Date of birth: 20th November 1896
Place of birth: Luton Bedfordshire
Service No.: K/24489
Rank: Stoker 1st Class
Regiment / Division: Royal Navy
Died: 5th June 1916 aged 19 years
Death Location: At Sea
Life before the War
John was born 20 November 1896 in Luton, Bedfordshire to parents George William and Jane, aka Jeanette nee McWilliams. He had eight siblings – Jane (aka Jeanette) 1889, Ellen (aka Nellie) 1891 – 1937, George William 1892 – 1962, Florence May 1894, Harold 1899, Reuben 1901 – 1940, Mary 1902 – 1902 and Joseph Leonard 1904 – 1974.
In the 1901 census, John along with his parents George and Jane, were living at 5 Raleigh Street, Bedford. Living with them were John’s siblings.
By 1911 the family had moved to Southampton. They were living at 55 Romsey Road, Shirley, Southampton. John’s father George was an Electric Winder.
John served with the Royal Navy as a Stoker 1st Class aboard HMS Hampshire, regimental number K/24489. The ship was blown apart by 22 mines which the Germans had laid in the sea. John died 5 June 1916. He is Remembered with Honour on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
The Memorial is situated on Southsea Common overlooking the promenade. After the First World War an Admiralty committee recommended three ports in Great Britain – Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. These Memorials would recognise members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea and therefore no permanent memorial could be provided.
John, posthumously, received the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
HMS Hampshire was carrying her crew of 643 men along with Field Marshall Earl Kitchener, the Minister of War, with his staff. The crew pulled up anchor at 4.40 p.m. on 5th June 1916 leaving Scapa Flow for Russia for a diplomatic mission. She had HMS Unity and Victor as her escorts. By 6.30 p.m. the escorts were battling against a storm and ordered to return to base. HMS Hampshire fought through the storm. Unknown to the master, a German U Boat had earlier visited Scapa Flow and had laid 22 mines.
At 7.40 p.m. the ship hit the mines and sunk rapidly. Kitchener, his staff and most of the crew perished with only 12 men surviving. Speculation suggests that the ship was sabotaged by Fritz Joubert Duqesne who later received the Iron Cross for this act.