William John (Bill) Staple

By November 1, 2015 at 10:00 am0 Comments

Photograph of William and an unknown shipmate. William is on the right. The photograph was taken when he was serving on HMS Royal Arthur. It must have been taken between 1895 (when he was presented with his Ashanti campaign medal which he is wearing) and May 1896  as he is wearing 1 Good Service stripe. They were awarded every 3 years so he has got his first one but not yet completed 6 years service when he would have been entitled to a second one. He is also wearing a Seaman Gunner insignia indicating his particular specialism.

Photograph of William and an unknown shipmate. William is on the right. The photograph was taken when he was serving on HMS Royal Arthur. It must have been taken between 1895 (when he was presented with his Ashanti campaign medal which he is wearing) and May 1896 as he is wearing 1 Good Service stripe. They were awarded every 3 years so he has got his first one but not yet completed 6 years service when he would have been entitled to a second one. He is also wearing a Seaman Gunner insignia indicating his particular specialism.

Born 28th May 1872 in Taunton and in 1901 he was living in 54a Yarde Place, Wood Street, Taunton and working as a collar maker in one of the several shirt factories in Taunton. In 1911 he married Rosalind Singleton from Honiton and at that time he was a telegraph wire man.

He was the older brother of John Staple. He joined the Royal Navy on 28th May 1890 and rose through the ranks to become a Petty Officer, 1st Class. During this time he served on HMS Boadicea, HMS Royal Arthur and HMS Isis and was awarded campaign medals for actions in East Africa and Beijing (the Boxer rebellion). On 5th February 1902 he married Gertrude Alice Day in Harwich and they had one daughter, Gertrude Florence, born later that year.

We don’t know when he left the Navy and became a Coastguard but according to the 1911 Census the family was then living in a Coastguard cottage at Mundesley in Norfolk.

When war was declared, William rejoined the Navy. We don’t know if he volunteered but it may be that he was on the Reserve list and was recalled. He was appointed to HM Trawler Agamemnon II. This was an ex-Grimsby fishing trawler which still had some of its original Grimsby fishermen in its crew. The Agamemnon II had been taken over by the Admiralty as a minesweeper and was one of several based in Harwich.

Photograph of William, on the right, with his father, John Staple, on the left, and his younger brother John

Photograph of William, on the right, with his father, John Staple, on the left, and his younger brother John

On the morning of 15 July 1915, a minefield was discovered in the vicinity of the Shipwash Sands Light Vessel, about 24 miles north east of Harwich. The minefield had been laid that morning by a German U-Boat. The Agamemnon II and other minesweepers were sent to the area. Minesweeping involved deploying a sweep to cut through the cables mooring the mines below the surface. The mines would then float to the surface where they could be safely detonated, at a distance, by gun fire. Unfortunately when the Agamemnon II was recovering its sweep, a mine became entangled with the wire and was pulled into the ship and exploded. The ship sank with the loss of 9 ratings, including William. His body was not recovered and he is recorded on the Chatham War Memorial with 8,516 other sailors who have no known grave but the sea.

He was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

Information provided by Christine Briggs (John Staple’s Granddaughter).

img356

About the Author:

This Taunton WW1 borough wide project has been bought to the community by Creative Innovation Centre CIC, Taunton (also known as CICCIC). With support from Heritage Lottery Fund and many other partners we are proud to work with all in the community to produce this website and other project related activities.

 

Leave a Reply