Banfield Sidney Carey – who was also known by his middle name – was born in 1868 in Farmborough, Somerset. His father, Abel, was a wheelwright, and both he and Sidney’s mother, Hannah, came from the village.
Sadly, little of Sidney’s life remains documented. He married Janet Morgan in Blackburn, Lancashire, in the autumn of 1912; they had had a daughter, Dorcas, five years before, and Janet had another daughter, Viola, from a previous relationship.
War came to Europe and Sidney enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery as a Gunner (Wheeler), at some point before February 1918. By that year he was based at the regiment’s cadet school in St John’s Wood, London.
On 30th August Gunner Carey suffered a ruptured aneurysm and, despite being rushed to the nearby Hampstead Military Hospital, he died. He was 49 years old.
Sidney Carey was brought back to Somerset for burial in the family plot. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints’ Church in his home village of Farmborough.
Frederick John Parker was born on 26th November 1889 in Wavertree, Liverpool. He was the oldest of four children to John and Ellen Parker, both of whom had been born in North Ireland, and had sought out a new life in the busy English port.
There is little concrete information about Frederick’s early life. What is clear is that he wound work as a painter when he left school, and enlisted in the Royal Navy on 22nd April 1908, as a Stoker. He joined the service for five years, and was places on reserve in 1913.
When war broke out, Stoker Parker was called into action again and, during his time back in the Royal Navy was based at HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment in Chatham, Kent.
The base was a bustling place during the war and, by the summer of 1917 temporary accommodation was set up in the barracks’ Drill Hall; this is where Frederick found himself billeted.
On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line as a wave of German aircraft bombed the town. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, and Stoker 1st Class Parker was amongst those to be instantly killed. He was 29 years old.
Ninety-eight servicemen perished during the Chatham Air Raid that night. They were buried in a mass funeral at the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham. This, too, is where Frederick John Parker was laid to rest.
John Duncan Paulin was born in January 1885 in Liverpool, the youngest of two children. His parents – John Robert (known by his middle name) and Jane Paulin – were born in Scotland, but seemed to have moved to the Lancashire port by the late 1870s.
When he left school, John – who became known as Jack – found work as a clerk, but a life of adventure – and a more reliable career – beckoned. On 14th August 1904, he enlisted in the Border Regiment as a Private for a period of seven years. During that time, he served in barracks across the country – from Carlisle to Plymouth – and, by the time he was put on reserve in 1911, he had reached the rank of Corporal.
When war was declared, those servicemen on reserve were called back into action, and Jack found himself reposted with an increased rank of Sergeant. Over the next few years, he remained based in England and seemed to take on more of a training role, transferring to the Middlesex Regiment and, by the end of 1917, attaining the rank of Colour Sergeant.
At some point Jack met Ethel May Smith, who lived in Frome, Somerset. She was the same age as Jack, and was the daughter of the foreman of one of the cloth manufacturers in the town – she also went on to work in the factory. The couple married in St John’s Church in the town on 1st June 1916, but did not go on to have any children.
Colour Sergeant Paulin’s military career was free of any medical issues or hospital admissions until February 1919. He had not been demobbed by this point, even though the war was over. However, as with many other servicemen at the time, Jack fell ill with influenza, and was admitted to Grove Military Hospital (now St George’s Hospital) in Tooting, South London. Pneumonia set in, and Jack passed away on 12th February 1919, at the age of 34 years old.
Jack Duncan Paulin’s body was brought back to Somerset, and he was laid to rest in the graveyard of Christ Church, Frome. Ethel lived on until 1978; she was laid to rest with her husband.
Robert Anderson was born on 4th September 1889, one of ten children – of whom tragically only three survived – to James and Emily Anderson. James was a storekeeper from Belfast, who had moved his family to Preston, Lancashire, but who had subsequently moved them back to Northern Ireland after Robert had been born.
In 1911, while working as a town labourer, Robert had met and married Rebecca Barkley; the couple went on to have to children, Mary and Agnes.
War was coming to Europe, however, and Robert was keen to play his part. He enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles and, according to a subsequent newspaper report, saw action at Mons and the Marne early in the conflict.
