William John Sales

Military Information

  • Date of enlistment:
  • Place of enlistment:
  • Service no: 4384
  • Rank: Seaman
  • Service Occupation:
  • Awards:
  • Regiment/Service: H.M.S. Wellholme
  • Unit/Ship: Royal Naval Reserve
  • Place of Death: Lost at Sea
  • 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 has no known grave but is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. He was serving aboard H.M.S. Wellholme which was torpedoed and sunk by German Submarine UB-55, S.W. of Portland on 30 Jan 1918.

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

Can you tell us more about William John Sales'? Some additional facts, a small story handed down through the family or perhaps a picture or an heirloom you can share online. Contact our curator...

THANK YOU for your interest in helping the Great War Dundee project. Please complete the short form below and a curator will contact you in the next few days.

    I am writing to: