Tag Archives: 1918

CWG: Private Albert Gale

Private Albert Gale

Albert Gale was born in the Devon village of Chudleigh Knighton in October 1883, one of five children to John and Elizabeth Gale. It seems that Elizabeth may have died when Albert was young, as, by the time of the 1901 census, John was married to a Sarah Gale, and the family were living in the village of Hennock.

John was a clay cutter, and this was a trade into which Albert followed his father. Again, as time moves on, things change; the 1911 census found Albert boarding with his sister Sophy and her husband, fellow cutter Thomas Willcocks, back in Chudleigh Knighton.

War was coming to Europe and, in April 1916, Albert enlisted, joining the Somerset Light Infantry as a Private. He would have cut a commanding figure; his enlistment papers show that he stood at 5ft 10ins (1.77m) tall.

Albert served on home soil. While attached to the Somerset Light Infantry, he was assigned to the 661st Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps, working in Kent and Sussex.

During this time, he received hospital treatment on four separate occasions: in August 1916, he was admitted with cellulitis of the arm; in December 1916 and January 1917, he was treated on two separate occasions for scabies. In November 1911, however, he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, as he was suffering from influenza. Sadly, this last condition was to worsen and, on 21st November 1918, Private Gale died, having subsequently contracted pneumonia. He was 35 years old.

Albert Gale’s body was brought back to Devon for burial. His brother-in-law Thomas had died the previous summer; his story can be found here. Albert was laid to rest in the grave next to his sister’s husband in the churchyard of St Paul’s in Chudleigh Knighton.


With Thomas dead, Sophy had been left a widow. Understandably bitter at what the war had taken from her, when she was asked if she wanted a memorial for her brother, she returned the form with the following statement: “I don’t require the plaque and scroll in memory of my dear brother; a piece of paper won’t keep me.”

CWG: Private John Clarke

Private John Clarke

John Clarke was born in Devon on 28th June 1881, the son of Edward and Mary Ann Clarke. Sadly, little documented information remains on his life, but from what does exist, a semblance of his life can be pieced together.

Edward and Mary Ann lived in the village of Ashcombe in their later years, although it seems that John had been born closer to Exeter. At some point before October 1915, he married local woman Rhoda; they did not go on to have any children.

When the First World War broke out, John was working as a farm labourer. He signed up, joining the 7th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. His enlistment papers confirm that he had already been volunteering for the 8th Battalion of the same regiment. They also note that he stood 5ft 6ins (1.68cm) tall, weighed 140lbs (63.5kg) and, intriguingly, that he was of poor physical development.

Private Clarke’s time in the army was not destined to be a lengthy one. In January 1916, he was admitted to the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, suffering with neuralgia. A couple of months later, he was admitted again, this time with influenza.

Shortly afterwards John’s military service came to an end. He was dismissed as medically unfit due to a gastric ulcer; his final day in the army was 30th March 1916, and he had served for 175 days.

At this point, Private Clarke’s trail once again goes cold. He passed away on 3rd December 1918 – more than eighteen months after leaving the Devonshire Regiment – although there is no documentation to confirm the cause of his passing. He was 37 years of age.

John Clarke was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Nectan’s church in Ashcombe, Devon.


CWG: Able Seaman Hubert Banks

Able Seaman Hubert Banks

Hubert Philip Banks was born on 13th September 1896 in Tottenham, London and was one of eight children to Wilfrid and Mary Banks. Wilfrid was a gas engineer, but when he left school, Hubert found work as a clerk. By the time of the 1911 census, the family had moved to Edmonton.

Hubert had a sense of adventure, and wanted a career that reflected that. On 23rd September 1913, he enlisted in the Royal Navy; as he was underage at this point, he was given the role of Boy. Within a year he turned 18 and was formally given the rank of Ordinary Seaman.

After initial training at HMS Pembroke – the shore-based establishment at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – he was assigned to HMS Cornwallis, a dreadnought class vessel that served in the Mediterranean. Hubert spent two years on Cornwallis, during which time he was promoted to Able Seaman.

Over the next few years, Hubert served on three more vessels – HMS Quernmore, HMS Agamemnon and HMS Europa. In between times, he was based back in Chatham before moving back to HMS Pembroke on a more permanent basis in July 1918.

It was while he was back in Kent that Hubert fell ill. He was admitted to the Naval Hospital in Chatham with pneumonia, and was to succumb to the lung condition on 30th October 1918. He was just 22 years of age.

Hubert Philip Banks was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, not far from the naval base he called home.


CWG: Stoker 1st Class James Duffy

Stoker 1st Class James Duffy

James Albert Duffy was born on 21st May 1888 in the town of Monaghan, Ireland. The son of Francis and Elizabeth Duffy, he was one of ten children. Francis was a policeman, but James took up plastering when he left school; by the time of the 1911 census, the family had left Monaghan and moved to Belfast.

War was coming, and James received his call up in March 1916. He joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class; his service record shows that he stood 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall and had fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion.

After two months’ training at HMS Pembroke in Chatham, Kent, Stoker Duffy was assigned to HMS Chatham, a cruiser that served in the Mediterranean. He spent eighteen months on board, and was promoted to Stoker 1st Class for his service.

At the end of 1917, James returned to Chatham Dockyard. While there, he fell ill, and was admitted to the Naval Hospital in the town. Sadly, while in hospital he passed away, having suffered a cerebral abscess. He died on 29th January 1918, aged just 29 years old.

James Albert Duffy was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, not far from the dockyard at which he had been based.


