White, William (Willie)

White, William (Willie)


Miss Betty, Pilot Launch

Drowned on Saturday 8 May 1943 (aged 29) (Bangor Bay Disaster)


Donaghadee Parish Church of Ireland Graveyard, Co. Down


Donaghadee and District War Memorial (Bangor Bay 1943 Plaque)

Brother of Able Seaman John (Jack) White


William (Willie) White was born on 14 February 1914 in Castle Street, Donaghadee and he was a son of Andrew and Martha White (nee Moore) who were married on 28 December 1907 in Ballygrainey Presbyterian Church.

Andrew (Andy) White, a seaman from Donaghadee was a son of William White, a seaman.  Martha Moore, a minor from Donaghadee, was daughter of Hugh Moore, a labourer.

Andy White worked as a fisherman, and he was Coxswain of the Donaghadee lifeboat.  Andy and Martha had at least ten children:

Isabella (Isabel, born 13 March 1909 in Castle Street, Donaghadee)

William (born 19 August 1910 in East Street, Donaghadee; died of tubercular meningitis 15 May 1912)

Margaret (Maggie born 26 December 1911 in Castle Street, Donaghadee; died of acute laryngitis 5 January 1916)

William (born 14 February 1914 in Castle Street, Donaghadee)

John (Jack, born 24 March 1916 in Castle Street, Donaghadee)

Ilene May (born 4 April 1918 in Shore Street, Donaghadee)

Andrew (born 4 November 1919 in Shore Street, Donaghadee)

Harold Edmond (born 16 February 1924)

Norman D. (born January 1926; died 14 February 1926)

Victor (born 1929; died 20 March 1930)

The White family lived at 25 Mount Street, Donaghadee.

Jack was the first of the two brothers to die in war.

Three men from Donaghadee along with one man from Bangor were drowned on Saturday 8 May 1943 in what became known locally as the ‘Bangor Bay Disaster’.  There were no survivors.  The four men died when the Pilot Launch Miss Betty capsized and sank while returning to port after responding to a call from a ship entering Belfast Lough.  The four men who died worked on the pilot boats that were based in Bangor.  These pilot boats were in constant service, not only for merchant shipping coming into Belfast, but also for many of the naval vessels using Belfast Lough.  At the outbreak of war Miss Betty was requisitioned by the Admiralty from Jim Davidson, Donaghadee.

The three men from Donaghadee who died were Harry Aiken, William George Nelson, and William White.  The Bangor man who died was William Anderson.  Aboard Miss Betty on the day they died, William White was the pilot and William George Nelson was the coxswain.  William Anderson was the engineer and Harry Aiken was a deck hand.  William White was also a member of the crew of Donaghadee lifeboat.

The Pilot Launch Miss Betty was around 40 feet long and the disaster was witnessed by Bangor Harbour Master John H. Corry and Customs Officer G.A. Coppard.  Miss Betty was owned by the Admiralty but crewed by civilians under naval direction and she left Bangor in moderate weather conditions at 8.55 am on 8 May 1943.  During the trip, the weather deteriorated and, on the way back to Bangor the crew had to contend with a strong north-easterly gale and a heavy breaking sea.  At 11.40 am, when they were only about 60 to 70 yards from the safety of Bangor harbour, the disaster happened.  The boat successfully negotiated several strong waves before being overwhelmed by a broadside hit on the port side.  Miss Betty capsized, turned over in the water and remained upside down.

William White’s body was washed ashore at Seacliff Road, Bangor on Thursday 3 June 1943 and he was buried in Donaghadee Parish Church of Ireland Graveyard.  He is commemorated along with the other two Donaghadee men on a separate plaque on Donaghadee and District War Memorial.  He is also commemorated on the family grave headstone in Donaghadee Parish Church of Ireland Graveyard.

Less than two months before Willie died his brother John (Jack) White died as the result of enemy action.

Their father Andrew died on 4 October 1969 (aged 83) and their mother Martha died on 22 October 1973.

Their brother Andrew served during the Second World War and their sister Isabel married Herbert Tiffany of Cheswick, Northumberland.