Cass   b. 1888 Peckham   d. ??

Annie Louise   b. 1891 Peckham   d. 1891 Peckham

William Richard Cass

Albert Thomas   b. 1898 Peckham   d. 1966 Waltham Forest   Married Beatrice H. Ransom in Southampton in 1931. Married Margaret M. Porter in Southampton in 1934.


William was evidently keen to join the Navy. He was at the RN Training base near Ipswich at the 1911 Census, and he enlisted on his 18th birthday in 1912.


Submarine D5 was launched from the Vickers yard in Barrow on 28 August 1911, and completed on 19 January 1912.

D5 was based at Harwich with the 8th Submarine Flotilla, patrolling the North Sea.


On 3 November 1914, the German High Seas Fleet launched a hit and run attack on Yarmouth. The attack was aimed at the civilian population along the coast but misty weather and inaccurate firing resulted in very little damage.


The SMS Straslund had laid a line of 100 mines five miles off the coast during the attack. As the attack progressed, submarines D3, E10 and D5 were ordered out to sea to intercept the enemy fleet.

A returning fishing fleet were encountered on the way out to sea, sounding horns and waving madly. They had seen the line of mines further out to sea and wished to warn the submarines.


Within 10 minutes, D5 had struck a mine. An eyewitness on D3 said that D5 “simply disappeared”.

Somehow, there were 6 survivors from the crew of 25 who were picked up by a fishing boat. Many of the dead actually drowned, rather than succumbing to the mine strike.



Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 7th July 2016


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