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William Henry Whiting

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William Henry Whiting (1854-1927), late Assistant Director of Naval Construction at the Admiralty.

1927 Obituary[1]


A large circle of naval architects and engineers will learn with regret of the death of Mr. William Henry Whiting, which occurred at his home at South Corner, Duncton, Sussex, on August 22 last. Mr. Whiting, who, until his retirement in 1917, had been Superintendent of Construction Accounts and Contract Work at the Admiralty, was the son of the late Mr. William Whiting, of Porchester and Gosport, and was born on December 25, 1854. He received his early education at a private school at Gosport, and, in 1869, at the age of 15, he became a shipwright apprentice at H.M. Dockyard, Portsmouth. He remained at Portsmouth for 4 years making excellent progress at the Dockyard school, and, in 1873, he was selected for a higher course of training in naval architecture at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, then recently opened. Mr. Whiting was one of the first to complete the three years’ course at the College, passing out in June, 1876, with a highly creditable professional certificate. Amongst those who completed their studies at the same time were two other ex-dockyard apprentices, Mr. T. C. Read, later a distinguished member of the surveying staff of Lloyd’s Register, and Mr. Philip Jenkins, later Professor of Naval Architecture at the University of Glasgow. Having completed his scientific education, he returned to Portsmouth Dockyard in order to take up the position of supernumerary draughtsman, and, during the years from 1876 to 1878 he was engaged in the construction of H.M. ships Thunderer and Dreadnought. The young engineer was then appointed draughtsman in the Controller’s Department at the Admiralty, and continued to occupy this position until 1883. While in this capacity he was engaged on warship drawings, designs and calculations.

On the formation of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors in 1883, Mr. Whiting was appointed an Assistant Constructor, Second Class. From October 1884, to July 1886, he was junior instructor in naval architecture at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and, on rejoining the Admiralty staff at the end of this period, he was appointed visiting instructor at the college. In August, 1890, he proceeded to Chatham to take up the position of constructor at the Royal Dockyard in that town. He remained there for four years and, during this time, was engaged upon the construction of H.M. ships Hood, Empress of India, and Barfleur. Mr. Whiting was then sent to Devonport Dockyard as constructor, but only remained there for a short time. He was promoted to the rank of constructor-in-charge at H.M. Dockyard at Hongkong, and left England in 1895. The Hongkong yard was increasing in importance at that time, and it was decided that, for administrative purposes, the senior constructive officer should have the rank of Chief Constructor. As a consequence Mr. Whiting served as a constructor at Hongkong for one day and was promoted to the higher rank the next. He returned to this country in 1897, and was employed at the Admiralty in the capacity of assistant to the late Sir William White. In 1902 Mr. Whiting became Assistant Director of Naval Construction, a position he continued to occupy until 1912; he was for some years assistant to the late Sir Philip Watts. During the years from 1912 to 1917 Mr. Whiting was Superintendent of Construction Accounts and Contract Work at the Admiralty. A reorganisation of Admiralty Departments in May 1917, resulted in the abolition of the post which Mr. Whiting occupied, and, as he had already passed the age limit, he retired, after having been forty-eight years in the service of the Admiralty. At various periods during his active life he served on several Admiralty committees, including those set up to consider floating docks, and submerged torpedo discharge. He was also a member of the Court of Inquiry into the loss of the Barrow airship in 1912.

Mr. Whiting, who was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1914, became a member of the Institution of Naval Architects as long ago as 1887. In 1903 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Institution, and a premium, for his paper on “The Effect of Modern Accessories on the Size and Cost of Warships.” He was elected a member of the Council in 1904, and a vice-president in 1916.

He was a frequent speaker in the discussions at the meetings of the Institution and, at its recent visit to Cambridge, spoke at length on the paper, “Ships from Pepys’s Manuscripts,” by Mr. G. S. Laird Clowes. Mr. Whiting was elected to full membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers on December 6, 1910 ; he was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. His kindly and genial personality will long be remembered by all those with whom he came into contact.

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