Chapter 15.0
William John Bramhill’s History - Liverpool Bramhills
By Will Bramhill

        My family's Bramhill lineage can only be traced back for three generations, to those born about 1880-90. The earliest paperwork we have is my father's 1913 birth certificate.

William James Bramhill
        Great Granddad William James Bramhill was a waterboatman for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board helping to tie up ships at Liverpool docks. We know his name only because it appears on William John's 1911 marriage certificate.
William James wife's name unknown. His birthdate and date of death unknown.

Five children, order of birth unclear.

William John
Elizabeth (Lizzie died Croydon 1969)
        Sarah is believed to have died during the First World War. Alfred and William John died in 1922. Elizabeth died in 1969 in Croydon, London.
        Nothing is known about Tom.

William John Bramhill
Dad's father was William John and he had brothers, including a Tom and an Alf, and sisters Sarah and Lizzie (died Croydon 1969). They appear to have lived in near-poverty in slums not far from the Pier Head, Liverpool. William John married Marie Prosser in 1911. William John had earlier been caught in the Bibby's Feed Mill dust explosion and was on medication for lung damage. William John died in 1922 (aged 32) from lung problems resulting from the explosion in Liverpool in 1911.

They had two children:

William Frank (1913-1997)
Doris (b 1915)
William Frank married Rita Margaret Unwin in 1939. Doris married Will Owens. Four children, Dorothy, David, Sheila, Lynn.
William Frank Bramhill

        My father was Captain William Frank Bramhill, born in Liverpool on January 30, 1913, (1913-1997) and my mum is Rita Bramhill (nee Unwin). I have four brothers, Frank, Les, Eric and David, all living in Essex/Suffolk, England. We were born between 1939 and 1960.

        Frank holds his master mariner's ticket. He lives in south Suffolk with his wife Muriel. He works as a court usher. Their grown-up children are Julie (Phillips), Steven and Iain. Frank and Mu are grandparents.

        Leslie is retired from the police and lives with wife Pamela in south Essex. Their grown-up children are Christopher and Richard.

        Eric holds his master mariner's ticket. He lives in north Essex with wife Denise, and he works as a long-distance cabdriver and website designer. Their grown-up children are Sarah (Gaeta) and Emma. Eric and Den are grandparents.

        David lives in north Essex and works for Great Eastern Railways. He has two grown-up children, Andrew and Jody.

        All five of us either grew up or were born in Dovercourt, Harwich, Essex.

        My Dad spent his early life split between Liverpool and relatives in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, where we know of links with the Heyes family. He spent more than 50 years at sea, joining the T&J Harrison ship Astronomer after leaving the Mersey seaman's training ship Indefatigable, formerly HMS Phaeton. Dad's war service included Merchant Navy service on the Atlantic convoys and he was commended by Churchill after his Harrison cargo vessel Merchant fired on a surfaced Nazi submarine. He continued to study and gained his master's ticket. In 1946 he joined the British Rail (Sealink) fleet, sailing from Harwich, Essex. In 1953 he saved several lives when the bow of the passenger ferry Duke of York was severed in fog by the US troopship Haiti Victory. Dad and American engineer Howard Ridenour worked chest-deep in water to free trapped people.

        He later took the Sealink cruise ship Avalon - his favourite ship - farther north and south than any BR ship had been before or since, to the North Cape and to Morocco. Dad retired in 1978.

Obituary for Captain William Frank Bramhill (1913-1997)
From a national newspaper, January 1997.

        Captain William Bramhill, a Merchant Navy officer who has died aged 83, showed great heroism one foggy night in 1953. In the early hours of May 6, Duke of York, the Harwich ferry, was en route to the Hook of Holland with 500 passengers aboard. Suddenly the American troopship, Haiti Victory, loomed out of the murk. Bramhill, who was second mate, was on watch as the ship crashed into Duke of York forward of the bridge, slicing her in two. Bramhill and an officer from Haiti Victory, Howard Ridenour, sprang into action, working chest-deep in the sinking forward section, hacking and cutting with axes and knives to free trapped passengers, of which there were many. The collision caused eight deaths. There would have been far more but for the presence of a sailor with the experience, skill and courage of Will Bramhill.

