William was the only surviving son of the late Professor W. Esson, F.R.S., Savilian Professor of Geometry, Oxford. He was born in 1873, came to the Dragon as a Day boy in 1881 and left for Rugby in 1888. He then went on to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, in 1891, and received his commission as 2nd Lieutenant in September 1893. Lieutenant R.M.L.I. Marine Barracks, Chatham, 1895. He was assistant Instructor of Musketry, Portsmouth Division.
He married Mrs. M. L. Fowler in 1913. In 1914 he was appointed to H.M.S. Russell, made Captain in 191o and Major in 1911. He served as a staff officer from October 1910 to August 1913. The Russell was struck by a mine on the 27th April 1916.
Admiral S. R. Fremantle writes, from Royal Naval Hospital, Malta, on the 11th May:
‘His cabin was almost immediately over where the mine struck us. We were hit, only four miles from the entrance to Malta Harbour. At that time all the officers, except those actually on duty, were in their cabins, and it is for that reason that we lost such a very large proportion of officers. Esson was a most valuable officer, in whom I had the utmost confidence, and of great assistance to me. He was respected and liked by both his seniors and juniors. It is probably due to the good order and discipline which he had instilled into his detachment that nine only of them were lost.’
A brass memorial has been placed in the Royal Naval Barracks Church, Chatham, with the names of all officers (including Lance Freyberg) and men lost. William is also remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.