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.
Edward Phillips Drewett was born on 22nd September 1893 in the Somerset town of Castle Cary. He was one of four children to Richard and Martha Drewett; his mother had been widowed before marrying Richard, and had a child from that marriage, Edward’s half-sister.
Richard was a solicitor’s clerk, but when he left school Edward found employment as a grocer’s assistant. It was this that he was doing when war broke out in 1914 and, in November 1915, he joined up to do his bit for King and Country.
Edward joined the 17th Battalion of the London Regiment as a Rifleman: his service records show that he stood 5ft 7.5ins (1.71m) tall, weighed in at 9st (57.2kg) and was of good physical development.
Rifleman Drewett ended up spending three-and-a-half years in the army, and travelled a lot. After nine months on home soil, he was sent to France, Salonika, Malta and Egypt, spending between four and nine months in each place. By July 1918, he was back in France, and by Christmas that year was on home soil again.
By this point, Rifleman Drewett was unwell, and suffering from nephritis – inflamed kidneys. The condition was severe enough for him to be stood down from the army, and he was formally discharged from military service on 31st March 1919, while admitted to the Bath War Hospital.
At this point, Edward’s trail goes cold. He passed away on 28th August 1919 and, while the cause is unclear, it seems likely to have been kidney-related. He was just 25 years of age.
Edward Phillips Drewett was laid to rest in the cemetery of his home town, Castle Cary.
Arthur Reginald Srodzinski was born in Paignton, Devon, in October 1890. His great grandfather Stanislaus was born in Poland and emigrated to Devon in the early 1840s. He was an upholsterer, and this is a trade that his son Samuel, and his grandson – Arthur’s father – Henry also followed. Henry and his wife, Sarah, had five children, of which Arthur was the middle one; by the time of the 1901 census, Henry has moved the family to Newton Abbot.
Arthur wanted bigger and better things than upholstering, and sought out a career in the army. In March 1909, he enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment as a Private. His service records show that he was 5ft 5ins (1.69m) tall, and weighed in at 131lbs (59kg). He has hazel eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion.
Private Srodzinski enlisted for a period of twelve years (seven on active duty), and after his initial training, he was sent overseas. Over the next few years, he was posted to Malta, Cyprus and Egypt but, when was came to Europe, he returned to England, before heading to the Western Front.
Arthur’s time in France was not to be a long one – at the end of December 1914, he was medically evacuated to England, suffering from a heart condition. This was to turn out to be a serious issue, and he was formally discharged from the army on medical grounds just four months later.
Back in Devon, Arthur found work as a butcher and, in the autumn of 1917, he married local carpenter’s daughter Carrie Larkworthy; the couple set up home in Newton Abbot.
In March 1918, Arthur was attending a meeting of discharged soldiers at the Commercial Hotel in Newton Abbot, when he collapsed. Medical treatment was sought, but it proved too late; he had died of a heart attack. Arthur was just 28 years of age.
Arthur Reginald Srodzinski was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery. Three months later, Carrie gave birth to their one and only child, who she named Reginald.
Robert Anderson was born on 4th September 1889, one of ten children – of whom tragically only three survived – to James and Emily Anderson. James was a storekeeper from Belfast, who had moved his family to Preston, Lancashire, but who had subsequently moved them back to Northern Ireland after Robert had been born.
In 1911, while working as a town labourer, Robert had met and married Rebecca Barkley; the couple went on to have to children, Mary and Agnes.
War was coming to Europe, however, and Robert was keen to play his part. He enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles and, according to a subsequent newspaper report, saw action at Mons and the Marne early in the conflict.
The Belfast Evening Telegraph reported that “He completed his time, and instead of re-enlisting in the Army, he joined the Navy.” [Thursday 4th October 1917] Given that Robert enlisted in the Royal Navy in the autumn of 1915, this raises the question of how he left the army at the height of the conflict, particularly given that the same report suggests that he had come through the major battles “unscathed“.
Either way, Private Anderson made the move to Stoker 2nd Class on 10th November 1915. He record show that he stood 5ft 5.5ins (1.66m) tall, had fair hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. On his arms he sported a number of tattoos; a lady, crossed flags and a ship on his right, and his initials on the left.
Robert’s first posting was HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham, Kent, where he received a couple of months’ training. He was then assigned to HMS Egremont, also known as Fort St Angelo in Birgu, Malta, where he spent a couple of months. Stoker Anderson then returned to England, serving at HMS Victory, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth, and gaining a promotion to Stoker 1st Class in the process.
By August 1917, he had returned to HMS Pembroke. The Dockyard was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that Robert 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 Anderson was among those killed instantly. He was a day short of his 28th birthday.
Robert Anderson was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.
Paolo Spiteri was born in Valetta, Malta, on 25th January 1881, the son of Stephen Spiteri. Sadly there is very little further information on his early life, other than he worked as a cook when he left school.
