Category Archives: Canada

CWG: Seaman Neil Mackay

Seaman Neil Mackay

Neil Mackay was born on 16th September 1888 in Stornoway, Scotland, the son of Murdoch and Johanna (known as Murdo and Annie) Mackay.

Sadly, little information remains about his early life; most of what can be gleaned comes from his Royal Naval Reserve records. The document confirms that he was 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, had blue eyes, a dark complexion and a scar between his eyes.

Neil enlisted as a Seaman on 3rd September 1912 and, over the next couple of years, he travelled the world, visiting Maine in the United States, New Zealand and Newfoundland on his voyages.

When war broke out, he was assigned to HMS Northbrook, a troopship taking soldiers to India; he returned to the United Kingdom on HMS Dalhousie, in 1915, before making the same round trip, this time on HMS Lawrence, later that year.

In April 1916 Seaman Mackay returned to England, and was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, for around eighteen months.

The summer of 1917 was to prove a busy time at HMS Pembroke, and Neil found himself billeted in temporary accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall. On 3rd September 1917, the town came under fire from a German air raid; the Drill Hall received a direct hit and Neil was killed. He was just shy of his 29th birthday and had completed five years’ service that day.

Neil Mackay was among 98 servicemen to be killed during the Chatham Air Raid that night. The victims were laid to rest in a mass funeral at Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham a few days later.


CWG: Ordinary Seaman Knight Cooke

Ordinary Seaman Knight Cooke

Knight Cooke was born in Vancouver, Canada, on 10th December 1892. He was one of nine children to John and Mary Cooke. John was a tallyman, selling goods by instalments. Knight, however, preferred working with his hands, and when he left school, found a job in a wood mill, as a planer.

When war came to Europe, those in the Commonwealth were asked to play their part. Knight enlisted, joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 22nd April 1916. His service records show that he stood 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and weighed 135lbs (61kg): he had dark brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion.

When he arrived in England, Knight was initially transferred to the 72nd Regiment of the Seaforth Highlanders, although he was quickly moved again to the 13th Field Ambulance. Within a matter of weeks, Knight was discharged under the King’s Regulations that suggested he would not become an efficient soldier.

At this point, Knight’s trail goes cold. It seems that he remained in England, and it seems that he was still keen to play his part. What is clear is that he enlisted in the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve at some point in the months after being discharged from the army.

Knight was given the rank of Ordinary Seaman, and was, by the summer of 1917, based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham in Kent. This was a busy, overcrowded place at that time, and Knight found himself billeted in temporary accommodation at Chatham Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out its first night-time air raid: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit; Ordinary Seaman Cooke was among those who were killed. He was just 24 years of age.

Knight Cooke was laid to rest alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, not far from the Dockyard in which he finally managed to serve.


Knight’s headstone gives his surname as Cook, although his service records – and signature – give the spelling as Cooke.


CWG: Sergeant James Owen

Sergeant James Owen

James Alfred Owen was born on 4th August 1877 and was the middle of three children to James and Sarah Owen. James Sr was a woodman from Herefordshire, who had moved the family to Radnor in mid-Wales.

James Jr’s early life has been lost to time, but by the time he turned 30, he had emigrated to Canada. He settled in the west coast town of Prince Rupert and found work as a salesman. On 28th January 1910 he married Hattie Whidden: the couple went on to have three children – Annie, Louisa and Dorothy.

War was coming to Europe, and James wanted to play his part for King and Country. He enlisted on 4th December 1915, joining the 103rd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. His service records show that he stood 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall and weighed 156lbs (70.8kg). His physical development was recorded as ‘average’, he had a ruddy complexion, brown hair and brown eyes. It was also noted that he had a birthmark in his left groin and his teeth were poor and required attention.

Private Owen departed for England in July 1916 and was assigned to the Oxney Camp in Hampshire. He was promoted to Corporal and then to Sergeant and, over the next few years, he remained in England. He was primarily based in barracks at Bramshott – also in Hampshire – though did spend time in Seaford in Sussex.

Sergeant Owen survived the war, but was admitted to the Ripon Military Hospital on 8th February 1919, having contracted bronchitis and malaria. The hospital didn’t have any specific expertise in contagious diseases, so it is likely that his move to Ripon was one stage of his move back to Canada.

Sadly, the conditions proved too much for James. He passed away on 17th February 1919, at the age of 41 years of age.

James Alfred Owen’s body was brought to Castle Cary in Somerset, where his sister Eleanor lived with her family. He was laid to rest in the town’s cemetery.


CWG: Lieutenant Herbert Marshall

Lieutenant Herbert Marshall

Herbert William Hare Marshall was born in Ambala, India, on 19th August 1890. His father – Herbert Seymour Marshall – was a Colonel in the army, and was serving in India with his wife, Charlotte, when their children – Charlotte (known as Jessie) and Herbert Jr – were born.

