Mr William Wynn (Quartermaster),1 known to his friends as Bill or "Punch", was born in Chester, Cheshire, England on 13 November 1870. His exact background is uncertain as there are no identifiable census records for him but he reportedly lost his father in 1890 and around the same time lost contact with his family.
As a boy he attended Holy Trinity Boys' School and at age 11½ became an errand boy at Bollands and then at a tailor's in Foregate Street before working as a tram conductor. Around this time he became involved with a group of trouble-makers. An elderly lady made herself interested in him, drawing him away from trouble and being instrumental in having him posted to the training ship Clio.
At age 16 he was sent to Liverpool where he began work aboard a 100 tonne schooner but, reportedly as a result of lack of food, took a job aboard another vessel. In 1888, whilst serving board the Garfield, he nearly lost his life in a typhoon during a voyage between India and New York.
He was employed by the American Line when the Spanish-American War (1898) erupted and joined the American Navy for the duration of that conflict. In February 1898 he was aboard the St Louis as an able seaman when that ship mounted a rescue of passengers and crew from Veendam when she collided with another vessel and foundered.
Upon his return home to Britain Wynn became involved in the Boer War and the transportation of troops and the invalided between South Africa and England. Following this he joined the White Star Line as a quartermaster aboard Oceanic.
He was married in Southampton in late 1907 to Eliza Kate Abbott (b. 1880 in Lockerley, Hampshire) but they would have no children. On the 1911 census William is absent but his wife is listed at 77 Church Street, Shirley, Southampton.
Quartermaster W.Wynn of Southampton, who had charge of No.9 Lifeboat containing 42 women, 3 stewards, 3 sailors, and 2 passengers.
(Photo: Sport and General / Daily Herald 29 April 1912)
Courtesy of Günter Bäbler, Switzerland (Ref: C904aq)
Wynn signed-on to the Titanic in Belfast on 25 March 1912, indicating that he had transferred from the Oceanic. When he signed-on again in Southampton on 6 April 1912 he gave his address as 81 Church Street, Southampton. As a quartermaster he would receive monthly wages of £5.
On the night of the sinking Wynn was not on watch and was in his bunk asleep; following the collision he went to the forward well deck which was crowded with male passengers who showed him the ice that had come off the iceberg. He returned below deck where he woke up two crewmates and they went to the bridge to await orders, Wynn bringing his crew kit with him. After receiving orders to go and prepare boats for launch Wynn, not knowing his own assigned boat, assisted in loading several boats before sixth officer Moody ordered him to lifeboat 9 to take charge. He got into that boat and assisted women and children aboard. As the boat was lowering bosun's mate Albert Haines stepped in and Wynn relinquished charge of the boat to him and took an oar. He stated that aboard boat 9 were 42 women and about 14 men, both passengers and crew.
Wynn reported seeing a red light off in the distance which soon disappeared before a white light appeared; he took the lights to be that of a steamer about 7 or 8 miles away.
Following the disaster Wynn was required to give evidence to the British Inquiry into the sinking.
William Wynn continued to work at sea; he was aboard Olympic in 1914 when war was declared and continued to work at sea during that conflict, finishing up aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf. He would go on to serve at sea for over fifty years and in January 1939 a journalist caught up with him when he was serving aboard another vessel. Merchant records described him as standing at 5' 5" with grey eyes and hair and a fresh complexion; he had a tattoo of faith, hope and charity of his right arm and clasped hands on his left arm.
William "Punch" Wynn in 1939
He was widowed on 24 June 1930 when his wife died aged 50. At that time he was still living at 81 Church Street, Shirley. William himself passed away in 1945 at the age of 75.
Articles and Stories
British Inquiry (1912)
Chester Observer (1939)
Gavin Bell, UK
Chris Dohany, USA
Peter Engberg, Sweden
Paul Lee, UK
Inger Sheil, UK
Kerri Sundberg, USA
- Signed on as W. Wynn. His inquiry testimony was given under the name Walter Wynn. His marriage and death record and that of his wife's probate report, among other records, confirm the name as William.
- The sign off sheet says Olympic.
References and SourcesParticulars of Engagement (Belfast), Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (TRANS 2A/45 381)
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, Agreements and Crew Lists Oceanic January – August 1912
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic
Chester Observer, 14 January 1939, Punch Wynn Pops Up