Deans Family Page


Benjamin Harrison Williams, the son of John Williams and Ann Thomas was born at Kelly's Ferry, Marion County, Tennessee on 29th December 1889. Ben was their youngest child and only son. Benjamin Harrison had just been elected as the next President of USA, hence the given names for young Ben.

Ben's parents had emigrated to the USA about 10 years earlier. Probably landing in Pennsylvania and making their way down to Tennessee. The family returned to Wales a little time after Ben was born and by 1901 Ben is living at 2 Penline St, Cardiff with his parents, 3 of his sisters and his young niece, Olive Embry.

At the time of the 1911 census Ben is 21 years old and is listed as living with his parents, now at 17 Agate St, Cardiff. He has however, by this time, joined the Merchant Navy and occupation is given as "seaman on a steamship". On 26th February 1915 Ben gained his Second Mates Certificate and followed this up with the First Mate Certificate on 26th August 1918.

I have been able to build up a record of some of Ben's career as a Merchant Seaman. It is possible that he served on the Merchant ship "Muriel" which operated out of Newport, Monmouthshire. The ship's crew for 1908/1909 lists H B Williams, Place of birth, Cardiff, age 18, Purser, first ship. The Muriel was torpedoed in 1918 and sunk.

From his record card stamped 10 January 1930 it appears that he also spent time aboard 118743 "Keats", 143114 "Wordsworth" 162092 "Helmspey", 133599 "Clare Lilley" (twice) and 139625 "Thomas Walton".

Ben's discharge record from the Merchant Ship "Clare Lilley" in 1936, lists him as First Mate on this vessel. Interestingly his birth date has been altered from 1889 to 1884! On the other discharge paper his wife, Winifred, is named as NOK and is living at 14 Orbit Street, Roath, Cardiff. Ben's son told me lived at 10 Orbit St - perhaps they moved or again the record was wrong.

I wouldn't go as far as to say there was a bit of the "Uncle Albert" syndrome from "Only Fools & Horses" occuring here and Ben doesn't appear to have been actually serving on either the Muriel, the Helmspey or the Clare Lilley when they went down but he was unfortunately on the Thomas Walton when she was torpedoed early in WWII.

The Thomas Walton was a steamship, built in Newcastle for a company in Cardiff. She had at least 2 previous names before becoming the Thomas Walton in 1932.

On the 7/12/1939 the Thomas Walton was sailing in Nowegian waters halfway between Bodo and Narvik when she was hit by a torpedo from a German U-Boat. She sunk with the loss of 13 lives. Ben and the other survivors were picked up a few hours later by a steamship and taken to Bodo.

The place where the Thomas Walton went down is well within the Arctic Circle and one can't imagine how cold that water must have been for Ben and his fellow shipmates on that December night. It is a wonder that they didn't all die from hypothermia.

Ben did survive though but I am led to believe that this event took its toll on his health. He died 13/3/1943. In 1939 Ben was awarded the Atlantic Star.