Category Archives: Leading Seaman

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 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: Petty Officer 1st Class George Fawcett

Petty Officer 1st Class George Fawcett

George Fawcett was born on 3rd February 1873, one of ten children to John and Maria (or Mary). John was a stonemason who raised his family in Essex, and it was in Stratford that George and most of his siblings were born.

When George left school, he was drawn to a life of adventure. He joined the Royal Navy on 5th May 1888, and was first assigned the role of Boy, as he was under age. He was formally enlisted on 3rd February 1891 – his 18th birthday. He had, by this point, been serving on HMS Hotspur for nine months, and was given the rank of Ordinary Seaman. His hard work must have held him in good stead, because he was promoted to Able Seamen just two months later.

Over the course of his initial twelve years’ service, Able Seaman Fawcett served on eight different ships, and continued to rise through the ranks. He mad made Leading Seaman by 1894 and Petty Officer 2nd Class five years later. By the time his first term of service had ended, he had been promoted again, this time to Petty Officer 1st Class.

George voluntarily renewed his service in 1903, and over the next few years, he served on a number of other vessels. His shore base was always HMS Pembroke, though, and his time at sea was interspersed with periods at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham.

Petty Officer Fawcett had been in the Royal Navy for 23 years by the time war was declared. He was still at sea in August 1914, but was transferred to a permanent shore role at the beginning of the following year. He spent three years fulfilling his duties at HMS Pembroke, but fell ill in the spring of 1918.

He was admitted to the Naval Hospital in Chatham with liver disease, and this was a condition he was not to recover from. Petty Officer Fawcett passed away on 12th April 1918, at the age of 45.

George Fawcett’s body was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, not far from the naval base at which he was based.

CWG: Petty Officer William Coughlan

Petty Officer William Coughlan

William Henry Coughlan was born on 16th November 1891, one of thirteen children to William and Catherine Coughlan. William Sr was a labourer, born and bred in the East End of London, who raised his family in Hackney.

William Jr seemed keen for a way to improve himself and in May 1909, enlisted in the Royal Navy. Initially given the rank of Boy, this was due to his age; on his eighteenth birthday a few months later, he was formally enrolled in the navy as an Ordinary Seaman.

To begin with, he was billeted at HMS Ganges II, the shore-based training ship in Harwich, Suffolk, but within a matter of weeks he was on board a sea-going destroyer, HMS Antrim.

Ordinary Seaman Coughlan was obviously a keen young man; by the time the Great War broke out, he had served on four further ships, as well as another shore base, HMS Pembroke I. He rose through the ranks to Able Seaman and, by 1915, had reached the role of Leading Seaman.

Most of his service was spent upon HMS Agamemnon, initially in the Channel, but was then moved to the Mediterranean. On the night of the 5th May 1916, the ship was moored in the harbour at Thessaloniki (Salonika). A Zeppelin, the LZ55, made a bombing raid, but when the searchlights caught it, the Agamemnon fired on it and hit the aircraft, breaking it in two. It crashed in the swamps around the Vardar river and its crew were captured.

Leading Seaman Coughlan remained on the Agamemnon, before returning to England in November 1917, where he received further training at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham. He was promoted to Petty Officer a couple of months later, and began three years of shore- and ship-based service.

In the summer of 1921, while again based in Chatham, he contracted pneumonia, succumbing to the lung condition in a matter of weeks. Petty Officer Coughlan died on 26th July 1921, aged just 29 years old.

William Henry Coughlan was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham; within walking distance of the naval base that had become his home.

CWG: Petty Officer Tom Jones

Petty Office Tom Jones

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.

Tom Jones II
Petty Officer Tom Jones
(courtesy of

CWG: Leading Seaman Albert Heasman

Leading Seaman Albert Heasman

Albert Andrew Heasman was born in 1890 or 1891, and, like his date of birth, much of his life remains a mystery. He was one of five children to William and Kate Heasman, who brought their family up in the West Sussex town of Worthing.

Documentation on Albert is scarce. He does not appear on census records until 1911, by which time he is working as a mate on a fishing boat, based out of Ramsgate, Kent.

Naval records are also patchy; he certainly enlisted during the war, and, by 1918 had joined the Royal Naval Reserve. He was assigned to HMS President III, a training ship based at the Royal India Dock in London.

The only other concrete information available on Leading Seaman Heasman is that he passed away from pneumonia on 21st October 1918. He was just 28 years old. His pension record confirms that his sister, Ethel, was listed as a dependent.

Albert Andrew Heasman’s body was brought back to Worthing, where he lies buried in the Broadwater Cemetery, to the north of the town.

CWG: Petty Officer William Dale

Petty Officer William Dale

William Edmund Dale was born in Worthing, West Sussex on 25th November 1886 and was the older of six children. His father, also called William, was a carman, and he and William’s mother, Eliza, brought the family up in the Sussex town.

