William Robert John Edwards was born on 10th July 1899, one of fourteen children to engine fitter William Edwards and his wife Bertha. Both of William Jr’s parents had been born in Devon, but, by the time of his birth, they had moved to the Somerset town of Wellington.
William followed in his father’s footsteps when he left school, but with war raging across Europe, he was keen to play his part as soon as he was able to do so. He enlisted in the Royal Navy on 7th September 1917, his engineering background making him perfect for a member of the Armourer’s Crew.
William’s service record show that he was 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall, had brown hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. He was initially sent to HMS Vivid – the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport – for training, and was given a posting on board HMS Gorgon, a coastal defence ship on 1st May 1918.
Tragically, this first assignment was to be Armourer’s Crew Edwards’ last. Within a matter of weeks, he was taken back to HMS Vivid, suffering from tubercular meningitis. Back at base, the condition proved too much for the young man: he passed away on 30th May 1918, days shy of his 19th birthday.
Brought back to Somerset for burial, William Robert John Edwards was laid to rest in the cemetery of his home town, Wellington.