Finding Captain William Henry Selby Hall

Tilbury Docks


William Henry Selby Hall was born 13.9.1858 in Greenhithe, Kent, just across the Thames

from Tilbury Docks, from where he would later sail regularly as a P&O Captain.

He was the son of Walter Rowland Hall, RN Captain (Coastguard). He married Mary

(maiden name as yet unknown) and they had a son Charles Ottley Hall in 1891,

who died aged 21 in 1912 and was buried in Portslade, East Sussex, presumably where

Captain Hall then lived.


He was the Master of SS Persia taking mail and passengers on a voyage to Bombay

when it was sunk by U38 without warning on 30th December 2015. The attack was made

south east of Crete as Persia sailed from Valletta to Port Said. Over 340 people lost their lives

that day, including 45 of 63 women and 14 of 16 children aboard.  The women included

Doctors, Nurses, Missionaries, Nannies, Fiancées and Mothers.


U38s torpedo exploded close to the forward port furnace and boiler resulting in a second

explosion. Persia sank in five minutes.  U38’s Captain Max Valentiner became the third

most successful U-boat commander of WW1 (Tonnage sunk) and was celebrated as an ace,

winning prestigious decorations for his missions. Captain William Henry Selby Hall, like

many merchant seamen and captains, sank with his ship and into relative

obscurity. With input from everyone who knows even a little about him, his family,

homes, Merchant Navy Training Ship and subsequent career, I hope to go some way

towards rectifying this. Snippets of information are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle –

little pictures that turn into a big picture. If you know anything about this man, please

let me know so that my book about the sinking of SS Persia will do him long-overdue justice.


I also believe that the family name Wheeler may be connected to him in some way, so,

among others, I hope to hear from anyone with that name who may be related to

Captain Hall.


I can be contacted at and hope to hear from some of you soon!


About wren47

In my mid-teens, I was torn between careers in the Merchant Navy and journalism and pursued both until I was offered the chance to become a deck cadet and learn the skills to become a navigation officer. On the day before I left home to join my first ship, I received another offer, this time to be apprenticed as a journalist. The die had been cast and I went to sea. Much later in life, when running a Consultancy business in Project Management, I took a sabbatical and wrote a 400 page book on those skills and was bitten by the writing bug. Better later than never!
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