William T. Kerley

Hi Everyone

I have been offered the chance to purchase what is supposed to be artifacts belonging to the above ship steward. They were apparantly plucked from the sea shortly after the sinking. I find this very exciting but after looking up his name on this site, I am not so sure because it stated his body was never found although a newspaper report at the time reported that it was found but the death was never registered. I would like some help here please as to whether these items are likely to be genuine or not, paper work is supplied along with lots of information from the time on William Kerley. The only thing is if his body was never found how does anyone know these items belonged to him ?(one is a penknife), and how can I tell if documents are forged etc. I would dearly love to purchase these items but would like a little help please.

Many thanks
I can confirm that Thomas Kerleys body was not found hence there cannot be any artefacts from him.
Please be very very careful indeed.
If you would like to give me the details on or off board I would be able to you my advice.
[email protected]
Brian J. Ticehurst - Southampton UK.
Brian has a lot of experience in these matters, Marie, and I'd consult him on this point if I were you.

The odds are, if something sounds too good to be true (although whether that's the correct phrase in this context is another matter), it usually is. Provenance can be very difficult to establish, but it is essential when purchasing items connected with an historical event, particularly one as popular as the Titanic.
I have sent an email to Brian regarding the items although I am still a little confused as the gentleman selling the items says he has provenance. I have not seen the items yet as he lives a fair way from me and I didn't want a wasted journey.

Thanks for your posts

I post the following for general interest on Mr. Kerley - you will see below (Bowerchalke papers report) that there is a mention of his body being recovered but there is nothing at all to back it up or confirm it.

Kerley, William Thomas. Lived at Woodminton Cottages, Salisbury, Wilts. Occupation - Assistant Steward. 28 years old. (Born in Dorset, Shaftsbury).
(From: Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund Booklet, March 1913)
Number 489. Kerley, Mr. Father and Kerley, Mrs, mother. Both class D dependants.
(From the Titanic Relief Fund Minute Book number 2, Southampton Area)
Date June 30th 1913.
Case number C489. A grant of 10/6d be made to Mrs. Kerley for the purchase of spectacles.
(From the Titanic Relief Fund Minute Book number 2, Southampton Area)
Date 23rd April 1914.
Case number C489 That the sum of 2/6d per week for three months be paid to Mr. and Mrs. Kerley (partially dependent parents) on account of Mrs. Kerley's illness - bronchitis and lung trouble.
(From the Titanic Relief Fund Minute Book number 3, Southampton Area)
Date 27th June 1923.
The Committee authorises the continuance of Allowance of 3/- per week until 30th June 1924.
(From the Bowerchalke Parish Papers, Salisbury, page 44). Extract:-
More tragic was the death of Tom Kerley a chef on the ill-fated Titanic. His parents who worked on the Elliott's farm were very proud of their smart and popular son and especially of his progress to the largest and most magnificent ship of its day. Kate Gulliver, who lived on the Chase remembers the terrible gloom that sinking cast over the whole country. At a memorial service for Tom in the Baptist Chapel his father asked for the boy's favourite hymn, 'Peace Perfect Peace' and wept throughout the singing of it.
Tom Kerley's death was noted in the 24 April 1912 edition of the Parish Paper but a strange sequel was noted later:
A sad sequel to the tragic drowning of young Tom Kerley in the ill-fated Titanic has come by the news of the unexpected recovery of his lifeless body floating in mid-ocean. It was noticed by a passing vessel homeward bound. With reverent care it was up lifted and after the Burial Service had been said once more committed to the deep to the grand and solemn music of the ever restless waves.
(From Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 19th April, 1913)
"In loving and honoured memory of our dear cousin THOMAS KIRBY also our dearest friend JACK McMULLEN who both laid down their lives at Duty's call on board the SS Titanic, April 15, 1912.
Greatly missed but never forgotten by all of us at Sholing.
Afar they lie in their ocean bed
The Angels guard the spot
And when the sea gives up its dead
They will not be forgot
Together in the great beyond".

Best regards - Brian J. Ticehurst - Southampton UK
Dear Brian and Marie,

I'm afraid that there is documentation to the effect that Mr. Kerley's body was recovered.

Several researcher friends have found proof that Mr. Kerley was indeed found. At the National Archives in Washington, DC, the listings of its Titanic disaster holdings contains an several interesting documents pertaining to the recovery of Titanic victims. From the log of the S.S. Ottawa, the notation reads: "Ottawa, Br. SS. (Cook, 3 off). 6-6-12....7-15. rjf. 44-16N., 38-21W. Picked up the body of a man with lifebelt, supposed to be Asst. Steward of Titanic from papers in pocket. Man was buried. 65945-805.:

Additional checking on the document numbers revealed letters. Document 65945-805, curiously is a form number 1201-M, entitled, "Weather Report for the United States Weather Bureau, Department of Commerce, Washington, DC." The details of the voyage of the Ottawa are provided. Her captain was R. G. Tait. On the reverse side of the form is a truly incredible letter, written in the hand of the Ottawa's third officer, Thomas Cook.

