Category Archives: Leading Stoker

CWG: Stoker Petty Officer Gilbert Clark

Stoker Petty Officer Gilbert Clark

Gilbert John Clark was born in Bedminster, Somerset – now a suburb of Bristol – on 6th January 1884. He was one of eleven children to Jonah and Elizabeth Clark. Jonah was a coal miner from Devon, who travelled to find work. He and Elizabeth left Devon for Somerset in the early 1880s, before moving to Glamorgan, South Wales in 1891. This seemed not to last long, however, and, by 1895, the family were living back in Bristol.

The 1901 census recorded Jonah and Gilbert’ older brother, William, working the mines. Gilbert, however, have found different employment, working instead as a labourer for a brick maker. This did not turn out to be a long term career for him, however, and, on 25th August 1904 he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class.

Gilbert’s service records show that he was 5ft 3ins (1.6m) tall, had black hair, dark brown eyes and a dark complexion. His was also noted to have a number of tattoos on his left arm, including a woman’s head, a figure of a woman and a cross with a man, crossed hands with a flower, a snake heart and an arrow.

Stoker 2nd Class Clark enlisted for a period of twelve years, and was initially based at HMS Vivid, the Naval Barracks in Devonport. After his training, he was given his first posting, on board HMS Barfleur. He quickly transferred, however, and in April 1905 was assigned to the battleship HMS Vengeance.

Gilbert’s three years on Vengeance were mixed. During that time, he spent two separate periods in the cells. The first, in February 1906, was for desertion, and resulted in ten days in the brig. The second, in August that year meant he was locked up for a further five days although the misdemeanour this time is not documented. This second period in the brig seemed to bring Gilbert to his senses, however, and the rest of his time on board Vengeance seems blemish-free, and even gave him a promotion to Stoker 1st Class.

The remainder of Gilbert’s twelve years’ service saw him assigned to a further eight vessels; between voyages he returned to the Devonport Naval Base. He also received a further two promotions: Leading Stoker in May 1912, and Stoker Petty Officer in February 1914.

War was imminent, by this point, and, at the end of his initial contract, he volunteered to remain in the Royal Navy for the period of the hostilities. After a six month posting in Devon, Stoker Petty Officer Clark served on three more vessels. It was while he was on board HMS Bacchante, however that he fell ill with influenza. The ship was moored at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, at the time and he was admitted to the RN Hospital in the town.

Sadly, Gilbert’s influenza turned to pneumonia and proved too much for his body to bear. He passed away from the lung conditions on 13th February 1919, at the age of 35 years old.

Gilbert John Clark’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Peasedown St John, where his parents were then living.


CWG: Stoker 1st Class Joseph Jackson

Stoker 1st Class Joseph Jackson

Joseph Charles Sackett Jackson was born in Rotherhithe, Surrey, on 4th May 1884, and was on of seven children. His father – post office worker Joseph Jackson Sr – died in 1895, leaving his mother, Eliza, to raise the family.

She soon married Matthew Newton, a widower himself, and the 1901 census found the couple living in Asylum Road, Peckham with eleven of their children and step-children. Joseph, who was 17 years old by this point, was one of only four of the household to be working, and was employed as a brass turner.

Keen to better himself, Joseph looked to a longer career and, in September 1901, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. His service records show that he was 5ft 3ins (1.6m) tall, had dark brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion.

Initially underage, he served on the home front, Joseph was based at the shore establishments around the country – HMS President (London), HMS Pembroke (Chatham Dockyard, Kent) and HMS Victory (Portsmouth, Hampshire). In 1906, when he turned 23, he formally enlisted in the Royal Navy, and was given the rank of Stoker 2nd Class.

Over the next year, Joseph served on three vessels – HMS Hawke, HMS Dido and HMS Pathfinder – and was promoted to Stoker 1st Class. He continued his work at sea, but returned to HMS Pembroke in between voyages.

In the summer of 1913, Stoker Jackson was assigned to the battleship HMS Dominion, and it was here that he spent the next four years. He was promoted again, this time to Leading Stoker. He returned to HMS Pembroke in August 1917, although he was again given the rank of Stoker 1st Class.

Chatham Dockyard was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that Joseph 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; Stoker 1st Class Jackson was among those killed instantly. He was 33 years old.

Joseph Charles Sackett Jackson was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.


CWG: Stoker Petty Officer Oliver Marchant

Stoker Petty Officer Oliver Marchant

Oliver Marchant was born in Beaminster, Dorset, on 21st September 1874. One of eight children, his parents were agricultural labourer William Marchant and his wife Hannah. Oliver’s parents had been born in Devon, and this is where they moved the family back to.

When he left school, Oliver and his older sister found work as a farm hands. They were employed at Compton Pool Farm, and were fortunate enough to be able to live in. Oliver ended up working on the farm for three years, becoming a groom in the process. A more secure career beckoned, however, and, on 11th January 1894, he enlisted as a Stoker 2nd Class in the Royal Navy.

