First World War – Seamen from Thornbury
It is somewhat surprising to us how many Thornbury men became seamen. Some of these were born in and around the town, others moved to live here. This is not a complete list of the local men who served in the First World War. Please click on the links shown on the left to see other information.
This page is simply a list of the men from the Thornbury area about whom we have further details copied from service records and newspaper reports. We have attempted to link each person with their family using census and baptism records on Scribes Alcove website for the purposes of linking each of them to a Thornbury family. Please let us know if you have any information about a relative which can be added to the website.
Albert H Andrews – the entry on the War Memorial in St Mary’s Church shows that Albert was serving as a Petty Officer on the H.M.S. Laurentic at the time of death. The Laurentic was struck by two mines whilst sailing in storm force winds and snow off Lough Swilly on the Irish coast on 25th January 1917. The ship sank within an hour of being hit and only 121 of those aboard survived. Many of those killed died from exposure in the lifeboats. Albert’s body was never recovered.
We know from the service record that he was a Petty Officer 2nd Class and that he was aged 42, the son of ‘the late George and Jane Andrews of Buckover, Falfield. Albert Henry Andrews was born in Clapham on 28th December 1875. The 1881 census shows the family had moved west and that they were now living at ‘Beer House’ in Breadstone near Berkeley. George was a wheelwright.
The 1891 census shows the family at The Royal Oak Inn, Cromhall. Andrew’s father was an engine driver so we assume that it was his mother who ran the pub. We haven’t found Andrew in the 1901 census, but in the 1911 census he was working as a traction engine driver living with a cousin, Kate Ball at Buckover.
Alfred Bendall – born on 19th August 1875, the son of William Bendall, a labourer and his wife, Angelina. Alfred joined the Royal Navy on 19th August 1893 when he was described as being 5ft 0 1/2 inch, light brown hair, hazel eyes and fresh complexion with two small spots tattooed on left wrist. In 1895 Alfred married Elizabeth Jane Walters and they went on to have 12 children, although two died at birth.
He was 5ft 5 inches when he extended his contract in 1905. In 1912 he was invalided out of the service due to a head wound. He re-enlisted in 1914 and was taken on again, but in 1915 he was discharged due to the same head injury. He had reached the rank of Petty Officer. He served on over 25 ships. During his service Alfred became a noted marksman with rifle and pistol and he used to shoot at Bisley for the Royal Navy. The photo on the left shows Alfred at one such event. We understand that Alfred died in 1918 aged 43. The cause of death was Spanish Influenza. His widow, Elizabeth was left pregnant and having to care for her large family. As a result some of the children had to be taken into an orphanage for naval children.
Captain Wilfrid Montagu Bruce – Wilfrid’s sister Kathleen had married Robert Falcon Scott in 1908 and Wilfrid was a member of Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition in 1910 – 1913. Initially Wilfrid helped to collect and transport sledge dogs and ponies from Vladivostock to New Zealand. Later he served as second officer on board Terra Nova on both the southern voyages.
During the First World War, he was in charge of minesweepers at Lowestoft, and was promoted to the rank of captain in 1917. He left the sea soon afterwards and became a country gentleman and farmer. Wilfrid moved to Thornbury area around 1930. By 1938 he lived at The Elms in Gloucester Road with his sister, Rosamund. They were still listed as living there in the 1950 electoral register. He died in Epsom Surrey on 21st September 1953 aged 78. Read more about the Bruce family
Edgar Thomas Cole – born on 20th February 1884. We are not sure about his parents. In the 1891 census he was in the Thornbury Workhouse with a couple of other Coles who could be siblings. Edgar joined the Royal Navy on 23rd February 1903. He was working as a carter at that time and described as being 5ft 6 3/4 inches, brown hair, blue eyes and fresh complexion.
His probate record gives his home address as 7 Abbey Place Nuneaton in Warwickshire and names Florence Harriett Bowler wife of Alfred Russell Bowler.
