CWG: Stoker 1st Class Thomas Haville

Stoker 1st Class Thomas Haville

Thomas Giles Lansley Haville was born on 16th June 1897, and was one of seven children. There is little concrete information about his early life, but his parents were Devon-born Francis Haville and his Newcastle-born wife, Jane.

Francis was an army man, who had moved his family from Aldershot to Scotland and Northumberland, finally settling in Newcastle shortly before Thomas’ birth. Francis died in 1908, when Thomas was just 11 years old, and it seems likely that Jane passed away around the same time.

Thomas himself had not been a well child – the 1901 census gives him as an inpatient at the Northumberland District Royal Infirmary, although it is not clear what condition he was suffering from.

When he left school, Thomas followed a trade common amongst young men of his age in the North East, that of a pit worker. He wanted bigger and better things, however, and, on 9th May 1916, eighteen months into the First World War, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class.

His service records suggest that he volunteered, as he gave his year of birth as two years earlier than it actually was, in order to be accepted as being of legal age. The enlistment papers also confirm that Thomas was 5ft 4.5ins (1.64m) tall, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.

Stoker Haville’s first posting was HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham in Kent, a base to which he would return a couple of times. After his initial training, he was assigned to HMS Blonde, a cruiser-cum-mine layer, based out of Scapa Flow. In March 1917, he moved on to the battleship HMS Vanguard, which was also based in the North Sea.

The Vanguard was destroyed on 9th July 1917 when a number of magazines exploded on board – 843 of the 845 crew were killed. Thomas had had a lucky escape; just two weeks earlier he had been transferred back to Chatham. During his time on board, however, he had been promoted to Stoker 1st Class.

HMS Pembroke was a busy place that summer. The replacement crew for the Vanguard that would now not be needed were based there, and temporary accommodation was needed quickly. Chatham Drill Hall was brought into service, and Thomas found himself billeted there.

On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out its first night air raid: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit; Stoker 1st Class Haville was among those killed instantly. He was just 20 years of age.

Thomas Giles Lansley Haville was laid to rest, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.

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