Tag Archives: Royal Marines

CWG: Private James Sanders

Private James Sanders

James Sanders was born on 17th April 1889. One of nine children, his parents were William and Emily Sanders. William worked for a clay company in his home town of Kingsteignton, Devon. He had various roles, including caretaker, inspector and messenger.

William’s son, however, was after bigger things in life and, on 17th July 1907, he enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. James’ service records show that he was 5ft 6ins (1.67m) tall, had light brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.

Based out of Plymouth, Private Sanders signed up for an initial period of twelve years. During this time, and throughout the war, he served on six vessels, including 30 months on HMS Argyll (where he was based for the 1911 census) and more than five years on HMS Colossus.

In April 1919, Private Saunders returned to land. When his initial contract was up, he re-enlisted, this time remaining at the Naval Dockyard in Plymouth.

James’ trail goes a little cold for the next couple of years, although he continued in his role with the Royal Marine Light Infantry. On the night of the 28th March 1921, however, he encountered some trouble. The local newspaper reported on the subsequent inquest.

Kingsteignton Man’s Mysterious Death

At an enquiry held at Teignmouth on Saturday afternoon into the circumstances attending the death of Private James Sanders, RMLI… who was found drowned in the river Teign on Friday, it was stated that deceased and seven other Kingsteignton men on Monday visited Teignmouth to attend a football match, at which Sanders acted as touch-judge.

After the match they went to a public house, where deceased had three or four pints of beer and some spirits, which made him unsteady.

They left to catch a bus, but at Station Road deceased turned back. One of his companions followed him, but could not persuade him to return, so he left deceased on his own to travel back home.

The man considered Sanders was in a condition to look after himself. An open verdict was returned.

Wester Times: Friday 8th April 1921

Private James Sanders died on 28th March 1921, aged 31 years old. He was laid to rest with his father, William, who had died in 1908, in the graveyard of St Michael’s Church in Kingsteignton.


CWG: Private Frederick Down

Private Frederick Down

Frederick Francis Down is one of those servicemen whose life is destined to remain lost to time. Born in Chudleigh, Devon, most of the information available about his life comes from one document – his naval service record.

The document gives his date of birth as 15th November 1897 and confirms that he enlisted on 23rd November 1914. Frederick was 5ft 2ins (1.57m) tall, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair.

Frederick signed up as a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, and, at the time of joining up, had been working as a butcher’s boy, living in Fore Street in the village of his birth.

Private Down served at the regiment’s depot in Deal, Kent. But he was only there for a short time: he was invalided out of the service – for reasons unrecorded – on 9th June 1915.

At this point, Frederick Francis Down’s trail goes cold once again. His gravestone confirms that he died on 11th April 1916, at the age of just 18 years old. He was laid to rest in Chudleigh Cemetery.



CWG: Sergeant John Foxworthy

Sergeant Joh Foxworthy

John James Foxworthy was born in the South Devon village of East Allington in 1867. He was the middle of five children to carpenter Roger Foxworthy and his wife Ann.

When he left school, John found work on a local farm, but he had bigger plans and, in July 1887, he enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. His service records show that he stood 5ft 8ins (1.73m) tall, had dark brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion.

John had a varied military career that lasted for more than two decades. During this time, he served on nine ships, and was based at HMS Vivid – the Royal Naval Dockyard in Plymouth – for significant periods of time. He began as a Private, but rose through the ranks to Corporal (in 1894) and Sergeant (in 1900). He was wounded in April 1899, when he was shot in the leg, but recovered from this and continued his career.

In 1895, John married Maria Woodley, the daughter of a railway labourer from Totnes. The couple went on to have four children, Minnie, Gladys, Alice and William.

In 1908, Sergeant Foxworthy left the Royal Marine Light Infantry after 21 years’ service. By now the family home was in Prospect Terrace, Newton Abbot, just a short walk from the town centre. The 1911 census records him as being a Royal Marine pensioner and caretaker of the Miniature Rifle Club.

When war broke out, John was called back into duty and, by September 1914, he found himself in a Royal Marine Depot in Belgium. His service overseas was fairly short, and he had returned to England by the spring. He was working as a recruiting sergeant in Northampton on 30th March 1915, when he suddenly collapsed and died. He was 47 years of age.

John James Foxworthy’s body was brought back to Devon; he lies at rest in the family grave in Newton Abbot Cemetery.