The Belfast Evening Telegraph reported that “He completed his time, and instead of re-enlisting in the Army, he joined the Navy.” [Thursday 4th October 1917] Given that Robert enlisted in the Royal Navy in the autumn of 1915, this raises the question of how he left the army at the height of the conflict, particularly given that the same report suggests that he had come through the major battles “unscathed“.
Either way, Private Anderson made the move to Stoker 2nd Class on 10th November 1915. He record show that he stood 5ft 5.5ins (1.66m) tall, had fair hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. On his arms he sported a number of tattoos; a lady, crossed flags and a ship on his right, and his initials on the left.
Robert’s first posting was HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham, Kent, where he received a couple of months’ training. He was then assigned to HMS Egremont, also known as Fort St Angelo in Birgu, Malta, where he spent a couple of months. Stoker Anderson then returned to England, serving at HMS Victory, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth, and gaining a promotion to Stoker 1st Class in the process.
By August 1917, he had returned to HMS Pembroke. The Dockyard was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that Robert 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; Stoker 1st Class Anderson was among those killed instantly. He was a day short of his 28th birthday.
Robert Anderson was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.
William Hardwick Smith was born in Slingsby, Yorkshire, on 12th April 1887, the oldest of four children to John and Sarah Smith. John was a house painter, but William had his sights set a seafaring career.
By the summer of 1909, he had enlisted in the Royal Navy. He gave his previous profession as seaman, and his place of birth as Manchester, but there is no documentation to confirm either his previous role, or to challenge his Yorkshire birth.
Joining the navy as a Stoker 2nd Class, his service records give his height as 5ft 8.5ins (1.74m) and show that he had auburn hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. William had a number of tattoos as well, including a ship and anchor, clasped hands and heart, a woman’s head and bird and the words “True Love” and “W Smith” on his right forearm.
During his initial five years’ service, Stoker Smith served on six different vessels, attaining the rank of Stoker 1st Class in the process. His career was not entirely without problems, however, and his records show that he was detained for 28 days for being AWOL in 1911, and imprisoned again for a further twelve days two years later.
As his term of service came to an end, the storm clouds of war were knocking on England’s shores, and William volunteered for a further seven years. During this time, he was primarily based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham, Kent, although he was also assigned to the depot ship HMS Dido. Again, his time on board saw him spend two further periods in the brig, although his exact misdemeanours are lost to time.
Back at HMS Pembroke in the summer of 1917, William found himself in an overly packed base. He was billeted in the Chatham Drill Hall, which was being used as temporary accommodation.
On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out its first night-time air raid. They scored a direct hit on the Drill Hall; Stoker 1st Class Smith was amongst those killed instantly. He was 30 years old.
William Hardwick Smith was laid to rest, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.
Benjamin Corker was born in Liverpool on 23rd June 1893, one of four children to James and Mary Corker. James was a railway foreman and porter from Helsby in Cheshire, who had moved to the city to get work.
Mary passed away in 1906, and this may have been the spur that got Benjamin moving. On 14th March 1910, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class, for the set term of twelve years’ employment.
Benjamin’s service records shed a little more light into his life. He was noted as being 5ft 10ins (1.78m) tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. At the time that he enlisted, he was working as a capstan man for the railway, moving trucks in the goods yard using a rope device similar to that found on ships at the time.
The section on wounds, scars and marks notes that he had “tattooed tombstone, wreath and ‘in memory of my mother’, 3 crossed fishes, heart anchor and cross” on his right forearm; on his left were “heart flag, wreath flag, ‘mizpah’, KJ and two dots and indistinct letter C”. He also had a mole under his chin. The Hebrew word mizpah (remembrance, or emotional bond) is intriguing, and suggests that, while Benjamin was baptized at St Cleopas Church in Toxteth, there may have been Jewish heritage in his family line.
The last noteworthy entry on Stoker Corker’s naval records is that he had given his date of birth as 23rd June 1890, three years older than he actually was. He would have been 17 – and therefore underage – at the point he enlisted, which shows either a drive to follow his dream, or to escape some other reality.
