CWG: Petty Officer William Coughlan

Petty Officer William Coughlan

William Henry Coughlan was born on 16th November 1891, one of thirteen children to William and Catherine Coughlan. William Sr was a labourer, born and bred in the East End of London, who raised his family in Hackney.

William Jr seemed keen for a way to improve himself and in May 1909, enlisted in the Royal Navy. Initially given the rank of Boy, this was due to his age; on his eighteenth birthday a few months later, he was formally enrolled in the navy as an Ordinary Seaman.

To begin with, he was billeted at HMS Ganges II, the shore-based training ship in Harwich, Suffolk, but within a matter of weeks he was on board a sea-going destroyer, HMS Antrim.

Ordinary Seaman Coughlan was obviously a keen young man; by the time the Great War broke out, he had served on four further ships, as well as another shore base, HMS Pembroke I. He rose through the ranks to Able Seaman and, by 1915, had reached the role of Leading Seaman.

Most of his service was spent upon HMS Agamemnon, initially in the Channel, but was then moved to the Mediterranean. On the night of the 5th May 1916, the ship was moored in the harbour at Thessaloniki (Salonika). A Zeppelin, the LZ55, made a bombing raid, but when the searchlights caught it, the Agamemnon fired on it and hit the aircraft, breaking it in two. It crashed in the swamps around the Vardar river and its crew were captured.

Leading Seaman Coughlan remained on the Agamemnon, before returning to England in November 1917, where he received further training at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham. He was promoted to Petty Officer a couple of months later, and began three years of shore- and ship-based service.

In the summer of 1921, while again based in Chatham, he contracted pneumonia, succumbing to the lung condition in a matter of weeks. Petty Officer Coughlan died on 26th July 1921, aged just 29 years old.

William Henry Coughlan was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham; within walking distance of the naval base that had become his home.


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