William Arthur Corbyn
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About William Arthur

  • Name
    William Arthur
  • Initials
    W A
  • Surname
  • Date of Birth
    11 June 1887
  • Birth town
    Carlestone, Suffolk
  • Resided town
    Lowestoft, Suffolk
  • Commemorated
  • Nationality
  • Place of death
  • Date of death
  • Married
  • Occupation

Service Information

  • Merchant Navy

  • Service Number
  • Rank


William was born in Carlstone, Suffolk in 1887. His father George was an agricultural labourer, his mother Sarah had 8 children. By the age of 14, he was working as a yard boy on a cattle farm in Pepper Holton, Suffolk. In the 1911 census he was listed as a carman (driver of horse drawn transport) in the building trade. When joining the Royal Navy in 1916, William stated that he was a maltster.

William Corbyn was serving as the stoker on the Steam Drifter ‘Newark Castle’, (a type of fishing vessel using drift nets). It was sunk on 6 July 1916, in the North Sea approximately 23 miles SE of the river Tyne by the German U-Boat U23, under command of Oberlieutnant zur See Ernst Voigt. In a three day patrol, the U-Boat sank eight British vessels of similar size, including ‘Girl Bessie’ and ‘Petunia’.

Crew members came through Peterborough East Station on 8 July 1916 and wrote two detailed accounts of the attacks in the visitors’ books, describing how the German U-Boat U23 captured the vessels, allowing the crews off before sinking the vessels with bombs.  The crew of the “Newark Castle” were rescued by a British submarine and landed in Blyth six hours later, along with crews from “Girl Bessie” and “Petunia”.

U-Boat U23 sank 51 ships until it was badly damaged by depth charges from the patrol boat HMS PC-60 off the Lizard on July 26 1917.

U-Boats under the command of Oberlieutnant zur See Ernst Voigt, sank 80 ships.  Voigt, who was highly decorated, which included the Iron Cross 1st class, died on 25 August 1917 when UC 72 hit a mine in the Straits of Dover.

William and his nine crewmates could possibly have been returning to Lowestoft, following their unfortunate encounter with the German submarine.


He married Letitia Petty in Great Clacton in 1910 and the couple settled there having a daughter in 1913. A further three children were born in the Bishop’s Stortford area between 1915 to 1927 and the family were living at 140 South Street Bishop’s Stortford in 1939. He died aged 68 in Biggleswade.

Please get in touch if you can tell us more about William.

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One Response

  1. Beverley Jones says:

    Crew of vessel torpedoed by German Submarine

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