Sunday, June 14, 2015

J55075 Seaman James William Gaston, HMS Canada

James William Gaston was born at Newick on 15th May 1898.  At the time the 1901 census was taken he was living with his family at Stair Bridge Lane, Bolney, Sussex.  The household comprised John Gaston (head, aged 39, born in Newick, a stockman on a farm), his wife Ann Gaston (aged 36, born in Chailey) and five children: Albert Henry Gaston (aged 15, working as a farm labourer), John George Gaston (aged ten), Annie Naomi Gaston (aged eight), Lizzie Gaston (aged five) and James (aged two). 

The census return taken ten years earlier shows the family recorded on the census return for Newick and living on Fletching Common.  John Gaston is recorded as a farm labourer. 

James joined the Royal Navy at Portsmouth on 27th June 1916 for the duration of hositilities.  He was five feet six and a quarter inches tall, had black hair, black eyes and a fresh complexion and bore a scar on the front of his chest.  He gave his occupation as farm labourer.  He was given the rating of ordinary seaman, the service number J55075 and posted to the shore-based HMS Victory.  He remained there until 25th August when he was posted to HMS Canada, remaining with this ship until he was demobbed on 25th April 1919.  On 5th July 1918 he had been promoted to able seaman. 

Throughout his service with the Royal Navy, James’ character was rated as very good and his ability as satisfactory.  Chailey Parish Magazine had first noted him in November 1916 serving aboard HMS Canada. 

The photo that appears on this page was one that James sent to his old headmaster, John Oldaker, of Newick school.  He had been a pupil there (1906-1908), as had his brother Albert Henry Gaston, and both boys had sent photos of themselves serving their King and Country.

124445 Gunner Thomas John Funnell, Royal Field Artillery

Thomas John Funnell was born at Chailey in 1881, his birth registered at Lewes in the December quarter of that year.  He appears on the 1891 census of England and Wales living with his family at North Common, Chailey.  The household comprised Alfred Funnell (head, married, aged 41, a grocer born in Newick), his wife Harriet Funnell (nee Simmons, aged 43, born in Chailey) and two children: Edward A (aged ten, born in Bolney) and Thomas. 

He appears on the 1901 census as a 19 year old wheelwright’s assistant living at North Common with his parents.  Edward (an agricultural labourer) is recorded at the home of his uncle and aunt, Edward and Alice Simmons of Middleton Farm House, Chailey village. 

On 12th December 1905, Thomas married Ellen Louisa Thompsett (a widow) at Chailey Parish Church.  Three children are recorded on his surviving army service papers: Thomas John Funnell (born at Wildfields Farm, Chailey on 4th October 1909), Caroline Mary Funnell (born at Wildfields Farm on 7th January 1911) and Winifred May (born on 10th March 1913 at Compt Hill, Chailey). 

Chailey Parish Magazine notes in January 1916 that he has attested and his name appears in an official list of the B reserve under Lord Derby’s Scheme.  He was obviously employed by Jesse King on Chailey Green (probably as a carpenter or wheelwright as noted in the census return of 1901) as his army file contains a letter from Jesse King to the military authorities, releasing Thomas from his employment.  The letter is dated  11th April 1916. 

Thomas enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery at Woolwich on 14th April 1916 (although his service reckons form the previous day when he attested at the RFA Depot number 4 and was postred to Woolwich).  He was given the army service number 124445.  His Short Service Attestation Form gives the information that he was married, 34 years old, five feet eleven and a half inches tall and had a deformed fifth toe on his right foot.  His home address is given as Wildfields Farm and his next of kin as Ellen Louisa Funnell. 

On 17th April 1916 a certificate of trade proficiency at Woolwich certified that Funnell had “been tested in the workshops of RM Repository Ordnance College, Woolwich and proves himself a Skilled Wheeler.”  Ten days later he was duly appointed Wheeler and posted to the 20th Reserve Battery, Royal Field Artillery.  Five days later he was in France. 

In June 1916, Chailey Parish Magazine reported that Thomas was with the Divisional Artillery Column (DAC) in France.  On 26th December 1916 his surviving army service papers confirm that he was posted to number 4 section of the 6th DAC. 

By 15th April 1917 however, Thomas was back in England and would not return to France.  From what Chailey resident Reg Philpott says, it would appear that he had been gassed although this information does not appear in his papers.  He was posted to a reserve brigade of the RFA (5/c) on the date of his return to England and subsequently posted to the depot at Ripon (August 1917).  From there, he was posted back to 5/c Reserve Brigade (in October) and then to the 395th Ammunition Column (in January 1918).  On 18th April 1918 he was posted again, this time to Reserve Brigade 2/a and was finally discharged from the RFA’s 8th Reserve Battery as physically unfit on 5th December 1918. 

