CWG: Cook’s Mate Arthur Humphrey

Cook’s Mate Arthur Humphrey

Arthur John Humphrey was born on 22nd December 1880 in the Surrey village of Horne. One of seven children, his parents were agricultural labourer Thomas Humphrey and his wife Eliza.

When he left school, Arthur also found labouring work. By 1899 he had moved to the town of Redhill, where he met tailor’s daughter Kate Wilson. The couple married in St Matthew’s Church that year, and went on to have six children.

With a family to look after, Arthur found additional work to help bring money in, and he became a carter for a local bakery. This seems to have spurred him on, and by the time war broke out, he had become more hands on with the baking side of things.

The hostilities brought new opportunities, and the chance of more permanent, better played employment became available. On 25th May 1916, Arthur enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Cook’s Mate. His service records show that he stood at 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.

Cook’s Mate Humphrey’s service was wholly at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. While he would have been billeted in the barracks themselves, by the summer of 1917, the dockyard was becoming a very crowded place. The Drill Hall was brought in as additional accommodation and, that summer, this is where Arthur was moved to temporarily.

The German Air Force was suffering significant losses during the daylight raids it was carrying out. In an attempt to stem the flow of casualties, they decided to trial night time raids and, on 3rd September 1917, Chatham found itself in the midst of a bombing raid. The Drill Hall that Cook’s Mate Humphrey was sleeping in received a direct hit, and he was killed. He was just 36 years old.

The 98 servicemen who perished during the Chatham Air Raid that night were buried in a mass funeral at the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham. This, too, is where Arthur Humphrey was laid to rest.

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