CWG: Stoker 1st Class Arthur Haxell

Stoker 1st Class Arthur Haxell

Arthur Frederick Haxell was born on 17th June 1897 and was the third of six children to Frederick and Ellen. Arthur’s father was a labourer from Tilbury in Essex, who raised his family in nearby Romford, where Arthur himself was born.

By the time Arthur was six, the family had moved to Kent; the 1911 census found them living in the then village of Welling. When he left school, he found work at a local mill. War was on the horizon, however, and things were about to change.

Arthur was called up on 22nd June 1916, joining the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. His service records show that he was 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was sent to HMS Pembroke – the shore establishment at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – and spent three months there being trained.

Stoker Haxell’s first sea commission was on board HMS Dartmouth, a cruiser that served in the Eastern Mediterranean which was involved in the Battle of Otranto Straits in the spring of 1917. He spent nine months on board, and received a promotion to Stoker 1st Class during this time.

By the start of July, however, Arthur was back in Chatham. HMS Pembroke was a busy place that summer, a sunken battleship and an outbreak of fever meaning that its barracks had reached capacity. Rather than being in the normal barracks, Arthur found himself billeted at the nearby Chatham Drill Hall instead.

By this point in the conflict, the German Air Force was doing all it could to minimise the losses it was suffering during its daylight raids. Instead, it trialled night flights and, on 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombed. The Drill Hall Stoker Haxell was sleeping in received a direct hit; he died from his injuries the following day. He was just 20 years old.

Arthur Frederick Haxell was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham, alongside the other 97 victims of the Chatham Air Raid.

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