Oliver’s service records show that he signed up for a period of twelve years. He was 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall, had dark hair, brown eyes and a ruddy complexion. He was initially posted to HMS Vivid – the Royal Naval Base in Devonport – but soon found himself at sea on board HMS Endymion. He spent a year on board and, during this time, was promoted to Stoker 1st Class.

Over the remaining period of his service, Oliver served on five further vessels, returning each time to HMD Vivid as his base. His hard work paid off, and he was promoted to Leading Stoker and Petty Officer Stoker by the time he renewed his service contract in 1906.

During his time in between sea voyages, Oliver met Alice Honeywill; the couple married in August 1904 and set up home in Newton Abbot. They did not go on to have any children.

Back at sea, and over the next eleven years, Stoker Petty Officer Marchant served on a further eight vessels. In between times, he was based at the barracks in Devonport, and it was here that he returned in November 1917, when he fell ill.

Oliver had contracted tuberculosis and, after a short time in hospital, he was discharged from the Royal Naval on medical grounds, as the condition had rendered him no longer fit enough undertake his work. He returned home to Newton Abbot.

At this point, Oliver Marchant’s trail goes cold. He passed away at his home in Newton Abbot on 4th January 1919, at the age of 44 years old. While the cause is not recorded, it seems likely to have been the result of his lung condition. He was laid to rest in the town’s cemetery.


CWG: Leading Stoker Percy Moore

Leading Stoker Percy Moore

Percy Edwin Moore was born on 14th April 1889, one of nine children to farrier Charles Moore and his wife, Eliza. Both of Percy’s parents were from West London, and the family was raised on the border between Kensington and Hammersmith.

When Percy left school he found work as a builder’s labourer, but he was drawn to bigger things and, in 1909, he joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. His service records show that he stood 5ft 6ins (1.68m) tall, had light brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. He had a scar above his right eye, and a tattoo on each arm.

Percy’s sense of adventure seemed to have been kindled in his earlier years; the tattoo on his right arm was a depiction of Buffalo Bill Cody, the American showman who brought the Wild West to England in the early 1900s. Young Percy’s interest was obviously piqued early on.

Stoker Moore’s first posting was on board HMS Acheron. In the years leading up to the war, he served on six further vessels, returning to HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – in between voyages. During this time, he was promoted to Stoker 1st Class for his work.

It was during one of these pauses, in August 1913, that he married Annie Eliza Wells, a labourer’s daughter from Kensington. There honeymoon was brief – just five days after they married, Percy was back at sea.

When war was declared, Stoker Moore was assigned to the battleship HMS Triumph. She served in the Mediterranean, seeing action early on in the Gallipoli campaign. After a short spell back in Chatham, he transferred to HMS Tyne, a depot ship, and received a promotion to Acting Leading Stoker.

By the summer of 1917, Percy was back at HMS Pembroke. The base was overly busy that summer, and he was billeted in temporary accommodation in the town’s Drill Hall.

On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force scored a direct hit on the barracks and Drill Hall; Acting Leading Stoker Moore was killed instantly. He was just 28 years old.

Percy Edwin Moore was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.


CWG: Leading Stoker William Osborne

Leading Stoker William Osborne

William Alfred Osborne was born in Islington, London, on 22nd August 1892. Sadly, this is where any concrete information on his early life – including his family – ends.

The only firm document available is William’s naval service records. This gives the date and location of his birth and also some physical details. He was 5ft 3ins (1.59m) tall, had brown hair, grey eyes (with a scar above his left one) and a fair complexion.

William enlisted in the Royal Navy on 11th May 1911, and was given the rank of Stoker 2nd Class. He was initially stationed at HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – where he spent a total of five months.

Weeks into his service in Chatham, he was put in the cells for seven days; it is not clear what misdemeanour he had committed, but the punishment this early on into his career seemed to have done the job, as the remainder of his service appears unblemished.

In October 1911, Stoker Osborne was given his first ocean-based posting. He was assigned to the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible on board which he served for nearly six years. During this time, he was given two promotions, to Stoker 1st Class in May 1912, and Leading Stoker four years later.

The Inflexible initially served in the Mediterranean, although during William’s time on board, she was involved in the Battle of the Falklands in the South Atlantic, the Dardanelles Campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea.

By the summer of 1917, Leading Stoker Osborne was back on home soil, stationed at HMS Pembroke. The Dockyard was a busy place at that point in the war, and additional accommodation was desperately needed. William found himself billeted at Chatham Drill Hall, away from the main barracks.

At this point in the war, the German Air Force had been suffering huge losses during the daylight bombing raids it had been undertaking. It was imperative for them to minimise these losses, and so a new tactic – night time raids – was employed.

The first trial of this approach was on the night of 3rd September 1917, and Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line, startling unready and fundamentally unprotected. One of the German bombs landed a direct hit on the Drill Hall, and Leading Stoker Osborne was killed. He was just 25 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 William Alfred Osborne was laid to rest.


