William THOMAS Dear

Date of birth: 1899
Place of birth: Southampton
Regiment / Division: Mercantile Marine
Vessel: HMHS Glenart Castle
Rank / Service No: Trimmer
Died: 26th February 1918, aged 18 years
Commemorated: Tower Hill Memorial


Thomas was the sixth of 7 siblings born to George and Ellen Dear (nee Davis), who married in Southampton in 1886.

Both parents were born in Southampton, Ellen in 1864 and George one year later.

Ellen passed away in the city in 1914, with George also passing away in the city, in 1937.


The family lived, firstly, at 83 Bevois Street (now Golden Grove housing estate) and latterly at 16 Johnson Street in St. Mary’s.



George   b. 1888 Southampton   d. 1972 Southampton   Married Gertrude A. Biddlecombe in Southampton in 1915.

Ellen Lily   b. 1890 Southampton   d. 1891 Southampton

Florence Rose   b. 1892 Southampton   d. 1971 Petersfield   Married Philip Doel in Southampton in 1914.

Daisy Violet   b. 1894 Southampton   d. 1919 Southampton   Married Cornelius J. Sparks in Southampton in 1917.

Edith Maud   b. 1897 Southampton   d. 1990 Isle of Wight

William Thomas

Alice Emily  b. 1901 Southampton   d. 1911 Southampton


His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Glenart Castle was originally built as the “Galacian” in 1900….it was renamed in 1914.

The vessel had left Newport (South Wales) on 26 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 neighbourhood of Lundy Island she was hit by a torpedo in the No. 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. 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.



Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 6th July 2016


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