Date of birth: 22nd October 1889
Place of birth: Southampton
Service: Royal Navy
Vessel: HMS Neptune
Died: 23rd April 1918 aged 28 years
Death Location: Zeebruge and Ostend, aboard HMS Vindictive
Before the War
Arthur was born 22nd October 1889 in Southampton to Edward Twyford (1854 – 29/11/1947) and Rose Margaret Chamberlain (nee Lewis 1863 – 21/2/1933). His father was Dr. Edward Twyford Chamberlain, a surgeon, of Rockferry, Cheshire. His mother was from Southampton. Arthur was the only son and he had a sister Vera who was born in 1891. She died 13th December 1956.
Arthur’s mother Rose passed away on 21st February 1933 and his father Edward passed away on 29th November 1947. His effects were left to Vera, who never married, and the housekeeper.
On 1901 Census Arthur’s parents were living at Avenue Road, Banstead, Nr Epsom, Surrey, with his sister Vera Margaret who is 10. His father is a Doctor at a general practice. Working for the family is a cook, parlour maid and domestic groom. Arthur would have been 12 but he is not on this census so may have been away at school.
On 1911 Census Arthur’s parents and his sister are living at Adversane, Billingshurst. The parlour maid from the previous census is now employed as the housekeeper and they no longer employ a cook and groom.
Arthur joined the Royal Navy 15th May 1904 and trained on HMS Britannia until 15th September 1905 when he completed his training. He was reported as being “promising, reliable and smart”.
He then served as a midshipman on the armoured cruiser HMS Hampshire from 15th September 1905 to 20 August 1907 and again received a favourable report “intelligent and zealous”.
Arthur’s next service was on the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Hindustan from 20 August 1907 to 11 Jan 1909 and he was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant on 30th November 1908.
He then went on to serve on the Torpedo Boat Destroyer TB-21. Although he was “inexperienced as a signalman” again he had good reports from his commanding officer.
Arthur returned to HMS Hindustan on 5th October 1909 but was sent to the destroyer E Class HMS Colne on 17th April 1910 to 25th May 1910 as one of the ship’s sub-lieutenants was ill.
Arthur reapplied to HMS Hindustan and was appointed to the ship and was also promoted to Lieutenant on 22nd June 1911. On 8th November 1911 he sailed on HMS Pelorus to join the 3rd class protected cruiser HMS Perseus which was part of the East Indies Fleet. He remained with this ship until 19th September 1913.
Arthur served in the Persian Gulf 1909 to 1914.
He then had short services on HMS Pembroke and HMS Blenheim before he was admitted to Haslar Hospital on 18th July 1914 for 3 months suffering from Neurasthenia (shell shock).
When he was fit again he joined HMS Venerable on 2nd October 1914 until 16th July 1916 when he then joined HMS Neptune. Whilst aboard Venerable he was awarded the Bronze Medal for Military Valour (Italy). Medaglia Al Valore Militare (Military Medal for Valor) was awarded to the military for exceptional valour.
On 23rd April 1918 Arthur was killed in action aboard HMS Vindictive at Zeebrugge. The Zeebrugge raid was an attempt to block the port to prevent German ships from leaving. The German navy used this port as a base for their U-boats and ships.
Admiral David Beatty, Commander of the Grand Fleet, offered to provide 200 sailors and requested volunteers.
“Lieutenant Commander Chamberlain a young officer from the Neptune was given the task of selecting fifty men from his ship”. From text of the original 1993 website of the raid on Zeebrugge. – McKenzie.uk.com.
These men formed ‘B’ Company of the storming company. The details of the raid were kept secret and even during training the sailors were not given any information about it. They were not informed until they were aboard HMS Hindustan, a few days before the attack and they were then given the opportunity to withdraw, but no-one did. Barricades had been constructed on HMS Vindictive so that the troops could hide behind until she came alongside the port. She arrived just after midnight on St George’s day – 23rd April 1918.
On the approach the men did not hide behind the barricade and stood on the open deck.
Arthur was killed outright. It was known that this was a suicide mission and those that took part displayed courage.
This raid is commemorated every year in Dover and Zebrugge.
Arthur was mentioned “for services on blocking operations against Zeebrugge and Ostend 22 – 23 April 1918. Did good work prior to the operation and set fine example of valour to his men to the last”. From his service paper from National Archives.
Arthur was mentioned in dispatches by Vice-Admiral Sir Roger J. B. Keyes, K.C.B., C.M.G., C.V.O., D.S.O., Commanding the Dover Patrol, for distinguished services on the night of the 22nd-23rd April, 1918.
Below quotes from The Times Monday 29th April 1918:
“With the White Ensign under which they had fought their last fight floating over them at half-mast, two officers and 64 men killed in the raid were buried at Dover on Saturday in a large grave in St. James’s Cemetery and was the occasion of a notable tribute of public sympathy and admiration”.
“Sir Roger Keyes sent wreaths of red roses for the two officers who were buried – Lieutenant A. B. G. T. Chamberlain and Sub-Lieutenant Maurice C. H. Lloyd, D.S.C., both of the Vindictive. Each of the wreaths was inscribed “In proud and grateful memory of a very gallant officer who died for England on St. George’s Day.” Another handsome wreath of red and white roses was sent by Admiral Keyes in memory of the gallant petty officers and men on the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. It bore a similar inscription”.
The World War 1 Zeebrugge Bell was presented to Dover Corporation by King Albert 1 of Belgium after the war. It hangs outside the town hall and is rung every St Georges Day to commemorate the Zeebrugge Raid. This bell was originally located at the port of Zeebrugge.
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