Skip to content

William Cobham


William was born on October 5, 1897 in Mawdesley, Lancashire. His baptism record from St. Peter’s Church on October 18, 1897 shows that his parents were Thomas Cobham, a Basket Maker, and his wife Ellen. Thomas Cobham had married Ellen Moss at St. Peter’s Church on November 5, 1888. At the time of their marriage, Thomas was aged 44 and Ellen was aged 25.

Early Life

By the time of William’s birth, and at the time of the 1901 Census, William had five siblings: Reuben (aged 11), Edwin (aged 10), Jesse (aged eight), Lillian (aged seven) and Catherine (aged five). The family were now living at 134 School Lane, in Mawdesley. Ten years later, the family were still living on School Lane, in a house with six rooms.

By 1911, William has another brother Allan (aged 9) and two older brothers and two older sisters still living at home with their parents. Edwin was the only sibling to have moved out of the family home. Jesse, like his father, was a Basket Maker.

Chester College

William is recorded on the memorial plaque as being a member of the cohort of students who left Chester College in 1918.

Military Service

The transcribed table of William's Service Record shows that he enrolled in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Ordinary Seaman on May 27, 1916, for a period of three years. This record states that when he joined his occupation was given as Student Teacher. On July 18, 1916, William began his service as an Ordinary Seaman on HMS Victory VI. It appears he then became an Able Seaman, again on HMS Victory VI. His service here came to an end on December 3, 1916 and the next day he joined HMS Victory I, where he stayed until February 13.

On February 14, he then moved to HMS Vivid II. This was also a shore base, but this time in Devonport, Plymouth. Here he continued his training until August 31. Whilst at HMS Vivid II he was upgraded to Signalman.

Since William was at his next stage of training it would make sense that he was attached to a ship. On September 1, 1917 he transferred again this time to HMS Apollo. In 1917, HMS Apollo was known as a depot ship, which was an auxiliary ship designed to operate in any number of roles supporting combatant ships and other naval operations. Auxiliaries are not primary combatants, although they may have some limited combat capacity, usually of a self-defence nature. William served on this ship for the month of September and then on the October 1, he transferred to HMS Wallington.

William was also attached to HMS Ariel. This was an Acheron-class destroyer built in 1911. He remained at HMS Wallington until June 30, 1918 and on July 1, 1918, he transferred to HMS Leander. HMS Leander was commissioned as a depot ship for torpedo boat destroyers including HMS Ariel. William was therefore still attached to HMS Ariel throughout the month of July.

Lest We Forget

On August 2, HMS Ariel was conducting mine laying operations in the western end of the Heligoland Bight in the North Sea.

Post Mortem

On William’s Service Record for August 2, 1918 is written: D.D, which is naval abbreviation for Discharged Dead. In addition, there is the stamped image indicating the date he was killed and his ship HMS Ariel. There is also the stamped image RE war gratuities. In William’s case, these would have been paid to his parents. William is remembered, along with many others, on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.