CWG: Chief Sick Berth Steward John Whiddon

Chief Sick Berth Steward John Whiddon

John Whiddon was born on 15th January 1876 in the Devon town of Ashburton and was one of seven children to John and Elizabeth Whiddon. John Sr was a general labourer, but when he left school, his son found work as a baker’s apprentice.

John was keen to better himself and so, at the age of 21, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. His service records confirm that he enlisted on 21st July 1897 for a period of 12 years. He was recorded as standing 5ft 6in (1.67m) tall, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.

John’s role was as a Sick Berth Assistant and, over the next few years he had a number of different postings. While some were on sea-going vessels, the majority of his time on shore. He served at the Haslar Hospital in Portsmouth, Plymouth Hospital and at HMS Vivid, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Devonport.

Sick Berth Assistant Whiddon certainly worked hard, though, and this paid off. In 1902 he was promoted to Sick Berth Steward and, in 1909, when his contract came to an end, he volunteered to stay on. Over the next seven years, John continued to do his duty, both on shore and at sea, and was again promoted, this time to Chief Sick Berth Steward.

At some point John married a woman called Catherine; sadly there is no information about her, other than that she had passed away by 1916.

In the autumn of 1916, John was serving on board HMS Powerful, when he contracted pneumonia. He was brought ashore and admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in Plymouth, but sadly passed away from the illness on 30th December 1916. He was 40 years of age.

John Whiddon was brought back to Ashburton for burial. He lies at rest in the graveyard of St Andrew’s Church there.

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