On 6th December he was awarded a weekly pension of  8s/3d from 6th December 1918 which was to be reviewed after 52 weeks. 

Reg Philpott, born well after the First World War ended, clearly remembers that Tom Funnell had been gassed and told me, “My mother took me down the Common to walk to see him.  We went upstairs and he was laying in bed with a little saucer with powder in it.  He used to light this with a matchstick and sniff it.  Was it called Ridleys?  He had Winnie, Carrie and Jack.  Jack was in the Airborne in this war, with the gliders.  Mum went to see him because she knew his wife – Nellie Oden.  Her father was a blacksmith / wheelwright I believe.” 

Thomas Funnell may be related to the Edgar H Funnell or Henry Edgar Funnell who also appears on these pages.  He was a cousin of George Thomas Simmons who also served his King and Country during the First World War.

Henry Edgar Funnell, Army Service Corps

Chailey Parish Magazine first notes Edgar Funnell in October 1914 as serving his King and Country.  He then appears as Edgar Funnell up to and including September 1915.  In October 1915, when the parish magazine commenced the practice of listing men against their regiments, he appears as Pte E Funnell.  The following month, Edgar and E Funnell disappear and are replaced by Funnell, Pte H, ASC, France. 

I am assuming that Edgar and H Funnell are one and the same man but in the absence of other documentary evidence, this must remain a supposition.  I list them here on this website under one name – Henry Edgar Funnell. 

Pte Funnell appears in the parish magazine for the last time in June 1918.  He is still noted as serving with the Army Service Corps.  

He is probably Henry Edgar Funnell who was born at Maresfield, Sussex in late 1887 or early 1888 and whose birth was recorded in the Uckfield district of Sussex in March 1888.   

Edgar (his name appears as Edgar rather than Henry on census returns), appears on the 1891 census as a three year old living with his family at Chapel Lane, Dorking, Surrey.  The household comprised Owen Funnell (head, aged 47, a general labourer), his wife Matilda (aged 36) and their six children: Kate (aged 16), Edward (aged nine), Annie (aged 11), Owen (aged eight), Archibald (aged five), and Edgar.  Both the parents and all six children are recorded as having been born in Maresfield. 

Ten years later, the family has moved to Wharf Cottage, Fletching and now comprises Owen Funnell (head, aged 56, working as a labourer in a timber yard), Matilda (aged 45) and five children: Archibald Funnell (aged 16 and also working as a timber yard labourer), Edgar, Joseph Funnell (aged nine), Arthur Funnell (aged seven) and Edward Funnell (aged two). 

In addition to the children mentioned above, Owen and Matilda (who were married around 1873) had other children (making thirteen in all.  The 1881 census, taken at Maresfield, notes Clara Funnell (aged seven), Ada Funnell (aged four), John Funnell (aged two) and Alice Funnell (aged ten months).  Kate Funnell (aged six) is the only child appearing on this and the 1891 return.  Owen’s occupation is recorded as a sawyer. 

The National Archives’ on-line medal information card index does not record anyone with the name Edgar Funnell serving with the Army Service Corps.  It does however, note M/339638 Private Henry Funnell and I think that this is probably the man mentioned in Chailey’s parish magazine.

Private Richard Gibson, 3rd Royal Sussex Regt

Chailey Parish Magazine notes in 1914 that Richard Gibson is serving his King and Country.  In October 1915 it notes, Gibson, Private R, 3rd Royal Sussex and in January 1916 adds the information that he is in England.  The final entry, in December 1916 simply repeats, Gibson, Private R, 3rd Royal Sussex. 

This man could be Richard William Gibson born at Hailsham, Sussex in 1885 but further research is needed to prove this.  The 3rd Royal Sussex Regiment was the original Special Reserve battalion which remained in England throughout the war and if Richard did remain with this battalion he would not have been entitled to receive the British War and Victory medals.  The National Archives lists a medal card held in the name of 8/24 Richard W Gibson of the 2nd  Royal Sussex Regiment and it is possible that this man is the same R Gibson mentioned in Chailey’s parish magazine.  The number indicates an early enlistment with the 8th Royal Sussex Regiment and a subsequent transfer to the 2nd Battalion. 

Further research is necessary to positively identify this man.

Lance Corporal Arthur Gibbs, Royal Army Medical Corps

Chailey Parish Magazine notes in October 1914 that Arthur Gibbs is serving his King and Country.  In October 1915 it reports Gibbs, Lance-Corporal A, RAMC and this information is then repeated monthly up to and including the final published roll call in July 1919. 

