From Plymouth to Coronel

William Wileman Hart. RMB/1681, Royal Marines, was born on July 4, 1895, at Church Street, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire He was the first son of William Hart, who was a signalman on the Midland Railway, and his wife Rebecca. William (his father) was a musical man who could play the organ, trumpet, cornet and other wind instruments, and Rebecca had a fine contralto voice. Wileman apparently inherited considerable musical ability from his parents, and became proficient on the cello. He joined the Royal Marines Band as a boy musician, and as a member of the band was on several different ships before eventually joining the Monmouth.

During his time aboard the Monmouth he wrote home several times, and these items are now in the procession of J.D.Atkinson and his wife, who is the niece of Wileman.

I am extremely grateful to David and his wife, for supplying copies of these documents, which appear below along with transcripts, and for allowing me to reproduce them here.

Picture postcard “The Sands, Whitsand Bay”. Franked “London F S Paquebot, Oct 12 14

Postcard - The Sands, Ehitsand Bay (front)

Postcard - The Sands, Whitsand Bay (back)

HMS Monmouth
25th August.
Dear M & D
Just a few lines to say I am in the pink. We have just caught up a mail boat so have not time to write a letter. We are off Brazil now. Getting along alright. Have not had a letter from you since we left Devonport. There are hardly any mailboats knocking about so have no chance of getting one from you. We keep capturing merchant ships. There are [four] of us together HMS Glasgow and two mailboats. I will send a long letter next time, no time now. Love to all.

Picture postcard “Mercado. Sao Vicente, C[ape] V[erde]”. Franked “London 10 Nov 14

Postcard - Mercado, San Vicente (front)

Postcard - Mercado, San Vicente (back)

10 9 14.
HMS Monmouth.
Dear Mother & Dad
On our way now to the Falkland Islands South America, have just left Monte Video. Getting along alright hope you are the same. We visited this place on the 14 August. Weather glorious. Have not received a letter from you yet. I don’t expect the war will last much longer. We took a load of provisions in last Wednesday so have plenty to eat. We expect to meet three more British warships tomorrow. I hope to be with you again next Christmas. Close now heaps of love to all.

Letter, franked London Jan 14 15. Wileman’s parents thus received his last letter some two months after his death.

Letter home (page 1)

Letter home (page 2)

W W Hart (Musician)
HMS Monmouth
c/o G P O

October 14
Dear Mother & Dad
We expect to meet a mailboat shortly so I thought I would drop you a line to say I am in the pink and hope you are the same. I have not had a letter from you yet, but I don’t suppose it will be very long now before our mail catches us. I expect it is crossing South America now. We are just off Chile now on the other side of America. The weather is perfect now but all last week we had very rough weather round Cape Horn bottom of America. We were hunting round there for a supposed German warship we searched all amongst the islands and inlets for over a week but could not find any trace of her later we heard she had given us the slip. I am sending you a rough log to show you were we have been. The scenery in the Magellan straits bottom of America was beautiful the numerous islands and snow capped mountains. We crossed over to the Falkland Islands very cold there our butcher and a few others went ashore and killed fifty two wild sheep so we have had plenty of mutton. Officers went ashore and shot wild duck and pheasants so we have been living in stile. We are on our way now to Valparaso about half way up the Pacific side of South America. HMS Glasgow is with us and the Armed liner Otranto is following us up behind. A provision ship is expected to meet us at Valparaso so we shall be all right. I am living well at present. Having porridge, dripping and perhaps corned beef for breakfast roast meat, beans (Harrogate) and pudding for dinner. Jam for tea and corned beef again for supper. I hope you are all getting along alright send me a Lloyds News if you don’t mind. We are not getting much news about the war out here just the bare wireless. We anchor on an average once a week in some unhabited part of the coast and coal from our collier etc. There is some most wonderful bits of scenery though. We expect to meet some more of our own ships shortly. There are some German warships round here some where but we can’t find them they are hiding from us. I expect we shall meet them sooner or later. We are getting very disheartened because we can’t find them, but we are bound to meet them sooner or later. I have been taking up boxing lately. We have got a chap in the band who has been a bit of a welter weight champion about my own age and we have got a bit chummy and he has been pulling me up a few moves it is fine exercise but I expect a [illegible] for a bit now has we are getting to a warmer climate. There is a most glorious sunset now hardly a ripple on the sea. Pity I wasn’t an artist. I have got over my sea sickness that I used to have in the “Colossus” have not been sick about here and am now able to laugh at the other young sailors. Well I hope I shall here from you soon. It is the general opinion out here that the war won’t last much longer. If you are alright, I don’t mind staying out here for a bit we are always seeing fresh sights and new wonders, and besides I am saving up money all the time. I hope to have ten pounds to my credit by Christmas. [Its] a pity I haven’t got my cello here with me, but it can’t be helped. We are getting along much better than I expected we should. Well I have no more particular news to tell you at present so will close. Hoping you are all well and in the best of Health & spirits with lots of love to all.
Tell Bert I will bring him a nice birthday present when I get Home.


The Log referred to in the (above) letter:

Log from letter home

HMS Monmouth, Protective Cruiser, 4th Squadron.
4.30 pm 6th August 14 left Plymouth
13th Arrived at St Vincent (Verde Islands)
14th Left St Vincent
20th Arrived and left Pernambuco (Brazil)
22nd HMS Glasgow joined us
23rd Arrived at Abrohlos Rock (Brazil)
24th Left Abrohlos
1st September Armed Liner Otronto joined us
1st Arrived Abrohlos
2nd Left Abrohlos
Up to present have been 648 hours under way
96 hours at Anchor
Travelled 8000 miles
September 6th Arrived Lobas Island (off River Plate)
Sept 7th Left Lobas Island
8th Arrived at Monte Video (Uruguay)
10th Sailed for Bahia Blanco
11th Turned back for Santa Catherina Island
14th Arrived St Catherina Sailed for River Plate
17th Anchored off English Bank Island
22nd Sailed for Punto Arenas (Straits of Magellan)
29th Sailed for Orange Bay (Cape Horn)
30th Arrived Orange Bay
30th Sailed for Port Edgar (Falkland Islands)
Oct 1st Arrived Port Edgar
3rd Sailed for the Magellan Straits
5th Arrived at Port Gallant
6th en route for Orange Bay (Cape Horn)
Total hours under way 1151
at Anchor 318
Total Miles 13 758
(10th October 1914)
14th October en route for Valparaso (Chile)

Picture postcard “Luta. S Vicente, Cabo Verde”. Franked “London, Dec 5 14"

Postcard - Luta, San Vicente (front)
Postcard - Lute, San Vicente (back)

29 October 14.
HMS Monmouth.
Dear Mother
Many Happy Returns of the day. Hope you are in the best of health. Still on the Chile side of America having glorious weather. Have not received news from you yet but there is hope of us receiving a mail in a couple of weeks time. The “Good Hope” has joined us and the “Defence” expected shortly so there will be five of us together. We visited Valparaso the other day big city. The British people presented us with tobacco flour pickles etc. Getting along as well as can be expected. Hope you are all in the best of health. Love to all.


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