Rank: Leading Seaman
Regiment: Royal Naval Reserve, HMS Challenger
William Aplin served aboard HMS Challenger Picture © IWM (FL 7843)
According to his Royal Naval Reserve record, William Aplin was born in Beer on 6 November 1881. In the 1911 census he appears as a lodger in the home of William Westlake, a fisherman, at 5 Gordon Terrace, Beer. The Westlakes, William and his wife Rosina, had nine children. The census describes William senior as a fish hawker.
William joined the Royal Naval Reserve on 1 January 1902. Between then and October 1913 his RNR record states that he was ‘fishing out of Beer’ in the ‘Florence May’, which had the registration E84. This was the boat also operated by William’s brother, Norman. In 1913 he took up the job of a dock gateman at Cardiff, and another note on his RNR record says he was still working there as of April 1914, with a home address of 23 Saltmead Road, Cardiff, so he may still have been working in Cardiff in August 1914 when war broke out.
He 9th Cruiser Squadron in August 1914, and was at anchor in Plymouth Sound when William joined on 2 August. Challenger left Plymouth at 4.10am on 4 August, and while at sea, at 11pm that night received a signal from the Admiralty, to ‘commence hostilities against Germany’.
HMS Challenger was in action almost immediately. At 1.30pm on 5 August she intercepted and captured a German steamer, the Ullaboog, in the Bristol Channel. A prize crew from Challenger took the Ullaboog to Barry, where Challenger picked them up the following day. In September 1914 Challenger moved into African waters, and remained there for the rest of the war.
William left Challenger in January 1918 and his RNR record at this point shows that he was posted to ‘DAMS’, Defensively Armed Merchant Ships. As a result, he spent the last few months of the war manning guns on converted merchant ships, returning to Plymouth (HMS Vivid) in December 1918.
William was demobilised on 17 January 1919 but he remained in the RNR until 1921. He resumed his work in Cardiff docks, and was still working there in April 1921.
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