William John Sales

Military Information

  • Date of enlistment: 1912
  • Place of enlistment: Lerwick
  • Service no: 4384
  • Rank: Seaman
  • Service Occupation:
  • Awards:
  • Regiment/Service: Royal Naval Reserve
  • Unit/Ship: H.M.S. Wellholme
  • Place of Death: Lost at Sea, S.W. of Portland
  • Age at Death: 25
  • Date of Death: 30.01.1918
  • Burial Country:
  • Cemetery: Portsmouth Naval Memorial
  • Grave/Mem Ref no: Panel 31

Personal Information

  • Date of Birth: 20.05.1892
  • Place of Birth: Longhaven, Aberdeenshire
  • Address: 19 North Tay Street, Dundee
  • Occupation:
  • Mother:
  • Father:
  • Siblings:
  • Spouse:

    Annie Sales, 19  North Tay St, Dundee

  • Children:

More about William John Sales

William J Sales was the husband of Mrs Annie Sales of 19 Tay Street and 222 Overgate, Dundee. He joined the Royal Naval Reserve in Lerwick in 1912 and carried out Naval Training in Portsmouth and onboard the battleship HMS Venerable. After the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was mobilised and served in several small ships based in Lerwick, Liverpool, Scapa Flow and Portsmouth. His final draft was to the Q Ship HMS Wellholme, formerly the motorised ketch Thornhill or Danton. The role of a Q Ship was to act as an unarmed vessel and lure a submarine to attack on the surface and at close range and the ship’s name was changed frequently to confuse the enemy. Once in range concealed armaments would be used to fire on the submarine. The Wellholme was sunk by the German submarine UB-55 in the English Channel. William Sales was one of three fatalities in the sinking and he is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common, Hampshire.

On the morning of the 30th of January, in response to reports of U-boat activity near Lyme
Bay, Wellholme set sail from Portland. Patrolling around Lyme Bay her crew saw nothing until,
as the sun was setting in the west, a U-boat was spotted on the surface 400 yards away.
But the U-boat had seen Wellholme too and quickly moved east where it was hidden in the
rapidly darkening sky. Just before 6pm, the German crew fired four shots in quick succession
on Welholme. One struck the hull at the waterline and Wellholme immediately began to settle.
Realising there was nothing to be done the captain ordered the crew on deck and, less than
five minutes after being struck, the ship heeled over and the crew were tossed into the
water. A small boat drifted free and the crew were able to clamber on board, but it was
soon realised that three men had been lost.
The U-boat, SM UB-55, had played a shrewd game, quickly taking advantage of the dimming
light and moving each time it fired. The attacker wasn’t seen by the Wellholme’s crew again
and they drifted in their boat for seven hours until, at 1am, they were picked up by the
Admiralty yacht HMY Lorna.
Wellholme itself hasn’t been seen since either – its wreck has not yet been identified on the

Information supplied by Gary Thomson

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