Category Archives: Able Seaman

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: Leading Seaman Edward Mudford

Leading Seaman Edward Mudford

Edward Short Mudford was born on 29th March 1898 in the Somerset village of Stratton-on-the-Fosse. He was one of nine children to Joseph and Mary Mudford.

Information about his early life is confusing: the 1901 census gives his name as Edwin, rather than Edward; his father appears to have died by this point, leaving Mary to raise the family alone. The 1911 census records Edward and a younger sister living the Union Workhouse in Shepton Mallet, while Mary has apparently remarried and living in Radstock with two of Edward’s siblings and a daughter from her second marriage, although her new husband is noticeable in his absence from the document.

From this shaky start, however, Edward sought a new life for himself. On 21st August 1913 he enlists in the Royal Navy. His service records show that he stood just 5ft 1ins (1.55m) tall, had fair hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. Being under age at the time, he was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class.

Edward was initially sent to HMS Ganges, the naval training establishment outside Ipswich, Suffolk. Promoted to Boy 1st Class in February 1914, he was soon given his first posting, on the cruiser HMS Crescent.

After another short spell at HMS Vivid, the Naval Dockyard in Plymouth, Boy Mudford found himself on board HMS Thunderer. Edward spend nearly four years aboard the battleship, coming of age and gaining the rank of Ordinary Seaman, while also being promoted to Able Seaman in March 1916.

Edward returned to Plymouth in February 1918, and spent the next couple of years between there, Portsmouth and Woolwich Dockyards. He was again promoted, given the rank of Leading Seaman in September 1918.

Life at sea and in barracks took its toll, however, and, in in the spring of 1920, Leading Seaman Mudford contracted influenza and pneumonia. Sadly the conditions proved too much to bear: he passed away on 20th March 1920, a week shy of his 22nd birthday.

Brought back to Somerset, where, presumably some of his family still lived, Edward Short Mudford was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Chilcompton.


CWG: Leading Seaman Robert Franklin

Leading Seaman Robert Franklin

Robert William Franklin was born on 9th March 1894, one of four children to Alfred and Annie Franklin. Alfred was Australian, who had settled in England in his teens and settled in Woolwich, London, to marry and raise his family. It was not long, however, before the family upped and moved to Greenock, Scotland.

There is little information available about Robert’s early life, but in 1913 he enlisted in the Royal Navy, and served for three years. His enrolment papers show that he was 5ft 4.5ins (1.64m) tall, had auburn hair and brown eyes. He was also noted has having a scar on his abdomen and had been working as an appliance fitter.

Details of his initial service are not readily available, although a later newspaper report suggests that he “was with the Naval Division at the siege of Antwerp [October 1914] and served through the Gallipoli campaign” [Daily Record: Saturday 8th September 1917].

Able Seaman Franklin was transferred to the Royal Naval Reserve in April 1916, and was based at HMS President – the London shore-based establishment. However, he had moved to The Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – also known as HMS Pembroke – by the end of July 1917.

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; Leading Seaman Franklin was among those killed instantly. He was just 23 years of age.

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


CWG: Able Seaman John Abrey

Able Seaman John Abrey

John Thomas Abrey was born in Earl’s Court on 12th August 1867, the middle of five children to John and Anne Abrey. John Sr was a carpenter and labourer from Suffolk, and Anne was from Suffolk. By the time they married, however, the couple had settled in London.

When he left school, John Jr found work as a printer, but he was after bigger and better things and, on 4th October 1882, he joined the Royal Navy. He was only 15 at this point, and so was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class. His service document record that he was 5ft 2ins (1.57m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a sallow complexion.

John received his training at HMS Ganges, the shore-based establishment near Ipswich, Suffolk, and gained promotion to Boy 1st Class. He then spent six months on the training ship HMS Impregnable, before being given his first posting on HMS Minotaur. He served aboard for just over a year, during which he turned 18, and so was formally inducted in the Royal Navy, and was given the rank of Ordinary Seaman.

At this point, John signed up for a period of ten years and, over that time, he served on board seven further ships, and was promoted to the rank of Able Seaman.

On 25th May 1890, John married Christiana Ann Hamshaw at All Saints Battle Bridge in Islington. Christiana had been married and widowed twice, and had two teenaged daughters. The couple settled down – as much as a sailor can – and had two children of their own, John and William.

In August 1895, having completed ten years’ naval service, Able Seaman Abrey was stood down to the Royal Naval Reserve. Over the next few years, he maintained this service, while finding work as a labourer.

When war broke out, John was recalled to active duty and, over the next three years, served on a number of vessels. Between each assignment, however, he returned to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, which had become his base. It was here that he was barracked in the summer of 1917.

It was a particularly busy for the base, and temporary accommodation was set up in the Drill Hall; this is where John was 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 Able Seaman Abrey was amongst those to be instantly killed. He had celebrated his 50th birthday the month before.

John Thomas Abrey was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham along with the other servicemen who had perished during the Chatham Air Raid that night.


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: Able Seaman Leonard Gigg

Able Seaman Leonard Gigg

Leonard Frederick John Gigg was born in Silverton, Devon, on 9th May 1882. He was one of six children to Matthew and Sarah Gigg, both of whom were born Ottery St Mary, but who moved the young family to Chudleigh in the late 1880s.

Matthew was a domestic gardener, and his son initially joined him in this trade. However, as the third of five sons, Leonard obviously wanted to carve out a life for himself and so, on 21st August 1897, he enlisted in the Royal Navy.

Leonard’s naval records shows that he was 5ft 3ins (1.60m) tall, had light brown hair, blue-grey eyes and a fresh complexion. He also gave his year of birth as 1880 so he would be accepted in the navy.

Even with this altered date of birth, Leonard was still under age, and so was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class. He was obviously dedicated to his career, however, and, on his “eighteenth” birthday in 1898, he was officially enrolled as an Ordinary Seaman.

Over the course of his twelve years’ service, Leonard served on ten vessels; after each voyage, however, he returned to HMS Vivid – the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devonport, Portsmouth. During his time at sea, he also progressed through the ranks, becoming an Able Seaman as early as 1900.

When Leonard’s initial contract came to an end, he volunteered for a further term. Up until the outbreak of war, Able Seaman Gigg served on another six ships, but after falling ill while on board HMS Caesar in the summer of 1914, he returned again to Portsmouth.

Leonard had contracted cancer of the mouth, and, as a result of the condition, he was formally invalided out of the Royal Navy in May 1915. He returned home but, in spite of a couple of operations, he succumbed to the cancer, passing away on 9th October 1915. He was just 33 years of age (his gravestone gives a different age).

Leonard Frederick John Gigg was laid to rest in the cemetery in Chudleigh.


Able Seaman Leonard Gigg
(from findagrave.com)

The local newspaper reported on Leonard’s funeral:

The death has taken place at his father’s residence of Mr Leonard FJ Gigg, third son of Mr M Gigg, after a painful illness. The deceased had served in the Royal Navy for 18 years and was only invalided out in May last, owing to cancer of the tongue. Although undergoing three operations, he was no better, and expired form the effects of that dreadful malady at the early age of 33 years. In the service he was extremely well liked and highly respected both by officers and men, and always had a pleasant word for everyone.

The deceased’s four brothers, Mr Charles Gigg (now in Canada), Chief Petty Officer H Gigg (HMAS Australia), Able Seaman Walter Gigg (HMS Carnarvon), and Private Albert Gigg (4th Devons, now in India) were prevented from attending.

Western Times: Friday 22nd October 1915

CWG: Able Seaman George Watson

George Watson was born on 22nd October 1894 in the Scottish town of Tayport. His father was George Watson, and he had a sister called Annie, but there is little additional information available about his family.

When war broke out, George Jr joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and, during his time there, rose to the rank of Able Seaman. While his service records no longer exist, it’s clear that, by the summer of 1917, he was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

The base was particularly crowded at that point in the conflict, and George was billeted in overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out a night-time bombing raid on the town, scoring a direct hit on the Drill Hall. Able Seaman Watson was among those killed. He was just 22 years old.

