Home      LT. L. J. WILLIAMS

LIEUTENANT LEONARD JAMES WILLIAMS RNVR

1872 - 1962

I am indebted to Len Williams, Grandson of Lieutenant Williams for all the photographs and the text comprising this and the following page.

   Leonard Williams was a professional seaman for all his working life starting on the River Thames as an apprentice Waterman and finishing his time as the master of the tug Warrior after the 1st World War. During the 1st World War he was commissioned in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve to the rank of Lieutenant and was the master of HM(T) Warrior operating from Queenstown in Southern Ireland.
 
PERSONAL HISTORY
 
   Leonard James Williams was born on the 13th May 1872 at Islington Middlesex, the second son of Robert Pakenham Williams, an Irish watchmaker. R.P. Williams had been born into the Church of Ireland, but on marriage he converted to Baptistry, later moving his young family to Brockley in Kent, where he listed himself as being a “Home Missionary” in his census returns. This included an involvement with the Seamans Mission in Creek Street, (now Creek Road), Deptford and we still hold his Bible, which was presented to him by the mission. Presumably through his involvement with the local maritime organisations he was able to “pull strings”, which allowed Leonard, and his elder brother George, to be enrolled as apprentice Watermen. Leonard completed his apprenticeship and became a licensed Waterman in December 1895.
 
    Certificate of Apprenticeship
 
  
Freeman of the Company
 
   The company of the Watermen and Lightermen extends back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. A detailed history, with tips on how to trace your genealogy, should you believe that one of your ancestors was a freeman of the company, may be found in, “My ancestors were Thames Watermen” by James W. Legon.
On becoming a Freeman, Leonard appears to have deserted the Thames and served on numerous small vessels, eventually achieving his full Home Trade Masters ticket. He was in the employ of the Tilbury Contracting and Dredging Company and served on two overseas commissions, in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada, and the River Plate, Argentina. His elder brother George also worked for the TCDCo, although it appears that he was in the office. We have a letter sent by George to Leonard giving him his joining and travelling instructions to the Canadian commission with all the formalities of “Dear Mr Williams …….. Yours George R Williams”.  In the first months of 1915 he applied to join the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service but was turned down. Following this disappointment he was offered the tug Warrior, owned by the Elliott Steam Tug Company, which was under hire by the Royal Navy at Queenstown. Within weeks of his joining the Warrior the tragedy of the Lusitania sinking took place, in which the Warrior played its part. When the RNVR was mobilised in 1916, after the Navy finally admitted that the threat of the unrestricted U-boat war could not be addressed by the standard warships in commission, the Warrior, and Leonard joined active service, as HM(T) Warrior and Sub Lieutenant Williams. In 1917 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. Towards the end of the war, Leonard was declared unfit for duty suffering from a nervous breakdown however after the war he rejoined the Warrior and was the master when in 1922 she was hi-jacked by the IRA and used to gain access to an ammunition supply ship resulting in the theft of a considerable amount of military material. He had been a fit man all his life, being a keen swimmer, cricketer and yachtsman, (we have a medal for 1st place at a Cowes regatta), and lived to a ripe old age, sadly being completely deaf from 1947, and dying of cancer in 1962. Leonard married Ada Rose Burnett on the 30th December 1896 and raised 4 children.

 
THE SHIPS

The maritime career of Leonard Williams covered a multitude of small craft operating in British, Canadian and Argentine waters.
 
November 1890 to December 1895 an apprentice Thames Waterman. It appears that during the last year of the apprenticeship he was seconded out to a variety of ships, presumably to build up his experience on differing types of vessels. These include a Brig, Hoppers, Lighters and a Tug, generally with the rank of Mate. Following the completion of his apprenticeship his maritime history comprised :-
 
 
 
 

DATE FROM 
 DATE TO
 RANK
VESSEL 
COMMENTS 
December 1895 
January 1896 
Mate 
Tugs 
Relieving 
January 1896 
 April 1896
Mate 
Canadian 
Brig 
April 1896 
 May 1896
Mate
KBS 
Tug 
June 1896 
July 1896 
Mate 
Rhine 
Tug 
August 1896 
August 1896 
 
Lighters & Dredgers 
Shifting 
September 1896 
November 1896 
Mate 
Tugs 
Relieving 
November 1896 
 November 1896
Mate 
Danube 
Tug
December 1896 
December 1896 
Mate
Rhine 
Tug 
December 1896 
January 1897 
Mate 
Danube 
Tug 
January 1897 
January 1897 
Mate 
 KBS
Tug 
 January 1897
June 1897 
Mate 
Tugs 
Relieving 
June 1897 
 February 1900
Mate 
Rhine 
Tug 
February 1900 
March 1900 
Master 
Moselle 
Tug 
March 1900 
October 1900 
Mate 
Rhine 
Tug 
October 1900 
January 1901 
Master 
KBS 
Tug 
 January 1901
 December 1902
 
No. 46 
Hopper 
December 1902 
 February 1903
 
No. 42 
Hopper 
February 1903 
April 1903 
 
No. 48 
Hopper 
April 1907 
August 1910 
 
No.47 & No. 66 
Hoppers 
October 1911 
August 1912 
Master 
No. 47 & No. 64 
Hoppers -Argentina 
October 1913 
November 1914 
 Master
No 64 
Hopper - Canada 
April 1915 
February 1919 
Master 
Warrior 
Tug - Ireland 
 

   Most of 1919 was spent in various Naval Hospitals recuperating from “nervous exhaustion”. He appears to have rejoined the Warrior after the war because he was the Master in 1922, when she was hi-jacked by the IRA.

Note : Photos, and/or technical details relating to the Danube, the KBS and the Warrior can be found on the Tilbury Contracting and Dredging Co, and Elliott Steam Tugs Co, pages.
 
1901 CENSUS

During the night of the 31st March 1901 Leonard was on Hopper No 46 in transit from London to Southampton to collect a cargo of mud.
 
 
The crew are listed as being:-
 
NAME 
RANK
 STATUS
AGE 
BORN 
Leonard J Williams 
 Master
 Married
 28
London - Highgate 
Alfred Jeffree 
Engineer 
Married 
 45
London - Adelphi 
Robert Stanley 
Seaman A/B 
Single 
 43
London - ?? 
George Norreli 
 Fireman
 Married
 52
London - Ratcliff 
William Read 
Seaman A/B 
 Married
29 
Southampton 
 William Egulon
 Cook
Single 
 19
Southampton 

 It is interesting that apart from the cook, Leonard was the youngster of the crew.

From the note it would appear that they were returning to Southampton to collect another cargo of mud, and were close to completing their journey, as the schedule was handed in on the 1st April.
 
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