Category Archives: Boy

CWG: Leading Telegraphist Ernest Webber

Leading Telegraphist Ernest Webber

Ernest Webber was born on 19th April 1897 in Newton Abbot, Devon, although there is little further documented about his early life

The 1911 census records Ernest as being at the Scattered Home in Newton Abbot. This was, in fact, the Greenaway Home for Boys, part of the town’s Union Workhouse. It was run by a Mrs Louise Foote, had 22 ‘inmates’ and was located on the Highweek Road.

The following year, however, Ernest found a way to better himself, enlisting in the Royal Navy. His service records confirm that he joined up on 9th October 1912 and gave a physical description of him: he was 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a scar on his left index finger.

As he was below the age for full service, he was given the rank of Boy, and was sent to HMS Ganges, the naval base in Ipswich, Suffolk, and HMS Impregnable, a training ship, for his initial instruction. Some talent seems to have been unearthed as he was soon promoted to Boy Telegraphist.

In August 1913, Ernest was assigned to the battleship HMS Conqueror. He spent nearly two years on board and, during that time, came of age. Now formally inducted into the service, he was given the rank of Ordinary Telegraphist, before being promoted again – to the full role of Telegraphist – in April 1915.

Two months later Telegraphist Webber was transferred to HMS Phaeton; over the next year, he spent time on two further vessels, before being assigned to HMS Victorious in April 1916. With this assignment came a further promotion: Ernest was now a Leading Telegraphist.

In the summer of 1917, Ernest moved again, this time to HMS Vivid, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Devonport. At this point, however, he had fallen ill, and was medically discharged from duty on 5th September 1917, having contracted tuberculosis.

At this point, Ernest’s trail goes cold. He returned to Newton Abbot, but the events of the next year are lost to time. All that can be confirmed is that he passed away, presumably of his lung condition, on 11th December 1918. He was just 21 years of age.

Ernest Webber was laid to rest in the graveyard of All Saints Church in Highweek, near Newton Abbot.

CWG: Chief Writer James Warne

Chief Writer James Warne

James Edwin Warne was born on 4th August 1884, in Portsmouth, Hampshire. He was one of four children to shipwright Edwin Warne and his wife Elizabeth.

The naval life was all around him and, straight out of school, James sought out a career in the service and, on 28th December 1899, aged just 15 years old, he enlisted. His service records show that he was just 5ft 2.5ins (1.59m) tall, had dark brown hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. Initially taken on in the role of Boy Writer, he was sent to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, for training.

Over the next couple of years he learned his trade, serving on a couple of ships, but also at HMS Pembroke and the nearby base in Sheerness, HMS Wildfire. When he came of age in 1902, he was formally inducted into the Royal Navy. His records show that his time in the navy were standing him in good stead – he had grown 5ins (13cm) in the previous couple of years.

James was afforded the rank of 3rd Class Writer. This was a mainly clerical role, James would have been involved in the day-to-day welfare concerns for the crew. Over the next twelve years, he honed his trade, serving on a handful of vessels, but being mainly based in Chatham and Sheerness.

By the time James’ initial period of service came to an end in August 1914, he had risen through the ranks to 2nd Class Writer (in 1906) and 1st Class Writer (four years later).

It was while James was based in Sheerness that he met Emily Jane Hayes. She was the daughter of a naval boilermaker; the couple married in 1906, and went on to have four children: Leonard, Jenny, Edwin and Phyllis.

When war broke out, James’ contract with the Royal Navy was renewed, and he was promoted to Chief Writer. He became permanently based at HMS Pembroke, and the family set up home in Nelson Road, Gillingham, not far from the Dockyard.

In the summer of 1917, HMS Pembroke was an overcrowded place. This was compounded by two events: men who had been earmarked to join the HMS Vanguard had been forced to remain at the barracks after the ship had been sunk at Scapa Flow, while an outbreak of ‘spotted fever’ in the barracks meant that the sleeping accommodation had to be increased in an effort to avoid further infection.

This would have increased Chief Writer Warne’s workload and hours, and he slept on site, in temporary accommodation set up in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of the 3rd September, the German Air Force conducted the first night time raid on England. Chatham came in the firing line, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit.

Given the proximity of the dockyard to the family home, Emily must have known something was wrong, and could only have hoped that her husband was not involved. Sadly, Chief Writer Warne was among those to be killed. He was 33 years of age.

James Edwin Warne was laid to rest in Gillingham’s Woodlands Cemetery – again, walking distance from the family home – along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.

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: Ordinary Seaman Sidney Towills

Ordinary Seaman Sidney Towills

Sidney George Towills was born in Soho, London, on 14th May 1900. He was the youngest of two children to Henry and Maria Towills. Both had been born in Dorset, but Henry had found work as a constable for the Metropolitan Police and they had moved to London by the early 1890s.

The 1901 census recorded the family as living in Plaistow, but ten years later the family had moved back to Dorset, and were ensconced back in Maria’s home village of Abbotsbury.

When war broke out, Sidney was only 14 years old. He wanted to play his part, however, and as soon as he was able to enlist, he did so. He joined the Royal Navy on 9th April 1918 and, because of his age, was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class.