CWG: Private George Smale

Private George Smale

George Henry Smale was born in 1899 and was the oldest of four children to George and Alice Smale. George Sr was born in Tavistock, Devon, and worked as a labourer in a tannery. The family were raised in Newton Abbot, which is where George Jr was born.

Sadly, little is documented on young George’s life. He would have been 15 years old when war broke out, but at some point during the conflict, he enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Private Smale was based at the Stonehouse Barracks in Plymouth, but no other information about his service is available.

George’s trail goes completely cold at this point, and there is nothing to confirm how or when he left the army, or how he died. All that can be confirmed is that he passed away on 3rd November 1919, and that he was just 20 years old at the time.

George Henry Smale was laid to rest in Newton Abbot Cemetery.


CWG: Private John Lodge

Private John Lodge

John Thomas Inskip Lodge was born in Shefford, Bedfordshire, on 31st January 1899, one of seven children to John and Florence Lodge (née Inskip). When his son was young, John Sr worked as a bead lace manufacturer, but by the time of the 1911 census, he had become the manager of a steam laundry.

Florence, by this time, had passed away, and in November 1911, John Sr married again, to Florence Yarnell. The couple would go on to have four children, John Jr’s half-siblings.

By this time, war was on the horizon, and John was eager to leave his laundry job and volunteer. He joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 4th September 1915, giving his date of birth as three years earlier in order to ensure he was accepted. His service record shows that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair.

As a Private, John served with the Chatham Division of the regiment; he would have seen action in some of the key battles of the war, including at Gallipoli in 1915/16 and later on the Western Front. It was while he was fighting in France in September 1916 that he was injured, and he was medically evacuated back to England for treatment.

Private Lodge recovered, and served on in Chatham, Kent, where he was billeted at the naval barracks in the town. At the start of June 1917, he had some leave owing, and so visited his parents back in Bedfordshire. When he returned to Kent, he fell ill and was admitted to the Naval Hospital in the town. Sadly, John was not to recover; he passed away on 23rd June 1917, aged just 18 years old.

John Thomas Inskip Lodge was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, not far from the Chatham barracks 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: Private Henry Teahen

Private Henry Teahen

Henry Teahen (or Teahan) was born in around 1898 in Castlegregory, County Kerry, Ireland. One of twelve children – eight of whom survived infancy – his parents were John and Catherine Teahan.

John was a wayman (or road surveyor), who was born in Kerry. Catherine was born in Wandsworth and it was in London that the couple met and married. By the time Henry was born, the family had moved back to Ireland, although Catherine had made the journey back to England in the early 1900s, after John passed away.

The 1911 census found the family living in Forest Gate in the east of the capital; Henry’s oldest brother, Joseph, was head of the household and, at 24, was working as a police constable. Schoolboy Henry was there, as was his mother, two more of his brothers, one of his sisters and his niece and nephew.

War was imminent, though, and, within a week of hostilities breaking out, Henry – who had been working as a waiter – enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Private Teahen’s service records show that he was 5ft 8ins (1.72m) tall, had a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. They also give his date of birth as 22nd June 1896, although he may have adapted this, as he would have been underage at the point he joined up.

Over the next few years, he served on a number of ships, switching between the Plymouth and Chatham divisions of the regiment. Full details of his duties are not immediately apparent, although is seems that he was injured while on board HMS Valiant in February 1916 – six months before her involvement in the Battle of Jutland – receiving a contusion to his right knee.

By the closing months of the war, Private Teahen had transferred back to the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. It was while here, early in 1919, that he fell ill. Details of his condition are lost to time, but it is known that he succumbed to them, passing away on 1st March 1919; he was 21 years old when he died.

Henry Teahen was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, within walking distance of the dockyard at which he was based.


Henry’s older brother James, also fought in the First World War. Full details are not clear, but documents show that he enlisted in the 6th City of London Regiment (also known as the City of London Rifles).

James’ regiment fought in many of the fiercest battles on the Western Front, including Loos, Vimy, High Wood and Messines, but it was at Ypres in the late summer of 1917, that he was injured. He died of his wounds on 30th September, aged just 23 years old.

Private James Teahan was laid to rest at the Mendinghem Military Cemetery in Poperinghe, Belgium.


CWG: Private Cecil Sims

Private Cecil Sims

Cecil Frank Sims was born in the village of Manston, Dorset, towards the end of 1897. The youngest of six children, his parents were Henry and Ann Sims. Henry was a dairyman and, after his death in 1909, his wife continued in this line of the work.

Cecil was just 16 years old when was was declared, but he was keen to do his bit for King and Country as soon as he could. In May 1917, he joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Marine Light Infantry in Portsmouth.

