Tuesday, March 17, 2015

212821 Leading Seaman Harry Bristow, HMS Ready

Harry Bristow was born on 25th March 1885 and enlisted in the Royal Navy on 30th January 1901.  His rank was Boy, 2nd Class and he appears in the 1901 census of England & Wales on the return for HMS St Vincent, a Royal Navy first class training ship stationed at Portsmouth.  is name His place of birth is noted as “Sussex, Chailey, Lewes”.   

The 1891 census shows him living at home with his parents and siblings at North Common, Chailey.  The family at the time consisted of William Bristow (father, aged 41, working as a gardener), Jane Bristow (mother, aged 33) and their six children: William (14, a general labourer), Lilly (11), Harry (6), Rose E (3), Gilbert (1) and Nellie (nine days).  In time, William Bristow and Gilbert Bristow would also serve their King and Country during the First World War as would another son, Sidney Bristow. born in 1895. 

Harry was stationed at HMS St Vincent until 11th August 1902, transferred to HMS Agincourt on 12th August and then transferred again to HMS Australia two days later.  He remained with HMS Australia until 6th February 1903 when he transferred again to HMS Venus.   He remained with HMS Venus until 30th June that when he transferred to HMS Apollo.  On 25th March that year, on reaching the age of eighteen, his rating was upgraded from Boy, 1st Class (he been promoted from 2nd Class on 16th January 1902) to Ordinary Seaman and his reckoned service in the Royal Navy starts from this date.  In March 1903 it was noted that he was five feet seven inches tall (having grown three and a half inches since he joined as a boy in 1901), had red hair, brown eyes and a freckled complexion. 

Over the next seventeen years, Harry Bristow served aboard the following ships: 

HMS Surprise: 17th November 1904 – 4th March 1907
HMS Excellent: 8th September 1907 – 1st March 1908
HMS Blenheim: 13th April 1908 – 16th July 1909
HMS Tyne: 23rd August 1909 – 7th November 1909 (except for three days spent in the cells at Chatham in October of that year)
HMS Vindictive: 4th March 1911 – 9th April 1911
HMS Forte: 10th April 1911 – 4th June 1913
HMS Stag: 9th December 1913 – 17th August 1916
HMS Sabrina: 20th September 1916 – 14th August 1917
HMS Greenwich: 15th August 1917 – 7th October 1917
HMS Sandhurst: 8th October 1917 – 7th May 1918
HMS Ready: 8th May 1918 – 3d November 1919 

Harry appears to have had a love/hate relationship with the Royal Navy.  Apart from the three days spent in the cells in 1909, he was court martialled the following year.  His record notes: “Sentenced by CM 19.12.10 to 21 days imprisonment with Hard labour.  Charge of striking his Superior Officer, not proved, but found guilty of using violence against his Superior Officer, being in the execution of his office.” 

At the time of his Court Martial, Harry Bristow’s rating was Leading Seaman.  He was reduced to the rank of Able Seaman, reduced to 2nd Class for conduct and deprived of one good conduct badge.  (In fact, during his Navy career up until the time he joined the Royal Fleet Reserve on 4th March 1919, he was deprived of five good conduct badges.  As a good conduct badge also carried with it an extra penny for every one earned, this would have had serious implications for his weekly wage). 

Although Harry Bristow’s character rates from “fair” to “very good” throughout his Navy career, his ability is more often than not noted as “superior” (and he was re-promoted to Leading Seaman less than eight months after his court martial).  This indicates a problem with his temperament but certainly not his ability as a seaman.  He also qualified as a Seaman Gunner in March 1908 and re-qualified in October 1913. 

Harry Bristow elected to re-join the Royal Navy on 13th August 1920 in order to complete time for his pension. 

As early as October 1914, Chailey Parish Magazine had noted that Henry Bristow was serving his King and Country.  In October 1915 he is recorded as Bristow, Leading Seaman H, HMS Stag and in November 1916 as Bristow, Leading Seaman H, HMS Sabrina.  A year later, in November 1917, he is recorded as serving aboard a third ship, HMS Sandhurst.  The final entry for Henry Bristow in Chailey Parish Magazine appears in July 1919 where he is recorded as, Bristow, L Seaman H, HMS Sandhurst. 

HMS Stag was a destroyer which was launched on 18th November 1899.  It weighed around 310 tons, had a top speed of 30 knots and a compliment of 63 crew.  Its armament comprised one two pounder and two torpedo tubes. It was broken up in 1921.

HMS Sabrina was a Medina Class Flatiron Gunboat built between 1876 and 1877.  She was sold in 1922.

HMS Sandhurst  was launched on 14th December 1905 and was the ex merchant ship Manipur which had been built by Harland and Wolf in Belfast.  The ship served throughout the First World War, first as a dummy HMS Indomitable and latterly as a Fleet repair ship.  The ship saw service until 1946 when she was finally scrapped at Dalmuir, Scotland.
The photo on this page is taken from www.battleships-cruisers.co.uk and shows some of the crew of HMS Sandhurst.

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