George Croome – he was born in Almondsbury on 28th October 1888. His full name was Charles George William Croome, the son of Charles William Croome, a letter carier/rural postman, and his wife Charlotte. ‘George’ had a very difficult start to his life. The 1901 census shows his mother is in prison in Bristol and that he was living in the Thornbury Workhouse with his siblings. His father was still a postman in Almondsbury. By 1911 we assume that George was in the Navy. His father was in the workhouse and his mother was a patient in Barnwood House Institution at Gloucester.
George was a leading stoker when he was killed on 31st May 1916. He was sailing on the battlecruiser, HMS Indefatigable when she was sunk at the Battle of Jutland. She was hit several times in the first minutes of the “Run to the South”, the opening phase of the battlecruiser’s action. Shells from a German battlecruiser caused an explosion ripping a hole in her hull, and a second explosion hurled large pieces of the ship 200 feet in the air. Only two of the crew of 1,019 survived. George is listed on the Plymouth Naval Memorial and at St Mary’s Church, Thornbury.
Archibald William Fill – born on 10th January 1885, the son of Thomas John Golding Fill, schoolmaster at the National School and his wife, Fanny. Archibald was baptised on 14th March 1885. He joined the Royal Navy as a ‘3rd Writer’ on 4th May 1905, initially signing on for a period of 12 years. At the time he was described as a Clerk, 5ft 8 3/4 inches, dark brown hair, grey eyes, pale fresh complexion with a large scar on muscle left arm. He went on to serve until 1926 by which time he had reached the rank of ‘Chief Petty Officer Writer’ during which time he served on at least 12 different ships, some which were actually training depots and naval barracks.
Herbert Gallop – Herbert served in the Royal Navy. He was on HMS Commonwealth in the 1915 Roll of Honour for Thornbury. He had earlier served in the Royal Marines Light Infantry. Four of his brothers served in the Army. Click here to read more
Frederick Gardner – he was born on 13th August 1876, the son of Henry Gardner, a labourer and his wife, Mary. At the time Frederick was baptised in Thornbury on 7th October 1877 his parents were living at Grovesend.
Frederick joined the Royal Navy on 25th March 1896 at which time he was described as a Striker, 5ft 6 inches, brown hair, blue eyes and fresh complexion. He signed on for 12 years, but in 1905 he bought his way out. He had worked as a stoker on nine different ships during that time. Frederick married Rose Eleanor Jones in the Chepstow area in 1905. At the start of the First World War, Frederick re-enrolled and served on the HMS Pembroke and HMS Victory until 4th June 1915 when he was assumed to be killed in action. The HMS Victory was sailing as part of the Howe Battalion involved in an operation in the Dardanelles. Frederick is not listed on the war memorials in Thornbury, but is mentioned on the Helles Memorial in Turkey. His widow was living at Rose Cottage, Crick near Chepstow. He was included on the War Memorial at Caerwent
Frederick Charles Goulding – the son of Frederick William Goulding and his wife Sarah nee Gibbons. The family lived at Coombe Cottage in what is now Gloucester Road in Thornbury. Frederick’s war record shows that he was born on 1st January 1898 and that he was a fitter and turner. Frederick’s details show that he served from 7th August 1916. He was discharged not physically fit on 15th August 1918.
George Jones – born in Thornbury on 20th June 1870, the son of Henry Jones a farm labourer and his wife, Ruth. In the 1871 census they were living at the Hackett and in the 1891 census they were at Crossways Lane. He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 14 and on 20th June 1888 enlisted for a period, initially of 12 years. At that time he was 5ft 3 1/4 inches high (later he grew to 5ft 6 1/2 inches). He had brown hair, hazel eyes and fresh complexion. He continued in the service until August 1910 when he was retired with a shore pension. During this period he served on numerous ships including Impregnable, Ganges, Dreadnought, Cruiser, Excellent, Victory, Nelson, Majestic, etc. His character varied from fair (when he was punished for disobedience of orders) to very good. He did have three short period in the cells, the longest period was for 10 days.
