Category Archives: Seaman

CWG: Seaman Alexander Kennedy

Seaman Alexander Kennedy

Alexander Kennedy was born in Cromore on the Isle of Lewis on 15th June 1895. He was one of five children – four of them boys – to John and Isabella Kennedy.

Living in the remote coastal township, he would have grown up knowing the sea and, when the opportunity arose, he volunteered for the Royal Naval Reserve. His service records show that he enlisted on 12th December 1913; they also note that he was 5ft 6.5ins (1.69m) tall, had blue eyes, a fresh complexion and a scar under his chin.

Seaman Kennedy was kept on a retainer until war broke out the following summer, at which point he was sent to the other end of the country – HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – for formal training. His time in the navy was then split between the dockyard and the battleship HMS Implacable.

Over the next couple of years, Seaman Kennedy toured the Mediterranean, berthing in Egypt, Malta and Gibraltar between stops back in the ports on the English coasts. By the summer of 1917, he had returned to HMS Pembroke for good.

At that point in the war, Chatham Dockyard was a particularly busy place, and Alexander was billeted in overflow accommodation set up in the naval 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. Seaman Kennedy was among those killed. He was just 21 years of age.

Alexander Kennedy was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.


Seaman Alexander Kennedy
(from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Seaman Neil Mackay

Seaman Neil Mackay

Neil Mackay was born on 16th September 1888 in Stornoway, Scotland, the son of Murdoch and Johanna (known as Murdo and Annie) Mackay.

Sadly, little information remains about his early life; most of what can be gleaned comes from his Royal Naval Reserve records. The document confirms that he was 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, had blue eyes, a dark complexion and a scar between his eyes.

Neil enlisted as a Seaman on 3rd September 1912 and, over the next couple of years, he travelled the world, visiting Maine in the United States, New Zealand and Newfoundland on his voyages.

When war broke out, he was assigned to HMS Northbrook, a troopship taking soldiers to India; he returned to the United Kingdom on HMS Dalhousie, in 1915, before making the same round trip, this time on HMS Lawrence, later that year.

In April 1916 Seaman Mackay returned to England, and was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, for around eighteen months.

The summer of 1917 was to prove a busy time at HMS Pembroke, and Neil found himself billeted in temporary accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall. On 3rd September 1917, the town came under fire from a German air raid; the Drill Hall received a direct hit and Neil was killed. He was just shy of his 29th birthday and had completed five years’ service that day.

Neil Mackay was among 98 servicemen to be killed during the Chatham Air Raid that night. The victims were laid to rest in a mass funeral at Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham a few days later.


CWG: Seaman George Gunn

Seaman George Gunn

George Gunn was born on 15th October 1891, the middle of three children to William and Hughina Gunn. The family lived in the hamlet of Skerray on the North Scottish coast.

Sadly, there is little information about George’s life. When was broke out, he enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve, which suggests that he had experience of going to sea, although this is likely, because he lived in a coastal village.

George’s service records show that he was 5ft 10.5ins (1.79m) tall, had grey eyes and a fresh complexion. Under ‘personal marks’ the document noted that he had a dimple in his chin.

Seaman Gunn spent most of his time on land; he was initially posted to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. In June 1915, however, he was assigned to the minelayer HMS Orvieto, and spent the next year patrolling the North Sea.

By the spring of 1916, George was back in Chatham; by August he was on the move again, this time to London, where he spent twelve months at HMS President, the Royal Naval Base in London. He returned to HMS Pembroke on 3rd September 1917, a move that was to prove fatal.

The base was a particularly busy place that summer, and George was billeted in overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

That night, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Tragically, Seamen Gunn was among those killed. He was just 24 years old and has been at HMS Pembroke for a matter of hours.

George Gunn’s body, along the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, more than 500 miles from home.


CWG Seaman Alexander Sutherland

Seaman Alexander Sutherland

Alexander Sutherland was born on 20th May 1899 in the Scottish town of Brora. His parents were Peter and Jane Sutherland and he was one of four children, although, tragically, all three of his siblings died before they turned five.

There is little information documented about Alexander’s life: the 1901 census recorded him and his parents living with his paternal grandparents, but give little additional information. Peter died in March 1917, although, again, there is nothing to confirm a cause of death.

The document that provides the most detail about Alexander is his service record. He was too young to enlist when war broke out, but in August 1917, having turned 18, and possibly spurred on by the passing of his father, he joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Seaman. The record shows that he was 5ft 11ins (1.8m) tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a scar on the left side of his neck.

Seaman Sutherlands’s first posting was at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent and he arrived there on 23rd August 1917. The base was a particularly busy place that summer, and Alexander was billeted in some overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.

On the night of the 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Tragically, Seamen Sutherland was amongst those killed. He was just 18 years old and had been at the base for just ten days, and on active service for just over a fortnight.

Alexander Sutherland’s body was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.


Alexander’s death was particularly tragic for his mother, Jane. She had lost three children early on, and both her husband and last child within six months. Her torment must have been unimaginable.

CWG: Seaman Thomas Ginn

Seaman Thomas Ginn

Thomas Albert Ginn seems destined to remain one of those people whose lives are lost to time. He was born on 4th February 1895 in Cape Fogo on the island of Fogo in Newfoundland. His father was Walter Scott Ginn, but beyond that, no concrete information remains.

What is clear is that, when was broke out, Thomas joined the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve as a Seaman. Sent to Europe, he found himself based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard, at Chatham, Kent.

He was billeted in the Drill Hall, which had been set up with temporary accommodation during 1917, when the barracks themselves became overcrowded.

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. Seaman Ginn was badly injured and died of his wounds in hospital the following day. He was just 22 years of age.

Thomas Albert Ginn was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.


Seaman Thomas Gunn
(from westernfrontassociation.com)

Another young man from Fogo, Seaman Albert Cluett, also died during the bombing raid; given the remoteness of the Newfoundland town, it seems very unlikely that he and Thomas did not know each other.


CWG: Seaman Francis Crocker

Seaman Francis Crocker

Francis Thomas Crocker was born on 5th February 1895 to Job and Irene Crocker. One of eleven children, the family were born and raised in the small Newfoundland town of Trout River.

Sadly, there is little documentation about Francis’ life. What is clear, however, is that, when war broke out, he volunteered for the Royal Naval Reserve.

By 1917, Seaman Crocker was based at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. The base was overly busy that summer, and Frances 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; Seaman Crocker was killed instantly. He was just 21 years old.

Francis Thomas Crocker was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, some 2500 miles (4000km) from his Canadian home.


CWG: Seaman Nathaniel Gooby

Seaman Nathaniel Gooby

Nathaniel Gooby was born on 28th October 1897, the only son of William Gooby and his third wife, Margaret. Both of William’s previous wives – Tryphena and Amelia – had died before their time, but Nathaniel had six half-siblings, up to forty years older than him.

William was a carpenter, who had been born in England, but had moved to Newfoundland when he was young, and this is where he lived and raised his families.

Sadly, very little documentation remains to evidence Nathaniel’s life. He enlisted as a Seaman in the Royal Naval Reserve, potentially after war was declared (he would have been 16 years old at the outbreak of the conflict). By the summer of 1917 he was based at HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

That summer was a busy time for the Dockyard, and temporary accommodation had been set up for the influx of military personnel based there. Seaman Gooby was billeted at Chatham Drill Hall and was sleeping there when the first night air raid was carried out by the German Air Force on 3rd September 1917. The Drill Hall received a direct hit, killing 98 servicemen – Nathaniel included. He was just 19 years of age.

Nathaniel Gooby was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.