My interest in the Hired Military Transport Royal Edward began when I learned that my grandfather, Richard Henry Polglase, had died when she was torpedoed on 13th August 1915. It was only when my husband and I began researching our families’ history that I was told this; it had never been mentioned before. My father said my grandfather was lost on a troopship, the Royal Edward, in the Aegean Sea. I do remember, during the last war when we had visitors, my father saying he thought it was foolish of his father to volunteer when he had a wife and child and that he had only three weeks training.
My parents kept all the objects connected to his death, found when my grandmother Amelia Jane died in her cottage at Rinsey. Amongst them a communication from the Imperial War Graves Commission, dated 27 January 1927, referred to a Memorial Register. I found the address for the now Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Sheffield Reference Library and sent for the Register, still available then in printed form. It arrived with a leaflet containing details of the Helles Memorial.
THE HELLES MEMORIAL
Containing the names of certain Sailors,
Soldiers and Marines from the United
Kingdom Australia, and India, who fell
in the Gallipoli Campaign and have no
SOLDIERS LOST AT SEA
A – Z
Compiled and Published by order of the Imperial War
Graves Commission, London. 1927.
The original register was published in 1927 and subsequent
changes have been incorporated in this amended version
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Maidenhead, Berkshire
On page 683 was my grandfather’s entry:
POLGLASE, Pte. Richard Henry, SS/13242. 18th
Labour Coy., Army Service Corps. 13th Aug.,
1915. Age 40, Son of William Henry and Elizabeth
Polglase, of 41, Wendron St., Helston; husband of
Amelia Jane Polglase, of 33, Wendron St., Helston,
As I looked through the Register for other members of his Company, I was struck by how many Cornish-sounding names there were in the 18th who had died on 13th August 1915.
The H.M.T. Royal Edward was on her second voyage through the Mediterranean when she was torpedoed in the Aegean Sea on Friday 13th August 1915. She had left Avonmouth with most of her human freight on the 28th July. She called at Millbay, Plymouth, for the rest, members of the R.A.M.C. , Border Regt. and A.S.C., and left in the evening of the 31st. It was a routine voyage to Alexandria but early on the second day’s travel to Mudros a torpedo struck: her sleek lines let her swiftly sink out of sight. Almost a 1,000 soldiers and crew were lost and the effects of this tragedy were felt throughout the United Kingdom.
Among the dead were more than 60 volunteers from Cornwall who were members of the 18th Labour Company, Army Service Corps. There were also Cornishmen in other regiments on the Royal Edward. My grandfather, Richard Henry Polglase, was a Helston man so I begin my account with the seven men from Helston, four of them born and bred there, on the Royal Edward.
They joined the fight against Germany and her allies on the 7th July 1915
Sidney Francis HENDER, became Private SS/13842 when he made his attestation and enlisted in Whitehall on July 7th 1915. Age 42, he had been married to Elizabeth Ann Wearne (Bessie) for eleven years and had sons Charles Leonard age 6 and Ernest, born just the previous year. The Hender family had lived in Helston since Sidney’s grandfather William married Elizabeth Polkinghorne there in 1827. They were in Coinage Hall Street in 1841 when William was a man servant – perhaps at one of the public houses? Two daughters died before William James, father of Sidney Francis, was born in 1834.
William was a hostler by 1851 and son William James a druggist’s assistant but he later followed his father’s trade and they were both hostlers in 1861. William died in 1870 leaving effects of under £2000 (his wife Elizabeth was sole executrix) and by 1871 William James had prospered to become a cab proprietor. He married Eliza Chenoweth in 1869 and they had seven children, two of whom died: Charles (1869-1870) and Elizabeth Mary (1875-1876). Sidney Francis was born in 1873 after Ernest (born 1871) and before William Charles ‘Charlie’ (born 1883).
Over the next years William James returned to the saddler trade but both his sons took different paths. William Charles became a hairdresser and Sidney Francis a carpenter. By 1901 Sidney was a carpenter/employer working in Up Nately, Hampshire, with Joseph Matthews from Cornwall, also a carpenter/employer. They are boarders at the ‘Plume Of Feathers’ public house with William Ross and James S. Bruce, carpenters/workers, from Glasgow.
In 1903 there appeared in the Cornishman the announcement of the marriage of Mr. Sidney HENDER to Miss E. WEARNE , both of Helston, on November 1st 1903 at the Wesleyan Church, Helston. Their first and only child by 1911 according to the census was Charles Leonard, born 1909. Had Sidney been away?
In the Records of Emigration to Africa there is a Sidney Hender born 1873, carpenter, but entered as single on the SS Corinthic. She left Plymouth for New Zealand on the 21st November 1903, dropping passengers off on the way at the Cape. Five years later a Sidney Hender born 1873, carpenter, either ‘single or unaccompanied by wife’, left Durban on SS Marathon for London on the 5th September 1908. There were links to Africa: Sidney’s sister Emily Jane married on the 1st November 1904 Richard Mitchell (late of South Africa according to the Cornishman).
