Tag Archives: Deck Hand

CWG: Deck Hand Alexander MacGregor

Deck Hand Alexander MacGregor

Alexander MacGregor was born on 1st January 1890 in the Scottish village of Acharacle. The oldest of eleven children, his parents were Dugald and Mary MacGregor.

There is little concrete information about Alexander’s early life, but, by the outbreak of war, he had moved to London. He married a woman called Bridget in around 1916: the couple settled in Battersea, and went on to have a son, Peter, who was born in December 1916.

Alexander had, by this point, signed up to play his part in the European conflict. He joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Deck Hand on 1st December 1915. His service records confirm that he was 5ft 7.5ins (1.71m) tall, had grey eyes and a medium complexion. The section of the Royal Navy that he joined suggests that he had had previous sea-faring experience (given the proximity of his home village to the Argyll coast, this is not surprising).

Deck Hand MacGregor’s was assigned to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. Details of his military service are unclear, but he spent just under two years at the dockyard. By the summer of 1917, the base was a busy and cramped place, and Alexander found himself billeted in temporary accommodation set up in the 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. Deck Hand MacGregor was among those to be killed. He was just 27 years of age.

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

CWG: Deck Hand William Clark

Deck Hand William Clark

William Henry Clark was born in Whitby, North Yorkshire, on 15th March 1884 and was the younger of two children to James and Fanny Clark. Fisherman James drowned in September 1885, when the boat owned by his brothers-in-law – Robert and Mark Dryden – capsized.

Fanny and her children moved in with her Robert and her widowed mother, Martha, who was a lodging house keeper. In the spring of 1892, she married quarry labourer William Bennison. Her and James’ two children remained living with their grandmother; she went on to have three children with her new husband.

The 1901 census recorded young William working as a rivet heater in the local iron shipyard. He progressed in his work and, by the next census in 1911, remained living with his grandmother and uncle, but was working as a boilermaker in the shipyard.

When war broke out, William was called upon to play his part. While he had done engineering work, he also worked with his Uncle Robert on his fishing boat; this meant he was placed on reserve in the Royal Navy, and was not formally called upon as a Deck Hand until November 1915. Full details of his service are not available, but it is clear that he was based at HMS Pembroke – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – by the summer of 1917.

HMS Pembroke was a generally bustling place, but by the summer of 1917, it had exceeded capacity to the point where temporary accommodation was set up. William found himself billeted at The Drill Hall, away from the main barracks.

On the night of 3rd September 1917, Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line, as the German Air Force launched a bombing raid. One of the bombs landed squarely on the Drill Hall, and Deck Hand Clark was killed. He was 33 years of age.

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 is where William Henry Clark was also laid to rest.

Deck Hand William Clark
(from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

A local newspaper had reported on William’s father’s death:


We append the personal account of Robert Dryden, who was capsized along with his two comrades, James Clark and Mark Dryden, in the fishing coble Ann Maria… off Robin Hood’s Bay, on the morning of Saturday, the 19th inst. The tale tells of the marvellous escape of the narrator and of the sad drowning of his two mates, who each leave a widow and two children. The survivor, who is a stout and healthy fellow, had his left leg amputated some years ago, and a wooden support substituted. The following is his account:

“We were coming in from the fishing grounds on Saturday morning in our coble under a three-reefed sail, with two hundred herrings. There was a stiff breeze blowing form the south-east, with occasional squalls, and it was very dark. We should be, I reckon, about two miles from land… I had just gone into her head to see how she was coming for the land, leaving Mark at the helm, when a puff of wind took her on the starboard quarter and sent her over. We were floated out, and she sank directly, each of us catching hold of an oar.

“Just then a steamer passed us, and we shouted, but could not get their attention, and we all swam about, talking to each other, and I told them to keep their hearts up. We all had knee boots on, and, poor Jim, I think he must have been caught by the cold, for about twenty minutes after he sank. He was a fine fellow, as fine a fellow as you would meet in the streets.

