He was born on 16th January 1886 at Green Street Green near Chelsfield Kent, the son of Frederick William (Plumber) and Amy Hutchings. 1901: A Scholar with his family at “Homestead” Peel Road, South Woodford. He was working a Plumbers Boy when he enlisted in the Royal Navy for 12 years on 16th January 1904. His record suggests that he was recovered from desertion in August 1905, but thereafter he advanced through the ranks to Petty Officer. He does not appear in the 1911 Census, but the family home remained at “Homestead” Peel Road. In 1915 he married Gladys Elvina Lee. At his death their home was at “Harold Villa” Woodville Road, South Woodford.
He served on a number of large ships including the new Battlecruiser HMS Renown in 1916. His record reveals a rather drastic change from 25th February 1917 to 30th April 1917 when he was with “Q10”, and from 1st May 1917 aboard HMS “Begonia.”
“Begonia”, built in 1915 as an Azalea Flower Class Sloop, was torpedoed and damaged by the U44 in 1916. Taken to Haulbowline Cork for repair, she emerged as a “Q” ship, (armed but disguised as a merchantman), and having the alternative designations Q10, SS Dolcis, or SS Jessop. The “Q” designator was derived from Queenstown, the old name for Cork in Ireland, where these vessels were based.
If a U Boat was detected, “Hands to Panic Stations” would be ordered, with some men running all about in fear and launching a rowing boat to escape. Having been duped, when the submarine surfaced to open fire with its deck gun, a white ensign was unfurled and the remaining crew would engage it with shellfire. The phrase panic stations which can still be heard today, has its origins in this deception.
On 3rd September 1917 “Begonia” left Devonport to patrol the Western Approaches in the area between 5 and 15 degrees west. Nothing more was heard from her or the 100 man crew. She was formally declared lost with all hands on 6th October 1917.
It is certainly possible the ship was torpedoed by one of three U boats known to be operating in that general area, but as each of those also failed to return, the true reason for the loss remains unknown.
Research by Adrian Lee, Local Historian