The family were back in England by 1898, and had set up home in the Somerset seaside town of Weston-super-Mare. When Herbert Sr passed away that year, Charlotte was set up on a widow’s pension, and this allowed her to send her son to St Peter’s, a private boarding school in the town.

When her son’s schooling was complete, Charlotte took the family off to Canada. They settled in British Colombia, in Revelstoke, a mountain town halfway between Calgary and Vancouver. Here, Herbert found work as a bank clerk, but war came to Europe, and he felt a need to do his bit for King and Country.

Herbert enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in November 1914; his service papers record him as being 5ft 8ins (1.73m) tall, 148lbs (67kg) in weight. He had black eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion – something that he may well have inherited through his mother’s genes.

Shipped to England, by August 1915, Private Marshall had been discharged from the CEF as part of a transfer to the New Army – also known as Kitchener’s Army, the volunteer British Army raised as a direct result of the outbreak of war.

Detailed information about Herbert’s military service is lacking, although it seems that he joined the 17th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, one of the regiments heavily involved during the Battle of the Somme.

By October 1916, however, the now Lieutenant Marshall had made another mover, this time joining the Royal Flying Corps. On the afternoon of 26th August 1917, he was an observer on a flight at Marham, in Norfolk. The pilot, a Lieutenant Challington, was banking the aircraft, when it dived and crashed, killing both men. Lieutenant Marshall had turned 27 years old the week before.

Herbert William Hare Marshall’s body was brought back to his adopted home of Weston-super-Mare. He lies at rest alongside his father in the town’s Milton Road Cemetery.


CWG: Seaman Thomas Ginn

Seaman Thomas Ginn

Thomas Albert Ginn seems destined to remain one of those people whose lives are lost to time. He was born on 4th February 1895 in Cape Fogo on the island of Fogo in Newfoundland. His father was Walter Scott Ginn, but beyond that, no concrete information remains.

What is clear is that, when was broke out, Thomas joined the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve as a Seaman. Sent to Europe, he found himself based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard, at Chatham, Kent.

He was billeted in the Drill Hall, which had been set up with temporary accommodation during 1917, when the barracks themselves became overcrowded.

On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out one of its first night-time air raids on England: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Seaman Ginn was badly injured and died of his wounds in hospital the following day. He was just 22 years of age.

Thomas Albert Ginn was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.


Seaman Thomas Gunn
(from westernfrontassociation.com)

Another young man from Fogo, Seaman Albert Cluett, also died during the bombing raid; given the remoteness of the Newfoundland town, it seems very unlikely that he and Thomas did not know each other.


CWG: Seaman Francis Crocker

Seaman Francis Crocker

Francis Thomas Crocker was born on 5th February 1895 to Job and Irene Crocker. One of eleven children, the family were born and raised in the small Newfoundland town of Trout River.

Sadly, there is little documentation about Francis’ life. What is clear, however, is that, when war broke out, he volunteered for the Royal Naval Reserve.

By 1917, Seaman Crocker was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. The base was overly busy that summer, and Frances was billeted in temporary accommodation in the town’s Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force scored a direct hit on the barracks and Drill hall; Seaman Crocker was killed instantly. He was just 21 years old.

Francis Thomas Crocker was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, some 2500 miles (4000km) from his Canadian home.


CWG: Seaman Nathaniel Gooby

Seaman Nathaniel Gooby

Nathaniel Gooby was born on 28th October 1897, the only son of William Gooby and his third wife, Margaret. Both of William’s previous wives – Tryphena and Amelia – had died before their time, but Nathaniel had six half-siblings, up to forty years older than him.

William was a carpenter, who had been born in England, but had moved to Newfoundland when he was young, and this is where he lived and raised his families.

Sadly, very little documentation remains to evidence Nathaniel’s life. He enlisted as a Seaman in the Royal Naval Reserve, potentially after war was declared (he would have been 16 years old at the outbreak of the conflict). By the summer of 1917 he was based at HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

That summer was a busy time for the Dockyard, and temporary accommodation had been set up for the influx of military personnel based there. Seaman Gooby was billeted at Chatham Drill Hall and was sleeping there when the first night air raid was carried out by the German Air Force on 3rd September 1917. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, killing 98 servicemen – Nathaniel included. He was just 19 years of age.

Nathaniel Gooby was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.

CWG: Ordinary Seaman William Stanley

Ordinary Seaman William Stanley

William Alfred Stanley is one of those names that seems destined to be lost to the annuls of time. Little documentation exists for his early life, but what there is gives some hints at a determined young man.

William was born in London to an Annie Stanley, who lived in the Kentish Town area of the city. At some point, he emigrated to Canada as, according to his wartime enlistment papers, he joined up in Ontario.

William enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 5th November 1915, and was initially assigned to the 44th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. His troop embarked for England in July 1916, and, on his arrival he was transferred to the 98th Battalion.