“Shortly after he had gone, poor fellow, a tug boat passed us with a black and flesh-coloured funnel. I was too exhausted to shout much, and had to swim across her bows to keep clear. When she had passed, poor Mark had disappeared. I could then see the land, and with the sea beating on my left shoulder I set out for it…

“I was very disheartened after losing my mates, and all I had – for the coble belonged half to me and half to my brother – nets, money, and, all together, about £60 had gone…

“After a long swim, I neared the shore, and swam for the Blue Rock, because I could not swim further to a calm spot. I found myself on the rock after being, I think, knocked senseless by the seas. I climbed the cliff – it’s a bad coast about here – and walked for about two miles before I met anyone…

“I was several times almost in despair when in the water, and was much distressed at having to return with such a sad tale… It’s a great loss to me. Jim was my brother-in-law, and was 29 years of age, and Mark was my cousin, and 23 years old. It’s thirteen years since I had my other narrow escape, and I would sooner go to the poor-house than go through such another time of it.”

By this melancholy accident, two families have been plunged into deep grief and dire poverty, and deserve the sympathy and practical support of all kind and well-to-do-people.

Whitby Gazette: Sunday 26th September 1885

CWG: Deck Hand William Littlewood

Deck Hand William Littlewood

William Alfred Littlewood was born on 19th April 1882, the oldest of four children to Henry and Mary. Henry was a labourer for the gasworks in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and the couple raised their family in the town.

William also found work with the local gasworks, and this is who he was employed by when, on 19th December 1903, he married Evelyn Harriet Youman. The couple set up home near the centre of the town, and went on to have four children.

When war broke out, William was keen to play his part. On 17th August 1914, he enlisted as a Private in the Army Service Corps and, within a couple of week, was in France. He spent six months on the Western Front, before returning to home soil. The reason for this return to England was an inflammation of the middle ear, and the resulting deafness led to his discharge from the army in June 1915.

William was not to be deterred, however, and within a matter of weeks, he had enlisted again, this time volunteering for the Royal Naval Reserve as a Deck Hand. Over the next two years, he served on a number of different ships, each time returning to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

In August 1917, Deck Hand Littlewood disembarked HMS Acteon, and returned to his shore base. The Dockyard was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that William 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; Deck Hand Littlewood was among those killed instantly. He was 35 years of age.

William Alfred Littlewood was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. Tragically, the Navy Death Records state that he was Buried as unidentified in one of the following graves: 516, 522, 642, 735, 935, 937 or 948.

CWG: Deck Hand Angus MacIntyre

Deck Hand Angus MacIntyre

Angus MacIntyre was born on the island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 9th October 1894. One of eleven children, his parents were fisherman Malcolm McIntyre and his wife Flora.

Sadly, there is little information on Angus’ early life and military service. He was still living in the Scottish Islands by the time of the 1911 census, and enlisted in the Royal Naval Reserve when war broke out.

In April 1918, Angus was acting as a Deck Hand on Motor Launch 282 in the North Sea, supporting the “Zeebrugge Raid”, an attempt by the Royal Navy to block the Belgian port by scuppering obsolete vessels in the canal entrance.

Full details are not clear, but it would seem that the vessel Deck Hand MacIntyre was serving on was ferrying men between some of the ships that were being scuppered. When it was trying to manoeuvre it’s way out of the Zeebrugge Canal, it came under heavy machine gun fire, and a number of people on board were shot.

The motor launch managed to get clear of the fighting and returned to England. Unfortunately, Angus was one of the victims of the German gunfire. He was just 23 years of age.

The boat sailed back to the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. Angus MacIntyre was laid to rest in the nearby Woodlands Cemetery.

Angus Macintyre died at sea 1918
Angus MacIntyre
(from ancestry.co.uk)

CWG: Deck Hand Charles Bashford

Deck Hand Charles Bashford

Charles Bashford was born on 10th August 1890, one of fifteen children to James and Mary Ann Bashford. James was a fisherman, and the family lived in Field Row, a narrow lane in the centre of Worthing, West Sussex.

