Private William Frederick Cates

Date of Birth 28 February 1888
Age at Death 30
Date of Death 27 June 1918
Service Number 962
Military Service Canadian Army Medical Corps
Merton Address 221 Kingston Road and 39 Compton Road
Local Memorial Wimbledon Parish Church

Additional Information

William Frederick CATES was born to Parents George and Alice (nee Livermore). His parents had married at St. Matthew in Brixton on 13th July 1879 and by the time William was born in Brixton on 28th February 1888 his parents already had four children: Francis, Ethel, Charles and Alice. Another child named Harry was born in 1890, followed by George 1892, Geoffrey in 1893, Dorothy in 1894 (who died the following year) and Marjorie early in 1901. William's father worked first as a warehouseman then later as a Commercial traveller.

The family moved house on a regular basis, by 1901 William aged 13 was living with parents, eight siblings, uncle and two servants at 11 Springfield Road in North Wimbledon. Williams’s father and Uncle were listed as Commercial Travellers. Eldest sibling Francis aged 19 was working as a warehouseman of dried goods and Charles aged 16 as a Mechanical Engineering Apprentice.

Records show that William and his brother George attended Rutlish School in Wimbledon. In 1908 younger brother Harry, aged 18 emigrated to Canada and later became a Physician.

By 1911 the family are no longer living under the same roof: William’s father was living in Reading with son George aged 18 and daughter Marjorie aged 10, While his mother Alice was living in Wimbledon, with eldest son Francis and his wife Emily and their child Winifred. Ethel was living at 221 Kingston Road, working as a Bank Clerk and other family members were residing at various locations in Wimbledon.

Records show that William aged 23 left Liverpool in August 1911 on the Ship SS Celtic and travelled to Toronto, possibly to meet up with his brother Harry. He was listed as a student going to Canada to finish a course.

When war broke out, William still in Canada enlisted in Toronto as a Private on 31st March 1915 for the no. 4 Canadian Hospital. He gave his address as 221 Kingston Road and his occupation Clerk of supplies. He was described as being 5ft 6 ½ tall, with a dark complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair.

After enlisting he saw service out in Salonica and was paid as a motor driver. By June of 1917 he was a candidate for admission to an Officer Cadet Unit and embarked for England from Salonica. On 21st March 1918, he was transferred onto the Ship HMS Llandovery Castle, which was being used as a hospital ship.

On the 27th June 1918 the Llandovery Castle, bound from Halifax, Nova Scotia for Liverpool was deliberately torpedoed by a German submarine. On board were two hundred and fifty-eight persons consisting of officers and men and nurses of the Canadian Medical Corps. The ship sank in about ten minutes but a good many lifeboats were successfully lowered. Captain Sylvester, was the last man to leave the ship, his boat ultimately contained twenty-four men and these occupants were the only survivors of the "Llandovery Castle".

It appears that the captain was given a hint to” clear off at once”, so the occupants hoisted a sail and sailed away. Shortly after they heard firing from the U-boat.. The captain's boat cruised about for some thirty-six hours before it was eventually picked up, and its occupants reached home. During the 29th June, a systematic search of the area was made but no other boats or survivors were found. The firing the Captain heard was directed against the men and women in the other life-boats and those still in the sea.

William’s body was never recovered so he was presumed drown on 27th June 1918 aged 30. He is remembered at Wimbledon Parish Church and his name also appears on a memorial in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He left effects of £206 19s and 10d to his sister Ethel who still lived at 221 Kingston Road.

William also lost two brothers during the First World War: George Edward a 2nd lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade died 9th March 1917 aged 24. He was awarded a VC posthumous which his father received from King George V. Geoffrey 2nd Lieutenant with the 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was killed in France whilst on active service on 21st March 1918 aged 25.

By 1919 the Cates family are now living at 39 Compton Road, Wimbledon.


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