William Robert Ferrett (known as Robert) was born on 14th December 1889, and was the oldest of three children to William and Annie. William was a farm labourer from Dorset; Annie was born in Camberwell, South London, but, by the time Robert was born, the couple had settled in Kingsbury, Middlesex, where they raised their family.
Robert also took up labouring work in a washhouse when he left school, and had left home by the time of the 1911 census. He was recorded as boarding with James and Sarah Kemp in Willesden Green. There may have been an ulterior motive for him as, that summer, he married their daughter, Daisy. There may have been an ulterior motive for the marriage as well as, later that year, the couple had the first of their two children, who they named William.
War was on the horizon and, in the spring of 1915, Robert enlisted, joining the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. His service records show that he stood just 5ft 1.5ins (1.56m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a medium complexion. He was also noted as having tattoos on both arms and a scar on his forehead.
Stoker Ferrett’s first posting was at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. After three months’ training, he was assigned to the battleship HMS Vanguard, on board which he spent the next two years. While he was promoted to Stoker 1st Class during this time, it was not all plain sailing. The records show that Robert spent two separate periods of time in the brig – 14 days in December 1916, and a further 14 days in June 1917 – although his misdemeanours are unclear.
In June 1917, soon after his second imprisonment, Stoker Ferrett was transferred back to HMS Pembroke. The dockyard was particularly busy that summer and Robert found himself billeted in temporary accommodation in Chatham Drill Hall.
On the night of the 3rd September, the German Air Force conducted the first night time raid on England. Chatham came in the firing line, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Stoker 1st Class Ferrett was badly wounded and was taken to the Royal Naval Hospital in the town. His injuries proved too severe, however, and he passed away the following day. He was 27 years of age.
Robert Ferrett was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.
Robert’s younger brother, Robert Frederick Ferrett, also fought in the Great War. He served as a Private in the 7th Battalion of the London Regiment, but was killed at the Somme on 23rd July 1918, aged just 21 years old. He was laid to rest in the Pernois Cemetery in Picardie.