Whatever his circumstances, Benjamin boarded HMS Acheron in Liverpool, and sailed from there to the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, for formal training at HMS Pembroke there. After three months he was given his first formal posting on board the battlecruiser HMS Indomitable. He spent eighteen months on board, and received a promotion to Stoker 1st Class in the process.
After a further spell of training in Chatham, Stoker Corker was then assigned to HMS Hibernia, another of the Royal Navy’s battleships. He spent more than five years on board, through to the summer of 1917.
Benjamin then returned to Chatham to await his next posting. HMS Pembroke was a busy place that summer, and, with its barracks having reached capacity, the glass-roofed Chatham Drill Hall was used as temporary accommodation. This is where Stoker Corker found himself billeted.
By this point in the war, the German Air Force was trying to minimise the losses it had suffered during daytime raids. Instead, it trialled night flights and, on 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombed. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, and Stoker Corker was killed along with close to 100 others. He was just 24 years old.
The victims of the Chatham Air Raid were buried in Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. Benjamin Corker was also laid to rest there, and lies within walking distance of the naval dockyard in which he had served.
Joseph Craven was born in Liverpool on 6th January 1870. There is little information available about his early life, but by the time of the 1891 census, he was boarding with a blacksmith and his family in Bootle, Lancashire. By this point he was working as a fireman – probably a stoker-type role, rather than for the fire service.
The following year, Joseph found an opportunity to broaden his horizons and, on 21st October 1892, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. His papers show that, at the time of joining up, he was 5ft 4ins (1.62m) in height, had dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. No distinguishing marks were noted.
Joseph’s previous employment seemed to have stood him in good stead. After initial assessments at HMS Pembroke – the shore-based establishment at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – he was quickly moved on to HMS Wildfire, based in Sheerness. His first sea posting was aboard the battlecruiser HMS Howe, and, within a couple of months, he had been promoted to Stoker 1st Class.
By the time Joseph’s initial twelve-year contract came to an end, he had served on board nine ships and travelled the world. When the time came, he voluntarily renewed his contract and continued his life at sea.
When back in port, he developed a private life. He met a young widow called Sarah Baker in Portsmouth, and the couple married in 1908. The census three years later found Joseph as the head of the household, living in a seven-room house with Sarah, her 13-year-old daughter, 80-year-old widowed mother and two boarders.
Stoker Craven’s naval service was, by this point, continuing apace. By the time hostilities were declared in August 1914, he had served on twelve further ships, and been promoted again, this time to the role of Leading Stoker. In between his voyages, he was based primarily at HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyard’s shore-base.
By the end of the following year, Joseph was almost entirely shore-based, moving from HMS Victory in Portsmouth to HMS Pembroke in Chatham and HMS Attentive in Dover. On 26th November 1916, he was serving in Chatham. A local newspaper picks up on what happened to him next:
Joseph Craven… belonging to Portsmouth, met his death under shocking circumstances at Chatham Dockyard on Sunday. When walking by the side of his ship, which was in dry dock, he tripped over some hose and fell headlong into the dock, turning two or three somersaults in his descent, and falling upon his head at the bottom, 80ft [24.3m] below. He was killed instantly.
Kent Messenger and Gravesend Telegraph: 2nd December 1916
An inquest on the 46-year-old’s death was held, and a result of accidental death was returned.
Joseph Craven was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, walking distance from the dockyard in which he lost his life.
Thomas Jones (known as Tom) was born in Wednesbury on 7th September 1882 and was the middle of seven children. His father, also called Thomas, was a grocer and, with his mother Mary, they raised their family first in the Staffordshire town and then in Blackpool, Lancashire.
When he left school Tom helped his dad in the shop, primarily dealing with meat. His mind was on greater adventures, however, and in November 1898, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. Due to his age, he was initially given the rank of Boy, but was officially signed up as an Ordinary Seaman on the day after his 18th birthday.
Over the time of his initial twelve years’ service, Tom rose through the ranks, from Able Seaman to Leading Seaman and Petty Officer. In May 1912, however, he was ‘disrated’ back to Able Seaman, but there is no evidence to confirm why this was done. By this time, he had served on nine ships, as well as having time in shore-based establishments, and had completed his twelve years as a mariner.
