Mr Mick Meaney sent me a fine photo of HMS Cressy. He indicated that this is the Builders scale model of the cruiser, which is in the ‘Ships of the Seas’ Museum, Savannah [Chatham County], Georgia, USA.
The Society Men, June 2014
George Frederick Middleton
Walter Charles Nelson Hall
John James Miller
Frank Vieland Parker
William Richard Medhurst
Percy Bland Junior
George Palmer (alias George Lowin)
Percy Henry Catt
James Frederick Wootton
Arthur Alfred Gaiger
Charles Alfred Larking
John Richard Back
James W. Barlow
Henry J. Brattle
Richard James Cole
Henry Charles Wickenden
Joseph Robert French
George Henry Furphy
James Frederick Horn
Ennis Norman Wilson
Henry George Bailey
The Great-grandfather of Chris Rutter
Ernest Alfred Riddle
James Sidney Lench
Arthur Edward Elliston
Robert John Ladd
Richard James Cole
George James Keam
Horace Andrew King
John Nathanial Rose
Joseph John Chidwick
Gerald Noel Martin (Relatives not yet traced)
William James Cooley
William Richard Medhurst
Mr Roy Long sends this about his Grandfather, Leading Stoker, born 18 April 1880.
William Richard Medhurst De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-1918.1
About James Conder
Mrs Sandra Squire writes:
Hi, I came across your website when researching my family history. My great grandfather was on HMS Cressy when she was sunk. Thankfully for me, he survived or I wouldn’t be here today! I was told the story of the three ships by my father when I was a child and never really believed him or took much notice. It was only when I started researching my family tree now I have children of my own and came across my Great Grandfather’s Naval record, that I remembered the story by father told me. I look forward to seeing your documentary and will be watching for updates.
Sandra Squire (formerly Conder, great grand-daughter of James Conder, Stoker on HMS Cressy)
About Percy Bland Junior
Mr Peter Bland writes:
My great uncle was Percy Bland Junior Sick Berth Reserve Attendant M8633. Aged 31. He was born on 27th March 1883 in Kendal, Westmorland. He is mentioned in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour. My late father was born on the 29th September 1914 was named after him. I have no pictures or any other information about him. Any information would be appreciated.
About Arthur Hands
Mr David Hooke writes about Arthur
I just came across your society when researching info about my great grandfather Arthur Hands who was serving on the Cressy on that day in september 1914. He was 46, a reservist and I believe a stoker.
My information about him says: Arthur Hands, Able Seaman, 126838. RFR/CH/B/1393. Royal Navy. Age 48. Son of T. Hands, of Birmingham, husband of Maria Hands, of 509, Slade Rd. Erdington, Birmingham.
About Walter Ansell
(7 August 1882 to 22 September 1914)
Mr Ian Ansell did some wonderful research about his Great Great Uncle.
Walter was born as the youngest son to James and Amelia Ansell into a family of four sisters and two brothers at Moushill, Milford, Surrey. At the age of 3 his mother died and the family moved to 30 Eashing Lane, Godalming and in November 1896 his father also dies. It is most likely that Walter left school at the age of 11 and went into one of the numerous Tanneries in Godalming but he left to join the Navy in April 1898.
Military Record for Walter Ansell:
4th April 1898 Joined the Royal Navy as Boy 2nd Class (Aged 15)
HMS St Vincent: This ship was moored at Haslar (southern tip of Gosport) as the boy entrant training establishment. The ship was 120 gun ship of the line and was launched 11th March 1815, she was finally decommissioned in1905.
26 January 1899: Promoted to Boy 1st Class (Aged 16)
HMS St Vincent, until 1st August 1899.
HMS Agincourt: 2nd August 1899. Training Ship at Portland, she would later be renamed as Boscawen III and then as Ganges II. She was finally stripped and used as a coal ship and scrapped in 1960 at Sheerness. Posted 8th September 1899 (Age 17).
HMS Australia: 9th September 1899. Royal Naval Coastguard ship, she was decommissioned in 1905. Posted 22nd November 1899 (time onboard 2 months 12 days) to HMS Revenge which was going out to the Mediterranean.
HMS Revenge: 23rd November 1899. On 15 December 1899, Revenge was re-commissioned at Malta to continue Mediterranean Fleet service. In April 1900, battleship HMS Victorious relieved her and she returned to the United Kingdom, paying off into Fleet Reserve at Chatham. Posted 15th May 1900 to HMS Victorious.
HMS Victorious: 16th May 1900. The third ship to be named HMS Victorious had the most quiet of careers. She was one of nine Majestic-class pre-Dreadnought battleships, that had an armament of 4 × 12 inch guns and 12 × 6 inch guns. She was built at Chatham Dockyard. She had a displacement of 14,900 tons with a length of 421 feet. The Majestic’s were a template for many successor pre-dreadnought classes. Victorious had her obligatory service in the Mediterranean Fleet in early 1898 and from 1900 to 1903. After this, she was transferred to the Channel Fleet. She never saw combat service in World War I, becoming a dockyard repair ship until her eventual scrapping in 1923. Posted to HMS Caesar on 7th July 1900.
HMS Caesar: 8th July 1900. In May 1898, Caesar departed the UK for her Mediterranean service, undergoing a refit at Malta in 1900–1901. She ended her Mediterranean service in October 1903, paying off at Portsmouth on 6 October 1903 to begin a refit.
Promoted to Ordinary Seaman 7th August 1900 and joined the adult Royal Navy for a term of 12 Years. At this time Walter was aged 18, he was 5 foot 7.5 inches tall and had a Woman tattooed on his Left Forearm. Posted to HMS Victorious on 8th November 1900.
HMS Victorious: 9th November 1900. Second tour aboard HMS Victorious in the Mediterranean, on the 1901 Census the ship is at Malta and he is recorded as being on-board at midnight 31st March 1901, Rank was recorded as Ordinary Seaman.
Promoted to Able Seaman 19th January 1902, posted to HMS Duke of Wellington on 7th August 1903.
HMS Duke of Wellington: 8th August 1903. ˜It is remarkable that so many hundreds should have been compelled to live in such undesirable quarters for so long.” The Portsmouth Evening News, 30 September 1903. Posted to HMS Fire Queen 30th September 1903.
HMS Duke of Wellington in 1900 – The Receiving ship for Stokers, Seamen, Artisan Ratings (ship’s company) and domestics.
HMS Fire Queen: 1 October 1903: Tender ship for HMS Victory with a small crew of about 43. Posted 30th October 1903 to HMS Vernon.
HMS Vernon: 10th November 1903. This was the Naval Mine and Torpedo School, it is possible that Walter was on a course here; HMS Vernon at this time was moored in Portchester Creek. He was posted from HMS Vernon to HMS Pembroke on 19th February 1904.
