Encyclopedia Titanica

William Thomas Kerley

William Thomas Kerley
William Thomas Kerley

William Thomas Kerley was born in Sutton Waldron, Dorset, England in early 1884 and he was baptised on 14 April that same year.

He was the son of Charles Kerley (b. 1847) and Emma Caroline Pope (b. 1851), natives of Edmondsham, Dorset who had married on 5 June 1867 and who went on to have a total of nine children, with seven living past infancy. Their known children, besides William, were: Robert Charles (b. 1867), Frederic George (b. 1870), Ellen Jane (b. 1875), Ada Caroline (b. 1879), Charlotte Maud (b. 1881) and Rose Amelia (b. 1883).

William was born into an agricultural background and his father was an agricultural labourer. He first appears on the 1891 census living in St Michael, Gussage, Cranborne, Dorset. The following 1901 census sees William and his family living on Pentridge Farm, Pentridge, Cranborne. Aged 16, William had already left school and was working as a domestic footman. By the time of the 1911 census William had left home and was living as a footman at "The Hall," Farnborough, Banbury, Oxfordshire, the home of a wealthy man named Joshua Fielder. William's own parents were living in contrasting conditions in Woodmanton, Bower Chalke, Wiltshire, his father still farming.

When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 4 April 1912, William gave his address as Woodminton Cottages, Salisbury. The Titanic was his first ship. As a second class steward he received monthly wages of £3 15s.

Kerley, who was unmarried, died in the sinking. His body was one of the last recovered on 6 June 1912 by tanker SS Ottawa. His body was buried at sea.

"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.

References and Sources

Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)

Newspaper Articles

Southampton Times and Hampshire Express (19 April 1913) Death Notice: Kirby & McMullen
Bowerchalke Parish Papers (1989) Tragic death of Titanic chef
Mentions of William Thomas Kerley in local press

Documents and Certificates

Compensation made to Kerley's parents 1913-1924
Search archive online


Gavin Bell, UK
Michael A. Findlay, USA
Paul Anthony Richard Kearley, UK
Lorraine Keys
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK

Comment and discuss

  1. Marie barker

    Marie barker said:

    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... Read full post

  2. Brian J. Ticehurst

    Brian J. Ticehurst said:

    Marie, 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. Brian J. Ticehurst - Southampton UK.

  3. Inger Sheil

    Inger Sheil said:

    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.

  4. Marie barker

    Marie barker said:

    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 Marie

  5. Brian J. Ticehurst

    Brian J. Ticehurst said:

    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... Read full post

  6. Michael Findlay

    Michael Findlay said:

    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... Read full post

  7. Brian J. Ticehurst

    Brian J. Ticehurst said:

    Michael, 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 Brian PS This proves what a great asset this Message Board is - ''the sharing of information'' - B

  8. Marie barker

    Marie barker said:

    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.

  9. Chris Dohany

    Chris Dohany said:

    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.

  10. Bob Godfrey

    Bob Godfrey said:

    The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich has (or maybe had

  11. Marie barker

    Marie barker said:

    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.

  12. Phillip Gowan

    Phillip Gowan said:

    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. Phil

  13. Marie barker

    Marie barker said:

    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

  14. Marie barker

    Marie barker said:

    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

  15. Mike Poirier

    Mike Poirier said:

    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 Mike

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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr William Thomas Kerley
Age: 28 years and 11 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Single
Last Residence: at Woodminton Cottages Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Last Ship: First Ship
Embarked: Southampton on Thursday 4th April 1912
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body recovered by: Ottawa
Buried at Sea on Thursday 6th June 1912

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