Rank: Chief Petty Officer
Regiment: Royal Navy
William (Bill) Driver was born in Beer in 1880. His father, Samuel, was a farm labourer, while his mother was a lacemaker.
Bill joined the Royal Navy as a ‘Boy 2nd Class’ on 16 February 1897, and trained on HMS Boscawen and HMS Minotaur, both training ships moored in Portland harbour. His Royal Navy record describes him as 5ft 4½ inches tall on joining, with brown hair and eyes, and a fair complexion. In the summer of 1898 he joined HMS Isis, a brand new Eclipse-class cruiser with a crew of 450. By this time he had become a Boy 1st Class.
HMS Isis joined the Mediterranean Fleet, and while serving on Isis Bill was promoted to Ordinary Seaman in October 1898. In 1900 Isis was briefly detached to the China Station, as part of the British response to the Boxer Rebellion and attacks on the foreign legations in Peking. As a result, Bill will have qualified for the China War Medal. Also while on Isis, in April 1900, he was promoted to Able Seaman.
After training in gunnery (HMS Cambridge) and torpedo handling (HMS Defiance), Bill became a Leading Seaman in 1904 and a Petty Officer in 1906. He then spent two years on another cruiser, HMS Highflyer, before joining the submarine depot ship HMS Forth in October 1908. He was to spend the remainder of his career on submarines. Some of his postings show only the depot ship which was his parent unit (HMS Forth, Arrogant, Titania, etc.) others show the actual submarines he served on (B4, J2 etc.).
When war broke out in August 1914 Bill was still serving on HMS Forth, but in October that year he transferred to another submarine depot ship, HMS Arrogant, which was moored at Dover as the base for the submarines of the Dover Patrol. From January to September 1915 Bill’s record shows him on board the submarine B4, and for most of 1916 he was based on HMS Titania, a submarine depot ship moored at Blyth in Northumberland, and serving on board submarine G3.
After brief spells with the depot ship HMS Maidstone and at the Royal Navy submarine school in Portsmouth (HMS Dolphin), he joined the submarine J2 in February 1917. On 7 July that year J2 torpedoed and sank a German U-boat, U-99, off the coast of Norway. U-99 had been running on the surface after attacking a convoy and sinking an escort ship the previous day. U-99 was hit by one of the four torpedoes fired by J2, and sank with all hands.
Bill married Caroline Bartlett in 1918, and in April 1919 he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer, just before leaving J2 for another spell at HMS Dolphin in Portsmouth. He was discharged from the Royal Navy in November 1920, and became a member of the Royal Fleet Reserve. Bill died in 1964, aged 83.
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