There are no obvious Chailey related matches for this man, the closest being a Wallace Arthur Gibbs whose birth was registered at Lewes in 1872.   

The National Archives yields two possibilities: 19485 Private (later Temporary Staff Sergeant) Arthur Gibbs of the 12th General Hospital, RAMC and 54609 Private Arthur Gibbs.  Of the two, I think the first man is probably the more likely candidate but further research is needed here.


356819 CPO Montague John Gates, HMS Iron Duke

Montague Gates was born on 16th November 1882 although the date he gave on enlisting with the Royal Navy was 1st September 1880.  He enlisted on 6th September 1898, to all intents and purposes, 18 years and five days old.  In fact he was 15 years old. 

He was the son of William and Sarah Gates of The Green, Chailey and appears on the 1891 census living at the family home on Chailey Green.  The family comprised William (a bootmaker), his wife Sarah, Montague (aged eight) and Harry Gates (aged one).  Harry would later be killed in action during the First World War.   

He is described on his naval papers as being five feet, five inches tall with light brown hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion.  He also had a number of tattoos (although whether this information was added when he joined up as a fifteen year old, or whether the tattoos were added later on in his service is unclear).  In any event, the following designs are noted: Japanese lady, snake and peacock on right arm, necklace of leaves around neck, flowers and face in leaf on left arm.  He gave his occupation as page boy. 

On enlistment, Montague Gates was posted to HMS St Vincent , a boys’ training establishment, and given the rating of domestic, 3rd class.  His subsequent long service record reads as follows: 

HMS St Vincent: 6th September 1898 – 8th November 1899
HMS Arethusa: 14th November 1899 – 3rd April 1903 (Promoted to Domestic 2nd class on 20th May 1900)
HMS Duke of Wellington: 19th – 21st May 1903
HMS Nelson: 22nd May 1903 – 2nd February 1904 (rating is stoker 2nd Class, from 22nd May 1903)
HMS Hannibal: 3rd February 1904 – 27th February 1905
HMS Firequeen [?]: 28th February – 31st March 1905
HMS Victory I (Portsmouth): 1st April – 8th May 1908
HMS Canopus: 9th May 1905 – 8th March 1907 promoted to stoker 1st class on 1st July 1906)
HMS Victory: 9th – 12th March 1907
HMS Mercury: 13th – 18th March 1907
HMS Britannia: 19th March 1907 – 28th October 1910 (rating is telegrapher, effective from 20th November 1907 and then leading telegrapher from 4th August 1910)
HMS Victory I: 29th October – 13th December 1910
HMS [unclear]: 14th October 1910 – 10th January 1911
HMS Neptune: 11th January 1911 – 26th January 1912
HMS Vernon: 27th January 1912 – 3rd May 1912
HMS Neptune: 4th May 1912 – 9th March 1914 (promoted to petty officer (Tel) on 18th May 1912)
HMS Iron Duke: 10th March 1914 – 15th February 1917 (promoted to acting chief petty officer on 31st May 1916)
HMS Queen Elizabeth: 16th February – 7th May 1917
HMS Victory II: 8th May 1917 – 15th January 1919 (promoted to chief petty officer on 8th May 1917)
HMS Victory I: 10th January – 3rd February 1919
HMS New Zealand: 4th February 1919 – 18th March 1920
HMS Victory I: 19th March 1920 – 8th March 1921  

For his work during the Battle of Jutland, Montague Gates was advanced to the next higher rating (chief petty officer); effective from the date of the battle itself: 31st May 1916.  On 27th October that year he was officially commended for his service in that action.  During his time with the Royal Navy he received three good conduct badges (21st May 1906, 20th May 1911 and 20th December 1912).

His record is interesting, not only for the number of ships he served on but also for his transfer from the rating of stoker to that of telegraphist and it is possible that he answered a call for volunteers to train on the new technology.  The role of a stoker and that of a telegraphist were very different but the transfer was approved on 20th November 1907 and Gates obviously excelled in it.

He signed on with the Royal Navy for 12 years on 22nd May 1903 and then opted to complete 20 years (in order to obtain his pension) on 22nd May 1915.  As well as his general Great War entitlement medals, Gates was also awarded the Long Service Good Conduct medal. 

The following information is largely taken from and gives a brief background on some of the ships on which Montague served: 

HMS Duke of Wellington
The once famous flagship of Sir Charles Napier. Relegated to harbour service as one of the depot ships for berthing the men of the Portsmouth Dockyard Reserve.  Sold in 1904.

HMS Hannibal
HMS Hannibal.   Royal Naval battleship of the Majestic Class.  HMS Hannibal was refitted and converted to burn oil fuel as well as being fitted with fire control in 1906.  Recommissioned in the Channel Fleet Reserve in October 1906 and transferred to Davenport  as part of the Home Fleet in July 1907, remaining there until 1914. During this time she struck a submerged reef off the Devonshire coast in August 1909 and collided with TB105 in October that same year.  She was refitted and served as guard ship of the Humber from 1914 and later went to Scapa Flow.  She was then converted to a troop ship, being disarmed at Dalmuir to provide 12in turrets for Prince Eugene and Sir John Moore, moving to the Mediterranean in September 1915.  From 1916 - 1919 HMS Hannibal served in the East Indies and in Egypt and was sold in January 1920.

Armament: four 12 inch guns, twelve 6 inch guns, sixteen 12 pdr guns, twelve 3 pdr guns, 2 maxims, two 2pdr boat guns and five torpedo tubes.   Displacement: 14,900 tons.   Speed: 16.5 knots.   Complement: 757.

HMS Canopus
HMS Canopus was built at Portsmouth dockyard, laid down on the 4th January 1897, launched 21st June 1898 and completed December 1899.  Only one of the class to serve in the Mediterranean fleet  instead of the China station until returning to the Channel fleet in 1906 and in that year went into refit to receive fire control. Further refitting was done while with the reserve at Portsmouth with reduced crew in 1908-09.  On returning to the fleet she served as the parent ship for the 4th Division at the Nore and was with the home fleet from May 1912 and again refitted at Chatham dockyard. In 1913 HMS Canopus was stationed at Pembroke and at the outbreak of the Great War joined the 8th battle squadron of the Channel Fleet. Soon after she was sent to the Falkland Islands and is said to have fired the first shot in the battle of the Falkland islands.  From February 1915  she was sent to the Mediterranean to support the Dardanelles' expedition. While there she was damaged by Turkish gunfire on the 28th April and 2nd May 1915. She was involved in grounding off Gaba Tepe. In October 1915 she transported troops to Salonika.  She returned to Chatham Docks on Tuesday 2nd May 1916. On returning to Britain she became the guard ship on the East Coast until 1918 when she was sent to Devonport.  There she became an accommodation ship until being sold to the breakers in 1920 .

Displacement: 12,950 tons.   Length: 410 ft.   Beam: 74 ft.  Draught: 26.5 ft.   Complement: 750.   Armament: four 12 ins guns, twelve 6 ins guns, ten 3 ins guns, six 3 pounder guns and two maxims with four torpedo tubes.

HMS Britannia
HMS Britannia was a Royal Naval battleship of the King Edward VII, Class.  Sje first saw service with the Atlantic fleet in December 1906, moving to the Channel Fleet in February 1907, joining the 2nd Division of the home Fleet as Flagship of Vice admiral in April 1909.  While serving with the 2nd division she joined the Mediterranean fleet for a short period of time before returning.  At the start of World War One, Britannia joined the 3rd battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. But In January 1915 she ran aground at Inchkeith suffering major damage.  On the 9th November 1918 she was torpedoed by UB50 off Cape Trafalgar. Crippled she remained afloat for three and half hours before sinking. She sustainted a number of casualties due to toxic fumes. Armament:  Four 4 inch guns in pairs,  four 9.2 inch guns in singles, ten 6 inch guns in pairs, fourteen 12 pdr guns, fourteen 3 pdr guns, two maxims and five torpedo tubes.    Displacement: 16,350 tons.    Speed: 18 knots.   Complement: 777.

HMS Neptune
Built at Portsmouth navy dockyard and launched on the 30th September 1909. HMS Neptune was the first British Battleship to be able to fire all ten of her 12-inch guns broadside, by allowing the two wing turrets to fire across deck. This though was found to be of little advantage as it placed a heavy strain on her hull.  HMS Neptune also failed to reach her contractual speed on trials but did achieve a speed of 21.129 knots during her acceptance trials on the 17th November 1910. In May 1911 HMS Neptune became the Flagship of the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet and in May 1912 she joined the 1st Battle Squadron. She was still serving in this squadron when in April 1916 she collided with a merchant ship but was not seriously damaged. She was at the Battle of Jutland and was reported to have scored several hits on the German Battleship Lutzow. She did not sustain any casualties during the action.  On the 1st of February she was put into reserve and eventually scrapped in September 1922.

Displacement: 19,680 tons.   Speed: 21 knots.   Armament: Ten 12 inch guns in pairs, twenty 4 inch guns, four 3pdr guns, three 18 inch guns and 3 torpedo tubes.   Compliment: 759.

