Rae, William McKinley

Rae, William McKinley (Bill)

Chief Steward

SS Glen Head (Belfast), Merchant Navy

Died as the result of enemy action on Friday 6 June 1941 (aged 28)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Tower Hill Memorial, London, England (Panel 52)

Bangor and District War Memorial


William McKinley Rae was born on 23 March 1913 at 6 Willowfield Street, Belfast and he was a son of Andrew and Mary Rae (nee McKinley) who were married on 20 April 1908 in St. Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Belfast.  Andrew Rae (aged 23), a cabinet maker from 30 Crystal Street, Belfast, was a son of John Rae, a baker.  Mary McKinley (aged 21) from 31 St Ives Gardens, Belfast was a daughter of William McKinley, a carpenter.

The Rae family lived at 14 Moneyrea Street, Belfast and at 6 Willowfield Street, Belfast before they moved to 22 May Avenue, Bangor.

Andrew and Mary Rae (nee McKinley) had three children:

Theresa Henzelberg (Tessie, born 31 May 1909 at 14 Moneyrea Street, Belfast)

Robert John (born 23 September 1911 at 14 Moneyrea Street, Belfast; died of whooping cough at 14 Moneyrea Street, Belfast 23 December 1911)

William McKinley (born 23 March 1913 at 6 Willowfield Street, Belfast)

Their mother, Mary Rae (nee McKinley) died on 25 January 1933 (aged 43) and was buried in Bangor Cemetery.

Tessie Rae and Robert Ferguson were married on 5 September 1940, and they too lived at 22 May Avenue, Bangor.

William McKinley Rae was 16 when he went to sea in 1929.  During the Second World War he served with the Merchant Navy and he died on 6 June 1941 when the SS Glen Head was bombed some 100 miles southwest of Cape St. Vincent, Portugal.  Built in Glasgow in 1909, the SS Glen Head was owned by the Headline Shipping Company.  After being bombed, the ship sank within three minutes and 27 of the 36 crew members were lost.  Boatswain John Hawthorne and Third Engineer James Skillen also died that day.

After William McKinley Rae died, his father, sister and brother-in-law placed death notices in the County Down Spectator and in subsequent years they placed Roll of Honour notices.  These notices contained the texts:

Too good in life to be forgotten


A loved one whose memory I cherish


Love’s last gift – remembrance


Not just today, but every day,

In silence I remember


Never forgotten

Chief Steward William McKinley Rae was 28 when he died at sea on 6 June 1941 and his effects amounted to some £236.  Probate was granted to his sister, Theresa Ferguson.

Chief Steward William McKinley Rae is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London and on Bangor and District War Memorial.