Dated June 6, 1912, and stamped as having been received at the Hydrographic Office on July 5, 1912, the letter reads as follows, with the original spellings preserved:

"In Latitute (location provided), we picked up the body of a man wearing a lifebelt. We put our boat out and picked him up and searched his clothes and found a wallet bearing the initials W.T.K. and evidently a passenger of the Titanic. It contained a love letter and a business card, "Apartments" in Margate, Kent. The man was buried with ceremony of the church of England. The body was much decomposed especially the hands and face. There was no name on the lifebelt as it has been washed off. We have since ascertained that his name is W. T. Kerley and was an assistant steward on the Titanic. The finding of the body was 543 miles from Titanic's position. Signed, Thomas Cook, Third Officer.

Why was Mr. Kerley never counted among the identified dead, nor among the total number recovered? It may have been because his body was found nearly three months after the disaster, and long after Senator Smith's committee had published its list of lost and saved. With just one body involved, the S.S. Ottawa's captain and crew didn't have to follow the same detailed recording process as had Mackay-Bennett and Minia. The news media by early July 1912 had turned to other matters; word of Kerley's identification never made it to the major newspapers' pages. But the S.S. Ottawa had officially notified the United States Government of her find and her actions. She had fulfilled her duty.

According to information provided by friend and fellow researcher Jack Eaton, the S.S. Ottawa was a 309 ft. tanker owned by the Anglo-American Oil Company, Ltd., and managed by J.H.Usmar. Built in 1888, by Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell & Co., Ltd., the S.S. Ottawa had a gross tonnage of 2,742 with triple expansion engines aft. A single screw, steel-hulled vessel flying the British flag, she was designed for carrying petroleum in bulk and had a port of registry of London.

Although I cannot comment on the disposition of Mr. Kerley's effects, it is probable the above mentioned personal items are genuine.

I would be happy to forward copies of the specific details to anyone who may be interested, as well as copies of the handwritten report of the Ottawa's third officer.

I hope this information will be of some help.

Best regards,

Michael Findlay
What great information - it just shows that new details come out still.
It confirms the report in the Bowerchalke Church Paper - so thanks very much indeed.
I guess your surmise that it was not officially counted was because of the three month delay is right - they had done all the sums and it would have mucked everything up!
Again many thanks

PS This proves what a great asset this Message Board is - ''the sharing of information'' - B
Wow, fascinating information, thankyou so much to you all for your help, what a great message board. I will let you know etc how I get on with the artifacts etc, I am really excited about it now.
Quite outstanding. Thank you for posting this info, Michael. It looks like Kerley was found a few days prior to Cheverton, whose recovery also appears to have eluded official lists at the time.
Thankyou for That Bob, I will be making a visit down there soon as apparantly there is a photo as well, although it is only the size of a postage stamp but I have just got to put a face to the name.
It was quite a pleasure to meet Marie and Darren Barker and family at the Titanic Exhibition in Bradford, England this week and they brought along the little knife with silver pendant attachment that belonged to Mr. Kerley--quite a thrill to get to see it and even hold it. Congratulations on the purchase Marie and Darren! Keep it in a safe place. I hope we'll meet up again.

Thankyou Phillip, it was a real pleasure to meet you too, we only wish we would have had more time especially to listen to your presentation but due to fact that it was half term (hence the kids) and we had just returned from Amsterdam and driven straight to Bradford we were rather tired and our youngest wasn't on her best behaviour. I do hope we will see you again in the future.

Kindest regards

Marie & Darren Barker

P.S The kimono is awesome
Hi everyone

Some of you may recall my posts last year regarding items belonging to Assistant steward 'William Thomas Kerley'. The board helped me with my decision to purchase the items (A pendant & small pocket knife) but I still had to do some research to check the family connections etc. I have traced the family back now and everything is everything is as it should be plus I have provenance from the family. I was just wondering if anyone knows whether I could loan the items to a museum or exhibition and how I would go about it.

Many thanks
Hello Marie,
Since you live in the Uk, you could either lend them to the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool or the Greenwich Maritime Museum. Both have Titanic exhibits.

Have you thought about doing an article on Kerley
for ET? I think the visitors who come here would enjoy learning about him and perhaps seeing a picture of the items.
Good luck