CWG: Engineman John Henderson

Engineman John Henderson

John Henderson was born on 21st May 1887 in Leith, near Edinburgh. His parents were John William Henderson (known by both of his first names) and Matilda Jane Henderson (known as Jane), and he was one of eight children.

There is little documented about John’s early life and, in fact, the main information about him comes from his service records during his time in the Royal Naval Reserve. Before enlisting he was already involved in shipping in some form – again, however, this is not detailed – but he formally enlisted on 13th August 1915, serving as an Engineman.

John’s records confirm that he was 5ft 4.5ins (1.63m) tall, with blue eyes and a ruddy complexion. He was also noted as having a couple of tattoos on his forearms, including a pair of clasped hands over a heart.

All of Engineman Henderson’s postings were shore-based. He was initially assigned to HMS Columbine, the naval base at Port Edgar, on the Firth of Forth. This was bring constructed at the time, and John was employed as part of that construction process. While here, he was injured on his left hands while laying some cables in April 1916 and lost the tip of his finger.

When he had recovered, Engineman Henderson was transferred to HMS Gunner, the Granton Naval Base in Edinburgh. He spent fifteen months working there, before being assigned to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, in August 1917.

The Dockyard was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that John was billeted in temporary accommodation in Chatham Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force bombarded the town, and scored a direct hit on the Drill Hall; Engineman Henderson was among those killed that night. He was just 30 years of age.

John Henderson was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.

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