Date of birth 1907
Place of Birth Shirley Southampton
Date of Marriage 1934
Place of Marriage Southampton
Service number P/JX 140720
Rank/Rating Able Seaman
Service Royal Navy
Ship HMS Royal Oak
Died 14th October 1939
Death Location Scapa Flow.
Life Before the War.
Charles was born in Southampton in April 1907, his parents were Walter (1886 – 1964) and Annie (nee White 1888 – 1955).
The census of 1901 shows Walter living at 152 Old Kent Road.Southwark and working as a servant, boot boy for a family where the head was a Pawnbroker’s Manager.
Water and Annie were married in South Stoneham. Southampton October 1906, they had seven children Charles W (1907), Mable (1909) Frank Henry (1913 – 1979) Nellie Louise (1911) Annie E.E (1915) Walter Ernest(1916 – 1984)George Henry (1918 – 1985) Evelyn S (1920)
In the census of 1911 his father Walter was working as a Carman carrying goods,Annie was not working, the family were living at 19 Pound Street. Shirley.Southampton
in 5 rooms with Charles,Mable and Nellie.
Also registered on a separate census sheet by the same enumerator for 19 Pound Street.Shirley.Southampton in the 1911 census was Annie’s mother Elisabeth (a widow by this time) registered as the head of the house, along with Annie’s brothers Frank who was aged 19 working as a porter for a house furnisher and Ernest aged 15 who was unemployed.
Charles’s grand father (Walter’s father) was John H Heather a Groom Cabman born in Brighton, his grand mother Martha came from Poplar.London, they had 4 sons Harry (1884),Walter(1886),Albert(1888) and William(1889) and 1 daughter Mabel(1890). The census of 1891 shows the family living at 25 Houndwell Yard. St.Mary’s Southampton.
In June 1934 Charles married Kathleen Mitchell who was born in December 1909 in Southampton. They had 1 son Michael born 23 June 1937 who married Christine Thompson in June 1963.
Walter’s brother William was living at 48 Cannon Street.Shirley, by 1948 Williams wife was registered at 48 Cannon Street.
Following Charles’s death Kathleen remarried William Fry in September 1943, she died in 1987.
Walter Heather was a survivor of the British Expeditionary Force of 1914, he was always proud to walk with the “Old Contemptibles” in Southampton’s Remembrance Day parades.
n.b. Pound Street and Cannon Street were the same, following the extension of the Southampton Borough boundaries in 1924, and the realisation that there were two Pound Streets. Pound Street in Shirley was changed to avoid confusion. Kelly’s yearly house directories show that 19 Pound Street Shirley was in the name of Mrs White until 1935. In 1935 Charles father Walter was named as living at 19 Cannon Street.Shirley.Southampton in the directory.
Charles started his service with the Royal Navy before the Second World War and applied to join the submarine service, but had his application rejected. He then served on HMS London a Heavy Cruiser, before being transferred to HMS Royal Oak a Royal Sovereign Class Battleship, he served as an able seaman.
On 14th October 1939 just 6 weeks into World War 2, HMS Royal Oak was at anchor in her war time fleet home of Scapa Flow in The Orkneys, at 1.16 am a German Submarine – no U-47 fired three torpedoes at her – none hit her.
At 1.23 three more torpedoes were fired, the 3rd hit her starboard side and caused a magazine to explode, HMS Royal Oak rolled over and sank in 19 minutes. 833 lives were lost (including 100 boy sailors) and Charles Walter Heather,only 375 survived.
Charles is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 33 Column 3, as well as Southampton Cenotaph Glass Wall.
On the 8th November 2013 divers from the Royal Navy went to the wreck of the Royal Oak to replace the White Ensign on her in time for Remembrance Day.
Every year, around Remembrance Day in a show of respect, a team from the Northern Diving Group of the Royal Navy based in Faslane return to the Orkneys to inspect the Royal Oak and place the Royal Navy’s standard on her.
Researched by Brenda White March 2014 with some information and the photograph of Charles provided by his son Michael Heather.
Permission should be requested from Michael Heather before copying the photograph.
We thank him for verifying the story and his interest in our work and give him our appreciation.