Tag Archives: Northumberland

CWG: Second Lieutenant George Woodland

Second Lieutenant George Woodland

George Henry Woodland was born on 9th June 1899, and was one of six children – three boys and three girls – to Mark and Ada Woodland. Mark was a hewer in a coalmine in Radstock, Somerset, and this is where the family were raised.

George – who was better known as Harry – was still at school when war broke out. He had been taught at the Church of England School in his home town, before winning a scholarship to Shepton Mallet Grammar School. Having passed his exams there, he was taken on as a member of staff at his former school, before joining the army in June 1917 when he turned eighteen.

Initially joining the Infantry Training Reserve, Harry was subsequently transferred to the Royal Air Force. After training in Yorkshire for five months, he was transferred to the 52nd Training Depot Station at Cramlington Airfield in Northumberland.

Second Lieutenant Woodland returned home on leave in October 1918. This was the first time that he and his two brothers had been together since war had been declared – one had been serving in France, the other had been injured and was recuperating at a hospital in Bristol. Harry returned to Northumberland on 14th October.

On 5th November 1918, Harry was flying at the Cramlington base; shortly after take off, while carrying out a flat turn at a height of about 100ft, his aircraft stalled and nosedived, catching fire on impact. Tragically, Second Lieutenant Woodland and his passenger – Air Mechanic Ryder – were burnt to death. Harry was just 19 years of age.

George Henry “Harry” Woodland was brought back to Somerset for burial. He was laid to rest in the family plot in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church in his home town of Radstock.


Second Lieutenant George Woodland
(from britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

CWG: Stoker 1st Class Thomas Haville

Stoker 1st Class Thomas Haville

Thomas Giles Lansley Haville was born on 16th June 1897, and was one of seven children. There is little concrete information about his early life, but his parents were Devon-born Francis Haville and his Newcastle-born wife, Jane.

Francis was an army man, who had moved his family from Aldershot to Scotland and Northumberland, finally settling in Newcastle shortly before Thomas’ birth. Francis died in 1908, when Thomas was just 11 years old, and it seems likely that Jane passed away around the same time.

Thomas himself had not been a well child – the 1901 census gives him as an inpatient at the Northumberland District Royal Infirmary, although it is not clear what condition he was suffering from.

When he left school, Thomas followed a trade common amongst young men of his age in the North East, that of a pit worker. He wanted bigger and better things, however, and, on 9th May 1916, eighteen months into the First World War, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class.

His service records suggest that he volunteered, as he gave his year of birth as two years earlier than it actually was, in order to be accepted as being of legal age. The enlistment papers also confirm that Thomas was 5ft 4.5ins (1.64m) tall, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.

Stoker Haville’s first posting was HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham in Kent, a base to which he would return a couple of times. After his initial training, he was assigned to HMS Blonde, a cruiser-cum-mine layer, based out of Scapa Flow. In March 1917, he moved on to the battleship HMS Vanguard, which was also based in the North Sea.

The Vanguard was destroyed on 9th July 1917 when a number of magazines exploded on board – 843 of the 845 crew were killed. Thomas had had a lucky escape; just two weeks earlier he had been transferred back to Chatham. During his time on board, however, he had been promoted to Stoker 1st Class.

HMS Pembroke was a busy place that summer. The replacement crew for the Vanguard that would now not be needed were based there, and temporary accommodation was needed quickly. Chatham Drill Hall was brought into service, and Thomas found himself billeted there.

On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out its first night air raid: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit; Stoker 1st Class Haville was among those killed instantly. He was just 20 years of age.

Thomas Giles Lansley Haville was laid to rest, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.