Sidney’s service records show that he was 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, had brown hair, blue eyes and a health complexion. He was assigned to the cruiser HMS Powerful and, on his eighteenth birthday, just over a month after enlisting, he was awarded the rank of Ordinary Seaman.

Tragically, Ordinary Seaman Towills’ service was not destined to be a long one. In June, he was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in Plymouth with empyema, a lung disease; he passed away from the condition on 2nd July 1918. He was barely 18 years of age and had served in the Royal Navy for 96 days.

Sidney George Towills was brought back to Abbotsbury for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in the heart of the village.

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: Boy Leslie Perkins

Boy Leslie Perkins

Leslie Harry Perkins was born on 15th June 1901, the only child to Harry and Rosalie. Harry was a solicitor’s clerk from Taunton in Somerset, and Leslie was born and raised in nearby Weston-super-Mare.

Given Leslie’s young age, there is very little documentation about his early life. When he left school, he found work as a motor fitter but, with war raging across Europe by this point, he was keen to put his skills to use.

On 9th October 1917, he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). His service records show that he stood 5ft 10ins (1.77m) tall and noted that he had three scars on his left hand. Because of his age, he was given the rather diminutive rank of Boy.

He worked in the Engine Repair Section just outside Sheffield, Yorkshire, and, transferred across to the RFC’s successor – the Royal Air Force – when it was formed on 1st April 1918.

It was here, in the autumn of 1918, that Boy Perkins contracted influenza. Sadly, like so many others of his generation, he was to succumb to the disease, and passed away in the camp’s hospital on 1st December 1918. He was just 17 years old.

Leslie Harry Perkins’ body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the family grave in Milton Cemetery, in his home town of Weston-super-Mare.

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

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: Ordinary Seaman George Shuttle

Ordinary Seaman George Shuttle

George James Henry Shuttle was born in Brentford, Middlesex, on 12th July 1899. His mother was Helen (or Ellen or Nellie) Shuttle, but he does not seem to have had a close connection to her and, according to the records, there was no father on the scene. Initially fostered out to Noah and Carmina Scott as a nurse child, by the time of the 1911 census, the couple had adopted him.

When he left school, George worked as a milk boy, but he seemed to know that a life of adventure awaited him. In June 1915, he joined the Royal Navy; being only 15 at the time, he was given the rank of Boy 2nd Class.

His initial posting was on board the cruiser HMS Powerful, and his training there paid off, as he quickly rose to Boy 1st Class. After a couple of months’ at HMS Victory – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth – George was assigned to his second ship, HMS Malaya. Within weeks, the brand new battleship had cut her teeth in the Battle of Jutland, during which 65 of her crew were killed.

George spent more than eighteen months on Malaya; his time on board saw him turn eighteen, and gain the rank of Ordinary Seaman. His service records at the time show that he was 5ft 3.5ins (1.61m) tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.

By August 1917 Ordinary Seaman Shuttle had returned to shore, and was assigned to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. The base was particularly busy when he arrived. Temporary accommodation at Chatham Drill Hall had been set up, and George found himself billeted there for the summer.

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 Shuttle was badly injured and died of his wounds in hospital the following day.

George James Henry Shuttle was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.

George’s mother, Helen, had continued with her life. A year after George was born, she had another son, Cyril, but he also seems to have been fostered out to enable her to work.

In 1903, she married musician Harry Burgiss-Brown, and the couple set up home in Richmond, Surrey. They went on to have two children, and Helen seemed focused on her new life, rather than the one she had before marrying.

Helen died in 1949, just short of her 70th birthday.

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.

CWG: Boy Clifford Day

Boy Clifford Day

Clifford Day was born on 27th November 1897 in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. He was one of eleven children to John and Sophia Day. John initially worked as a general labourer for a stonemason, but by the time of the 1911 census, he had begun working for a gas company. The family, at this point, were living in a five-room house a short distance from the town centre.

Living in a large household, a dream of escape may have fermented in young Clifford’s mind. To see some of the world, he joined the Royal Navy on 3rd September 1913. Given he was only fifteen, he was too young to formally enlist, but he was given the rank of Boy, and set to work.

Clifford’s service papers confirmed that he stood at 4ft 11ins (1.48m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. It was also noted that he had a scar on his forehead.

Boy Day’s service began on HMS Impregnable, when he spent nine months learning the ropes. He moved on to HMS Gibraltar in May 1914, before transferring to HMS Vivid – the shore-based establishment in Devonport – at the outbreak of the First World War.

On 3rd October 1914, Clifford was assigned to the battlecruiser HMS Tiger. He was on board for only three weeks, when he was taken back to HMS Vivid, and sent to the Naval Hospital there. He was admitted with a fractured skull, sadly passing the next day – the 26th October 1914 – at the age of just 16 years old. I’ve been unable to locate any further information about his injury, other than that an inquest found that it was accidental death.

Clifford Day was brought back to Weston-super-Mare for burial. He was laid to rest in the Milton Road Cemetery in the town.