HMS Pembroke: 19th February 1904. Building works commenced in May 1897 by Holloway Brothers of London to the design of Colonel Henry Pikington on the site of Chatham Convict Prison. First to be complete was the parade ground and Drill Hall on 26th March 1902 with the development of the swimming baths, bowling alley and other facilities complete by December the same year, with the barrack blocks, Anson, Blake, Drake, Granville, Hawke and Nelson being completed soon after. The Navel barracks finally opened on 30th April 1903 with 5000 Naval personnel marching from the hulks within the basin, led by the Depot (Blue Jacket) Band, to the £425,000 buildings. HMS Pembroke took its name from the 3rd rate HMS Pembroke built in 1812 that had become the base ship in 1873. This hulk was one of three, the other two named Royal Adelaide and Forte, situated in the newly built basins at St Mary’s Island, having previously been moored in the River Medway to house the reserve fleet awaiting to be appointed to ships. During the years up to 1906 a large house was constructed for the commodore and St Georges Church was constructed. Once complete HMS Pembroke boated accommodation, a gunnery school that had been moved from Sheerness, a new training centre, church, cinema, canteen, infirmary, gymnasium, swimming baths and a large parade ground and drill shed. A time ball was installed upon the central tower of the wardroom, this was dropped daily at 10am and 1pm except for Sundays giving the exact time to the ships on the Medway. Sundays would see all personnel attend the church parade, this entered the arch at the eastern end of the parade ground and march past the central steps holding the PO’s and Master at Arms and into the drill shed where they would ‘fall out’. On 2nd November 1905 the Boys Brigade was formed at the barracks for the sons of RN and RM personnel, except commissioned officers. On 19th December 1906 the Bishop of Rochester performed an opening ceremony and dedication of St Georges Church. On 18th September 1912 Chatham sailors opened Pembroke House Girls Orphanage on Oxford Road, the orphanage was financed and managed by the Chatham Sailors. The years leading up to the First World War saw the drill hall used as an exhibition centre, Naval store (of rum, clothes and general supplies), a building materials warehouse and as an overflow barracks with the court martial room situated on an upper floor near the rear of the building. Also during this time Chatham had become one of three Royal Navy’s manning ports with the area holding over a third of the Navy and 205 ships manned by the Chatham Division. Walter was posted from Chatham to HMS Andromache on 4th October 1904.
HMS Andromache: 5th October 1904. 2nd Class Cruiser, which was considered to be very poor. The ship was laid up in 1906 and was converted in 1907 to a minelayer. Walter was posted to HMS Scylla on 23rd January 1905.
HMS Scylla: 24th January 1905. The Scylla was sent to Newfoundland in 1905 to protect Newfoundland fishing vessels. Things had turned ugly with American fishermen at the time due to the Bond Fishing Act, which prevented Americans from obtaining bait and other supplies at Newfoundland ports. The Act had been put in place as a response largely to the US not ratifying the Blaine-Bond agreement, which was a very early free trade agreement. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed. Posted 31st March 1905 to HMS Sappho.
HMS Sappho: 1st April 1905. Walter spent just one month on Sappho and left the ship shortly before it left for South Georgia, posted to HMS Dryad 30th April 1905.
HMS Dryad, 1st May 1905. This ship would become the tender to the navigation school, but at this time it was being used for taking soundings through the hull. Lord Kelvin experiments. HMS Dryad was a torpedo class gunship, Walter was posted 17th November 1905 to HMS Hussar.
HMS Hussar: 18th November 1905. Hussar was a Dryad class torpedo gunship and from 1905 onwards was used as fisheries protection ship. In 1907 Hussar had her armaments removed and she became a yacht for the Admiral. Walter was posted around this time on 13th May 1907 to HMS Pembroke I.
HMS Pembroke I on 14th May 1907 Chatham dockyard and naval barracks, joined HMS Actaeon 16th August 1907.
HMS Actaeon 17th August 1907. HMS Actaeon was the name of the Torpedo training school at Sherness. It is now almost certain that Walter was involved with Torpedoes. He was posted back to HMS Pembroke (Chatham) on 16th August 1907.
HMS Pembroke (Chatham dockyards and Naval Barracks) from 17th August to 17th February 1908. Posted to HMS Cochrane.
HMS Cochrane: 18th February 1908. This ship was attached to the Fifth Cruiser Squadron that formed a part of the Atlantic Fleet. Walter spent just over a year on board and was posted just before the ship transferred to the Second Cruiser Squadron. He was posted to HMS Berwick on 31st March 1909.
HMS Berwick: 1st April 1909. After a complete refit Berwick joined the 4th Cruiser Squadron (North America and West Indies). The 1911 census return identifies Walter Ansell as being on-board HMS Berwick at midnight on 2nd April 1911, the ship was at Gibraltar and Walter was an Able Seaman. Walter was posted to HMS Pembroke (Chatham Naval Dockyard) 14th May 1911.
HMS Pembroke: 15th May 1911 to 5th June 1911, then joined HMS Forward.
HMS Forward: 6th June 1911. Forward was a part of the 3rd Destroyer Flottilla of The Nore command. She patrolled the North Sea, (then known as the German Sea), this was the last ocean going vessel Walter served in before being discharged into the Navy Reserves. He was transferred to HMS Pembroke on 1st August 1912.
HMS Pembroke: 2nd August 1912. Walter had completed his 12 years of Military Service on the 6th August 1912. He was discharged with a Very Good conduct record that he had maintained throughout his entire career. He would have applied to join the Royal Fleet Reserve Chatham at Class B, this was granted on 31 August 1912. He was recalled to Active Service (mobilization of the RFR) on 2nd August 1914 and joined HMS Cressy on this day. The 4th August 1914 was the day that the British Government declared war on Germany.
August 1912 to August 1914
Between January 1913 to March 1914 Walter married Gertrude Amy Hook and they moved to 26 Holloway Hill, Godalming. Walter became a Bus Conductor but joined the Royal Fleet Reserve with a commitment to one weeks drill training per year.
HMS Cressy: 2nd August 1914. Cressy was considered to be an old outdated and slow Cruiser that was crewed by Royal Fleet Reserve personnel, raw recruits and cadets. On the 28th August 1914 Cressy as part of Cruiser Force C took part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight, Cressy along with her sister ships was kept at range (around 100 Nautical Miles) west of the action. The only mention of Cressy in dispatches was that she was used to transfer wounded and prisoners to the Naze. This action was considered a total victory for the RN but on subsequent review was carried out, at best, in a slapdash manner and it was fortunate that the outcome was not a disaster. However, as a result of this action the German Navy spent most of World War 1 in port, requiring the Keizer’s permission to engage the British Navy.
However, Cressy along with Aboukir and Hogue was engaged by a German Submarine U-9 on the morning of 22nd September 1914 when all three cruisers were sunk, Cressy being the last to be torpedoed and the only one of the cruisers to open fire on U-9. During this action Walter Ansell was listed as missing, presumed drowned in the North Sea. His name is listed on the Chatham Naval Memorial for Seamen lost at sea.
Gertrude Ansell must have been beside herself with worry about her husband, she would have know around this time that she was expecting their first child and would have been waiting for news of Walter. The following article was published on 28th September:
Surrey Advertiser, Monday, September 28, 1914 (Page 4)
The Sunken Cruisers
Feared Loss of local Men
Amongst those on H. M. S. Cressy, which was sunk in the North Sea, was Able- Seaman Walter Ansell, a Godalming man, whose wife has been spending a few weeks with his brother and sister-in-law, Mr and Mrs John Ansell of 14, Eashing Lane, Godalming. Up to Friday no news had been heard that he was amongst the saved, and it is feared that he must be amongst those who lost their lives. Ansell had served twelve years in the Navy, and had been two years on the reserve. He has latterly been a ‘Bus Conductor, and had lived with his wife at Hanwell. He had only been married about two years.
Walter was never found and Gertrude gave birth in early 1915 to a boy, which she called Walter in memory of his lost father. Gertrude lived with her son and sister at 26 Holloway Hill until her death. She died on the 17th June 1965 and is buried in Eashing Cemetery near Godalming. Her son Walter (jr) is last recorded as living at 26 Holloway Hill in 1945, his whereabouts after this date is not currently known, nor is it known if he married or if he has any descendants.
