Category Archives: Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve

CWG: Able Seaman John Clements

Able Seaman John Clements

John Clements was born on 22nd March 1891 in the Lanarkshire town of Airdrie. He was one of seven children to John and Catherine Clements.

There is little concrete information about John Jr’s life. When he left school, he followed his father and two brothers, David and George into the mining industry, working at the New Orbiston Colliery, walking distance from home.

When war broke out, however, John Jr wanted to play a bigger part and – probably to Catherine’s horror – he enlisted in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at the same time as two of his three brothers also joined up.

Information about Able Seaman Clements’ service is scarce. All that can be confirmed is that, in the autumn of 1917, he was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

The base was particularly busy at that point in the war, and John found himself billeted in overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Able Seamen Clements was among those killed. He was just 26 years old.

John Clements’s body, along the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham.


Able Seaman John Clements
(from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

John and Catherine’s second son had been killed, but, as the local newspaper reported, there seemed to be more trauma ahead:

Private George Clements, Cameron Highlanders, aged 23… is officially posted missing in recent operations in France. He has seen a long period of active service, and previous to enlisting, was employed in the… Hattonrigg Colliery.

Private David Clements, Royal Irish, the eldest son [of John and Catherine] is in hospital in Yorkshire suffering from ‘gassing injuries’. This is the third occasion upon which he has been wounded; fortunately, he is making a satisfactory recovery. He is 28 years of age and was employed in the… New Orbiston Colliery.

Bellshill Speaker: Friday 14th September 1917

Thankfully, George was found and David recovered and John was to be the only casualty of the conflict for the Clements family.


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: Painter 2nd Class Arthur Voice

Painter 2nd Class Arthur Voice

Arthur Edward Voice was born on 14th August 1895, the youngest of five children to Albert and Jane. Albert was a painter from Sussex, who had set up home in Horley, Surrey, and this is where Arthur and his siblings were born.

When he left school, Arthur followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a painter and decorator. This was something he continued doing through to the outbreak of war. He was called up to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in February 1916, but was initially excused from duty.

On 1st February 1916, he married Winifred Leppard, from Redhill in Surrey; the couple went on to have a son, Raymond, that September.

Arthur was called up again on 5th December, this time as a Painter 2nd Class in the Royal Navy. His service records show that he was 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall, had fair hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.

Painter Voice was stationed at HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – and his services seem to have been put to use on shore, rather than at sea.

HMS Pembroke was a generally bustling place, but by the summer of 1917, it had exceeded capacity to the point where temporary accommodation was set up. Arthur found himself billeted at The Drill Hall, away from the main barracks.

On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line, as the German Air Force launched a bombing raid. One of the bombs landed squarely on the Drill Hall, and Painter Voice was killed instantly. He was just 22 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 Arthur Edward Voice was laid to rest.


Painter 2nd Class Arthur Voice
(from findagrave.com)

CWG: Able Seaman Raymond Ellis

Able Seaman Raymond Ellis

Raymond Ellis was born on 10th August 1898, the youngest of eleven children to Thomas and Elizabeth. Thomas was a former army officer from North Wales. He had met and married Elizabeth Moseley while living in Worcestershire in the 1870s, before moving the family to Oxfordshire ten years later. By the time Raymond was born, the family had moved back to Wales again, and were living in Llandygai, not far from Bangor in Caernarvonshire, where Thomas was working as slate quarry inspector.

By the time of the 1911 census, Thomas had found other employment, and was working as the caretaker for a telephone exchange. This is where one of his daughters was employed, and was also where Raymond himself found work when he left school.

War was coming to Europe by this point, however, and, on 23rd September 1915, Raymond enlisted in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve for a period of three years. His service records show that he was 5ft 4.5ins (1.64) tall, had red hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was given the rank of Able Seaman and, after a month at HMS Victory – the Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth, Hampshire – was given his first posting, on board HMS Wallington.

Able Seaman Ellis came on shore at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, on 17th July 1917. The base was a particularly busy place at that point in the war and additional accommodation was desperately needed. Raymond found himself billeted at Chatham Drill Hall, away from the main barracks.

On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line, as the German Air Force launched a bombing raid. One of the bombs landed squarely on the Drill Hall, and Able Seaman Ellis was killed. He was just 18 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 Raymond Ellis was laid to rest.


CWG: Ordinary Seaman William Godwin

Ordinary Seaman William Godwin

William John Godwin – known as Willie – was born on 13th March 1897, the oldest of six children. His parents were railway signalman George Godwin, and his wife Emily. George was born in Monmouthshire, Emily was from Bristol; the couple raised their family in South Wales.

When Willie left school, he found work at a local tinplate manufacturer, and was employed as a cold roll greaser – helping maintain the equipment. War was knocking on Europe’s doors, however, and, in September 1916, he was called upon to do his duty.

Willie joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve; his enlistment papers show that he stood 5ft 6ins tall, had dark brown hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion. It was noted, however, that he had an abscess scar on his right cheek.

Ordinary Seaman Godwin’s first posting was at HMS Victory, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth, Hampshire. Here he undertook his initial training, but in May 1917, he was sent to another shore-based establishment, HMS Pembroke – Chatham Dockyard.

The base was particularly busy when Willie arrived. Temporary accommodation at Chatham Drill Hall had to be set up, and this is where he found himself billeted.

On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out one of the first night-time air raids on England: an unprepared Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Ordinary Seaman Godwin was amongst those killed instantly. He was just 20 years of age.