When the First World War broke out in 1914 George was re-enlisted and served again on HMS Excellent and HMS Victory l, a landbase at Portsmouth. He died on 7th October 1915 when he drowned in Roach Basin Lock in Cardiff. He was then a Chief Gunner. The inquest into his death reported that it was an accident. He had been heading to join his ship bound for Africa. At 10.15pm he had passed the guard on the gate who said George was quite sober. Another witness heard a splash in the water and heard a voice. A life belt was thrown in but as it was dark no-one could see clearly what happened. The Coroner noted that the lights around the docks had been considerably diminished to comply with military precautions. George was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 13th October 1915. His name appears on the War Memorial in St Mary’s Church, Thornbury.
Thomas Henry Lambert – born in Thornbury in 1883, the son of George Lambert, a stone quarry labourer and his wife, Sarah A. In the 1891 census they were living at Grovesend Slade. Thomas joined the Royal Navy on 10th December 1901. He was described as being a builder’s labourer 5ft 3 3/4 inches, light brown hair, blue eyes and fresh complexion. He started as a Stoker. In 1916 he was on the HMS Panther when he received one of the gifts from Thornbury to the serving soldiers and sailors. He continued in the service until 1923 when he had reached the rank of Chief Stoker. He served on numerous ships.
Frank Lanfear – Frank was the second son of Thomas and Annie Lanfear of Easton Hill. He was born in 1880 and baptised Thomas Francis Lanfear on 14th February 1886 when the family were living at Crossways. The 1901 census shows he had already joined the Royal Navy. We don’t know anything about his earlier service, but we know he married Elizabeth Ann Francis in Narberth Pembrokeshire in 1914. In the First World War, he was serving as a Gunlayer in the Royal Navy Reserve.
An article appeared in the Gazette in December 1917 reporting that Frank was home on sick leave after some terrible experiences at sea. On 12th October his ship was struck by am enemy torpedo 350 miles from the coast of France. The explosion blew up part of the deck and the ship’s lifeboat was blown to bits. Frank, almost blinded by the dust and smoke struggled to his gun but could not see the submarine. His ship sank in a few minutes. Frank managed to jump ship and swim away from the vessel and he was eventually picked up by a small boat. He and his mates had to survive ‘much privation and hardship, subsisting for seven days on a small supply of biscuits and water. After a week in the open boat they sighted a lighthouse off the Bay of Biscay and effected a landing at a Breton village called Penmaren. Their feet were so swollen that they were unable to walk’. Of the 10 men in the boat, one had jumped overboard and was drowned while two others lost their senses. They were lucky that they had managed to keep their oars throughout the journey. Frank survived the war and died in Narberth in 1936 aged 56.
Albert Charles Mills – born 5th December 1883 and baptised on 6th January 1884, the son of William Thomas Mills, a labourer and his wife, Sarah Ann of Lower Morton. He joined the Royal Navy on 5th December 1901 when he was described as a coal miner, 5ft 2 1/8th inches, light hair, grey eyes, fresh complexion with a scar on his forehead. He served on several ships reaching the rank of able seaman until 1908 when he bought himself out of the service. In 1914 he rejoined the service and stayed there until 1921 when he was demobbed.
Francis George Neal – ‘George’ as he was known was the son of John and Annie Neal of Gordon Cottage, Crossways. He had already served 22 years in the Forces before the War started. In 1909 he married Jane Ellen Merrett who was born in Charfield. The 1911 census shows Francis George as a coast guard living at the Padstow Coastguard Station. He and Jane had a daughter, Beatrice F who was 6 months old and born in Devonport. He had to give up his hope of demobilization to serve in the War. At the time war broke out George was still serving as Leading Boatman coastguard in the coastguard station at Padstow. He was a leading seaman aboard the H.M.S. Monmouth which was involved in the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile on 1st November 1914. She was outmatched by the German squadron which included the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau. There were no survivors and Francis George’s body was never recovered. He had served 27 years in the service. He was aged 37 when he died and left a widow and two children, one who died shortly after Francis George’s death. Jane’s address at the time of his death was in Charfield.
Thomas Emmanuel Newman – born in Thornbury on 13th October 1900, son of William Newman and Sarah Bendall. The 1901 census shows the family living at Crossways, Thornbury where his father was employed as a rural messenger in the Post Office. By the 1911 census the family had moved to Chipping Sodbury where his father was a rural postman. Thomas joined the Royal Navy as a stoker in 1919. He was described as 5ft 9 inches, brown hair, brown eyes and a tattoo of a horse’s head on left forearm. He served on several ships until September 1923 when he left the service. He re-joined in November 1924, again as a Stoker.
