William Williams


c1735-78. He was born in Pembrokeshire, the son of William Williams and of his wife, Lydia. He was the father of Admiral Sir Thomas Williams.

Williams passed his lieutenant’s examination on 2 June 1756, was commissioned on 10 February 1757, serving aboard the Southampton 32, Captain James Gilchrist, and was promoted commander of the fireship Salamander 8 on 2 March 1759. This vessel was re-rated a sloop of sixteen guns in August 1761 before reverting to a fireship shortly afterwards, and he commanded her until December 1762, when she was sold out of the service.

From 18 August 1766 until 30 August 1769, he had the brig Peggy 8 off the east coast of Scotland and north-east England in the preventative service, and on 24 November of the latter year he was appointed to the Otter 14, which he took out to Newfoundland in May 1770 before returning later in the year.

On 10 January 1771 he was one of fourteen officers posted captain, including somewhat confusingly his namesake, William Peere Williams, but although appointed for purposes of rank only to the Enterprise 40 it was reported that he continued in command of the Otter through to March when he brought her into Portsmouth. On 8 July he was appointed to the dull sailing Wolf 8 which he retained until June 1774, being employed off the Cornish coast in the Preventative Service where on one occasion he used one captured smuggling vessel in pursuit of another.

On 6 October 1775 Williams was appointed to the frigate Active 28, going out from Cork with a convoy for North America in the following February. He was present at the unsuccessful attack on Charleston on 28 June 1776, where the Active grounded and run out of ammunition. Thereafter he briefly commanded the Experiment 50 and Rose 20 for the badly wounded Captain Alexander Scott.The Battle of Charleston 1776

Resuming the command of the Active in the autumn, he departed New York for home with dispatches in November 1776 and arrived at Plymouth thirty-four days later. He then sailed for Jamaica in March 1777 before returning to Portsmouth from Newfoundland at the end of October. In December he faced a court-martial at Portsmouth on the charge that he had left his station on the Newfoundland Banks contrary to orders, but it being accepted that his return had been of a necessity he was honourably acquitted.

In February 1778 Williams departed England once more with a convoy to assume duty on the Jamaican station. On 1 September the storm-damaged Active, having been obliged to shed eleven guns several days before in a hurricane, fell in with the French frigates Charmante 38 and D daigneuse 26 off San Domingo, and after two broadsides she struck her colours. Williams died from wounds on 14 September whilst a prisoner on San Domingo, and his grief at losing his command, together with his apparent refusal of food, was said to have contributed greatly to his death.

Including Admiral Sir Thomas Williams, Williams appears to have had two other sons, one of whom, Edward, became a lieutenant on 9 August 1779, and two daughters with his wife, Elizabeth, and the family resided on the Isle of Wight.