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


CWG: Able Seaman Robert Peters

Robert Peters was born on 27th May 1893 in Dundee. Little information remains documented about his early life, but he was one of at least four children to John and Agnes Peters, and had two sisters, one called Mary, and an older brother. The family lived in towards the west of the city centre, in the now-spartan Annfield Road.

The bulk of the information about Robert comes from one document – his Royal Navy Service Records. He enlisted as an Ordinary Seaman on 4th April 1912, but, because of his work as an iron turner, he seems to have been put on reserve until hostilities broke out two years later.

While on reserve, he received the training that all reservists would have done, which meant that, when he was formally called into action in June 1916, he did so at the rank of Able Seaman. Robert’s service records also show that he was 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall, had dark hair and brown eyes.

Able Seaman Peters first posting was at HMS Victory – the Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth. After a couple of months’ additional training, he was assigned to HMS Wallington, a depot ship based on the Humber Estuary.

After a year on board, Robert transferred to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. The base was a busy place that summer, and temporary accommodation was set up at the Dockyard’s Drill Hall. This is where Robert found himself billeted.

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

Robert Peters was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. His parents had passed away before the war, and so his sister Mary was confirmed as his next of kin.


Able Seaman Robert Peters (from findagrave.com)

CWG: Ordinary Seaman John McNish

Ordinary Seaman John McNish

John McNish was born in the Staffordshire city of Wolverhampton on 26th June 1897. The oldest of six children, his parents were railway porter James McNish and his wife Mary Ann.

Sadly there is little documentation to evidence John’s early life. When he left school, he seemed to have joined his father in becoming a porter and, when war broke out, he joined the Royal Navy, given the rank of Ordinary Seaman in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He was based at HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment at Chatham Naval Dockyard in Kent.

In the summer of 1917 HMS Pembroke was becoming crowded and John was billeted at the Chatham Drill Hall. On the night of 3rd September, the building took a direct hit from a German bomber. Ordinary Seaman McNish, along with 97 others, was killed instantly. He was just 20 years old.

John McNish was buried in the nearby Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, along with dozens of others who perished that night.


Ordinary Seaman John McNish
(from findagrave.com)

Full details of the night raid on Chatham Drill Hall can be found here.


CWG: Able Seaman Michael Goulding

Able Seaman Michael Goulding

Michael Joseph O’Neill Goulding was born on 5th May 1884, the oldest of six children to Michael and Ellen Goulding (née O’Neill). Michael Sr worked for the inland revenue and his job took him around most parts of the British Isles.

Michael Jr had been born in Limerick – both of his parents came from Ireland – but his subsequent three siblings (Patrick, Margaret and William) had all been born in Scotland. His second youngest sibling, Lily, was born in County Durham, the youngest back in Scotland, while, by the time of the 1901 census, the whole family were living in Forest Gate, East London.

The census also shows that Michael Jr, having left school, was working at Customs House (presumably where his father was employed), as a boy copyist on tea accounts. The inland revenue at that time was a career for life; by the next census in 1911, the family had moved to Hertford, where Michael Sr was a customs and excise supervisor, and Michael Jr was an assistant clerk at the same place of employment.

War was on its way, but Michael seems not to have enlisted immediately. While specific dates for his joining up are not available, it appears that he was still working for the Inland Revenue when he got married in Shoreditch, in April 1917. His wife was called Bridget Mary Gough (known as Bryde), and she had also been born in Ireland. The couple went on to have a daughter, Ellen (or Eileen), the following year.

By this time, Michael had definitely enlisted. He joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and was based at HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment in Chatham, Kent. This was the location for the Navy’s main accounting base, so it is likely that he was employed for financial, rather than his military, skills.

Able Seaman Goulding served through to the end of the war and beyond, and it was while he was based in Kent that he became unwell. Admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in Chatham, he succumbed to a combination of bronchitis and pneumonia on 22nd February 1919. He was 34 years of age.

Michael Joseph O’Neill Goulding was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham. His family were still in Hertford, while his widow and daughter moved back to Ireland.


Michael Joseph O’Neill Goulding
(courtesy of ancestry.co.uk)

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: Ordinary Seaman Cecil Bowyer

Ordinary Seaman Cecil Bowyer

Cecil Henry Bowyer was born in October 1900, the oldest of four children to Harry and Bessie Bowyer. Harry was a carter and, at the time of the 1901 census, the family lived in a small house in the middle of Bridgwater, with Harry’s sister, Bessie’s mother and an additional boarder.

Bessie was keen to earn her way, becoming a musical instrument dealer, while her husband moved on to work as a foreman for a coal merchant. By this time, the family had moved round the corner from their former home, and Harry and Bessie lived there with Cecil, his younger siblings Leslie, Henry and Doris, and another boarder.

Harry found himself before the Bankruptcy Court in 1913. By this time, he was carrying on business as a gramophone and cycle agent, as well as his carter business. Bad debts and living expenses were his downfall, however, and he found himself with a deficiency of £83 15s 5d. The examination was declared closed, according to the Wells Journal, but no outcome was reported.

War was looming, and the family did their bit. Harry joined up, enlisting in the Royal Engineers as a sapper. He was shipped to Salonica, Greece, where he served for much of the war.

Cecil, however, chose the seafaring route. He had to wait until he came of age before enlisting, however, and so it was late September 1918 before he joined the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve. He started his training at the training base in Crystal Palace, but was only there for a couple of weeks before he fell ill.

Contracting pneumonia, Ordinary Seaman Bowyer was admitted to hospital, but sadly this took him quickly, and he passed away on 11th October 1918 He had just turned 18 years old.

Cecil Henry Bowyer was brought back to Bridgwater to be buried; he lies at rest in the Wembdon Road Cemetery there.