About Harold Ozanne
Mrs Tessa McKenzie writes about her Grandfather:
My grandfather Harold Ozanne was Capt of Marines on HMS Cressy and was one of the lucky ones who survive. His career in the Royal Marines is recorded at www.ozanne.co.uk.
About George Palmer (alias George Lowin)
George Palmer died on the Cressy, but served under the name George Lowin. Why he did so, Mrs Mavis Allam cannot tell, just that it was his mother’s name. But he did, see below.
Percy Henry Catt
Percy is presented by Mrs Deborah McStay. He was an Able Seaman, 33 years old when he died on the Cressy. He was the husband of Ethel Mary Catt, of 14 Raglan Road, Plumstead, London. Native of New Romney, Kent. 198317. RFR/CH/B/9112.
This is a photo of my great grandad Percy Henry Catt. I’m afraid I have very little other information about him. His daughter was Marjorie Catt born in 1909. She married Stanley Nicklin and my father is Peter Nicklin, one of their 2 sons. Percy and Ethel also had a son also called Percy. I am also attaching a picture of Ethel, pictured in the wheelchair taken in 1976, the baby is my brother Gareth Nicklin, the little girl is me, my mum Anita Nicklin is pictured on the right and behind the wheelchair is my grandma, Ethel’s daughter Marjorie Nicklin nee Catt.
James Frederick Wootton
Mr Nigel Wootton presents his great grandfather: James Frederick Wootton, 2522B Royal Naval Reserve, age 29, son of Mr and Mrs Wootton, of Folkestone, husband of F. Wootton of 20, Middle Wall Whitstable, Kent.
In a way, it is a shame that only now in my 60th year am I finding out more about my great grandfather, James Frederick Wootton (known as “Fred” Wootton). I recall as a small boy lingering at the war memorial in Whitstable, looking at the inscription “J.F.Wootton Royal Naval Reserve” and feeling what then seemed a rather odd sense of pride that my paternal ancestor, somebody that I would never know, had played a part and paid the ultimate price in a war fought a long, long time ago. (Of course, he died only 40 years before I was born, but at the age of 8 or 9, 10 years is an eternity.) I think it was difficult keeping Fred’s name alive mainly because his children were very young when he died e.g. my grandfather, Fred’s second Son James (“Jim”), was only around 5 years of age in 1914. This was compounded by other circumstances including the fact that Fred’s wife, Alberta, died also at a very young age, as did my grandfather Jim in 1959 aged only 50 (though I can clearly remember him). Also, Jim was a prisoner-of-war from the Narvick campaign in Norway in 1940 until the cessation of hostilities in 1945, thus missing many of my father’s formative years in which he could have passed on family stories & histories.
So what have I found out? There are still many gaps, which I am endeavouring to fill, but here goes:
• Fred was born in Folkestone in 1885, the eldest child of William Wootton (born in Sandwich in 1864). At the time of the 1901 census, William was a 37 year old widower and a labourer at the Folkestone Gas Works. He had three other children: William (b.1889), Annie (b.1892) & Arthur (b.1896).
• The 1901 census described Fred as a “mariner”. Sometime between then and the 1911 census he moved to Whitstable, possibly to look for work. In any event, he was working as an oyster dredger for the Seasalter & Ham Oyster Company at the time he was mobilised in 1914. My grandfather Jim eventually worked for the rival Whitstable Oyster Company.
• As an aside, I was given free entry to the Seasalter & Ham Oyster Company Museum (no longer there) around 20 years ago when I pointed out that the name of my great grandfather was on the company’s roll of honour.
• In 1914, Fred lived at 20 Middle Wall (now demolished), Whitstable with his wife Alberta (I am not yet sure where her initial “F” comes from) and 5 children: in order from eldest to youngest, Frederick, James, Lilian, Anne & Marjory.
• A family mystery hangs over Marjory (or “Marg”) because it is rumoured that Fred was not her father.
• Following Fred’s death on HMS Cressy, Alberta married again to a member of Whitstable’s largest family, the Shillings, eventually bearing another son, Albert Shilling. Alberta died before she reached 40 years of age from cervical cancer. Continual child bearing must have wreaked havoc on the women of this country before the advent of modern birth control.
• The final piece of information comes from a report in the Whitstable Times of 3 October 1914, which Brian Baker has kindly sent to me and, I believe, to you. The transcript details the exploits of James Rowden & Alfred Stroud in a 17ft whaler and mentions the final sighting of Fred: “When the whaler had returned with her boat load, Wootton was the sailor who threw down a rope to Rowden, who states that he never saw him again”. This is very significant and most poignant as it places my great grandfather in the thick of things doing his duty at a time of great stress & fear. This simple piece of information has also put me in firm contact with an important figure from the family past, somebody who has been very indistinct until now.
My firmer picture of Fred has been helped by the fact that I believe I have identified him in a photograph. He is pictured outside of the Custom House in Gladstone Road during the call-up of the RNR In August 1914 (I think you have seen a copy of the photograph). Although I cannot be 100% certain it is him, a process of elimination, helped by a postcard published in Whitstable after the disaster & showing pictures of the Cressy dead and survivors, makes me as sure as I can be that it is him. There is also the little matter that the man wearing the sailor suit could be a younger version of my father! A scanned and enlarged photograph of Fred is attached. It is not the best quality but you do get a strong sense of the man. I am guessing that he has a cigarette in his right hand.
That is all from me for the moment but I promise to write again if I do find out more about J.F.Wootton RNR. Best wishes, Nigel.
Arthur Alfred Gaiger
Mrs Caroline Gaiger sends this email:
My great uncle was one of those who went down in the Cressy in 1914. His name was Arthur Alfred Gaiger and I believe he was an able seaman. My father and I would be very interested in joining the society and in marking the centenary in September with other relatives. I have visited Chatham and the war memorial nearby.
Indeed, Arthur Alfred was an Able seaman, 212286. RFR/CH/B/8458. A pity we do not know more about him.
About Charles Alfred Larking
Mr Christopher Spurling, from New Zealand, is the great grandson of Charles Larking. This is what he knows about him:
Here are the details I have about my Great Grandfather who was lost on the Cressy.
Charles Alfred Larking was born in the village of Bramford Near Ipswich, Suffolk, England on 23.10.1882, he was the son of a farmer.
Charles joined the Royal Navy on 23.10.1900 for a 12 year engagement and signed on at Chatham. Charles had 3 other Brothers who also joined the R.N. and served during the First World War.
Having completed his 12 year engagement Charles was placed on the reservist list and went to work on his father’s farms. Charles married a girl from Kent called Lilly and had 2 daughters; Alice and Violet (my grandmother). unfortunately when war broke out Lilly was still pregnant with Violet, and Charles was ‘called up’ for service in the RN before seeing his second daughter born.
Lilly was left a widow at the age of 25 with two young girls, However Charles’ Brother Jim (my Great uncle) an Officer in the navy himself married my Great Grandmother a few years later and had another daughter.
I have attached a picture of Charles in his seaman’s uniform. The other is a picture of Charles’ brother Jim and Charles’ wife Lilly with her 2 girls taken around 1918.
About John Richard Back
John Back is presented by Mrs Vereth Cook, she sent in the photographs of the Dover Memorial.