William Jr seems to have had a number of jobs, working as a draper’s errand boy, a milkman’s assistant and a gardener. He found his true calling at the age of 12, however, when he enlisted in the Royal Navy.

Initially acting as a Boy 2nd Class, over his initial twelve years’ employ he served on eleven vessels, and rose through the ranks to Boy, Ordinary Seaman and Able Seaman.

It was while serving on HMS Blake in 1910, that he married Mary Williams. The couple went on to have two children, William, born in 1910, and Harry, born the following year. The family set up home in Portsmouth, where the sailor was based.

With his initial service complete in 1916, William’s term of duty was extended until the end of hostilities. A promotion to Leading Seaman followed, and he was assigned to HMS Attentive, part of the Dover Patrol guard.

In 1917, William was promoted again, this time to the role of Petty Officer, and was assigned to HMS Royal Sovereign, the Navy’s new battleship. He served on the vessel for the remainder of the way, and through into the summer of 1919.

It was in the last month of his service, that Petty Officer Dale fell ill. He was taken ashore, and sent to the Royal Naval Hospital in Chatham, Kent. He had contracted meningitis, and sadly succumbed to it within days of being admitted. He died on 4th August 1919, at the age of just 32 years old.

William Edmund Dale was brought back to the town of his birth; he lies at rest in a quiet corner of the Broadwater Cemetery in Worthing, West Sussex.

CWG: Chief Petty Officer Charles Clarke

Chief Petty Officer Charles Clarke

Charles Frederick Clarke was born on the 14th April 1869 to James and Jane Clarke. James was born in Suffolk, but moved to London, where he found work as a watchman (guarding the city streets at night). Jane was from Essex, and the couple went on to have five children, of whom Charles was the middle child.

Charles was set on a life of adventure, joining the Royal Navy in 1887, for a period of twelve years. During this time, he served on eleven vessels, working his way up through the ranks from Boy to Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman, Leading Seaman and eventually Petty Officer.

In October 1895, he married Lydia Rogers, a sailor’s daughter from Portsmouth. The couple would go on to have nine children, eventually settling in Sussex.

When his naval service ended in 1899, Charles enlisted again. Within six years, he had achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer, and in March 1909, after 22 years’ service, retired from active duty. He was obviously well respected, however, and was selected to serve on the staff of the Royal Naval Recruiting Office in Portsmouth. His service records suggest that he resigned from this role on 14th April 1914.

It seems that Chief Petty Office Clarke took on a role on the vessel HMS Zaria. This was a ship that was requisitioned by the Royal Navy, which acted as a patrol ship, guarding the coastal waters around the UK. While details are scant, Charles certainly served on board for a couple of years, and he died on board, from causes undisclosed, on 16th December 1916, at the age of 47 years old.

Brought back to West Sussex, Charles Frederick Clarke was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery in Worthing. This was where Lydia was now living; she was buried in the same grave, when she passed away eight years after her husband.

CWG: Leading Seaman Alfred Davidge

Leading Seaman Alfred Davidge

Alfred Ernest Davidge was born on 22nd July 1882, one of six children to Richard and Ermina. Richard was a boilermaker from Bristol, but brought his family up in the Wiltshire town of Swindon.

Alfred was keen on adventure, and sought out a live on the open seas. In August 1898, at the age of sixteen, he joined the Royal Navy. After serving two years at the rank of Boy, he officially enlisted for a term of twelve years.

Starting as an Ordinary Seaman, Alfred had worked his way up to Leading Seaman by 1905. He continued in this role until 7th June 1909, when he was knocked back a rank for misconduct. He evidently realised the error of his ways, however, as, just over a year later, he was promoted again.

Leading Seaman Davidge’s term of service came to an end in July 1912, and, having been assigned to seventeen vessels during that time, he became part of the Royal Naval Reserve.

Back on home soil, and Alfred set up home in Taunton. He found work as a labourer and, in October 1913, married local lady Louisa Pomeroy. The couple went on to have a daughter, Hilda.

Storm clouds were gathering over Europe by now, and Alfred was soon recalled to the Royal Navy. He took up his previous role, and, after a period of training at HMS Vivid in Plymouth, he was assigned to HMS Suffolk.

Leading Seaman Davidge spent eighteen months aboard HMS Suffolk (during which time the photo below was taken), before being transferred to HMS Columbella in November 1916. His time there was short, however, as he became unwell.

Admitted to the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow with influenza, Leading Seaman Davidge sadly succumbed to the condition on 17th March 1917. He was 34 years old.

Alfred Ernest Davidge was brought back to Taunton for burial. He lies at rest in the St James Cemetery in the town.

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Alfred Davidge