First Welshman to die in war was from Grangetown

HMS Amphion - William Welton had served on her for nearly 18 months

The first man from Wales to die in World War One was William Welton, a 19-year-old stoker with the Royal Navy. His ship was sunk by a mine just 32 hours after war was declared. He lived in Somerset Street in Grangetown. He is not on the memorial in Grange Gardens.

WILLIAM WELTON, Oct 11th 1894-Aug 6th 1914, Stoker First Class, Royal Navy

William, along with fellow stoker James Skyrme, 33, of Llangwm, Pembrokeshire, were the first Welshmen to die in World War One.

He was 19-years-old and a Royal Navy stoker on board HMS Amphion, which was hit by a floating mine, while mine clearing in the Thames estuary. The sinking of the light cruiser with 150 casualties happened within 32 hours of war being declared, as she returned to port after a mission to sink a German mine-layer.

A wreath laid by the British Warships Association at the Wales National Memorial in Cardiff on August 6th 2014.

William was born in Cardiff, the first born son of Patrick and Catherine Welton and brought up at 36 Somerset Street in north Grangetown. His father was born in Tredegar and a boiler rivetter but he died in 1903, leaving six children. Catherine remarried ironworks worker Thomas Arthur Fry in 1908 and moved to 18 Somerset Street. William worked as a locomotive cleaner on the railways but joined the Royal Navy in November 1912 and had been on the Amphion for nearly 18 months. In ordinary circumstances, he could have expected to be transferred to another ship by 19th August.

His mother was said to have been ill for three years and news of his death meant her condition was "regarded with anxiety," according to a short obituary in the Cardiff Times a fortnight after his death. By now living at 10 Wedmore Road, she sadly died at the end of September the following year, aged only 43, so we can assume his death took a terrible toll.

The ship's crew. Is William among them here? See also BBC Wales report on the Pembroke-built HMS Amphion.

There is very little mention of William in newspapers of the day and his name was not recorded on the Grangetown memorial but is on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission list, remembered on the naval memorial in Plymouth. We would be delighted to hear from family or if anyone has any more information or a photograph.

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