Seaman William Hughson

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Massachusetts.

Seaman William Hughson

William Hughson was born on 5 March 1882 on West Isle (Housay), Skerries in the Shetland Islands. Like his father he became a fisherman. He married Catherine Edwardson on Unst in 1904 and the couple had five children.[1]

He enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve (A/1581 Seaman) in January 1908 and re-enrolled in January 1913 (B/4848). In late 1913 he joined the crew of the North Carr Lightship. At this time the family lived in Granton, Edinburgh. He was mobilised for war service at Portsmouth in October 1914 and joined HMS Kent, a Monmouth-class armoured cruiser, at the end of the month, taking part in the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914 and the Battle of Más a Tierra in March 1915. After a period on escort duties off the west African coast, Kent arrived back in the United Kingdom in January 1917 and Hughson was transferred ashore for a period of training before being administered by the shore station HMS President III when he became a gunner on a defensively armed merchant ship. In the late spring he joined the SS Valverda, a newly built cargo steamer.

Valverda arrived in Boston on 23 November 1918 after a 26-day journey from Alexandria with a valuable cargo of 15,000 bales of Egyptian cotton (valued at the time at over $5,000,000, almost $100,000,000 today) and several thousand sacks of gum arabic. During his time in Boston, Hughson contracted influenza and was admitted to hospital. He died of pneumonia on 22 December 1918, two days before the Valverda sailed for Italy.[2] He is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Hyde Park on Aspen Avenue (Range A, Grave 7) which runs along the very southern edge of the cemetery. He is also commemorated on the war memorials at Granton in Edinburgh, at Norwick on Unst in the Shetland Islands, and in Shetland’s Roll of Honour. His wife’s brother, Leading Seaman James Thomas Edwardson, was killed in action aboard the SS Henley when it was sunk by UB-109 on 10 April 1918. He too is commemorated on the war memorial on Unst and in Shetland’s Roll of Honour. For his war service Seaman Hughson was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, and the Victory Medal. His son, William, served as a merchant seaman during the Second World War and his son Bertie, a member of the Royal Naval Reserve, served during the war as a boom vessel skipper.


1. (Back) William Hughson married Catherine Edwardson (19 January 1879-28 March 1940) on 4 February 1904 at Unst in Shetland. William (16 April 1904-9 December 1992); Christina Janet (9 July 1905-1993); Robert (4 February 1907-30 March 1963); Bertie Irvine. (30 July 1911-NK) and Williamina (later Sneddon) (30 November 1914-2 September 1939). Catherine remarried Arthur Sutherland, also a seaman, in 1923.

1. (Back) Valverda was purchased by Cunard and operated under the name Vasconia until 1927 when it was bought by a Japanese company and operated under the name Shiraha Maru. While serving as a Japanese military cargo ship, the Shiraha Maru was torpedoed and sunk by the USS Searaven east of the Philippines on 14 January 1943.

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