William is not remembered on the war memorial at Christchurch Park.
Born: 1918, Ipswich.
Died: 3rd June 1940; age 21; Dunkirk. Previously reported missing, now presumed to have given his life while saving 36 French Officers and men from Dunkirk.
Residence: The Rectory, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire.
Regiment: Royal Navy, H.M.S.’Somali’ on loan to H.M.S. Yacht ‘Rosaura.’
Mentioned in Despatches (posthumous) 21st August 1945 – For good service and marked devotion to duty during the evacuation of troops and refugees from Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz.
Panel 36. Column 1.
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of the Rev. Henry Bernard & Stella Mary Tower, of Kensington, Middlesex.
Father: The Reverend Henry Bernard Tower, born 1882, Chilmark, Wiltshire.
Mother: Stella Mary Tower ( nee Hodgson), born 1891, Thornbury, Gloucestershire.
William was educated at Wellington College, Crowthorne, Berkshire, entered 1932 – left 1936. He was in the house Hill and played hockey and rugby for his dormitory. William was once called by his contemporaries while he was at College a pleasing but not an outstanding Wellingtonian. He was to prove them wrong.
William went on to cadet training on board H.M.S.’Frobisher.’ He was awarded the King’s Dirk, and took first classes in all his courses. During the war William was a crew member on board the sloop H.M.S.’Bittern’ in the Namsos area. On the 30th April 1940, H.M.S.’Bittern’ came under repeated attack by German dive bombers, Junkers Ju 87. She was hit and severely damaged, then set a blaze by a direct hit in the stern by a bomb. The ship was abandoned, as nearby allied ships came along side to take William and the other survivors off. When Dunkirk was evacuated William was a member of the crew of H.M.S.’Somali’ as a Sub-Lieutenant he was put in charge of the 20 ton motor yacht ‘Rosaura,’ and was able to chose his own crew. On the nights of the 1st and 2nd June he brought several loads of rescued men to the larger ships.
3rd June – taken from William’s entry in the Wellington College Roll of Honour – courtesy of Caroline Jones – Archivist – https://www.wellingtoncollege.org.uk/
At 3 a.m. on Monday the 3rd all ships were ordered to return. But Tower had promised to pick up 34 French officers and men and he went to bring them back under his own power. By then Dunkirk Harbour was choked with sunken ships and the yacht seems to have entangled her propeller in a wire. The shaft was broken. Day was breaking. Foreseeing the coming of enemy planes he swam against the tide to a small boat in which he meant to row back to Dunkirk and improvise a tug. He was not seen again. The whole complement of the motor yacht were saved by an R.A.F. speedboat. On June 6th, Tower was posted as missing. He was mentioned in dispatches (posthumously).
Probate to Stella Mary Tower – mother.
William’s maternal Uncle WILLIAM NOEL HODGSON wrote poetry and stories during the war. He was KiA by a bullet through his neck on the first day of The Battle of the Somme, aged 23, and laid to rest at Devonshire Cemetery, Mametz, Somme.
William was born in January 1893, at Thornbury, Gloucestershire, he was the youngest child of the Reverend Henry Bernard Hodgson & Penelope Maria Warren. William was 4 years old when he moved with his family to Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, where his father became the vicar of Holy Trinity & St. Mary Church. The most northerly church in England. Later, in 1914, Henry Hodgson was appointed the first Bishop of St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich.
William volunteered for the Army on the outbreak of the First World War. He served with the 9th Battalion of the Devenshire Regiment. After his training he was sent, in July 1915, to France, and the trenches of Festubent. William’s first major offensive was the Battle of Loos, where he was awarded the Military Cross and mentioned in despatches.
A promising poet, he began writing poetry in 1913. During the war he continued to write stories and poems under the pen name – Edward Melbourne, and published his work in periodicals. Two days before his death he penned ‘Before Action.’ In 1917, his posthumous volume Verse and Prose in Peace and War was published in London, by Murray. It ran into three editions.
In 2014, Charlotte Zeepvat’s book about William Hodgson and the 9th Devonshire’s titled ‘Before Action’ was published by Pen & Sword Military.
Image and additional information courtesy of Caroline Jones Archivist Wellington College