Monday, March 16, 2015

K28335 Stoker Gilbert Bristow, HMS Mermaid

The 1901 census for England and Wales lists one G Gilbert in the parish of Chailey and that is eleven year old Gilbert Bristow, born at Chailey and living with his family at Grantham Cottage, North Chailey.  In 1901, the household comprised: William Bristow (head, aged 51, working as a domestic gardener), his wife Jane (aged 42) and their five children: William (aged 24 and working as a general agricultural labourer), Gilbert (aged 11), Nellie (aged 10), Sidney (aged six) and Dora (aged two).  Another brother, Harry (16), was serving with the Royal Navy and stationed at Portsmouth. 

On his record of service held at the National Archives in Kew, Gilbert Bristow’s date of birth is noted as 4th July 1889.  He enlisted with the Royal Navy on 11th October 1915 for the duration of the war, giving his place of birth as Chailey and his occupation as engine driver. On enlistment he was five feet, six and a half inches tall with auburn hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion.  A number of tattoos are also recorded: St George and the dragon on his chest, a lady on his right upper arm and hands across the sea and another lady on his right forearm. 

His role on enlistment was Stoker, 2nd Class but he was promoted to Stoker, 1st Class on 18th December 1915.  Between 11th October 1915 and 19th March 1916, Gilbert Bristow was stationed at Portsmouth, the last week here being spent at HMS Vernon, which was a torpedo and mining school. 

On 20th March he transferred to HMS Mermaid and remained with this ship until 2nd October 1918.  Between 3rd October 1918 and 4th February 1919 he was again at Portsmouth, finally being demobbed there. Throughout his service, Gilbert Bristow’s character is described as Very Good and his ability rated between satisfactory and superior.

In February 1916, Chailey Parish Magazine had noted that Gilbert was serving as a Stoker in the Royal Navy.  In April 1916 that information was updated to include the fact that he was serving aboard HMS Mermaid.  That information is repeated over every successive month until the final entry in July 1919. 

HMS Mermaid, along with HMS Cheerful formed the Mermaid Class Destroyers.  The ships were built by Hawthorne Leslie and weighed between 355 and 385 tons.  They had a top speed of thirty knots and were armed with one 12 pounder and two torpedo tubes. Each ship had a compliment of 63 men. 

HMS Mermaid was launched in 1898 and broken up in 1919, two years after her sister ship HMS Cheerful.  
William, Harry and Sidney Bristow would also serve during the First World War and Sidney  would be killed aboard HMS Invincible at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916.

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