George Watson was laid to rest, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. Annie was named as his next of kin, which suggests that their parents had, by that time, passed away.


CWG: Able Seaman Frederick Upson

Able Seaman Frederick Upson

Frederick Frank Upson was born in Woodbridge, Suffolk, on 4th June 1897 and was one of eight children to Frederick and Mary Upson. Frederick Sr was an agricultural labourer and horseman, and when he left school, his soon took on a shepherding role on the same farm.

With the war raging, and the port of Ipswich not far from home, Frederick Jr seemed destined for a life at sea. In June 1915, having turned 18 years old, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman. His service records show that he stood 5ft 6.5ins (1.69m) tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion.

Frederick’s first posting was at HMS Vivid, the training base at Devonport, Devon. He spent a couple of months there, before being given his first ocean-going assignment on board the scout cruiser HMS Blonde. Ordinary Seaman Upson was on board for just over a year, and was promoted to Able Seamen during his time there.

In January 1917, he returned to shore, and was transferred to HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. The base was particularly busy that year, and temporary accommodation was set up in the Drill Hall; Frederick found himself billeted there for the summer.

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. Able Seaman Upson was badly injured and died of his wounds in hospital the following day. He was just 20 years of age.

Frederick Frank Upson 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: Leading Seaman Archibald Langridge

Leading Seaman Archibald Langridge

Archibald Edward Langridge was born on 9th November 1892, one of six children – and the only son – to Edward and Jane Langridge. Edward was a labourer from Sevenoaks, who raised his young family in the town. Archibald had ideas of bigger adventures, however.

In August 1908, he joined the Royal Navy. Still underage – he was only 15 years old – he was granted the rank of Boy 2nd Class and was sent off to HMS Ganges – the naval base in Suffolk – for training.

Within a year, Archibald had been promoted to Boy 1st Class, and was soon assigned to his first ship, HMS Berwick, an armoured cruiser. After three months on board, he was assigned to HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, and it was here that he returned to in between voyages.

His next sea assignment was the battleship HMS London, which he joined on 8th February 1910, and where he spent two years. During this time Archibald turned 18, and was formally enlisted in the Royal Navy, attaining the rank of Ordinary Seaman. His service records show that he was 5ft 2ins (1.57m) tall had light hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. They also show that he had a scar below his right eye and another on the back of his head. He also had a number of tattoos – a woman’s head, good luck and horseshoe on his right forearm and a cross and star on his left.

Ordinary Seaman Langridge’s naval career continued and, by the time hostilities broke out in 1914, he had served on two more ships – HMS Antrim and HMS Boadicea – and had been promoted to Able Seaman.

When war was declared, Archibald was serving on Boadicea, a ship on board which he spent a total of three years. He was again promoted during this time, reaching the rank of Leading Seaman.

By the spring of 1916, he was back serving in Chatham. Archibald had met Gladys Godfrey, who came from his home town, and the couple married in Sevenoaks in May. They went on to have a son, George, who was born in March the following year.

Leading Seaman Langridge was now permanently based at HMS Pembroke, and spent spent nearly eighteen months at the dockyard. HMS Pembroke was a busy place in the summer of 1917, and its barracks reached capacity. Chatham Drill Hall was used as temporary accommodation, and this is where Archibald found himself billeted.

By this point in the war, the German Air Force was trying to minimise the losses it suffered during daytime raids, and was, instead, trialling night flights; on 3rd September 1917, Chatham found itself in their flight path. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, and Leading Seaman Langridge was killed, along with close to 100 others. He was just 24 years old.

The victims of the Chatham Air Raid were laid to rest in Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, walking distance from the Drill Hall where Archibald Edward Langridge and his colleagues had died.


There is a sad epilogue to this tale. Four months after Archibald’s death, Gladys gave birth to their second child, Charles. He would never know his father.