Poppy Logo

Arthur Grosvenor Wilson

Arthur Grosvenor WilsonLeading Seaman Arthur Grosvenor Wilson, D/SSX 16596, HMS Galatea, Royal Navy

Arthur Grosvenor Wilson was born in Hunslet, Leeds in early 1918, the youngest child of Benjamin Wilson and Rose (nee Parker) who had married in Leeds on the 21st May 1904. Rose Wilson sadly died giving birth to her fifth child Arthur.

In the 1911 census, Benjamin was working as a kiln firer and the Wilson family were living with three of their children: Benjamin (b. 1906), Hilda Florence (b. 1908) and Marguerite Mercy Rose Wilson (b. 1910) in a three roomed house off York Road, Leeds. Another brother, Fred Wilson was born in 1913.

Arthur Grosvenor Wilson married Alice Willans (b. 1920) in early 1941 in the Halifax Registration District. They lived at Clark's Buildings, Streetside, Ossett with Alice's father. A boy, Rodney Wilson was born in late 1941 in Dewsbury, but sadly he would never meet his father.

In January 1942, the "Ossett Observer" had this report about Arthur Grosvenor Wilson:

"Ossett Sailor Missing - Presumed Killed: Official information has been received by Mrs. Wilson, 50, Clark's Buildings, Streetside, Ossett, that her husband, Arthur Grosvenor Wilson (23), is 'missing', presumably killed.

He is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Wilson, of Leeds, and was for many years a regular worshipper at St. Mary's Church, Leeds. He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16, and was a leading seaman. He saw service in Malta, Palestine, Spain (during the revolution), and Egypt, and was at the evacuation of Norway and Dunkirk. He was an excellent amateur photographer, and many of his pictures have been published. His brother, Ben, who is in the Army, was at Dunkirk, and his brother Fred was invalided out of the Navy following an accident.

It is interesting to note that he is a godson of Lady Helen Grosvenor, who, during the last war, was in charge of a hospital in which his father was a patient. He was married in February 1940 and there is one child, 3½ months old, whom he has not seen. Mrs. Wilson, who is an Ossett woman, states she will never give up hopes of his return."

During WW2, Arthur Wilson served aboard the 5,220 ton British Light Cruiser, HMS Galatea, which had been built in Greenock, Scotland in 1935. HMS Galatea saw much war service since she had taken part in the Norwegian campaign and the evacuation of the British army from France in May/June 1940; she also took part in rounding up the Bismark. On the night of 14th December 1941 Galatea was attacked by German dive bombers. These attacks persisted for about seven hours. HMS Galatea was returning to Alexandria with the cruiser force of the Mediterranean Fleet after a hunt for an Italian convoy to Libya. On the 15th December 1941, Galatea (Captain E.W.B. Sim, RN) became a target for German U-Boat U-557 (Captain Ottokar Arnold Paulssen), which hit her with two torpedoes in quick succession. The cruiser turned over and sank in three minutes. The commander, 22 officers and 447 ratings (including Arthur Grosvenor Wilson) were lost. 144 survivors were picked up by HMS Griffin and HMS Hotspur.

At 19.55 hours on the 14th December 1941 the Italian submarine Dagabur had fired torpedoes at the same cruiser force and heard two detonations after 1 minute 45 seconds. It is not clear whether HMS Galatea had been damaged by the Italian submarine before she was sunk by the German U-boat.

Karma struck when on the 16th December 1941, at 18:00, the Italian motor torpedo boat Orione left the port of Suda on Crete. The commander was unaware that a German U-boat (U-557) was in the area of Crete. When he saw a submarine at 21:44, heading in a northerly direction, he decided to ram it, supposing it to be British. U-557 sank immediately with all 43 crew members lost in the position as given by the Italian Commander as west of Phalasarna on the island of Crete.1

HMS Galatea

Above: Light Cruiser HMS Galatea, sunk 15th December 1941 off the coast of Egypt by German U-Boat U-557.

The Gawthorpe St. Mary's Roll of Honour (that was never completed) recorded Arthur Grosvenor Wilson living at 50 Clark's Buildings, off Pickersgill Street, Ossett. The 1939 Register records an Alice Williams at 50 Clark's Bridge (?) Ossett. Above her name in this record is the name "Wilson" suggesting that she may have been or become a Wilson at some stage. No later trace of her can be found.

For more details about Arthur Wilson's service history 1, please click on the following link to the web site The Tragic Loss of HMS Galatea and scroll down the list of those men who sadly lost their lives on the 15th December 1941, where you will find more information.

Arthur Grosvenor Wilson, aged 23, died on the 15th December 1941, whilst serving aboard HMS Galatea in the Mediterranean. He is remembered on Panel 46, Column 1 of the Plymouth Naval Memorial. With its central position on the Hoe overlooking Plymouth Sound in Devon, the Plymouth Naval Memorial is a well-known local landmark. The memorial commemorates more than 7,200 naval personnel of the First World War and nearly 16,000 of the Second World War who were lost or buried at sea.2

Thanks to Anne-Marie Fawcett for the "Ossett Observer" extract about Arthur Grosvenor Wilson.


1. The Tragic Loss of HMS Galatea

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site