CWG: Stoker 1st Class George Boyd

Stoker 1st Class George Boyd

George Boyd was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 1st May 1890, although further information about his early life is not available.

What can be confirmed is that George enlisted in the Royal Navy on 8th September 1908 as a Stoker 2nd Class. He had been working as a labourer for shipbuilder Workman Clark, when the opportunity to better himself was presented. His service records show that he was 5ft 3ins (1.60m) tall, had light brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a tattoo of a compass and square on the back of his left hand.

Over the five years of his service, Stoker Boyd served on five different ships, returning each time to what would become his base, HMS Pembroke, also known as the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. During his time, he was also promoted to Stoker 1st Class.

When his five years’ service was up, George was transferred to the reserve ranks, only to be called up again less than a year later, when war broke out. Stoker Boyd’s enthusiasm for the job may have been waning by this point: his previous Very Good character was noted only as Fair when he was re-engaged, and, in July 1915, while based in Chatham, he went absent without leave, a crime than resulted in six weeks’ detention.

Stoker 1st Class Boyd served on a number of ships during his renewed period of service, although he returned to HMS Pembroke between voyages. He returned there for good on 7th August 1917.

That summer was a particularly busy time for the Royal Naval Dockyard: temporary overflow accommodation was put in place at the barracks’ Drill Hall, and this is where George found himself billeted.

On the night of 3rd September, Chatham came under attack from a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Stoker 1st Class Boyd was among those to be killed that night. He was 27 years of age.

George Boyd was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid. His pension was transferred to his widow, Adelaide Boyd (née Kerr).

Adelaide Kerr was an interesting character in her own right. Born in Belfast on 9th June 1893, she was one of three children to labourer Joseph Kerr and his wife Elizabeth (or Lizzie).

Adelaide married James Stephenson when she was just 17 years old, and five months before the birth of their first child, James Jr. The couple went on to have a second child, Joseph, although he tragically passed away when just a year old.

James also passed away, 27th February 1916, aged just 23 years old. Intriguingly, his place of death is Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, but there is no record of why he was imprisoned, nor the cause of his death.

It seems that Adelaide needed support and, within a few months of James’ death, she had married George. After he too died during the air raid, she went on to marry a third time, to Samuel Buller. The couple tied the knot in March 1918, and went on to have a son, William, that September. Tragedy was to strike again, however, when he passed away in December 1923, having just turned five.

There is no further information about Samuel, and time passed for Adelaide as well. She outlived her remaining son, James, who died in Belfast in 1979. At some point Adelaide emigrated – records do not confirm when, nor whether Samuel left Northern Ireland as well – and she passed away, at the age of 90, in the Australian hamlet of Paschendale, some 219 miles (352km) from Melbourne.

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