It was at this point that things too an unusual turn. With a few months, Private Stanley was again transferred, this time to the 19th Battalion, and then again to the 4th Reserve Battalion from where he was discharged from the Canadian Infantry in February 1917 for being underage.

At this point, William seems to have been undeterred.

The next record for him – in fact the memorial to him – is his headstone. This confirms that he had enlisted in the Royal Naval Canadian Voluntary Reserve as an Ordinary Seaman. He was based at HMS Pembroke, the shore establishment at Chatham Dockyard, but there is no other information for him.

Ordinary Seaman Stanley died on 28th December 1917, at the age of 21. (His previous military discharge might suggest that he was, in fact, younger than this, but that is conjecture on my part.) There is no record of a cause of death and nothing in contemporary newspapers to suggest anything out of the ordinary.

William Alfred Stanley was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, not far from the Naval Dockyard where he had been based.


CWG Private William Ridley

Private William Ridley

William Frederick Ridley was born on 7th April 1887 in the New Brompton area of Chatham/Gillingham, Kent, one of eight children to John and Elizabeth Ridley. John was an engine fitter in the nearby naval dockyard and, as the key employer in the area, William followed in his father’s footsteps.

Sadly, John died in 1904, and this seems to have been what spurred his son on to a better life. In 1907 William emigrated to Canada, settling in the town of Wentworth, on the banks of Lake Ontario.

It was in Ontario that William met his future wife. Edith Wass was the daughter of a local labourer; the young couple married on 5th June 1909, and went on to have two children, John, born in 1910, and Wilfred, who was born five years later.

During this time, William was putting his engineering skills to the test; his marriage banns confirm he was a machinist. While there is nothing to confirm any specific trade, given his proximity to the coast, dockyard employment seems probable.

On the other side of the Atlantic, war was breaking out; keen to do his part for King and Country, William enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 28th July 1915. Initially enlisting in the 76th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Infantry, he was shipped to England a year later and transferred across to the 4th Battalion.

Once on the Western Front, Private Ridley was thrown right into the thick of things. His battalion fought at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette – part of the Battle of the Somme – and it was here, on 18th September 1916, that he was wounded.

William received shrapnel wounds to his head, hand and right leg. Initially treated on site, he was quickly evacuated back to England, and admitted to the 2nd London General Hospital in Chelsea. Sadly, however, his wounds appeared to have been too severe; Private Ridley passed away from them on 30th November 1916, aged just 29 years old.

With his widow and children still in Canada, William’s body was taken back to Kent. He lies at rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, close to where his mother was still living.


Larger memorial image loading...
Private William Ridley
(from findagrave.com)

CWG: Serjeant George Carpenter

Serjeant George Carpenter

George Palmer Carpenter was born in Worthing, West Sussex, in 1881, one of fourteen children to James and Elizabeth Carpenter. James ran the Steyne Hotel on the seafront, and sent his boys off to the Lucton Boarding School in Henfield for their education.

A regimented life seems to have suited George. When he left school, he enlisted in army, joining the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. The 1901 census found him billeted at the Elphinstone Barracks in Portsmouth.

Sadly, there is little further documentation on the life of Sapper Carpenter. He served through to and during the Great War, attaining the rank of Serjeant. He was sent to France in May 1915, though there is little to confirm his role there, or how long he stayed.

Serjeant Carpenter was subsequently attached to G Depot Company of the Royal Engineers, which received men returned from Expeditionary Force and also men enlisted for Tunnelling Companies, Special Companies and other specialist units. By this time – presumably later on in the conflict – he was based back in England, at the regiment’s barracks in Chatham, Kent.

When the war came to a close, George continued with his army career. With conflict in Europe coming end, he was shipped to Singapore in 1917, where he served through to 1920. A Sussex newspaper picked up his story from there:

Much sympathy will be extended to Mrs Carpenter and her family, of the Steyne Hotel, consequent upon the death of Sergeant George Carpenter, of the Royal Engineers, another of our Worthing boys whose life has been laid down in his country’s service. He arrived home in a bad state of health on the 25th of February last from Singapore, where he had been on duty for three years. Suffering from gastric influenza, it was found necessary that he should undergo an operation, which was carried out at midnight on Saturday. But he sank from weakness, and died at half-past eight on Sunday morning. This is the second son of whom Mrs Carpenter has been bereaved within a year, and there is pathos in the words addressed to us by her: “I have again the sorrowful task of sending the news of the death of one of my sons this morning.

Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 24th March 1920

George Palmer Carpenter was 39 years old. He was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery of his home town, Worthing, in West Sussex.


The other brother referred to in the report was George’s younger brother Norman.

He had emigrated to Canada in 1906, but returned to Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force when war broke out. Wounded in battle in May 1917, he returned to the UK for treatment and recuperation, and remained on home soil for the rest of the war.

In the spring of 1919, he was admitted to hospital with pleurisy and anaemia, and seems that he never fully recovered, succumbing to the conditions in August of that year. He was just 32 years old.