Captain William Pearson Townshend (5D35)

Date of Birth: 14 Jun 1875
Date of Death: 31 March 1949
Generation: 7th
Residence: Romford, Essex
Father: Nathaniel Wilmot Oliver Townshend [5D13]
Mother: Strawson, Maria
  1. Strawson, Blanche
  1. Joan Oliver [5D57]
  2. Barbara Gerrard [5D58]
  3. Richard Brian [5D68]
See Also: Table VD ; Scrapbook ; Lineage ; Ancestors' Tree ; Descendents' Tree

Notes for Captain William Pearson Townshend

William was born in Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park, London.

Married in Spetember 1902 in Highgate, London. Blanche was the daughter of James Strawson and niece of Maria Strawson who married Nathaniel Wilmot Townsend [5D13].

Educated at Brownswood Park College in Finsbury Park and subsequently at City of London School, William went to sea, aged 15, as an apprentice on the sailing ship "Sir Henry Lawrence". Later, aged nineteen and still an apprentice, serving on the sailing ship "Lord Roseberry" the crew refused to go aloft to reef the sails during a heavy storm. Fearing for their safety, William scrambled aloft and shamed the men into following him to reef the sails, thus saving the ship. In recognition of this the underwriters presented him with a gold watch and chain. Sometime prior to 1899 William qualified as a 2nd Mate and joined P&O.

During the Boer War P&O ships were used as troopships between the UK and South Africa and William served as 3rd Officer on the P&O ship SS Assayeit. Whilst troops from The Hampshire Regiment were disembarking at Capetown on 23 January 1900, Private J.Bannard fell overboard into the harbour with all his equipment. Without any hesitation William plunged into the water but though he dived several times Private Bannard could not be found and was drowned. For this William received the Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal (Case 30513) (1) on the recommendation of Lord Kitchener.

William joined the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) as a Sub Lieutenant in July 1904 (2). In a letter (3) dated 22 December 1906 to his brother George Chambre Wilmot Townshend [5D33] William wrote that he was appointed to HMS Glory on 26 November 1906 which was in dock for repairs until at least March 1907 ..."so I am very fortunate as I can get home nearly every night." He also recorded that he had got a first class certificate on the torpedo and gunnery courses at Devonport on the Cambridge and Defiance. The letter shows that he was living at ‘Ledbury’, Granada Road, Southsea at the time and was in touch with his brother Horatio Baxter Townshend [5D34] who was also living in Southsea at that time. "There is quite an invasion of Townshends in Southsea; Aunt Bessie is here for the winter, then Aunt Anne and Hugh Morgan are coming down tomorrow for a week, so it will be quite a large gathering at Horace's on Christmas Day". (4)

Promoted Lieutenant on 12 December 1907, he was called up on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and served in the Mediterranean Fleet. It is not known when he was promoted Lieutenant Commander. In 1915 he was involved in the naval bombardment during the assault on Gallipoli during which battle his brother, Dudley Ryder Townsend [5D36], was part of the assaulting force and was killed. After the war he was appointed Captain of the port of Constantinople and remained there until 1922.

Promoted to Commander on 31 December 1920 (5), William retired from the RNR as a Captain on 31 December 1925 (6) and re-joined P&O. Narrowly missing promotion to Commodore of the P&O Fleet he enjoyed a successful career as a Ship's Master and was appointed master of the "Strathaird" (7) on launching; this was his last command before he retired in 1936. Following this William was appointed an assessor at the Admiralty Court of Appeal; he was also appointed Governor of the Royal Merchant Navy Orphanage in Wokingham and was on the Committee of the Royal Alfred Home for Aged Seamen.

During the Second World War P&O put their ships at the disposal of The Admiralty and William was recalled from retirement to oversee transfer and armimg of the vessels.

William moved to 60 Parkway, Gidea Park, Romford in about 1912 and this remained his home for the rest of his life. He died in hospital at Romford and is buried with his daughter, Barbara [5D58].

(1) Scroll down to Townshend WP (shown as Townshead!)

(2) London Gazette 27696 page 4559 dated15 July 1904.

(3) Derry Papers 5D35/1. Letter dated 22 December 1906 from William P Townshend to George CW Townshend.

(4) 'Bessie' is Eliza Townshend [5D18], 'Anne' is Anne Townshend [5D20] and 'Hugh Morgan' is the son of Alicia Hewitt Townshend [5D48].

(5) London Gazette 32178 page 10 dated 1 January 1921.

(6) London Gazette 33144 page 21098 dated 23 March 1926 .

(7) Launched in 1932 the "Strathaird" at 22,500 tons was the largest ship in the fleet.