This is what she says:
I have attached two pictures. The two seamen are John Back standing on the right an his friend ho was with him on HMS Ocean in Hong Kong. The friend painted the picture of Cressy, and my grandmother Emily Back said that the friend was also down to go on Cressy but was ill, so didn’t sail. We don’t know his name. John and Emily lived in Snargate Street in Dover. They had a little girl, called Vera, my mother. John’s name is on the memorial in the main street of Dover.
About James Barlow
James William Barlow was a Stoker 1st Class, SS/107176. RFR/CH/B/9666.
Mrs Dana Brown tells us,
I am Dana Mary Cressy, and my mother was Cressy Alice Barlow. She was born December 1914, so never knew her dad. I have Admiralty letters to my Grandmother (Matilda, Alice nee Phillips), notifying her of Jim’s death plus other memorabilia and research that I have done at the Public Record Office in Kew. JWB’s ancestors were mostly watermen/lightermen on the river Thames in London.
I am 80 plus. Bless you for all of your interest and writing a book which I sadly will not be able to read unless it comes out in audio version. I was able to read ‘Three before Breakfast’ before I lost my sight and I am glad the interest in ‘Live Bait’ is still continuing.’
Later on she writes: ‘James was aged 26 years when he died. He only had one child, a daughter named Cressy Alice, born three months after he died, my mother. She had me and my brother Ted (Edward Andrew Morley).
I have three children, Linda, David and Carl. All born U.S. Citizens as their father was in the US Navy.
My mother Mathilda ‘Alice’ Barlow nee Phillips was a ‘cashier’ in the Hyde Park Kiosk, who put herself through Pitman’s Shorthand and Typing School and came out with very fast ‘speeds’. She worked all her life as a Secretary even into the 80’s. She decided to die on 11 November 1991 ‘because it is a very sad day’ after she lost her hearing and sight. Her brother Edward also had been killed in WW1 in France. She was aged 101 years.
I have a photo of James and also the last postcard of the Cressy which he sent. The pencil writing is very faint, but my husband is deciphering it. Best wishes on this sad day of Commemoration and Remembrance. Dana
(email sent 22 September 2013)
About William (Bill) Henry J. Brattle
William Brattle is introduced by Mr Keith Pearce. His introductory e-mail reads,
My connection to the Brattle line is via William Edward Fletcher who married Rosina Sarah Brattle, the eldest sister of William Henry J. Brattle. William and Rosina brought up my father and his sister, Arthur George and Ada Elisabeth Pearce as their father Arthur Nathaniel Pearce was killed in Belgium during WW1 on 29th October 1914 and their mother Caroline Ada Watts Pearce nee Fletcher later Murdin dying through illness in Peterborough, Northantss, England on 1st November 1923.
Unfortunately I have no photographs of William Brattle or any of his siblings apart from the one attached of Rosina Sarah with her husband William Edward Fletcher.
William Henry J. Brattle was born on 26 October 1874 in Sheerness. He was a shoemaker 1891, Leading Stoker First Class 1901, Chief Stoker RN 1911, 1914. 277368. He married Margaret Mary Walsh in 1899 in Medway Reg Dist. He died on board HMS Cressy.
Attached to one of his emails Mr Pearce sent this photo, saying:
I managed to get the attached photo from Medway Archives at Strood. It is not a brilliant image as it was a photostat from a “Roll of Honour” local newspaper feature.
About Richard James Cole
Thanks to Mrs Tessa Towner, chair of FOMA, Kenneth (Ken) Apted, from Australia contacted me about Richard James Cole, and sent me Richard’s Family History. Here it is,
About George Davi(e)s
His details are SS/106467. RFR/CH/B/8815. Royal Navy. He is remembered at Chatham Naval Memorial and presented by Mrs Jenny Philpot.
She wrote me: ‘My paternal great uncle David Stephen Rinaldi changed his name to George David Davis/Davies and was believed to be on the Cressy. I have found his name in the UK Memorial book and I believe he is named on the Chatham War Memorial. I also understand that he was a stoker (1st Class) and possibly a Petty Officer. I also found him on the 1911 census on board HMS Duncan in the Med under the command of Cpt. Lawrence Field. He was one of 715 on board.
My father often spoke about him although no-one seems to know why he changed his name, apart from the fact that it may have been difficult to have a Italian surname. His parents were Dario Rinaldi and Margaret (Rossi) Rinaldi and they lived in Stratford, East London.
George is a bit of a mystery in the family. My father knew about him, but no one who is still alive, knows why he changed his name. He married a lady called Ellen Burling, but as he died soon after the marriage, there may be no records of him.’
About Henry Charles Wickenden
Sergeant Henry Charles Wickenden, CH/6612, is presented by Mrs Hazel Gilmore. This is what she writes about him:
‘My maternal great aunt, Mary Ann Colyer, was married to Henry Charles Wickenden (who was also her cousin) who was lost with the HMS Cressy. I have found two references to this, one from Dover War Memorial project, which reads:
Henry Charles Wickenden, was lost with the HMS Cressy on 22 September 1914. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, Pnel 7. He was the son of Mr and Mrs H. Wickenden, of 9 Dolphin Lane, Dover, and the husband of Mary Ann, nee Colyer, whom he had married at the Parish church, Folkestone, on 29 July 1908. Mary, then mother to Richard, became Mrs Chantler on 28 December 1914 and bore a further seven children, Mary (who died in infancy), Joseph, Edward, Dorothy, Amos, Elisabeth and William.
There is a photo of him attached to this description.
The second is from the Chatham Naval Memorial, on the CWGC website’.
About Joseph Robert French
Private Joseph Robert French, CH/16365, Royal Marine Light Infantry, age 31, Son of Joseph and Mary French, of Portsmouth. Husband of Emma J.E. French of Lower Rainham, Kent. He is presented by Mr Barry Fellowes.
‘My second cousin 3x removed was serving on HMS Cressy and was lost. His name was Joseph Robert French and had originally enlisted in the Royal Marines and was serving on HMS Prince George in Gibraltar By in 1901. He obviously left the service because he re-enlisted in the Royal Marines in 1910 and was given the above mentioned service no.
In 1911 he was serving on HMS Newcastle in Hong Kong.
On 22nd September he was serving on HMS Cressy when it was torpedoed by U9 and was lost His body was never recovered. He was 34 and left a wife and 3 children. His name is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
By a sad chance of fate Joseph’s younger brother Harry French, service no CH/15653, was serving on HMS Pathfinder as a Royal Marine bugler when she was sunk by torpedoes from U21 off St Abbs Head on 5th September 1914, just over 2 weeks previously. He was21. His name is also on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
It seems a sad coincidence that both brothers were lost at sea their respective ships sunk by German-boats with 3 weeks of each other within the first 2 months of the War. I have always thought how difficult it must have been for the rest of the family.’
About George Henry Furphy
George Furphy is presented by his niece Mrs M. Wootton, from Peterborough. She wrote a letter to Mrs Tessa Towner of FOMA. The Friends of Medway Achives are indeed a great help in tracing descendants.
‘After reading page 10 in the April edition of “your Family Tree” concerning the three ships Naval disaster. I wondered if you would be interested to know that my uncle was killed on HMS Cressy. He was George Henry Furphy, born 6/7/1893 (not 1890 as he told them) 20 Boot St Hoxton Shoreditch London.
My mother was the youngest of eight children so was only 8 years old when he was killed, and therefore did not remember him. Also he was the only btother she did not have a photograph of. She remembered going with her mother to the opening of the War Memorial at Chatham and it poured with rain. I took my mother in 1990 to see the grave of her eldest brother killed in France 1917 and on the way back we stopped at Chatham and she saw her brother George’s name on the memorial. She also lost another brother from pneumonia after being gassed in the war.