Paolo saw a life at sea as a good career, and, in August 1901, aged 20, joined the Royal Navy. Over the next twenty years, he travelled the world, serving on more than twenty ships and working his way up from a domestic in the kitchen to an Officer’s Cook 3rd Class.
By 1921, Paolo was based at HMS Pembroke – the shore establishment at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – and contracted pneumonia there. Admitted to the Naval Hospital in the town, the condition sadly got the better of him, and he passed away on 5th April 1921. He was 42 years old.
Officer’s Cook Paolo Spiteri was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery, not far from the dockyard at which he was based.
George Trask was born on 22nd December 1875 and was the oldest of nine children. His parents were Absolam and Sarah Jane Trask, although it seems that the couple did not actually marry until after their first three children had been born. Absolam was an agricultural labourer and the family lived in his and Sarah’s home village of East Coker, near Yeovil in Somerset.
George was destined for a life of adventure; in May 1894, aged just 18, he enlisted in the army, joining the Royal Artillery as a Gunner. His medical examination sheds some light on his physique. He stood 5ft 7ins (1.70m) tall and weighed in at 144lbs (65.3kg). He had a fair complexion, hazel eyes and light brown hair.
Oddly, in the section on distinguishing marks – recorded to help identification should the soldier be killed – the medic only highlighted a ‘small mole midway between pubes and umbilicus’: it seems unlikely that this was the only distinguishing mark that could have been highlighted.
Gunner Trask’s initial service was spent in England. He served four-and-a-half years on the home front, before being shipped to Malta. After six months on the island, he was moved to Crete for a few months, before returning to Malta in September 1899.
George completed his initial term of seven years’ service, and elected to remain to complete a full twelve years of enlistment. As part of this, he was transferred to the Caribbean, spending two years stationed in Bermuda, before moving on to St Lucia for a further two years. By December 1905, Gunner Trask was back home in England, and it was on home soil that he remained.
Back in Somerset, George extended his term of service for another four years. Settled in his home village, he married Elizabeth Garrett on 27th December 1908; the couple would go on to have three children: Ethel (born in 1910), Lilian (1911) and George Jr (1916).
Gunner Trask’s military service continued apace. Reassigned to the Royal Garrison Artillery, he was posted in Portsmouth up until the outbreak of the war. He was awarded a third Good Conduct Medal in addition to the once he had received in 1900 and 1904.
At this point, details of George’s military service become a little hazy. He achieved 21 years’ military service on 29th May 1915 and was a further Good Conduct Medal. At this point, with the war raging, he period of duty was extended again, until the end of the conflict.
At some point during this time, he was assigned to the Royal Artillery’s School of Experimental Gunnery in Shoeburyness Essex. Sadly, there is nothing to confirm his exact role there, although, given that he was in his 40s by this point, it is likely that he acted as more of a mentor.
And it is here that the story comes to an end. Gunner Trask is noted as passing away in the Military Hospital in Shoeburyness on 31st October 1918, though there is nothing to confirm the cause of his death. He was 43 years of age.
George Trask’s body was brought back to Somerset for burial. Having travelled the world with the army, he was laid to rest in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in his home village of East Chinnock.
George’s son George was to follow his father into military service.
Working as a press operator for a plastics company, he married Gwendoline Harper in Southend, Essex in April 1940. There is no record of whether he had enlisted at this point, but is seems likely that he had.
When the Second World War broke out, he joined the 4th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. After initially helping in the defence of England following the British Army’s evacuation from Dunkirk, late in 1941, he was sent first to Egypt, then to Singapore to help strengthen the garrison there.
Early the following year, the 4th and 5th Battalions fought in the defence of Singapore, before the island surrendered to the Japanese army. At this point, Lance Corporal Trask found himself a prisoner of war.
The prisoners were put to work building the Burma railway, and suffered great hardship at the hands of their captors. Many succumbed to illness, and George was amongst them, dying from beriberi on 18th December 1943. He was just 27 years old.
George Reginald Trask was laid to rest in the Chungkai Cemetery in Thailand, 100km west of Bangkok.
Carmelo Ellul was born in Valetta, Malta, on 26th May 1889. There is little information about his early life, other than the fact that he worked as a baker.
He came to England at some point in the early 1900s, and was living in Portsmouth. It was here that he met Selina Southcott, who had been born on the Isle of Wight, and the couple married in 1904. The couple would go on to have three children, all boys: Maurice, who was born in 1911; Alva, who was born in 1912, but who died as a toddler; and Edwin, who was born in 1916.
Carmelo seemed to want a life of adventure: in the summer of 1912, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. Over the next eight years, Officer’s Cook Ellul served on a number of naval vessels, including HMS Bacchante, which toured the North Sea, and was involved in the Battle of Heligoland in August 1914.
Carmelo’s naval life continued after the war ended, although he seems to have been more shore-based than before. He was serving on HMS Waterhen on 24th January 1920, when he collapsed with an epileptic fit, and died of heart failure. He was just 32 years old.
Carmelo Ellul was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, presumably as his ship was moored in the nearby Naval Dockyard in Chatham.