William Arthur Wilmot was born in Greenway Crescent, Bedminster, Somerset on 27th December 1880 to William Wilmot and his wife Mariam Elizabeth Wilmot [née Williams]. William Wilmot snr was an Ironmongers assistant and of his seven children, five of whom were girls, his son William was the eldest.
He was educated at Wellington College in the latter half of the 19th Century and on leaving became a Commercial Traveller specialising in gas appliances. In 1908 William married Winifred Lee and the marriage produced two children; Phyllis Mary in 1910 and her sister Doris Winifred in 1912.
William remained a commercial traveller until he was conscripted into the Royal Naval Air Service on 30th May 1917 where he initially served ‘aboard’ HMS President II, which was in fact a shore establishment at Crystal Palace. Located at Sydenham, the Crystal Palace had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy in September 1914 and was the initial training establishment for all Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve [RNVR] volunteers and for officers destined for the Royal Naval Division [RND]. Later on, other categories of naval personnel; e.g. RNAS, received their training here.
William also spent a very brief period of time serving at Wormwood Scrubs [not HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs], but an open 200 acre space, and one of the largest areas of common land in London. In 1910 it had entered the aviation history books when a pioneer airship lifted into the air from an improvised strip. In 1914 all aviation on the Scrubs was passed to Admiralty control and it became ’Wormwood Scrubs Naval Air Station’ consisting of a RNAS stores depot, an airship pilots school, together with facilities for the construction and repair of non-rigid airships.
At the beginning of July 1917 William was admitted to the Bermondsey Military Hospital in London. The hospital had been built in 1897 and was originally used as an infirmary intended solely to accommodate the elderly poor and infirm and by 1909 had approximately 1,000 beds. It was converted for use as military hospital during the war with a total of 796 beds, of which 103 were for patients with tuberculosis, 6 for dysentery cases and 25 for isolation purposes.
On Tuesday 3rd July 1917 Air Mechanic (2nd Class) William Arthur Wilmot, RNAS, died of meningitis; he was 36 years old and left a widow and two young children. His time in the military had amounted to 34 days. William’s body was returned to his home in Stretford, Lancashire where the family lived, in what is today part of Greater Manchester; he was then interred locally within Stretford Cemetery which today contains the bodies of 77 servicemen from the two world wars.
The Royal Naval Air Service, formed in 1914 was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army’s Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force (the first of its kind in the world) on 1st April 1918.