"Capt William Williams"

1888 ~ 1942

(Rhiw Whaler)

William Williams was born in 1888 at Tyn Parc Rhiw, the son of a farmer. But as a young lad William wasn’t interested in the land, and left for London to work at his uncle’s bakery. However William’s ambition was to go to sea, and whilst in London he studied seamanship at night school, and went on to a successful career at sea. He became a superintendent of the ‘Southern Whaling and Sealing Company’, a subsidiary of Lever Brothers. William worked for the most part down in the South Atlantic in the whaling industry. When he married a young woman from Edern he took her on a voyage with him down to Antarctica, and she became the first Welsh woman to travel this far south during that time. In 1936 Captain Williams was asked by Lever Brothers to go to Holyhead to recruit men to work on the whalers, and being the depression there was no shortage of applicants. In fact it was so successful many men had to be turned down. Coincidentally two who were employed were my uncles Cynfelin and Joseph Collins Jones. The account of the men from Anglesey has been well documented in the book ‘Whaler’s of Anglesey’ by Alun Owen. In it he refers to Captain Williams and by all accounts he was well liked and respected by his crewmembers. It was during our winters, (summer in the South Atlantic) that they hunted whales, the catcher ships were manned by mostly Norwegians, as they were well experienced in whaling. Having caught the whales they would then be transported to the factory ships to be processed and at the end of the season the whale oil would be transported back to Port Sunlight to be made into soap etc. During the First World War Capt Williams’s ship was torpedoed by the Germans and he was rescued by a ship ‘Primrose Hill’. However during the Second World War, on the second of November 1942, his ship the "Empire Gilbert" was en route from Blyth to Archangel Russia, U boat 586 fired a torpedo and sank her off the coast of Iceland, and Capt Williams lost his life, aged 54. Captain Williams took many photographs during his voyages to the South Atlantic and South Georgia, where the whalers were based. We have been very fortunate to borrow his album, and our thanks and gratitude to his family is enormous.



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"Southern King"

capt_williams_03.jpg (45370 bytes) Capt William Williams master of the Southern King capt_williams_02.jpg (53426 bytes)


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"Storm in the South Atlantic"

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"Grytviken South Georgia"

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"South Georgia"

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"Whaling Station"

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"Memorial at Hope Point which was erected by his shipmates in memory of

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"Norwegian Church, South Georgia"


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"The killing ground"

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"Whale Catchers and Iceberg"

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"Capt Williams's vessel the Southern King"

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"South Georgia"

capt_williams_01.jpg (56489 bytes) "Blue Whale" whale_02.jpg (53484 bytes)


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"Leaving for home"


picnic.jpg (61173 bytes) "Relaxing on the way North" party_s_king.jpg (71153 bytes)


The Blue Whale



In 1904 the whaling station at Grytviken, was the first to be established on the remote south Atlantic Island of South Georgia. The whaling stations would process just about any part of the whale, producing oil, meat and fertilizers. A number of nationalities operated from the island, including the Argentineans, British, Japanese, but by far the largest part came from Norway.
For the following sixty years Grytviken was home to a remarkable community. Some came for a short time; others lived much of their working lives in this extraordinary environment. We hope the photographs on this page give you some idea of what life was like there.



Capt Williams, was master of SOUTHERN KING, and worked for the Southern Whaling and Sealing Company (Lever Brothers). The whaleboat shown in profile (catcher_01.jpg) has the funnel marking of the Hektor Whaling Company of Tønsberg (N.Bugge), [a square, split with a diagonal, red above and aft, white below and forward] and the boat is probably one of their six catcher-boats, which were named HEKTOR 1 to HEKTOR 7. These were built in 1929 by three different yards, Kaldnes mek. Verk, Jarlsö Vaerft, and Fredriksstad mek. Verk., and apart from one were  about 113' long, 235 tons.  The gangway or  'gunner's bridge' shown in the picture running from hunting-bridge to gun-platform, (and in catcher_02.jpg) came into use in 1925. The 90mm cannon shown in two of the photos (harpoon_01.jpg and harpoon_02.jpg)  are of  pre-1926  pattern, fitted with recoil-cylinders but of the older muzzle-loading variety. These examples were probably manufactured by Bofors A/B, but Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk were bringing similar weapons  to market by 1926, and one or other might be from the latter firm.

With much thanks to Mr J Harland, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia for this information. 


"These photographs were taken circa 1934"



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