        William Frank Bramhill was born in Liverpool on January 30, 1913, and joined the Merchant Navy seamen's training ship Indefatigable (formerly HMS Phaeton) on the Mersey aged 13.

        He served with T&J Harrison, Elder Dempster and MacAndrews, as he worked his way from seaman to navigating officer.

        During the Second World War he saw action in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and in the Mediterranean. In 1941 Bramhill was commended by Winston Churchill for his brave conduct in firing on a U-boat which surfaced next to his ship. As with great difficulty he angled his Oerlikon gun at the conning tower, a couple of the seamen pelted the sub with peeled potatoes from the galley, hurling Scouse insults at the "Jairmans".

        Later in the war, Bramhill was in the merchant vessel Empire Newton at Juno and Gold beaches immediately after D-Day.

        In 1946 Bramhill moved to Harwich, joining the LNER fleet, later Sealink, and winning his masters' certificate. He first sailed as captain in the late 1950s. On retirement in 1977 he feared that growing dahlias in his East Bergholt garden would "not have the same thrill as a NW 10 gale" but was glad that seagulls ventured as far as his village.

        He married, in 1939, Rita Unwin; they had five sons.

- End of Obituary -

        Mum is one of the bravest ladies I know: She has beaten cancer four times over 38 years, and has soldiered on with as big a smile as she can muster since Dad's death. The Unwin family can trace its Liverpool lineage back to the 1790s. Her mother's name was Annie Williams (c1892-1961) and she came from Nwbrch (Newborough) Anglesey, Wales.

        Sadly, on August 14, 2000, it finally overwhelmed her. She is now shopping in the sales of Heaven with my Dad ...and probably finding some good bargains! God bless you, Mum.

        Mum was born in Liverpool in 1917 and lived in 18 shops and houses before she married. She attended Gwladys Street School, in the shadow of Everton FC's stadium, although her family were mostly Liverpool FC supporters. How they must have enjoyed taking money from the Evertonians to look after their bicycles during the matches! Mum left school and worked for Littlewoods Pools, meeting Dad in the mid-1930s. During the Second World War she brought up my oldest brother, Frank, as Dad was on the Atlantic convoys. Later she looked after the four brothers while Dad worked long and unsociable hours on the train ferries out of Harwich.

        Mum and Dad's love was deep and complete. On their gravestone are the letters ANC - standing for Anno, Nosco, Credo. The translation is To Know, To Love, To Trust, which summed up their relationship absolutely.

        My paternal grandmother's maiden name was Prosser, and her family can be traced back to Southampton, England, where they seemed to have been quite well heeled.

        My wife's maiden name is Hudson, her mother's maiden name is Albrow, and her paternal grandmother's maiden name was Hogarth. Her family comes from Leeds, and Great Barugh, near Malton, Yorkshire, England. She also has links with the Elvidge and White families of Nottinghamshire.

Will Bramhill
        I live with my wife Liz and sons Jack (born 1989) and Alexander (born 1992) in Colchester, Essex, UK. Colchester is Britain's oldest recorded town and reputed to be one of the best British towns to live in. We have a huge Norman castle built on the foundations of a Roman temple, a beautiful park, good shopping and leisure facilities.

        I work as a journalist - see the latest Essex news - and Liz is a teaching assistant at a junior school. My main pastime is bicycle campaigning. I am chairman of Colchester Cycling Campaign and am involved nationally with the CTC and Sustrans.

        My wife Liz loves reading and art. Liz's, Elizabeth Mary Bramhill, maiden name is Hudson. Her mother's maiden name is Albrow, which is being researched by her uncle Leslie Albrow of Otley, West Yorkshire. Her paternal grandmother's maiden name was Hoggarth, and through we have traced her line via the Allin family back to the late 1500s. Pictures of Liz's family. Via the Hoggarth side she has dormant links with a Bradburn family whom, we believe, live near Victoria Falls, Canada. Liz has three sisters, twins Catherine and Susan, and Emma. Catherine lives in Suffolk, Sue in USAF Mildenhall, UK, and Em in Derbyshire. Liz's family comes from both Leeds and Great Barugh, near the North Yorkshire Moors, England. She also has links with the Elvidge and White families of Nottinghamshire. Website
        Will Bramhill is the WebMaster for the Bramhill History Website The website focuses on the Liverpool branch of the family but also has a wealth of other information.

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