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William Cadman Commander

William was born on 1st April 1879 in Broughton, Yorkshire to parents Reginald and Charlotte Agnes Douglas and baptised on the 27th of the same month in Appleton-le-Street, York.

At the time the 1881 census was taken, William was aged 2 and lived on a large estate called Swinton Grange in the parish of Appleton-Le-Street, York with his parents (his father owned land) and 3 siblings, along with a Cook, Housemaid, Nurse, Undernurse, Head Groom and Under Groom. 10 years later he is noted as living with his Aunt and siblings at 1 Westfield Terrace, Scarborough aged 12 while educated at Colet Court in Hammersmith, London.

William joined the Navy on the 15th July 1893 as a Naval Cadet and was promoted to a Midshipman on 15th December 1895, rising to Sub Lieutenant on 15th June 1899. He was made a Lieutenant on 1st October 1901. He was cautioned in June 1907 by his Commander in Chief to “exercise more care in future in handling his ship” but 3 months later on 3rd September he was admitted to Chatham Hospital, expecting to be discharged in October. He was evaluated on the 8th October and deemed unfit, and again tested on 29th October and recorded unfit. He did not return to service until the end of November 1907 where he was ordered to join HMS PANTHER, which was attached to HMS SAPPHIRE. He remained with the destroyer until 17th February 1910 before transferring to HMS INDOMITABLE to be in command of the vessel. His rank was that of a Lieutenant, aged 31 and he was aboard the first class armoured cruiser of the Home Fleet anchored in HMS Dockyard Chatham on the night of the 1911 census. He also served aboard HMS’s REPULSE, MAJESTIC, HOOD, DIADEM, DOLPHIN, SIRIUS and REDPOLE between 1895 and 1910. He was awarded the China Medal 1900 (# 8033) receiving it whilst a Sub Lieutenant aboard HMS REDPOLE.

William remained with the Home Fleet until November 1911 before taking a shore base position as Commander at Shotley Barracks, Suffolk at HMS GANGES.

William at HMS GANGES - courtesy of the Morris Family

He departed the Suffolk coast at the end of 1913 and on the turn of the new year, 1st January 1914, was posted to the dreadnought battleship HMS VANGUARD where he kept a diary, or series of diaries, some of which were posted home and subsequently survived. Some entries have been transcribed -

1st September 1914

Quiet day at Scapa [Flow] spoilt by light cruiser sighting a submarine at 7pm she opened fire and fired 2 rounds from “y4”, she is positive of it being a submarine and maintains she sank it. Sweeping later found nothing.

24th January 1915 (Battle of Dogger Bank)

Thought we really would have a show, as their B.C.S [battle cruiser squadron] were out and B.S [battle squadron] on the move steaming at 20 [knots], passed 5 floating mines, 2 quite close, destroyers were most useful in spotting them, then destroying them. B.C.S (Lion, Tiger, Princess Royal and Indomitable) were in touch with Derfflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Blücher. Blücher was sunk, Derfflinger and Moltke damaged, Lion and Tiger damaged. They formed up long before Princess Royal and Indomitable, practically did all the work. Didn’t think the result was quite as good as expected. V.A Studee shifted his flag to Princess Royal when Lion’s engines were damaged.

We saw nothing. Then B.S did not venture out. Indomitable had to tow Lion in on account of defect in his feed water. Luckily weather was very calm.

7th July 1915 (A visit by the King) The King arrived in misty rainy weather about 5’o’ clock aboard HMS Oak. Manned and Cheered ship. Orders had been received in the forenoon [0800-1200] that we would leave for Devonport after the King had finished inspection of the Fleet. Prepared for sea about 6pm and was underway by 7pm.

Busy making up turret arrangements, handicapped by lack of railway fluid. Weather moderate, much better than expected. Everyone looking forward to 4 days leave.

20th August 1915

Fresh breeze so Regatta had to be postponed till the afternoon. Got 3 races off in the afternoon. Boys’ cutter in which we got 3rd. R.N.R [Royal Naval Reserve] and R.N.V.R [Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve] in which we had no crew at all until the forenoon when we got 2, naturally they didn’t do much as they had no practice, one was 8th and the other 16th (last). The third race set off was Officers’ cutter (our speciality) we had strong wind behind us, so it was not an easy start, we did not do so badly, but the St Vincent had about 2 lengths we had a fierce struggle with “Supela” only beat them by about ½ length the crew was.

Mcbray: Knox ~ Upton: Fleming ~ Millan: Wise ~ Bell: Self ~ Mack: Mcingham ~ Williams: Resus ~ Captain (Cox)

21st August 1915

Regatta held in full. Breeze from the north meant altering course although we did very well indeed. Very sorry to lose the Officers gig race, Neptune (in Orion’s gig) beat us by 2 ½ feet; we had a poor start, Wise [another Officer] lost ½ a stroke by unshipping his oar, still one cannot be expected to win Officers’ race. Our subordinate officers won easily, we had a struggle in the veteran skills, beating Colossus on the post; Our W.Os [warrant officers] were second. Although in the 5 officers’ events we got 3 firsts and 2 seconds considering what a Tully craft our skiffs are actually very good indeed.

The results were as follows

Our boats attained points as follows:-

Vanguard 461

Marlborough 360

Superb 358

Hercules 346

Neptune 338

Colossus 330

Collingwood 321

Bellona 310

St Vincent 234

It was noted that over the past several weeks Captain Hickley had been sick for several extended periods meaning Commander Cadman had to take command of the ship for several weeks while he recuperated.