Frederick (Nelmes) Pritchard – Frederick was baptised on 3rd June 1898, under the name of Frederick Reginald Nelmes, the son of Thomas Nelmes, a labourer and his wife Elizabeth of The Hackett. Thomas Nelmes had married Elizabeth Church in December 1879. The disparity in surname appears to stem from the fact that Frederick’s father Thomas was baptised in December 1854 in his mother’s maiden name of Nelmes as his parents (Jesse Pritchard and Ann Nelmes) were not actually married until 3rd May 1856. Thomas and family seem to have been known as Pritchard and appear as such in Censuses. It was only in the church records that the surname Nelmes is used for Thomas and his children. It is even possible that Frederick never knew that he was baptised as Frederick Nelmes.
Frederick was one of two brothers who fought in the First World War. His brother was Jesse Pritchard. Frederick joined the Royal Marines and was involved in the Marines’ retreat from Antwerp and after returning to England was sent to the Dardanelles where he was wounded in the shoulder. He was in hospital in Egypt for 14 weeks and then sent back to Haslar Hospital in Gosport. The newspaper article at the time said that it was feared his arm would be of little use to him.
A family tree on the Ancestry website shows that Frederick may have married Alice Beatrice Walters. It also indicates that he died on March 3rd 1928 and was buried in Cardiff cemetery.
Victor Pritchard – in researching the history of 4 Bath Road we discovered that two of the sons of Henry Pritchard and his wife Sarah served in the Forces during the War. Victor was in the Royal Navy from 1903 to 1925. His brother Gilbert served in the Army and was killed in France. Click here to read about the family
Mervyn Harley Rodney – born on 16th August 1890 and baptised at Thornbury on 21st September 1890. He was the son of Robert William Henry Rodney, gentleman and his wife, Henrietta Katharine Letitia (nee Williams-Wynn). who lived at The Parks, Thornbury. The 1901 census shows he was a pupil at St Vincents School, Eastborne. Mervyn joined the Royal Navy as a Midshipman on 16th August 1909. He was promoted to 4th Mate and then 3rd Mate in 1910. He became acting Sub Lieutenant in 1914 and then Acting Lieutenant in 1915. He married Dorothy Norton-Thompson in Axbridge in 1915. His son Nigel was born in Axbridge in 1917.
During the War he served on HMS Active, HMS Maidstone, HMS Eagle, HMS Etterick, HMS Excellent, HMS Magpie, HMS Blenheim for Kennet, HMS Egremont and HMS Renown. In 1917 he was promoted to Lieutenant. Whilst on the Etterick he was noted for ‘his coolness on the occasion of Etterick being torpedoed off Beachy Head when there were 49 casualties”. He was demobbed on 31st July 1919. He appears to have joined the Merchant Navy for a time serving as a 4th Officer. The photo on the right was taken from his seaman’s record.
In 1910 his home address changed from The Parks, to The Hill, Almondsbury. Mervyn married again in 1921. The marriage took place in Brussells and his wife was Louise Halleaux. During the 1920’s he moved about a bit, first to Weston Super Mare, then Salop and then Northumberland before moving to Australia in 1923. The naval records indicate he offered himself for service in 1941 but there is no indication that this offer was taken up. He died 5th October 1964.
John Ryan – we know from the war memorial at St Mary’s Church that John Ryan was a Leading Stoker on the HMS Monmouth when he was killed. The service record available on Ancestry shows John Henry Ryan was born in Thornbury on 27th August 1876. The 1881 census shows John living with his parents, William Ryan, a hawker and his wife, Mary, both of whom were born in Cork. At that time they were living at 51 St Mary Street, Thornbury. We don’t know any more about John in his early days so we assume he joined the navy. He married Thirza Bickley in Devonport in 1911. They had a daughter, Eunice M born in Devonport in 1913.
The H.M.S. Monmouth was involved in the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile in 1914. She was outmatched by the German squadron which included the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau. There were no survivors and John’s body was never recovered.