CWG: Leading Stoker Joseph Craven

Leading Stoker Joseph Craven

Joseph Craven was born in Liverpool on 6th January 1870. There is little information available about his early life, but by the time of the 1891 census, he was boarding with a blacksmith and his family in Bootle, Lancashire. By this point he was working as a fireman – probably a stoker-type role, rather than for the fire service.

The following year, Joseph found an opportunity to broaden his horizons and, on 21st October 1892, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. His papers show that, at the time of joining up, he was 5ft 4ins (1.62m) in height, had dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. No distinguishing marks were noted.

Joseph’s previous employment seemed to have stood him in good stead. After initial assessments at HMS Pembroke – the shore-based establishment at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – he was quickly moved on to HMS Wildfire, based in Sheerness. His first sea posting was aboard the battlecruiser HMS Howe, and, within a couple of months, he had been promoted to Stoker 1st Class.

By the time Joseph’s initial twelve-year contract came to an end, he had served on board nine ships and travelled the world. When the time came, he voluntarily renewed his contract and continued his life at sea.

When back in port, he developed a private life. He met a young widow called Sarah Baker in Portsmouth, and the couple married in 1908. The census three years later found Joseph as the head of the household, living in a seven-room house with Sarah, her 13-year-old daughter, 80-year-old widowed mother and two boarders.

Stoker Craven’s naval service was, by this point, continuing apace. By the time hostilities were declared in August 1914, he had served on twelve further ships, and been promoted again, this time to the role of Leading Stoker. In between his voyages, he was based primarily at HMS Victory, Portsmouth Dockyard’s shore-base.

By the end of the following year, Joseph was almost entirely shore-based, moving from HMS Victory in Portsmouth to HMS Pembroke in Chatham and HMS Attentive in Dover. On 26th November 1916, he was serving in Chatham. A local newspaper picks up on what happened to him next:

Joseph Craven… belonging to Portsmouth, met his death under shocking circumstances at Chatham Dockyard on Sunday. When walking by the side of his ship, which was in dry dock, he tripped over some hose and fell headlong into the dock, turning two or three somersaults in his descent, and falling upon his head at the bottom, 80ft [24.3m] below. He was killed instantly.

Kent Messenger and Gravesend Telegraph: 2nd December 1916

An inquest on the 46-year-old’s death was held, and a result of accidental death was returned.

Joseph Craven was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, walking distance from the dockyard in which he lost his life.


CWG: Leading Stoker John Madden

Leading Stoker John Madden

John Joseph Madden was born in Cork, Eire, on 13th August 1894, one of ten children to John and Mary Madden. John Sr was a jarvey – or coach/cab driver – while his son found work as a messenger boy when he left school.

John Jr wanted bigger and better things, however, and so, on 26th June 1913, at the age of 19, he left Cork for a life in the Royal Navy. Joining up as a Stoker 2nd Class, his initial posting was at HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham. After five months’ training there, he was assigned to HMS St George for his first posting.

Over the next few years, Stoker Madden served on five different vessels, rising through the ranks to Stoker 1st Class, and Leading Stoker. His final ship was HMS Conquest, which he boarded on 1st April 1916. The cruiser served in the North Sea and was damaged by a shell during the German raid on Lowestoft just weeks after John came on board.

HMS Conquest was involved in a number of other skirmishes during Leading Stoker Madden’s time on board, On 13th June 1918, while on patrol, she struck a mine, and was badly damaged. Seven of those on board, including John, lost their lives in the incident. He was just 23 years of age.

The ship sailed back to the Naval Dockyard in Chatham; John Joseph Madden was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham.


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: Leading Stoker Cecil Scribbens

Leading Stoker Cecil Scribbens

Cecil Walter Thomas Scribbens was born on 27th June 1885 in Taunton, Somerset. He was one of five children to George and Ann Scribbens. Sadly, George passed away when Cecil was a toddler, leaving his widow to raise her young family alone.

Ann initially found work as a laundress, and her eldest daughter, Alice, began working at the local silk mill when she left school. This brought in a little money, but with five children to feed and clothe, it must have been a struggle.

In 1894, Ann found love again, and married George Sully, a scull labourer, on Christmas Day 1894. The couple went on to have a child together, a son they called Arthur, and the new family set up home in Taunton.

When he left school, Cecil found work as a labourer, but he had a sense of adventure and a life on the ocean was calling him. In July 1903 he joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class and, after his initial training in Plymouth he was assigned to HMS Russell.

Stoker Scribbens’ term of service was twelve years and, during that time, he served aboard five vessels, and was promoted to Leading Stoker. War had broken out when his initial contract ended, so it was extended until the end of the hostilities.

After five years aboard HMS Cornwall and eighteen months on HMS Cleopatra, Leading Stoker Scribbens was assigned to HMS Concord, which would turn out to be his last vessel, in December 1916. He stayed with this ship for nearly three years until falling ill in June 1919.

Brought back to England, he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Taunton with pneumonia. Leading Stoker Scribbens died from this lung disease on 24th June 1919, at the age of 34 years old.

Cecil Walter Thomas Scribbens was laid to rest in the St James’ Cemetery in his home town.