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: Gunner George Hewlett

Gunner George Hewlett

George Henry Hewlett was born on 11th July 1892, the oldest of four children to Henry and Louisa Hewlett. Henry was a painter from Hampshire, who travelled for work. George and his youngest sibling were born in Romsey, while his two brothers were born in Swindon, Wiltshire. By the time of the 1901 census, when George was eight years old, the family had settled in Hammersmith, London.

The next census, in 1911, recorded the family as living in Caterham, Surrey. By this time, George and his father were working as gardeners, while his brothers were working as grocers. Louisa, meanwhile, was employed as a live-in housekeeper for a spinster and her mother just around the corner.

War was coming and George was determined to do his bit. Full details are not available, but he enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, taking on the role of Gunner. In May 1918 he was on board HMS Iris, a Mersey ferry requisitioned by the Royal Navy for support in the planned raid on Zeebrugge.

On 23 April 1918, HMS Iris was towed across the English Channel to Zeebrugge by HMS Vindictive; she was carrying a couple of platoons of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Marines as a raiding party. When the Vindictive neared the Zeebrugge she cast the ferry aside. Iris tried to pull up to the breakwater under heavy fire in order to off-load the raiding parties which were on board. She sustained heavy fire and a shell burst through the deck into an area where the marines were preparing to land. Forty-nine men were killed, including Gunner Hewlett. George was 28 years of age.

George Henry Hewett’s body was brought back to England. He was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, not far from the dockyard at which he was based.


George’s two brothers also fought in the First World War.

John William Hewlett, who was two years younger than George, joined the 1st Royal Marine Battalion of the Royal Naval Division as a Private. He fought on the Western Front, and was killed in fighting on 22nd October 1916. He was 21 years of age. John was laid to rest at the Mesnil-Matinsart Cemetery near the town of Albert in Northern France.

Joseph Herbert Hewlett was born three years after George. When war was declared, he enlisted in the Buffs (East Kent Regiment), joining the 4th Battalion as a Private. Dispatched to India, he was initially based in Bombay, but was injured in fighting. He was sent back to England, and treated at the Military Hospital at Netley, near Southampton. Sadly, his wounds proved too severe – he passed away on 4th April 1915, aged just 20 years old.

In the space of three years, Henry and Louisa Hewlett had lost all three of their sons to the war. After George’s death, a local newspaper reported this was their “sad and proud record”. [Dover Express: Friday 31st May 1918]


CWG: Trimmer John Kelly

Trimmer John Kelly

John Kelly was born in East London on 11th January 1871, the son of Charles and Jane. There is not a lot of concrete information about his early life, but he seems to have married an Isabella Coles in the late 1890s, and the couple went on to have at least one child – a daughter they called Lizzie.

On 13th May 1915, with the First World War raging, John enlisted. He joined the Royal Navy for the duration of the war as a Trimmer (or Stoker), His enlistment papers show that he stood at 5ft 6ins (1.67m tall), had a fair complexion and blue eyes. He is also noted as having a scar on his chin.

During his time at sea, Trimmer Kelly served on board a number of vessels; his primary base, however, remained HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

It was while he was on board HMS Hecla, a depot ship, that John fell ill with stomach problems. Returned to Chatham, he was admitted to the Naval Hospital in the town, but died of a carcinoma of the stomach on 17th November 1918. He was 47 years old.

John Kelly was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, a short distance from the dockyard where he had been based.


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: Able Seaman John Hannon

Able Seaman John Hannon

John Hannon (or Hannan) was born on 9th November 1885, in the Cork village of Ladysbridge. He was one of ten children to labourer Michael Hannon and his wife, Kate.

Given his proximity to the coastal port of Cork, it is no surprise that John sought adventure on the high seas. In May 1903, he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy, and served on HMS Black Prince. His enlistment papers gave his height as 5ft 4ins (1.62m), and recorded that he light brown hair, blue eyes and a sallow complexion. He also had a tattoo on each wrist.

As soon as he turned eighteen, on 9th November 1903, he was formally signed up, and given the rank of Ordinary Seaman. Over the next eighteen months, he served on two more ships – HMS Minotaur and the training ship HMS Boscawen – and was promoted to Able Seaman in August 1905.

John’s naval career continued apace up until the Great War. When hostilities broke out, he was assigned to HMS Tiger, and served on the ship at the Battles of Dogger Bank (1915) and Jutland (1916).

At the start of 1918, Able Seaman Hannon was transferred to HMS Hindustan; this was one of the many ships that supported the Zeebrugge Raid on the 23rd April. The plan was to scuttle a number of ships in the entrance to the Zeebrugge Canal in Belgium, thus preventing the German Navy from launching into the North Sea.

Over 1700 men were involved in the raid and heavy fighting left close to 300 sailors dead, with a similar number wounded. Sadly Able Seaman Hannon was one of those to lose their lives in the battle. He was just 32 years old.

John Hannon’s body was brought back to England; he was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, close to the Naval Dockyard in Chatham that he had occasionally called home.


CWG: Stoker 2nd Class William Bonham

Stoker 2nd Class William Bonham

William Bonham was born in Abbeyleix, Queen’s County (now County Laois) on 6th September 1895. One of ten children, his parents were labourer John Bonham and his wife Mary.

Little information about William’s early life is available; when he left school, he found work as a railway porter, but when he was 23, with war having be raging across Europe, he received his enlistment papers.

William joined the Royal Navy on 13th October 1918, and set sail for England. Assigned the role of a Stoker, he was sent to HMS Pembroke – the shore-based establishment at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – for training. Less than eight weeks later, however, he was dead.

Stoker Bonham had contracted pneumonia that winter, and died at his home in Chatham on 12th December 1918. He was just 23 years old.

William was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham.