Leading Stoker William Boxall

Service:  Royal Navy
Service No:  296810 (RFR/PO/B/58919)
Date and place of birth:   6 October 1882 in Stedham, Sussex
Date and place of death:  31 May 1916 at sea

Family background

William Boxall was the second son of George and Amy Boxall. George was an agricultural labourer, born in 1850 in Woolbeding, Sussex and had married Amy Osborne in 1870. She was born in 1849 in Ambersham, Hampshire (sic). They lived at Ash Cottage, Stedham and had six children: Emma, Charles, Catherine, William, Frederick and Amy.

Amy Boxall died in 1888, aged 38 and her husband George died in 1905, aged 55.

Military service

At the time of the 1901 census William Boxall (18) was in the Royal Navy serving as a stoker on HMS Wellington based at Portsmouth.

In 1911 William (29) was still single and still in the Navy. He was a Leading Stoker on HMS Racoon, a torpedo boat destroyer based at Portsmouth. On completion of his twelve year service he signed up for a second term on 16 February 1913, again based in Portsmouth.

The Battle of Jutland was fought in the North Sea, near Jutland, Denmark, on 31 May 1916. It was considered to be the only major naval battle of WW1. The Germans claimed victory as they sank a higher number of ships, but Admiral Jellicoe claimed victory as his fleet was still sea worthy, despite the heavy losses (14 ships and 6,000 lives) Amongst the British losses were six Battleships, five Light Cruisers and one submarine.  The first Battleship to go was ‘Indefatigable’ with a loss of 1,000 men.  Next was the ‘Queen Mary’ which sank in ninety seconds. HMS Broke was one of nineteen Destroyers in the 4th Flotilla. William Boxall was one of forty seven men to lose their lives on Broke.

In his report to the Admiralty Jellicoe stated

‘ ….. the 4th, 11th and 12th Flottillas delivered a series of very gallant and successful attacks on the enemy causing him heavy losses.  It was during these attacks that severe losses in the 4th flotilla occurred.  There were many gallant deeds performed by the destroyer flotillas; they surpassed the very highest expectations that I had formed of them.’

Death and commemoration

William Boxall was killed on 31 May 1916 during the Battle of Jutland.  He is commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Midhurst War Memorial and Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project