Sadly, information on Private Sims dries up at this point. His service records no longer exist, and the only document that remains is his pension record. This confirms that he died on 11th February 1919 from ‘disease’, but there is no further information to be had. He was just 21 years of age.

Cecil Frank Sims was laid to rest in Yeovil Cemetery.


There is one other element that adds to Cecil’s family story. When researching the local newspapers for any reports on his funeral, an advert was posted just a few days before he passed:

Farmer’s son wanted: Willing to help on farm. Lodgings found close. Good place for willing chap, age 16 or 17 years preferred. SIMS, Poplars Farm, Yeovil Marsh.

Western Gazette: Friday 7th February 1919

It would seem that, if he was at home, Cecil’s health was weakening, and so extra support to manage the farm was being sought.


CWG: Private James Hayden

Private James Hayden

James Hope Hayden was born in Shorncliffe Military Camp in 1875, the son of Mary Anne Hayden. The youngest of five children, James’ father appears to have died when he was just a toddler; there are no records for him, and Mary Anne – who preferred to caller herself Annie – was listed a a widow by the time of the 1881 census.

The document confirms that Annie was lodging in a house near the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, working as a seamstress. She was living there with her landlady Anne Roberts and her five children, John, William, Annie, Charles and James, who seems to have gone by the name of Mathew.

By the time of the nest census, Annie had moved and was lodging in another house in the same road. She was still employed as a seamstress, and was sharing the rooms with her two youngest children and her brother, William.

The 1901 census finds Annie living in an adjacent road to her previous houses. Head of the household this time, she was working as a laundress. Her brother William was also living there – he was listed as an army pensioner. Mathew is the only one of her children still living with her; he had, by this time, found employment as a labourer in the dockyard.

Moving forward another ten years, and the family have moved one street over. Annie, at 69 years old, remained the head of the household, while Mathew is living there with his wife and three children.

Mathew’s wife is listed as Florence, but there is no record of their wedding, other than the census document which confirms they have been marred for ten years. Mathew is listed as an ex-soldier although again, there is no longer any documentation to confirm this.

From this point, Mathew’s/James’ life goes a bit hazy. The next available record is his army pension document. This confirms that he was a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, under the name James Hope Hayden. By this time, he and Florence had had seven children, although it seems to suggest that they were not actually married.

Sadly, it also confirms that Private Hayden had passed away on 1st May 1917, having been suffering from pneumonia, contracted whilst on active service. He was 42 years old.

Mathew was laid to rest in the Grange Road Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, under the name James. The cemetery has since been turned into a public park, and he is commemorated in the nearby Woodlands Cemetery.


CWG: Serjeant Tom Harvey

Serjeant Tom Harvey

Tom Harvey was born in the spring of 1871, one of four children to John and Caroline. John was a fly driver, hiring out a pony and trap for a fee, while his wife brought in extra money working as a laundress. The family lived in Weston-super-Mare, on the Somerset coast, in a town house they shared with another family, the Painters.

Details of Tom’s early life is a bit sketchy. The 1891 census lists him as a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, with his address as the Royal Naval Hospital in East Stonehouse, Plymouth, where he was ‘receiving treatment’. Sadly, none of his military records survive, so there is nothing to confirm his dates of service.

In 1894, demobbed and working as a cab driver in his home town, Tom married a woman called Sarah. Little other information exists about her, but what is known is that she worked as a dressmaker to supplement her husband’s income, and the couple did not go on to have any children. The couple lived in Hopkins Street, near the centre of Weston-super-Mare, and initially took in boarders to help finances.

By the time war broke out in 1914, Tom was in his forties. Eventually called back into service, he joined the 261st Company of the Royal Defence Corps and, with the role of Serjeant, he would have had men under his command. The 261st was part of Southern Command, which provided a territorial defence force, or Home Guard, and a lot of his time was spent in Birmingham.

It was while he was home on leave that Tom fell ill. The local media picked up the story:

The death occurred on Sunday under sudden circumstances of Sergeant Tom Harvey, Royal Defence Corps… The deceased was proceeding to his residence… when he fell, and was only able to give his address and to state that he was suffering from chronic indigestion before he expired. Prior to joining up as a National Volunteer, the deceased has been engaged as an omnibus driver.

Western Daily Press: Tuesday 3rd July 1917

Tom Harvey was 46 years old when he died. He was laid to rest in the Milton Cemetery in his home town of Weston-super-Mare.