William John Dunstan of Devoran, serving as 2352/ST, Engineman, Royal Naval Reserve, HM Trawler Pintail, died aged 45 on 24 December 1917.
He is buried in plot 40.3.5 Brest Kerfautras Cemetery, Finisterre, France (mostly an American naval and army cemetery).
The CWGC website lists him as husband of Juliana Dunstan of 6 Chapel Terrace, Devoran. Juliana was born in 1871 in Truro. The couple married in 1903 and had two children, both born in Devoran, Florence May Dunstan (b. 1905) and William Edwin Kean Dunstan (b. 1907).
William was born in Hayle, Phillick (Phillack?) in Cornwall in 1874. In the 1911 census he is listed as “Fireman Steamship” on board SS Erimus, living at Chapel Terrace, Devoran.
His life and death tell an interesting tale of Devoran past as a port or harbour, then of the war at sea, keeping the sea clear of enemy mines.
The ship where Dunstan served and sustained his fatal accident HMS Pintail was a Hull trawler H982 , built in 1908 and wrecked off Ireland in 1949. In October 1914 she was requisitioned for war service as a minesweeper, armed with 1 x 12 Hotchkiss pdr, 1 x 6pdr HA, Ad.No382 . She was moved to Penzance and Falmouth. (Ad.No.382). By 1st October 1918 she was at Penzance (General Patrol and Escort work).
By 12 March 1919, Pintail had been returned to her owner at Hull. There is more about the naval war and minesweepers off the Cornish coast in Pete London’s short book Cornwall in the First World War (Truran, 2013)
So Pintail survived war service. William Dunstan did not – according to the Royal Navy Roll of Honour WW1, he died of illness in hospital, as a result of his war service.
Further research in the National Archives into his Royal Naval Reserve service record suggests that he signed up on 15 November 1915. He died as a result of an accident at sea on twenty third December.
Dunstan’s Navy Records state that he “Died Marine Hospital, Brest, France. Death due to accident. Injuries to head from from crank of engine whilst endeavouring to recover oil can from crank bilge. ”
Dunstan died of a fractured skull as a result of “head and chest injuries by crankshaft” received “whilst at sea on 23 December 1917”.
Previous to his service at sea on HM Pintail, he seems to have served from 1915 and 1916 on King Frederick (III) a Hired Trawler. “5.1915: Requisitioned for war service as a minesweeper (1-12pdr) (Ad.No.2659). Renamed KING FREDERICK.” H.M.S. Dreel Castle appears to be his “parent ship at Falmouth base” and “parent ship of the patrols working from Falmouth.”
Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy states that “DREEL CASTLE was a Drifter commissioned 2.2.15. Nominal depot ship Auxiliary Patrol Falmouth, Penzance, & Scillies replacing Vivid 1.10.15 – 16.9.19 [accounts to Vivid IV]. Flag of Rear Admiral Falmouth struck 15.8.19.”
Dunstan’s naval records in the National Archives are hard to read and decipher. He appears to have transferred from “King Frederick” to the Royal Naval Hospital Plymouth in November 1917 then back to sea on “Pintail” shortly before his accidental death.
His widow Juliana chose no additional inscription on his standard headstone.
You can read more about William Dunstan and the other men of Devoran in WW1 here:
William John Dunstan, Remembered a hundred years on in his home village of Devoran and by his family on Christmas Eve 24 December 2017.
Blogposted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project
I shall add more to Dunstan’s entry should I uncover any more information.