Joseph Samuel George Underwood was born in 1896 in Woodford Bridge. He was the eldest of ten children born to Robert, an ‘attendant to the insane at the [Claybury Mental] asylum,’ and Emily Underwood. In 1901, Joseph lived with his parents at Rose Cottages, Woodford Bridge. By the 1911 census, the family, including Joseph, had moved to 8 Brunel Road, Chigwell, and Joseph was working as a telegram messenger.
Joseph joined the Navy and by 1914 he had been serving for two years. On the 5th September 1914, he was on board the HMS Pathfinder as part of a flotilla of eight destroyers patrollingthe Firth of Forth. The ship was hit at 15.50 below the bridge by a Mk.G Torpedo fired by U21. A second greater explosion, believed to be caused by burning cordite in a magazine or the boilers, destroyed the front of the ship which then lurched and sank by the bows. Joseph Underwood was among over 250 men lost, and his body was not recovered. His name appears on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
The HMS Pathfinder was the first ship to be sunk by a powered torpedo fired from submarine.
Research by Adrian Lee and Redbridge Museum
Commonwealth War Graves Commission