31st of January 1916 (New Captain)

Another splendid day, Captain [Hickley] said goodbye to ship’s company after prayer. Captain J.D Dick joined 2:30

1st February 1916

All officers introduced to Capt Dick. by R.A Hickley. R.A Hickley left at 1-10pm. The ship's company gave him a voluntary and very good send off.

31st May 1916

Steamed S.E approx. till 5pm whom we a/c south. 2:30pm raised steam for full speed went to B.J [an alert or defence station not as high as action stations] for news that destroyers and light cruisers were engaged, afterwards that enemy’s battle fleet were coming north and that battle cruisers of 5th battle squadron (Barnham, Malaya, Valiant and Warspite) were engaging them. 4pm going 20 knots and keeping well into Jutland to try to cut them off. 6:05pm sighted on B.C.S + 5th B.S on strait now heavily engaged- defiance, Warrior, Black Prince and Duke of Edinburgh also in sight. Sighted some enemy destroyers, light cruisers and battle cruisers- saw big explosions and one of our 4 funnelled cruisers blow up (? Defiance). 6:30 opened fire on enemy 4 funnelled cruiser and badly damaged her. Most of Battle Fleet now in action except 2nd B.S (leading) practically out of range owing to mist. We came after 2nd B.S (last ship of 4th B.S) then came 1st B.S. Visibility was at the time little over 5m. We opened fire at 10,000 yards, got into 9000 and up to 14,000. Enemies’ big ships appeared to come from mist for a short time then disappear again. There was a good many ploy. 7:10 passed close to Invincible sunk broken in the middle, bow and stem sticking up out of the water she was practically gone by 8pm but we unmanned out of action stations about 9:15pm when it was getting dark. Went to high defence stations. One watch got some supper. 10:30 rattles sung and all expecting enemy destroyers but nothing doing for us.

1st June 1916

Glorious first of June, hoped to celebrate it by firing at the Hun fleet, but they weren’t having any more, the others think the fog and dark allowed them to get away. We steamed south till about 2:30am when we went to action stations but no sign of them. Cruised about looking for them especially the damaged ships, a signal was passed down to keep a look out for the Lutzow, damaged but we did not see her. At 4am sighted a Zeppelin was out of range of our guns but she fled followed by 2 ships. Passed one or two mines floating also a large number of bodies with lifebelts on who we believe were German sailors. We remained at action stations till 10:25am when we went to B.J and turned for Scapa Flow. At 2:30pm we secured what result of the action was. Our losses were fairly slight. Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invincible, Defiance and Black Prince sunk. I noticed the Marlborough with a bad list at 7pm yesterday but it seemed to get better later on. The flag was transferred to the Revenge last night and Marlborough went on to the Humber, Warspite also had to leave in the night, and the others of the 5th B.S (who had most of the fighting) must be fairly badly mauled. Heard last night that the Warrior had to be abandoned and sunk and that all hands were taken off. The Germans must have been fairly badly knocked about, as although the light was enormously in their favour; the 15-inch guns of the 5th B.S must have done a good deal of damage. We expended 66 rounds and most of the ships except the 2nd B.S are somewhere near this number; the 1st Division of the 1st Squadron (Marlborough, Revenge, Agincourt and Hercules) getting through the most. Casualties made in the afternoon Colossus had 4 wounded, other battleships except the 5th B.S none- 5th B.S ships and about 30 killed and 40/50 wounded each on average. The latest numbers are that the Germans have sunk 2 battlecruisers, 5 light cruisers and 8 or 9 destroyers, 1 battle cruiser badly damaged and probably some battleships sunk and damaged. Not as good as expected, but it is almost impossible to know yet and we can only state what we know. 7pm sounded the still for silence and attention while Barham, Malaya and Valiant buried at sea those who had been killed. Valiant then left the Fleet for Rosyth and Tyne.

[It must be remembered that this diary was written at the time of the battle which accounts for some inaccuracies]

William Cadman remained with VANGUARD and her crew up until the summer evening of Monday 9th July 1917, losing his life when the battleship exploded at anchor in Scapa Flow. A greatly revered man, he had created a close bond and friendship with his former Captain, the then Rear Admiral Cecil S Hickley, who wrote a letter to William’s brother after the destruction of the ship and loss of so many lives “Your brother served under me at Shotley and in the Vanguard for about four years and I learnt to appreciate him at his true worth. We all loved him and I personally have lost such a good friend. Words fail me to tell you what I feel in the loss of one whose loyalty and devotion to duty I learnt to value at its true worth. His hold over both officers and men was quite exceptional. All who knew him have indeed lost a great friend and the Navy has lost an officer of sterling worth and noble character”.

Image courtesy of Nick Matthews

His superiors always remarked on his “zealousness” and capabilities, “exceptional” and “most efficient”.

His Star, Victory and British war medals were claimed by his brother following his death. His family ensured that William was remembered locally as well as listed on the Chatham Naval Memorial. A brass plaque was erected at All Saints Church in the small village of Wold Newton, Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire along with his name included in the list of fallen from Scarborough on the column at Oliver’s Mount, a breath taking 500 feet overlooking the town.

(Memorial images from W Sadler Collection - William and brother Mandeville c1912 image courtesy of the Morris Family)


England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 Free BMD

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975

1881, 1891 & 1911 England Census

National Archives ADM 196/125/251 Royal Naval Officers' Service Records Index, 1756-1931

De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, 1914-1919

Navy Lists, 1888-1970 Peter Singlehurst

British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Service Registers and Registers of Deaths and Injuries. Registers of Reports of Deaths

CWGC Register

Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 Class: ADM 171; Piece: 55

Images a) & b) credit the Morris Family

Memorial images - W Sadler collection

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