William Williams VC

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Sep 17, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Birth: Oct. 5, 1890
    Death: Oct. 22, 1965

    World War I Victoria Cross Recipient, the most highly-decorated serviceman of the war. A native of Amlwch Port, Anglesey, Wales, Williams was a well-known seafaring family in the area. William went to sea at an early age, locally at first, then on trans-Atlantic cargo runs between Beaumaris and Brazil.

    When the war broke out he enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve and was one of the first recruits to Commander Gordon Campbell’s “Q” ships, tramp steamers and coastal vessels specially-outfitted and specially-armed to decoy German U-boats to the surface, where the Q-ships would then drop the masking from their guns and pummel the submarines. Williams was awarded his V.C. for action aboard the HMS Pargust, a 2800-ton, otherwise very ordinary-looking merchantman which had been outfitted with a 4-inch gun, four 12-pounders, two Maxim machine guns, two 14-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges. The buoyancy of Q-ships was also improved by loading the former cargo holds with light-density lumber and empty casks. On June 17, 1917, the Pargust, under Campbell’s command, was south-west off the coast of Ireland when she was struck by a torpedo. Following standard practice, a decoy “panic party,” complete with duffel bags and a stuffed parrot, was lowered in a lifeboat to give the impression the crew was abandoning ship while the gunners remained hidden, waiting for the sub to surface. Williams was one of the gunners for a 12-pounder; the problem was, the torpedo blast had loosened the weights holding the starboard-side gun camouflage in place. If the camouflage had fallen, the guns would have been revealed and the Pargust’s cover blown too soon. Williams then took the entire weight of the gun ports on his own shoulders, holding them in place for more than more than half an hour while the rest of Campbell’s crew waited for the sub to surface. When it did, Campbell released the ports, and the guns opened fire. The sub was sunk after a firefight lasting four minutes.

    Later, the Admiralty could not determine which of the crew should be recommended for the V.C., so they left it to King George V to decide. He invoked Clause 13 of the Victoria Cross Warrant, which specified that in special cases the selection could be made by ballot – one officer and one rating would receive the medal in the name of the entire crew. The officers voted for Campbell, but as he already had one from previous Q-boat action he refused the vote, so the officers selected his second-in-command, Lt. Ronald Stuart. The ratings selected Williams. Williams continued to serve on Q-ships until five days before the Armistice, when he was mustered out of the RNR for medical reasons.

    After the war he returned to Wales, worked as a seaman on cross-Channel ferries and later on shore for a dockyard. He passed away at his home in Holyhead, Wales, after a long illness. His medals, including the VC, DSM and Bar, and the French Medaille Militaire, are on display at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff

    Amlwch Cemetery
    Anglesey, Wales

    Attached Files:

  2. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    This can't be exactly right. For instance His CO, Gordon Campbell, was awarded a VC, DSO and two bars, and some of the air aces were equally highly decorated, or more so. But he could well have been the most-highly decorated non-commissioned serviceman of the war, certainly in the Navy, and unless anyone can think of other examples, possibly in the Army too?
  3. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Well Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse was supposed to be the most highly decorated British serviceman in the war !

    Though I think in this case it should have said non-commissioned serviceman of the war !

  4. Adrian Roberts

    Adrian Roberts Active Member

    Just to confuse things further, there was another William Williams who was awarded a Victoria Cross - also a sailor and also in the Great War!

    From Wikipedia:

  5. cally

    cally New Member

    Adrian - just to confuse things further you seem to be posting in stereo!!
  6. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I fixed it Cally ! .... he must have had the hiccups !! :)
  7. welshdragon_3

    welshdragon_3 New Member

    my name is neil williams. william williams was my great uncle.i wasnt born to have met will but my father told me many stories of him.overall he was a kind man who always looked out for his fellow crew even after finishing in the reserves he maintained his love for the service and helped many fellow sailors.i have a few pictures of will williams including when he was given the VC by the king.as im new to here i shall try and post them soon
  8. Kbak

    Kbak Member

    Hi Neil

    Welcome to the forum, look forward to seeing the pictures



Share This Page