William Birch, Captain

William Birch, Captain and Commodore, Mercantile Marine, RMS Leinster. Lost at sea, aged 61, as a result of enemy action in the Irish Sea on 10 October 1918.

William Birch was born at Dublin the son of Edwin Birch (Woollen Merchant) and Eliza Birch (nee Worn). He began his career in sail and gained his 2nd Mate's Ticket in 1877; his Ist Mate's Ticket in 1880 and his Master's Ticket (Certificate No. 03985) in 1883. In the 1901 Census he was recorded as Master on the steamship SS Express (178 tons) at Belfast Dock. He commenced his employment with the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company on 11 September 1902 on the company's Liverpool to Dublin Route. Prior to 1911 he moved to the Holyhead to KIngstown route and eventually became senior captain on the mail boats, holding the honorary title of Commodore.

In 1881, shortly after his marriage, his wife, Louisa (25),  lived at 6 Font Hill Road, Liverpool with their daughter Annie Birch (11 months). This would appear to be the home of Louisa's mother Catherine Walker (44), born in Ireland. In 1901 the family lived at 73 Rawcliffe Road, Liverpool. At this time the family comprised Louisa Birch (44), Annie Birch (20), William (13), Lucy (11), Irene (9), Gwendoline (7) Margaret (6) and Madaline (4).

By 1891 the family had moved to KIngstown, Ireland where three of their children were born - Louisa, Irene and Gwendoline Birch.

By 1911 the family had settled in Holyhead and lived at the Sycamores, Gors Avenue. The census records Louisa Birch (55), born at Liverpool; Catherine (29), an Assistant Teacher, born at Liverpool; Edwin J Birch (28), a Shipping Clerk, born at Liverpool; William T Birch (23), Mariner (1st Mate), born at Liverpool; Louisa V Birch (21), born at Kingston, Dublin, Ireland; Gwendoline Birch (17), born at Kingston, Dublin, Ireland; Margaret Birch (13), born at Liverpool; Madeline Birch (13), born at Liverpool and Charles R Birch (7) born at Liverpool. In all the couple would have ten children.

The 1911 Census records William Birch (54) at Kingstown as Master on RMS Connaught. He would also later (1914) serve as Master of RMS Munster.

When the Leinster was first torpedoed Captain Birch ordered the ship to turn about and head back to Kingstown and ordered the lifeboats to be lowered. However, when the second torpedo struck he was blown off the bridge into the water. He was eventually partially pulled into the lifeboat "Big Bertha" but was lost when the lifeboat capsized as the Destroyer, HMS Lively attempted to secure the lifeboat alongside. His body was never recovered.

In his will he left £1594.9s.2d to Harriette Irene Birch, spinster. (Philip Lecane in his book "Torpedoed" records that he left the residue of his assets to Caroline Barnard of Monkstown, Co. Dublin in trust for his son Charles. This aspect of the will was contested by his wife, Louisa)

Awarded the Mercantile Marine Medal and British War Medal.

Commemorated at Tower Hill Memorial. He is also remembered on the family gravestone at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin.