William was born on 3rd December 1892, in Stockton, County Durham to parents James and Mary, the couple’s second child of four. On the 1901 census they were all recorded living at 12 St Annes Road, Stockton, Durham - James worked stationery boiler man; William was aged nine, his older brother Cornelius was eleven and there were two girls, aged two and five months, along with a boarder who worked as a mill furnace man. Ten years later on the 1911 census the family lived at 28 Leonard Street. The couple had had a further two boys to add to their family before James died in his mid forties. William was then twenty years old and worked as a labourer along with his brother while his two sisters attended school.
William’s nickname was Scrapper, although the family have no idea where it came from! He was also a good runner, able to cover 100 yards, with a best time of 10.3 seconds.
Just a couple of months after the outbreak of the First World War William joined the Royal Naval Reserve on 1st October 1914 as a Stoker. He was recorded as being 5’9” tall with brown eyes and a dark complexion and sporting a scar over his right eye. He remained in training until his first and only posting to the dreadnought HMS VANGUARD, on 9th July 1915, exactly two years earlier to his death and the ship’s destruction. He served aboard during the Battle of Jutland as well as marrying Frances Meechan in 1916, in Stockton, Durham when he returned on leave.
His pension was left to his widow and son, William James Brown Meechan born in 1915, following his death. William’s naval legacy was a son that went on to serve during WW2 and a Grandson served in the Falklands War. There is more reading in the link
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1901 & 1911 England Census
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 10a; Page: 136
UK, Royal Naval Reserve Service Records Index, 1860-1955
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty: Naval Casualties, Indexes, War Grave Rolls and Statistics Book, First World War.; Class: ADM 242; Piece:007 (1914 - 1919)
Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 TNA Series: ADM 242/7; Scan Number: 0530
Photo courtesy of Val Waites