Meanwhile, in the autumn of 1904, Tom had married Hannah Kennedy, a dockyard labourer’s daughter from Gillingham, Kent. The couple went on to have four children and set up home in the centre of the town, not far from the Naval Dockyard where Tom was sometimes based.
With war in Europe on the horizon, Tom immediately volunteered to continue his duty when he term of service came to an end. Working hard, he soon regained the rank of Leading Seaman and, by April 1915, was back up to Petty Officer once more.
During the remainder of his time in the Royal Navy, Petty Officer Jones served on a further seven vessels. In October 1920, after more than two decades’ service, he was invalided out, having contracted tuberculosis, rendering him unfit to continue.
At this point Tom’s trail goes cold. It seems likely that his lung condition got the better of him; he passed away on 20th June 1921, at the age of 38 years old.
Petty Officer Tom Jones was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent.
Arthur William George Westby was born in the spring of 1895, the only child to Arthur Henry Westby and his wife, Emma. Arthur Sr was a Corporal in the Scots Guards, but, beyond the fact that his son was born in Clapham, South London, there is little further information about Arthur Jr’s early life.
His father’s military career must have taken him across the country – the 1901 census lists Emma and Arthur Jr living in Bolton, Lancashire, even though there seem to be no connections with the county for them.
The records for Arthur Jr go quiet until 1920. At this point, documents hint at his military service during the Great War.
The death notices in the Sussex newspapers confirm his passing:
On November 19th 1920, at The Cedars, 13 Browning Road, Worthing, Arthur WG Westby (late MT, RASC), beloved husband of Ethel Westby, and only son of Ex-RQM Sergeant and Mrs Westby, 34 Wenban Road, Worthing. Patiently suffered to the end, result of Active Service.
Worthing Gazette: Wednesday 24th November 1920
There is no further information available about Ethel, and no marriage records to confirm a date for their wedding.
From a military perspective, Arthur enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps, and was attached to the Motor Transport division. Again, there is nothing to evidence when he enlisted or for how long he served. It seems that Private Westby was injured in the line of duty, and was medically discharged in April 1918. The injury appears to have been life-changing, and it affected him until the end of his life.
Arthur William George Westby passed away in Worthing on 19th November 1920, aged just 25 years old. The specific cause of his death is unknown. He was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery in the town, close to his parents and widow.
William John Neads was born on 16th December 1892, the middle of three children to cab driver and groom William Neads and his wife Ellen. Both William Sr and Ellen were from Somerset, although William Jr and his brother Charles – who was eleven months older – were both born in the Monmouthshire village of Cwmcarn.
William’s parents soon moved the family back to Clevedon in Somerset, and, when he left school, he found work as a farm labourer. He was eager to see more of the world, however and, in April 1913, he emigrated to Canada.
After working as a labourer there for a year or so, back in Europe war was declared. Keen to do his bit for King and Country, William enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Infantry in January 1915. He soon found himself caught up on the Front Line.
In October 1916, he was involved in the Battle of the Somme – either at Le Transloy or The Battle of the Ancre Heights – and received a shrapnel wound to his left shoulder. Initially admitted to the Canadian General Hospital in Etaples, he was subsequently evacuated to England and the Northern General Hospital in Leeds. He spent three months recovering from his injuries, and was back on the Western Front in January 1917.
Later that year, William – now a Lance Corporal – was involved in the fighting at the Second Battle of Passchendaele (part of the Third Battle of Ypres). He was wounded again, this time receiving a rather unceremonious gunshot wound to the right buttock. Treated at the scene, he was evacuated back to England and admitted to the Fusehill War Hospital in Carlisle on 17th November.
Sadly, despite treatment, Lance Corporal Neads’ health deteriorated, and he passed away from his injuries on 16th December 1917, his 25th birthday.
William John Neads was brought back to his family’s home of Clevedon, and buried in the clifftop churchyard of St Andrew’s, overlooking the sea.
Tragically, William’s father had died in May 1917, at the age of 51. While no details of his passing are recorded, it meant that Ellen had, in just over a year, seen her son wounded, her husband die and her son wounded again and die as a result.