David George Williams was born on the 2nd August 1911 according to the 1939 National Register, taken on the 29th September 1939. He was living with his parents, Samuel Williams, (born on the 20th June 1884) and who was a Steel works labourer, and his mother Martha, (born on the 26th June 1888)and like all married women who did not have a job, was doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.” I also believe that David’s sister Vera, a Typist in the Steel Works, was also on the Register at 3, Hawarden Way, Mancot Royal, Hawarden. Flintshire. Her date of birth was shown as the 5th April 1920 and this Register also tells us that she married a gentleman named Hayward, who was, I believe, Sydney Hayward, in St. Deniol’s Church, Hawarden in 1942 (Flintshire (Mold) C106/05/E151). There were also 2 other children there, and they, for some reason, were not redacted, even though they should have been because of the 75 years or 100 year rule. They were May M. Owen (born 23 Jul 1927) and Muriel Owen, (born 05 Apr 1933), both in School – Muriel later married, I believe, in 1958, Derrick Charles Raymond Lloyd in a Civil Ceremony or Register Attended Ceremony in Chester (Cheshire West WC/8A/129). The Marriage certificate would have to be purchased to confirm or deny. I do not know the connection of these two school girls to David George Williams.
David’s job on the National Register was Strip Rolling Galvanizing Foreman, Steel Works, and it is this position as Foreman, I believe that was to lead to him being chosen, or perhaps he volunteered to get him on this fateful journey in 1942.
I digress, David George Williams was born in the Holywell Registration District and I believe that his parents, Samuel & Martha were living on the 1911 census at No. 1 Maude Street, Connah’s Quay. Samuel, 27, tells us that he had been born in Northop Hall, Flintshire and he was a Stocktaker in the Iron Works. His wife Martha, 22, tells us that she had been born in Moreton, Cheshire. They also tell us that they had been married under 1 year and no children had been born to them.
As there are no published censuses since, i.e. 1921, I do not know anything about David’s childhood or early years, so any help would be appreciated.
I do know that he met and eventually married Joyce Lucy Hall on the 21st December 1939 at St. Mark’s Church, Connah’s Quay and if you click on Joyce Lucy’s page, you will see the marriage details. Joyce Lucy Hall was the daughter of William Hall, the Police Sergeant at Connah’s Quay Police Station and they would receive news of the loss at sea in 1941 of her brother and William’s son, Arthur Clayton Hall, who is remembered on the Connah’s Quay WW2 War Memorial.
So, as in the story of how John Harold & Elizabeth Elsie Pickering, Joyce Lucy & David George Williams, found themselves picked to go to South Africa by management to set up Munitions Factories to supply munitions through Italy, via North Africa. Tom Coppack describes in his book, “A Lifetime with Ships,” how it came to pass that Tom’s daughter Elizabeth Elsie Pickering (nee Coppack) and her husband John Harold Pickering with Joyce Lucy and her husband David George Williams came to be on the S.S. Ceramic, see the excerpt below.
Each Steel making company in Britain was told to supply 2 executives and Summer’s choice was their chemist John Harold Pickering and foreman David George Williams, taking their wives with them. I don’t know how that came about, whether it was volunteering, which Tom does not describe, it seems there was no choice and it may have been for a long period, God alone would know how long the war would last, so the chances of seeing their loved ones again , at least for a long time was very slim.
So they set forth on their fateful journey on the 23rd November 1942 and a few weeks later the newspaper reports came in of the sinking of the Ceramic. Also on the Ceramic was a Leonard Pratt, who is remembered on the Hawarden War WW2 Memorial, please read his story by clicking on the link.
I have spread the story between them as there is so much to tell for each one, on David’s page, telling more of Eric Munday, with my thanks to Clare Hardy, the one survivor, who no one knew about for 3 years, as he was taken prisoner aboard the U-515 submarine that sank the Ceramic.
Clare Hardy has given me permission to use any of the information in her book,”S.S. Ceramic – The Untold Story.” Many thanks to her for her generosity.
Ceramic : The Sole Survivor
By 1942, the White Star Line had merged with Cunard, and many of its ships had been sold off or sent to the scrapyard. Among the former was Ceramic, launched in 1913 and for many years the largest vessel in White Star Star’s Australian service. Transferred to the Shaw Savill Line upon the merger, Ceramic found herself in a nightmarish World W orld War II drama. Author Clare Hardy has just self-published a book, Ceramic: The Untold Story Story, which features the account of Eric Munday, the sole survivor of the disaster. Ms. Hardy has detailed some of the challenges she faced in writing the book in this article.
By Clare Hardy
“… On November 23, 1942 [the White Star liner Ceramic] left the Mersey for Australia, independently routed, with 378 passengers. Her subsequent, complete disappearance was at first little publicised at home, due to the general censorship of shipping information, and the Admiralty assumed that she had been sunk without survivors from the 500 or so persons on board. It was learned a long time later that she had been torpedoed and sunk on December 6 in latitude 40 deg. 30 min. N., longitude 40 deg, 20 min. W, and that one survivor, a sapper of the Royal Engineers, had been picked up by the U-boat and taken to a German prison camp. The full story, as far as I know, has never been published.” — J. H. Isherwood, Sea Breezes, “Steamers Of The Past: White Star Liner Ceramic of 1913,” November 1963.
The passage above leapt out at me in the early stages of my research into the fate of the SS Ceramic. It was true — the full story had never been published, but I had tracked down Eric Munday, the sole survivor, with relative ease, and he had met me to talk about the circumstances of the sinking, which had claimed the life of my grandfather. Moreover, he had left his diary with me, written in pencil on some scrap paper and a small pocket book that he had kept from the time of his rescue by the U-boat that had sunk the Ceramic, and had returned to find the captain — or any survivor — in the stormy seas that blew up after the ship was sunk.
Eric’s diary took me, the reader, into the belly of U-515 as she finished her tour of duty before returning to Lorient in January 1943. I experienced Christmas with Eric and the crew, complete with carols, a Christmas tree and cream made from butter that had been salvaged from another wrecked ship. With Eric, I experienced depth charges from our own side until returning to the relative safety of the U-boat base, and onward to a prisoner of war camp in Ober Silesia.
Well, not literally, but the immediacy of firsthand accounts struck me with their ability to bring history back to life, and I thought this would be the way forward in compiling a history of the SS Ceramic, to fill in a gap, and provide the answers that relatives and friends of those who died might find in its pages.
Eric was more than willing to allow me to transcribe his diary and the letters he wrote and received from Stalag VIIIB, which took up the story once his diary entries waned over time.
I was also reading a number of secondary sources at that time, and the discrepancies and inaccuracies were frustrating. I wanted to talk to those who had been there and who could tell me exactly what had happened.
But Eric was the only survivor, so I only had one person’s experience. Then I realised, of course, the U-boat crew had been there, and could tell me what happened from the other side. With the help of Jak Showell, a renowned author on the U-boat war who represents the U-boat archive in the UK, I was able to get in touch with Walter Raksch, organiser of the annual reunion for ex-crew of U-515. I was invited to attend in 2001, and bring Eric for a reunion 60 years after his rescue. We were accompanied by Eric’s wife Joan and my sister-in-law Helen, who is fluent in German and was able to interpret for us.
(Numerous newspaper reports – https://search.findmypast.co.uk/search/british-newspapers?date=1942-01-01&date_offsetdate=1942-12-31&keywords=ceramic&page=1)
One of the largest Ships sunk by U-boats :- https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/largest.html