Able Seaman William Fulton Woodrow RNVR was born in Glasgow, Kelvin in 1894, the only son of Mary and James Paton Woodrow.
His father James was born at Chapel Farm, Maryhill in 1857. He married Jessie Fraser in Glasgow in 1886 and the couple had two children: Charlotte, born 1888 and Jessie, born 1889. But the girls lost their mother that same year, when she was only 29 years of age.
James re-married in 1891 in Avondale, South Lanarkshire to Mary McGregor, born Glenorchy, Argyleshire. In the 1891 census the couple were living at 877 New City Road (now Maryhill Rd), Glasgow with Charlotte and Jessie. James was working as a blacksmith.
The couple had three children: Martha McGregor, born 1892; William Fulton, born 1894 and Mary Ewing born 1896. By April 1901 the family had moved a short distance to 38 North Park Street, Queens Cross. James was still working as a blacksmith.
William’s mother Mary died in 1904 when he was only 10 years old leaving his father to take care of the five children. The oldest was only 16 years of age. By 1911 the family had moved to Anderston. All of James’ children were still living at home.
William was working as a clerk when he enlisted on the 1st of May 1911. He was mobilised on the 21st of August 1914 and left Clyde Division for Walmer Camp, Kent for training. On the 22nd of August 1914 he joined The Royal Naval Division, Nelson Battalion. Formed in September 1914, from surplus navy men, the Division fought on land alongside the Army. Although the Division included officers and men from the Army and Royal Navy, most of the recruits were reservists or men who had volunteered on the outbreak of war. William took part in the Defence of Antwerp with the Royal Naval Division in October 1914. In the rush to get men to Belgium, most were sent to war without even basic equipment. They were armed with outdated weapons and at that stage had no artillery, engineering or medical units attached. Ultimately Antwerp fell to German forces. Approximately 1,500 troops crossed the Dutch frontier to escape and were interned in the Netherlands. William’s unit managed to successfully withdraw from Antwerp and return to England. On the 27th of October 1914 he was drafted to “H. M. S. Vivid” the Naval base at Devonport. We do not know William’s movements between November 1914 and the sinking of the Laurentic.
William’s body was recovered from the sea and is buried in the mass grave in St Mura’s churchyard, Fahan. On the memorial stone for the mass grave, he is incorrectly listed as Seaman P. Woodrow Royal Naval Reserve
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk – Service Records Royal Naval Division ADM 339
http://www.jackclegg.com – Jack Clegg Memorial Database of Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War
We are grateful to Peter Threlfall, WW1 historian, for generously providing the portraits of William published here, gathered from William’s descendants.