The seaside town was a centre of fishing activity, so it is no surprise that most of James and Mary Ann’s children went into it in some way, and Charles was no exception. The 1911 census list him as the youngest of four siblings still living at home, and three of those gave their trade as fisherman, as well as James. Charles’ older brother William was the only sibling not to, and he was working as a printer.

War was coming to Europe, and, given his seafaring experience, it is no surprise that Charles sought to enlist in the Royal Navy. He joined up on 12th August 1916 and, after six weeks’ training, was assigned to the Royal Navy Reserve (Trawler Section). During his service he would have been involved in minesweeping and anti-submarine activities, using his own boat – or his family’s one – to do so.

Little further information is available for Deck Hand Bashford. He survived the war, but passed away on 11th August 1919 at the Royal Haslar Hospital, where he had been admitted, suffering from pneumonia. He was 28 years old.

Charles Bashford was brought back to his home town of Worthing; he was laid to rest in the Broadwater Cemetery there.

CWG: Deck Hand Leonard Tucker

Deck Hand Leonard Tucker

Leonard Francis Tucker was born in 1898, the middle of three children to Arthur and Frances Tucker. Arthur was a tailor from Taunton, Somerset, and this is where he brought his young family up.

Sadly, little documentation remains of Leonard’s life. His grave confirms that, when war came, he served in the Royal Navy, and, at the time of his death, he was a Deck Hand on HMS Vivid.

His Commonwealth War Graves Records confirm that his parents were living in Melbourne – his pension ledger confirms Arthur as his next of kin, with an Australian address. There is nothing to confirm their emigration, or whether Leonard emigrated as well.

Leonard’s young life is summed up in a short notice in the local newspaper, which has the simple comment “Tucker – Sept. 28th, at 10 Westgate-street, Taunton, Leonard Francis Tucker, aged 20.” [Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Wednesday 9th October 1918]

Slightly more confusing is the next name on that list: “Tucker – Sept. 29, at 10 Westgate-street, Taunton, Frances Ellen Tucker, aged 44.” It would seem that Leonard’s mother was in England, not Australia, at the time of his death, and that she passed away a day after him.

Combined with when Leonard died, it would suggest both he and his mother died from one of the respiratory conditions running rampant through England at the time, possibly influenza or pneumonia. There is nothing to confirm this outright, but it seems the likeliest outcome for the poor mother and son.

Leonard Francis Tucker lies at rest in St Mary’s Cemetery in his home town of Taunton.

As an aside to this, there is no record of where Frances was buried, but it is likely that she too was laid to rest in St Mary’s Cemetery.

CWG: Deck Hand Harry Cook

Deck Hand Harry Cook

Harry Sidney Cook was born in April 1892, the youngest of six children. His parents John, a clay digger, and Ann lived in Rainham, Kent, and had two other boys and three girls.

By the 1911 census, the family seem to have gone their separate ways. John and his youngest son were boarding away from the rest of the family, and Harry listed himself as a fisherman. There is no immediate record of his mother, Ann, while his oldest brother Arthur had passed away, and his closest sibling Albert was working as a labourer in Essex.

Shortly after the census was taken, he married Alice Pearce. They lived in a house by Rainham Station and soon had a son, Frank Sidney.

Harry enrolled in the Royal Navy in March 1916, and served on a number of vessels during the war and in the months afterwards. Shortly after enrolling, he and Alice had twins, Daisy and Edith.

Deck Hand Cook was serving on HMS Hermione in February 1919. A guard ship in Southampton, towards the end of the war, she became the HQ Ship for motor launches and coastal motor boats serving the Solent.

It was while he was working there that Harry contracted pneumonia. He was admitted to the Haslar Royal Naval Hospital in Gosport, but passed away on 14th March 1919. At 26 years old, he had become a father for the fourth time just three weeks before; it is likely that he never got to meet his youngest daughter, Alice.

Deck Hand Harry Cook was brought back to his home town of Rainham to be buried. He lies at rest in the St Margaret’s Churchyard, Rainham.