I am not on the internet but if possible would like to know of plans to commemorate the disaster for next year. My Mum lived in Somers Town (between St Pancras and Euston Station) and told me some lovely stories of life there, but very poor. I have read the account of the disaster, so sad as lot of them were just young boys.’
George Henry Furphy was an Able Seaman, SS/2611. RFR/CH/B/10045. Royal Navy. Age 21. Son of John and Ethel Furphy, of 18 Hampden St, Somers Town. London. Born at Hoxton, London.
About James Frederick Horn
This too is the result of Tessa Towner’s FOMA request in a Family Tree Magazine.
James Frederick Horn is presented by Mrs Wendy Brazier, of Margate, Kent.
She writes this:
‘I have received my Journal for June 2013 and read “The Live Bait Squadron” article. I do not own or use a computer so cannot respond except by pen and paper.
My grandmother’s sister Fanny Horn lost her husband on the ‘Cressy’, J F Horn. So I was particularly interested, I didn’t even know she was a married lady!
I have been interested in WW1 as my grandfather was killed on 20/444410/14 and my husband and I frequently travelled to France, Belgium and I still regularly go over. I do have a photo of my uncle and a memorial card for a service in his honour, but I do not know much.
I did read the book “Three before breakfast” by Alan Coles in 1979. I would be interested in attending the 100th Anniversary service.’
About Arthur Morgan
Arthur Morgan is with us now thanks to his great niece Mrs Valerie Beaton. She gives us this information:
‘My ancestors name is Able Seaman, service no 141514, date of death 22nd September 1914. Regiment Service Royal Navy. He is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial Burial country Enland, panel reference RFR/CH/B/968 HMS Cressy, panel Ref 2 – Memorial Chatham Naval.
I do not have any photographs of this great uncle, I only wished I had. He was lost in the north sea when HMS Cressy was sunk by a German submarine. I do not know if he was given any medals for being in the war’.
About Ennis Norman Wilson
The details: Ennis Norman Wilson, he was an Able Seaman, 196524. RFR/CH/B/9005. Royal Navy. Age 32. Son of the late Frederick Wilson, of 2 Khyber Rd, Falcon Rd Battersea. Husband of Ellen Rosetta Aylett (formerly Wilson), of 86 Ingrave St, Falcon Road, Battersea, London.
His Grandchild Ian Ennis Wilson writes us this in his first email:
‘I have just stumbled upon your very interesting bulletin while trying to find the actual position of the wreck of HMS Cressy. My Grandfather, Norman Wilson, served on HMS Cressy and was lost during the action. I was interested in finding the coordinates of the wreck site as I would have liked to commemorate the Centenary of the sinkings by visiting the site on September 22nd next year to hold a private memorial. However I see that you are trying to put together a similar memorial and so would be very interested to know more details once you have anything planned.’
My (Henk) reaction for you all: important part of my plan for the Centenary in my country, Holland, is indeed a commemoration on the site of the three cruisers. But that is easier said than done. Especially with a lot of expected attendants. But, trust me, this is top on my list. What I know for sure now is, that it is not going to happen on the 22nd. The British authorities have the strong desire to have that day an important event in Chatham/Rochester, and I fully understand that and am cooperating in all. So: for your diary: probably 24 September commemoration at sea.
And now part of Ian Wilson’s second mail:
‘When he died, he was married to Ellen Rosetta nee Chubb and had two children, a daughter Vera and my father, Ennis Frederick William, who was born on 24th May 1913.
I have enclosed a copy of his Royal Service record and a couple of photographs. One of which must have been taken soon after he joined the service at the age of 15 years. In the group photo on HTMB No. 3 he is marked with a cross an in the other photo he is seated’.
About Henry George Bailey
Mr Graham Bailey from Napier, New Zealand sent me this email:
‘I have found a picture of my grandfather and he is wearing a CRESSY hat. As I never met him as he moved to Australia with my grandmother and the other family members. My father remained in England to be with my mother. My father talked about grandfather being torpedoed twice on the same day.
I was wondering if he was a survivor from HMS Cressy or one of the other ships.
I can email the picture to you. His name was Henry Bailey, from Hastings East Sussex. He was a gunner “on the big guns”’
My (Henk’s) answer: ‘Yes, indeed I found your Grandfather on the Cressy Survivors list. Henry George Bailey, Leading Seaman, service no 212778.’
And this was Graham’s reaction: ‘Here is a picture I have of him. I may have the first name incorrect as I have been informed that his first name was William. I presumed it was Henry – the same as my father….. There are some other discrepancies that need to be cleared up as I have pictures of him with an HMS Pembroke cap on. That was a shore bases training establishment. I also have a service record that has no Pembroke or Cressy mentioned.
I will research the service number and check if this matches our pictures. We also have some medals – my father has them but he has dementia now and it is difficult to obtain from here as he still is in Hastings UK.
I’ll try to clarify our position on this as it will be very interesting to find out the truth.
I would be interested in receiving your bulletins about the 3 ships.
About Herbert Best
Presented by Miss Wendy Lang, Strood, Rochester, Kent. Herbert Best was a Leading Stoker, 309591, 27 years. He was the son of Mr and Mrs Best, of Wales and husband of E. Best, 6, Collis Street, Strood.
This is what Wendy wrote me in April 2012: ‘Back up until a few months ago I knew nothing about Herbert or Harry as everyone called him. My Auntie Elsie told me he was her and my mum’s cousin. All I know about him is what my Auntie told me that his name is on the War Memorial on the Great Lines in Gillingham. He was 27 years old. I know he was married and lived not far from where I now live (but I did not know that until now).’
About Charles Strickland
Presented by Stewart McLaughlin. I quote from his email 12 July 2012. ‘There is an interest here from the Officers at Wentworth Prison about attending the service at Rochester Cathedral. One of our former officers was Charles Strickland. He had been a former rating in the Royal Navy and was called up in 1914 as part of the RFR and was lost on HMS Cressy.
Strickland Row, at the back of the prison, was named in his honour and there is a photo of him in the small prison museum we have here.’
Mr. McLaughlin is Honorary Curator of Wandsworth Prison Museum.
The Honour Roll of HMS Cressy says: ‘Able Seaman, 104408 (RFR/CH/B/713), Royal Navy. Age 53 (served as Haydon). Husband of Hannah Strickland, of 56, St. Ann’s Hill, Wandsworth, London’.
Mr Chris Rutter about his Great-Grandfather
At the ‘Roll Call’ Mr Chris Rutter explained why the name of his Great Grandfather is something of a mystery.
‘He and my Great Grandmother were not married when she became pregnant and he died before the baby, a girl, was born. She then married another fellow quite quickly. As this whole situation was very shameful at that time my Grandmother kept it very quiet and only mentioned it a few years ago before she died.
However, she was named Cressida after the ship HMS Cressy on which her father died, as a way of acknowledging her father who never saw her.
Unfortunately her birth certificate does not mention the father’s name and I am hoping I might find some more information that might helping in discovering who my Great Grandfather was.’
Mr Chris Rutter
About Ernest Alfred Riddle
Ernest’s grandson Jim Riddle was the one who provided me with information about Ernest Riddle:
Ernest Alfred Riddle, born on 5 March 1882 at Acton Green in Middlesex, entered the Royal Navy on 12 March 1901 as a Stoker 2nd Class, for a 12 year engagement period, Official Number 296897. His occupation prior to joining is stated as ‘Labourer’.
A personal description on entry into the Royal Navy says:
Height 5ft 4ins
Hair dark brown
Wound marks or scars dots on left arm
He advanced to Stoker 1st Class on 1 July 1906, and Acting Leading Stoker on 23 August 1908. He served until his continuous service engagement expired on 12 March 1913 and was discharged. During his service he earned two Good Conduct Badges, the first on 11 March 1904 and the second on 10 March 1909. His rank at the time of discharge was Leading Stoker.
He then joined the RFR on 29 March 1913 vide Service Number Chatham B/9548.
He re-entered the Royal Navy as a Leading Stoker on 2 August 1914, and died on 22nd September 1914. Lost in the North Sea. For his service in World War I, he earned the 1914/15 Star, Victory and British War Medals, which were received by his widow.
Jim sent me a photograph. On the back he wrote: ‘Photo taken earlier in his service whilst Stoker 1st Class. Possibly between 9/1906 – 8/1908, whilst serving in HMS Astraea Far East commission.
About Charles Townsend
Presented by Mr. Tim Cowen. The Honour Roll of HMS Cressy says only this: Townsend, Armourors Mate, Charles, 342373, Royal Navy.
I quote Mr Tim Cowen from his email 10 November 2012: ‘Dear Sir, I have just recently been handed a copy of a newspaper report on your book concerning HMS Cressy. For your information I live in Kent in the UK. The name of my house is ‘Cressy’. When I purchased the house in 1999 the lady that lived there (she is now about 104 years old) told me that her husband built the house in 1934. Her husband’s father was a Charles Townsend, servicenumber 342373 armourers mate, who went down with HMS Cressy on 22nd September 1914. Therefore the house was named after this ship. …… I would add that I am very proud of this association with the ship.’
About James Sydney Lench
James is presented by his granddaughters Margaret Clifton-Smith and Sue Pike. This is a compilation of the emails I received from them in December 2012.
‘(Margaret) The information I have on my grandfather, Able Seaman James Sydney Lench is that he is the son of Luke Francis and Mary Jane Lench, of London Fields, Hackney, London. In 1895 aged 24 years, he married a French lady Marie Leguay. At that time he was a seaman on HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth. They had a daughter named Gabriel Violet, but sadly his wife died. In 1903 he married my grandmother, Annie Elisabeth Elliston. The 1911 census states he was a furnace stoker at Mortlake Brewery in Surrey and by 1914 the family were living at Bow, East London where he was employed as a foreman at a chemical works. I believe my grandmother went to see him board the Cressy in either Tilbury or Chatham. No doubt I will find out in due course. According to my late mother, the first my grandmother knew about the sinking was when a neighbour called out “Mrs. Lench, your husband’s ship has gone down!” She was left with five children plus a step-daughter. In 1915 my mother and her elder brother were sent to the Naval Children’s Homes in Chatham, and my mother was educated at Chatham Grammar School.’
(Sue) ‘My mother was 8 when her father died and I don’t think she ever got over the loss. There are other grandchildren, but they all live in Australia, but I will write about the memorial as they may like to know about it. I will tell my own children and grandchildren, as they may be interested to attend the centenary.’
About Arthur Edward Elliston
Together with James Lench, Arthur Edward Elliston too is presented by Margaret Clifton-Smith. Arthur was her grandmother’s brother. He was a Sailmaker’s Mate (201530, RFR/CH/B/9489), Royal Navy. He also died on the Cressy, aged 31. He was son of Elisabeth Elliston, and husband of Lilian Elliston, of 497, High Rd, Leytonstone, London. He married Lilian in 1913 and Margaret believes they had a daughter born in 1914.
Margaret’s mother (I quote Margaret here) ‘said they (James Lench, her husband and Arthur Elliston) were not supposed to be on the same ship but in the confusion both found themselves on the Cressy.
About Robert John Ladd
The previous Bulletin contained a contribution regarding Robert Ladd. Robert John Ladd was the Great uncle of Mr Mick Meaney’s wife Gill.
This photograph stems from the collection ‘The Old Photographs Series LOWESTOFT to SOUTHWOLD’, Chalford Publishers, Bath, 1994.
Robert John Ladd, Seaman, 3295A, Royal Naval Reserve. Age 26. Son of Mrs E. Ladd, of 3, School Green, Southwood, Suffolk. (In the far right in the picture)
Alan Coles’ book ‘Three before breakfast’ features another Mr Ladd, Bill (William H.) Ladd. This Ladd was the captain of the Adenwen. Gill’s family tree presents a cousin William H. Ladd, about ten years older than Robert.
From Coles’ book (page 158) we quote:
In the early morning light of March 11 , Weddigen in U29 was on the surface, hunting for easy prey off the Casquet rocks, seven miles west of Alderney. He had not waited long when into sight came the 3,798-ton Adenwen. U29 fired a series of rockets which Weddigen meant as an order to stop. Adenwen’s skipper, Bill Ladd, had no intention of obeying. The engine-room coaxed extra speed out of the veteran steamer and Ladd steered varying courses to prevent a torpedo attack. The Adenwen was sluggish, however, and U29 overhauled her effortlessly. With a megaphone to his lips Weddigen bellowed from the conning-tower, ‘I’ll torpedo you, master, unless you stop. We wish no lives to be lost’.
Ladd’s courage ebbed. ‘Both engines stop,’ he ordered the engine-room.
‘Thank you, master,’ Weddigen shouted as Adenwen lost way. I’ll now give you 10 minutes to abandon ship’.
Forty British seamen began to climb into the Adenwen’s two lifeboats. One of the men toppled into the water in his rush to safety and was hauled out by his comrades. When the sailors and Ladd were on the thwarts Weddigen sent over a boarding-party. They positioned two time-bombs forward and aft below decks in the Adenwen and then reported back to Weddigen.
Ladd was preparing his men for a long row when Weddigen offered, ‘We can tow you to the nearest ship, master.’ A rope was passed over and the two life-boats were lashed together and fastened to the U29’s stern. Before the diesel engines were thrown into motion, Weddigen went below to his cabin and gathered a change of clothes. He took them on deck, handed them to one of his seamen, motioned to the dripping British sailor in the lifeboat and ordered, ‘Make sure the Britisher who fell overboard gets them.’
With U29 heading westwards Weddigen smiled approvingly as first he watched the sailor strip off to change and then saw the grey spume of the exploding time-bombs shoot up from the Adenwen. Half an hour later when he released the two lifeboats to the Norwegian steamer Bothnia, Weddigen was congratulating himself on a job well done without loss of life. He was not to know that the Adenwen was made of sterner stuff than the Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy. She remained afloat, despite the damage from the time-bombs, was taken in tow by the French destroyer Claymore, brought to Cherbourg, temporarily repaired and the next month put back into service at Cardiff.
Mick Meany is quite sure that this Bill Ladd was indeed Robert Ladd’s cousin.
About William Skarratt
Mr Colin Pike presents his Grandfather William Skarratt. (Private, CH/12977, RMR/B/1986. Royal Marine Light Infantry. Age 31. Husband of Emily Skarratt, of 34, Darrell Rd. East Dulwich, London).
Mr Pike writes (3 May 2013) ‘My maternal Grandfather was born in Endell Street workhouse in St. Giles Middx on 16th May 1881. This date is from his birth certificate, but very interesting, when he applied for service on 21 November 1901 he put his date of birth as 5 January 1884. This made him under age by 45 days, perhaps somebody can explain this reasoning, or perhaps he was unsure’ (question Henk, to all readers: someone who can help him out?).
He served in the RMLI until being honourably discharged in early 1914 to the Reserves. He was then called back later in 1914. I have seen his name on the Memorial at Chatham, it had a profound effect on me to see his name there.’
About Richard James Cole
Richard James Cole is remembered at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial and presented by Lawrence Christensen. Richard is Lawrence’s Great Uncle. He was a Signal Boatswain.
Lawrence mails me (13 December 2012)
‘I do have a photo actually taken on the bridge of the Cressy signed by my great uncle and dated 1912. However I have tried to scan it in the frame and it won’t work and I am very reluctant to take it out of the frame for fear of damaging it.
He was one of three orphaned brothers sent to the Arethusa. An old sailing ship moored in the Thames for the orphans of sea farers, all three went to sea. My grandfather becoming a captain in the Merchant Navy, having started at 12 years old on a 4 masted Barque called the Port Jackson on a voyage round the horn to Australia, Dick and Charles went to the Royal Navy. Charles later transferred to the Canadian Navy and was on North Atlantic Convoys in the Second World War. My Grandfather John Alfred Cole (Jack) survived both world wars.
I followed in his footsteps going to sea as a cadet at 16 but coming a shore to pursue a business career after passing my First Mates ticket, I also served as an Officer in the RNR mainly on Frigates and latterly minesweepers.’
About George James Keam
Mr George Keam is presented by his granddaughter Mrs Vi Maidment, Gleneigh, South Australia.
This is part of her email (20 December 2012):
‘I was in touch with Rochester Cathedral as I understood they included a memorial piece for those lost in HMS Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue on 22 September 1914. My grandfather was one of those who was lost and his body never found. I was heartened that it was still an event someone remembered. I have read ‘Three Before Breakfast’ but had not realised that here was yet another book about this incident. It was such a terrible event.
I am the great granddaughter of a Henry Keam who was licencee of the Neptune Inn on Marine Terrace, Whitstable for 43 years from 1853 – 1897 and was researching my family of Keam’s. I am in touch with another great great grandson who lives at Whitstable, Kent and happened to mention to this gentleman how my grandfather George James Keam had died.
My mother and the children were hop picking when they were told of the tragedy. My grandmother of course collapsed and my mother Mary Jane, was bereft as she was also very close to her dad.
I have included a photo of George James Keam, around 40 years old, with his wife Margaret Hannah and my mother Mary Jane to the left and her two sisters, Ada and May. You will note it is a strange photo as my grandmother and the children are in their widows ‘weeds’ (black) as the clothes were called. Left to bring up three young children she realised she did not have a recent family photo. She did however have a recent photo of just her husband George in his uniform. So this photo is of her and the children after the event, with their husband and dad cut into the background. Done rather well I thought. All very sad. Thank you for listening.’
I agree, very sad. But what a moving photo. George watching over his family.
If you have read Bulletin-4, you will remember the beautiful photo of Mrs Vi Maidment’s grandfather, with him photoshopped in the background. This she wrote to me too:
‘I know you will probably not want a hundred replies but…. can I just send this photo that my 3rd cousin in Whitstable sent me last week. Upset me just a bit.
Just left of centre standing on the step has to be my grandfather… I sent you his picture with grandmother and my Mum and sisters. You might well already have this of course. My grandfather was a tall man, wore his hat at a jaunty angle, I don’t think I am wrong. What do you think? The photo came from “Around Whitstable in Old Photographs”
Gladstone Road is in Whitstable..
About John Butler
John Butler is the Grand Uncle of Mr. Brian Butler, he sent me this story.
‘John Butler war born Chatham 1878 and christened at St. Paul’s Chatham 14th April 1880, with three other siblings. His parents were George Whiterod Butler and Mary Ann Barrett, They lived at 12 Bryant Street, Chatham. On leaving school John worked as a labourer, he joined the Royal Marines Light Infantry on 18th March 1897.By the time he had boarded Cressy he had been promoted to Sargeant in June 1914 and had received two Medals the South African Medal (Natal) and the China Medal (Relief of Peking), both awarded in 1902.
My Uncle is commemorated on the War Memorial at Chatham. The following in Memorandum was printed in the local press.
1922 – Chatham Gilligham & Rochester News Roll 47, Medway Archives, Strood: ‘In loving memory of Sargeant John Butler RMLI who lost his life on HMS Cressy, September 22nd 1914. Ever in our thoughts. From his sisters Alice, Polly and Amy, and Orphan son John’.
There are a couple of questions regarding my uncle that eludes me at the moment, he had a child, so:
1. Who was the wife of John?
2. Where were they married?
3. Where and when was his son born?’
Brian Butler: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Horace Andrew King
Mr. Alan King, from Suffolk, presents his Great Uncle Horace.He says:
‘He was a Royal Fleet Reservist serving aboard HMS Cressy from 2nd August 1914 and is listed as “Drowned in the North Sea when HMS Cressy was sunk by German Submarine”. His wife, my Great Aunt, Margaret Fenton King, nee Chalmers, died in 1964,their only daughter died in 1936.’
Horace was an Able Seaman, 190503 (RFR/CH/B/9004), age 33, son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew King, of Tooting, Londen, husband of M.F. King, of 19, Trewint St. Earlsfield, London.
About John Dear
Mrs Kathleen Woodward sent in some nice pictures concerning John Dear, of the British Royal Post, who has been mentioned earlier in this Bulletin.
The pictures may speak for themselves.
Kathleen Woodward, his granddaughter writes this:
‘My Grandfather, John Dear, was greatly loved in his extended family. He was the younger son of George and Louisa Dear. He joined he Navy as a young lad, following his elder brother, George William, who was a P.T. Instructor and then in the Coastguard Service. My father, Jack, was only 6 years old when the Cressy was sunk. The effect of this on my father was traumatic. He could not accept the fact that his father was actually dead and constantly expected him to come home. His hatred of everything German could have him unpredictantly angry. My sister and me learned how to cope with this. But it was not easy at all. Before my sister was born I got a lot of support from his two sisters, Hannah and Alice, they tried to make up to me for the loss of his father. They always kept in touch, and when I was a young child they never forgot to send me presents. As I grew up, relatives’ conversations always returned to the sinking of the three battle cruisers. The extended family was quite large, as two brothers and a sister of the Dear family married two sisters and a brother of the Loveday family. The family al thought he should never have been called up again as he was already 42 years old and had served his 21 years. Another disaster hit the family in 1915 when the “baby” of the Loveday family, Arthur Lawrence Loveday, was killed at Gallipoli. WWII claimed two of the next generation with the sinking of the HOOD and the BARHAM.
I remember even as recently as the 1970’s my father kept a large photograph of the Cressy on the wall of his workshop.A curious coincidence: in 1954 I returned from visiting a Dutch friend, and on the journey from the Hoek to Harwich, the boat I was on must have been quite close to the place my Grandfather had died 40 years earlier.’
About Thomas Tierny
Mrs. Christine Chatterton presents her Great Uncle Thomas Tierney. She wrote me: ‘I have been interested in this story for many years as my Great Uncle Thomas Tierney aged 24 and First Stoker died in the sinking of the Cressy. Not much family history was available as his sister, my grandmother, died very young. His name is on the Cenotaph in Hartlepool, England, where he was born and where all his family lived. We will visit it next year to mark 100 years. As a stoker he would have no chance of survival. This is all I know about him.’