HMS Iron Duke (pictured)
HMS Iron Duke was built at Cammell Laird in Portsmouth and launched on the 12th October 1912.  She was the Flagship of The Grand Fleet (commanded by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe)

After 1931 she became a Gunnery Training Ship and Base Ship for the Home Fleet between 1939 and 1945. She was scrapped at Faslane in Scotland on 19th August 1946.

Compliment 589. Armament 6 13.5 inch Guns (3 x 2 ) and 12 6-inch Guns . Machinery 4-shaft Turbines, S.H.P 31,000 giving a top speed of 21.25 knots this was reduced to 18 knots with mutilated boiler power. Displacement 21,250 tons.

HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth was a Royal Naval battleship built at Portsmouth in 1913.  She served in the Dardanelles campaign during World War One and during World War Two she was sunk in shallow water by mines attached to the battleship by Italian frogmen in Alexandria. She was raised and repaired at Norfolk, Virginia.

Displacement: 29,700   Speed: 23.0 knots   Compliment: 950 and up to 1,220 in 1918

Armament: Eight 15-inch guns in pairs and fourteen 6 -inch guns.  Two 3 inch Anti Aircraft Guns in 1917, two 4-inch anti aircraft guns.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was built at Portsmouth and re-engined at Fairfield.  She was launched on the 16th October 1913. She was the sister ship to HMS Warspite, Valiant, Barham, and MalayaHMS Queen Elizabeth was the only ship of the class to have a full compliment of sixteen 6-inch guns.  She was the only ship of her class not be be involved during the Battle of Jutland. Her First World War service included being part of the Dardanelles' campaign. She bombarded the forts on the Narrows in the support of the Gallipoli landings between February 25th and May 14th 1915. She fired a total of 86 15-inch shells and 71 6-inch shells.  After the battle of Jutland (during which she was being re-fitted,) she became the flagship of the Home Fleet in February 1917. HMS Queen Elizabeth had two major refits between the wars.  At the start of World War Two she was in the middle of her second refit at Portsmouth. Completed and ready for service in May 1941, HMS Queen Elizabeth was transferred to The Mediterranean Fleet.  It was at Alexandria, along with her sister ship HMS Valiant that both ships were mined by Italian Frogmen. HMS Queen Elizabeth sank in shallow water, was raised and temporarily repaired. Due to the serious damage she had sustained however, she was transferred to the US Navy Yard in Norfolk where she was repaired between September 1942 and 1st June 1943.

She joined the Eastern fleet and from January 1944 onwards was joined by HMS Valiant and took part in the carrier raids in Indonesia against Japanese bases.  She returned to Britain in July 1945 and was finally scrapped at Dalmuir on the Clyde 7th July 1948.

HMS New Zealand (Indefatigable Class)
HMS New Zealand was taken on a cruise of the Dominions in 1913 before joining the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron. She then served with the Grand Fleet in 1914 before becoming flagship to the 2nd cruiser squadron in 1915. She was built by Fairfield and  was completed in February 1912.  In February she left for a world cruise around the Dominions which took 10 months. She then joined the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron on a cruise to the Baltic and then joined the Grand Fleet in August 1914 becoming the flagship of the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron in January 1915 until February 1915. At the Battle of Dogger Bank she fired a total of 147 12 - inch shells with out any known hits on the German Ships. She became Flagship to Admiral Beattie when his Flagship HMS Lion was  damaged during the battle. On the 22nd April HMS New Zealand and HMS Australia collided but repairs were carried out in time for the Battle of Jutland. During the battle she fired 420 shells, (more than any other Dreadnought during the Battle) but only scored four hits.  HMS New Zealand was also hit by a 11-inch shell which hit a turret (luckily without causing any major damage or casualties). After September 1916 she again joined the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron and after the war carried Admiral Jellicoe on a tour of the Dominions.  Listed for Disposal under the Washington treaty she was sold for breaking up on the 19th December 1923.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Clement Edwards, Royal Field Artillery

Despite holding a significant rank, next to nothing is known about this man.  Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions Major A C Edwards of the Royal Field Artillery in November 1916.  In January 1919 and thereafter until the final published roll call in July 1919, he is noted as Lieutenant-Colonel A C Edwards. 

He is Arthur Clement Edwards but I have been unable so far, to establish a connection with Chailey.  Furthermore, while there are a number of individuals with this name listed on census records and civil registration index returns, I have not been able to positively tie in the Chailey Arthur Clement with any of these men. 

His service record does exist at the National Archives and I shall record his biography in greater detail once I have accessed it.