CWG: Stoker 1st Class Frederick Hartnall

Stoker 1st Class Frederick Hartnall

Frederick George Hartnall was born in St John’s Wood, London, on 28th March 1892. He was the youngest of three children to Harry and Elizabeth Hartnall, although, tragically, his two older brothers had both passed away within their first year.

Harry worked as a compositor – type setting for a local printer – and this is a trade into which Frederick followed his father, when he left school. After his mother passed away in 1907, he realised that he wanted bigger and better things. On 19th April 1910, having just turned 18, he enlisted in the Royal Navy.

Frederick’s service records show that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall, had brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He was sent to HMS Victory – the naval base in Portsmouth – for his training as a Stoker 2nd Class, and his naval career began.

Over the next four years, Frederick served on six different ships, rising to the rank of Stoker 1st Class in the process. In between his ocean trips, however, his time was spent at on-shore bases, both in Portsmouth and Chatham – the Royal Naval Dockyard known as HMS Pembroke.

When war was declared in 1914, Stoker Hartnall was on board the cruiser HMS Dido. The reality of his life may well have hit home; on two separate occasions during this particular assignment, he was confined to the brig. Sadly his misdemeanours are lost to time now, but they must have been significant: his first confinement lasted a week, while his second was for 42 days, and ended with his transfer to HMS Pembroke.

For most of the rest of his service, Stoker Hartnall was shore-based. By the summer of 1917, he was back at HMS Pembroke. The base was particularly busy that summer, and he was billeted in temporary accommodation in the town’s Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force scored a direct hit on the barracks and Drill Hall; Stoker Hartnall was among those killed instantly. He was just 25 years old.

Frederick George Hartnall was laid to rest, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.

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