Thomas Tierney, Stoker 1st Class, SS/106901. (RFR/CH/B/9533). Royal Navy. Age 26. Son of James Tierney and Marjory Tierney, of 9, Thorne St. Wes Hartlepool, Co. Durham.
About Joseph John Chidwick
This story I (Henk) found on the website www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk.
‘Leading seaman Joseph John Chidwick. His account of his survival from HMS Cressy sunk by German submarine U-9, 22nd September 1914, as recounted to me, his son, Samuel John Chidwick.
“It was early morning when we were attacked. The Aboukir was hit first a when the Hogue went to rescue survivors she got hit as well; they both sank quickly. Cressy then went in. I was ordered to man a twelve pounder because someone had sighted a submarine. I remember we got off a couple of rounds and then we were hit. I managed to get out of the gun turret door, as I did so the ship began to keel over and I saw the turret door slam on to one the other gun crew, it almost chopped him in half. I could not help as Cressy was listing steeply. The ‘abandon ship’ was sounding and I just slid into the sea. There were hundreds of men in the water, none of us had lifejackets. Many had already drowned, they were kept afloat by the air trapped in their caps which were held on by their chin straps. As I swam I was knocking off their caps and they sank. That’s how many of us were in the water, so close together. I swam for a while and then I saw two pieces of box wood floating nearby. I put one piece under each arm to keep me afloat. I was beginning to feel the bitter cold and then I saw a barrel floating nearby. I thought it
would give me better support so I abandoned the wood and struck out for the barrel. It turned out to be a big mistake because when I went to grab the barrel it spun round and round and I couldn’t get a grip. I tore the flesh from my fingers trying to grip it. By then I was nearly done in and the cold was getting to me. I swam about and was on the point of going down when I saw a large plank. One end of it was lifted out of the water. I managed to climb on to it. I don’t remember much more, I remember the blade of an oar coming towards me, it looked as big as the side of a house. I came to in a camp in Nijmegen, Holland. (Remark Henk: this must have been IJmuiden, Holland)
While I was there two men came to see me, they were fishermen, they say they fished me out of the drink. They told me that the reason my plank was lifting was because at the other end were three dead men, each with a dead man’s grip on the other, the weight of their sinking bodies tilted the plank. I am grateful to these men, they saved my life.”
About Dr Gerald Noel Martin
In 1965 Corgi Books published ‘The Great War at Sea’ by A.A. Hoehling, subtitle ‘The dramatic story of Naval warfare 1914 – 1918’.
This quote is from page 58, Chapter Two, ‘Disaster on the Broad Fourteens’,
“Dr Gerald Noel Martin, a temporary surgeon aboard the Cressy, reported the experience of many when he described what happened to him in the water.
‘’As the vessel went over I was washed off by a big wave. Before this I had stripped. I saw the Cressy, keel upwards; there were perhaps fifty men clinging to her, and when she finally went down I was surprised to find that there was only a little bit of suction. Luckily I am a good swimmer, and after I had gone 100 yards I came across a long plank to which half a dozen men were clinging. They were men I knew and they asked me to share it with them, which I did, with the subject of giving them some directions. I told them to hold on with one hand and move their legs about.
‘’After I had been hanging on to the plank for a quarter of an hour, some of the men were giving out and began to sit on the wood, forcing it under the water. Leaving the plank, I struck out on my own and swam on for some time till I came across a man who beckoned to me. I got to him and found he had a table under one arm and a piece of wood under the other. He gave up the table to me. The top was fifteen inches square and the legs were very stout. I looked round for something to swim to, and caught sight of a fishing smack to the windward. After a long swim I found it was getting nearer and nearer, and I began to shout to it. All this time I had been swimming on my own. The only human forms I came across were two or three dead bodies – men who were bent over the wood or wreckage to which they had clung.
‘’As I got nearer to the smack I shouted for all I was worth. I would shout, swim a hundred yards, and shout again. At last the crew spotted me and sent their small boat, which picked me up.’’
About William James Cooley
William James Cooley, Pte CH/7606 (RMR/B/880). Royal Marine Light Infantry, was born in St Matthew’s parish 2nd Nov 1875, baptised with 2 of his siblings at St Matthew’s 7 July 1886, killed in action Tue, 22nd Sep 1914. He enlisted in the Chatham Division of the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 24 October 1893.
The 1891 census shows William Cooley, plasterer born 1849 in Haggerston, London and his wife Mary born 1859 in Chelsea, London living at 16 Vicarage Terrace with their children William (1875), Porter born Kingsland London 1876, May born Stoke Newington, London, George born Wood Green 1880, Lottie 1884, Edmund 1888 and Richard 1891, the last 3 born in Cambridgeshire. In the 1901 census William was at 8 Short St, Sheerness, with his wife Alice born 1880 in Stoke Newington, London. He married Alice Swan in the last quarter of 1900 in Sheppey. In the 1911 census he is shown as a general labourer living at 53 Russell St. Mile Town, Sheerness with his wife and children, all born in Sheerness, William 1903, Reginald 1905 and Frances 1902. He had signed on for a number of years with the colours and then a period on the reserve, so that he was called back when war was declared.
This is a chapter from the book Mr David Pilkington from Cambridge wrote about ‘The War Memorial in St. Matthew’s Church Cambridge’.
Many thanks to Mr. Pilkington, for the photo too.
9 comments / Add your comment below
My Great Grandfather Able Seaman George Sporton perished on the HMS Cressy, his daughter Mary Bray-Jones (nee Sporton) was my Grandmother.
How do I add pictures of my Great Grandfather and the war memorial?
It’s best to send your pictures to Henk van der Linden: email@example.com.
Thank you and kind regards.
Froukje van der Linden
My Grandfather, Alfred Edward Turnbull was an RNVR surgeon and went down with the Cressy. His name is recorded on the memorial at Chatham. My Mother was born 3 months after his death and named Alfreda. He came from Dunbar and studied medicine at Edinburgh University.
I have photos and memorabilia and have just had his naval dress sword refurbished.
I am writing a book about the three cruisers and the impact of the huge loss of life. I have been working on it since shorty before the 2014 commemorative event that Henk organised at Chatham dockyard.
The sick bay of HMS Cressy was a busy place on the morning of 22 September and I would be very grateful for more information or photos of your Grandfather. I have accounts from temporary surgeon Martin (he was friends with the Chaplain) , a sick bay attendant and an Able Seaman who was confined to sick bay when the Aboukir was struck. Your grandfather must have been tending the survivors of Aboukir and Hogue who swam or made it by boat to Cressy either in he sick bay or on the upper deck where they recovered.
My Great Grandfather Able Seaman George Sporton perished on the HMS Cressy, his daughter Mary Bray-Jones (nee Sporton) was my Grandmother.
How do I add pictures of my Great Grandfather and the war memorial?
My Grandfather was a stoker on HMS Cressy. He lost his life, and left behind a pregnant wife.
He never got to see his son, my father. His name was Thomas German. If any one has any documents were he is mentioned i would love to see them. Thinking about him and all the men who lost their lives that day may they rest in peace amen.
My Great Grandad Ernest Clark RNR 5535A perished on the Cressy, he was from Goole and his wife was Ann Wrigglesworth, he worked as a cook on a steamship before the war whether he worked in galley on the Cressy I don’t know?
Any photos or information would be much appreciated.
My 2x great Uncle Edward George Housego was a Royal Marine and he was on the Cressy on the 22nd of September 1914, I did not know this until I started my family history then came to light
My great great uncle Edward Housego was a Marine on the Cressy