Category Archives: Chief Stoker

CWG: Chief Stoker John Seager

Chief Stoker John Seager

John Edward Seager was born in Gillingham, Kent, in March 1869. One of eight children, his parents were labourer William Seager and his wife Maria (who was known by her middle name, Elizabeth).

John was keen to have adventure in his life, and the local Naval Dockyard in Chatham gave him that opportunity. on 23rd April 1887, he enlisted in the Royal Navy for the standard twelve years’ service. During that time, he served on six different ships, begging his career as a Stoker and rising through the ranks to become a Leading Stoker at the end of his time.

In April 1899, John re-enlisted and was given the rank of Chief Stoker. After completing his initial training at the on-shore establishment HMS Pembroke, he was assigned to HMS Cossack. Over the next ten years, he served on five more ships, before being moved over the Royal Naval Reserve in 1909.

During this time, John had gotten married. Emmeline Ada Driver was also born in Gillingham, and had found work as a nurse in the Surrey County Asylum. The couple married on 8th August 1903 in New Brompton, and set up home in a cottage close to the centre of Gillingham, close to their families and within walking distance of the dockyard.

When war broke out, John was called back into active service. He spent a year on board HMS Wildfire and five months on HMS Attentive. Most of his time, however, was spent at HMS Pembroke in Chatham. It was while he was here in January 1918 that he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia and tuberculosis. Sadly, Chief Stoker Seager was to succumb to these conditions; he died on 1st February 1918 at the age of 49 years old.

John Edward Seager was laid to rest in the Grange Road Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent. He is commemorated in the Woodlands Cemetery, which replaced this now park.


CWG: Stoker Petty Officer John Harriss

Stoker Petty Officer John Harriss

John Thomas Harriss was born on 22nd February 1878, one of seven children to George and Mary. George was a jeweller, who moved the family from London to Weston-Super-Mare when John was three or four years old.

Following in his father’s footsteps was not something John was going to do, and the move to the coast seemed to have sparked an interest in the sea. He enlisted for twelve years’ service in the Royal Navy in March 1900, working as a stoker.

After initial training at HMS Pembroke in Chatham, Kent, Stoker 2nd Class Harriss was assigned to HMS Terpsichore and, over the length of his service, he worked on a further ten vessels. During this time, he was promoted a couple of times, reaching the role of Leading Stoker by 1911, while he was serving aboard HMS Magnificent.

With war imminent, when John completed his period of service, his term was extended until the end of hostilities. He had, by the beginning of 1914, attained the rank of Stoker Petty Officer, and was assigned to HMS Russell.

After the start of the war, this ship was assigned to the Grand Fleet and worked on the Northern Patrol, and in November 1914, she bombarded German-occupied Zeebrugge. The following year, HMS Russell was sent to the Mediterranean to support the Dardanelles Campaign, though she did not see extensive use there.

On 27 April 1916 HMS Russell was sailing off Malta when she struck two mines laid by a German U-boat. Most of her crew survived the sinking, though 125 souls lost their lives. Stoker Petty Office Harriss was one of the survivors; his service records note that he was ‘commended for [the] great coolness shown on the occasion of the loss of HMS Russell’.

Brought back to the UK, John contracted pneumonia, and spent time at home with his family, in Weston-Super-Mare. It was here, sadly, that he was to succumb to the lung condition, and he passed away on 7th June 1916. He was 38 years old.

John Thomas Harriss lies at rest in Milton Cemetery in Weston-Super-Mare.


CWG: Chief Stoker William Thorne

Chief Stoker William Thorne

William Henry Thorne was born on 28th July 1881 in the Somerset village of Milverton. He was the oldest of five children to farm labourer Henry Thorne and his wife Mary.

William was a young man with a keen sense of adventure. In February 1900, he joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker. After his initial training in Devonport, he was assigned to HMS Thunderer and, after six months, joined HMS Hood, where he spent the next two years.

Over his twelve years of his service, Stoker Thorne served on six further vessels, attaining the rank of Stoker Petty Officer.

In 1907, William had married Mabel Cross, a young woman from Taunton. While her husband was away from England – the marriage certificate gives his address as ‘on the high seas’ – she set up home near the centre of town. The young couple went on to have two children, twins Phyllis and Doris, who were born in 1911.

Back at sea, and Stoker Petty Officer Thorne’s terms of service were extended in 1912, so that he would continue to be a part of the Royal Navy until the cessation of hostilities. He served on a further six vessels and was promoted to Chief Stoker in June 1917.

It was while he was serving on HMS Griffon in the autumn of 1918 that William fell ill. Brought back to shore, he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Taunton. There is nothing to confirm the illness he contracted, but it was one he would succumb to. Chief Stoker Thorne passed away on 29th September. He was 37 years old.

William Henry Thorne lies at peace in the St James Cemetery in his home town of Taunton.