Leading Seaman 



Royal Navy

Died On:
15 June 1915


William Litten was born at Sunningdale, Berkshire on 9 October 1888, the seventh child of Benjamin Litten, a general labourer, and his wife Emily (née Dobison).

He joined the Royal Navy as Boy 2nd Class on 19 Sep 1905 at HMS BOSCAWEN, giving his date of birth as 9 October 1888 (although birth and school registers point to an earlier date of birth that year). He served in the battleship HMS PRINCE OF WALES in the Mediterranean from September 1906 and was rated Able Seaman in April 1908.  After service in the survey ship HMS RESEARCH he qualified as a Torpedoman and as a Diver.  He served briefly in the battleship HMS COMMONWEALTH and in October 1911 joined the depot ship HMS THAMES at Sheerness, although there is no indication he served in submarines at this stage.  Ten months later he was moved again, to the battleship HMS IMPLACABLE in the 5th Battle Squadron where he was rated Leading Seaman, and employed as an Acting Leading Torpedoman (LTO).

Early in 1914 he spent four months at HMS DEFIANCE, the Devonport Torpedo School, and was then confirmed as an LTO. He joined the light cruiser HMS UNDAUNTED on commissioning in August 1914.  Later in the year, UNDAUNTED led the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla of the Harwich Force, and took part in the Texel action with German torpedo boats on 17 October, the Cuxhaven Raid on 25 December, and the Battle of Dogger Bank on 24 January 1915. UNDAUNTED was damaged in a collision in April 1915, and William Litten was then drafted to DOLPHIN and then to FORTH for service in HMS ONYX, the depot ship for the two remaining Devonport submarines A8 and A9. He had just started as the LTO of HMS A8 when he met his death.

Another sailor from HMS ONYX testified at the Inquest that he and Litten and a third sailor had hired bicycles at Plymouth on  Monday (14 June), about 2pm, and went for a ride over Laira Bridge in the direction of Hooe.  When descending the Radford hill, the deceased seemed to lose control of his machine, passed the witness, and went out of sight where he fell. The witness found an Army Officer who had been riding a motorcycle assisting Litten. The bicycle was undamaged. The witness was of the view that Litten had seen the oncoming motorcycle and had braked too hard, resulting in him being thrown over the handlebars.  He was said not to have been drinking and to have been a good rider. He was admitted to Stonehouse hospital that afternoon and died early the following morning, having suffered extensive skull fracture and brain haemorrhage. The inquest gave a verdict of “accidental death”.

He left a widow, Sarah Ann (née Brown) whom he had married in 1911. He was buried at Upton cum Chalvey (St Mary) Churchyard, Slough.



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