My grandfather, Richard Henry POLGLASE known as Harry, in line between Hender and James, became Private SS 13843. Amelia Jane Perring and he married in 1901 and had one child, Philip Henry Polglase, just 13 in June 1915 They lived at 33, Wendron Street, neighbours to his parents, brothers and a sister at number 41. There is an error in the C.W.G.C. Register – Elizabeth is his sister – his mother is Sarah Jane nee Port who married William Henry Polglase in Holbeton, Devon in 1861. The report in the Cornishman of her death in 1907 credits her “with her late husband and family” of helping “to work up an extensive manufacturing business in serpentine.” I was told that grandfather William Henry had his own little serpentine quarry. In the Cornishman of 21st June 1883 this letter appeared:
Correction.- Editor, Cornishman. – Sir, – I see that, in your article on the manufacture of serpentine, I am credited with the employment of one man. It should have been three men and one boy. –W.H.Polglase.
Harry was born in 1874, the youngest child. He, his father and older brothers were well-known in the serpentine business.
THE HOUSE I LIVE IN NOW
Harry does give his trade as Linesman (for the telephone company) on page 1 of his Attestation form. I was told he refused to carry a ladder down Helston high street – was it in connection with this occupation?
Richard Joseph JAMES, age 42, married to Alice Maud Edwards for 14 years, was father of two sons, Richard Hedley 12 and Frederick Arnold 9, and two daughters, Millicent Maud 7 and Mary Ellen Constance almost 5 years old. He gives his address as 13 Nettles Hill, Helston, in his attestation on the 7th July at London and became Private SS/13844.
He was born in the Autumn of 1872, the son of Peter James & Ellen Ann James nee Stephens. At that time they lived in Wendron St. just down the road from the Polglase family, serpentine and marble workers, and next door to the Curate of Helston, William Hamerton. His father Peter, a carpenter, was born in Helston, his mother was from Landewednack.
The family later moved to
1, Godolphin Road, just where Wendron Road finishes.
Land next to
1 Godolphin Road.
The back of No.1
is on the left of photo.
Over the years Richard worked in the retail trade, having his own business as a pork butcher and then, with his brother Arthur, a grocers shop with his wife an assistant in the business. The grocer shop was at 9, Meneage Street and when he volunteered the family lived at 13, Nettles Hill (Almshouse Hill). When his will was proved his address is Lady St., Helston.
Becoming Private SS/13845 on the 7th July 1915, James TREMELLING, age 48, had been married to Lavinia Davies from Camborne for 19 years. They had sons Stanley, 18, Hedley, 16, and Stewart, 14 years old.
James was born in Sithney and as a gardener at the age of 14 supported his widowed mother Helen. In this he was helped by his elder brothers Edward and Humphrey. His sister, Ellen, a laundress like her mother, later married Harry Pascoe from Helston. James was a domestic gardener, sometimes having to leave wife and family for work.
In 1901 he was with his mother-in-law Elizabeth Davies and her son Samuel, a tin miner, in Chapel Row, Troon, Camborne, while Lavinia was living in Sea View Terrace, Church Street, Helston, with the three boys. His brother Humphrey travelled to and from Australia from the 1890s and worked with James when back home.
In the Thursday 22 April 1897 edition of the Cornishman this article appeared:
LAND’S END VINERIES OFFERED FOR SALE AT PENZANCE.
At the Western hotel, Penzance, Wednesday afternoon, Mr. George E. Jenkin, instructed by Messrs. Trythall and Bodilly, solicitors, Penzance, offered for sale by public auction the Lands-end vineries, situate at Rafta, St. Levan, and containing six fine and substantially built vineries, with a dwelling house, conservatory, windmill-pump, tank, carpenters shop, and packing-house.
The tenement comprises altogether about 11/2 acres of land and is held for the residue of a term of 99 years from the 28th day of September, 1872, at the yearly grond rent of 4. The dwelling-house is situae within easy walking distance of the Land’s-end, Logan-rock, and Porthgwarra, and has been used as a lodging-house for many years.
Dwelling–house and vineries are all in excellent state of repair, the vines having been carefully pruned and attended-to. There is daily communication from Penzance.
Mr. Gilbert (on behalf of Mr. Tremelling) started the bidding with an offer of £300, which Mr. Thomas (Polgoon) bettered by £100. These two then bid by £50 bids until £550 (by Mr. Glbert) was reached, and, as there seemed no likelihood of further bidding, Mr. G. L. Bodilly put in a reserve of £600. This was not improved upon, and the property was not publicly sold, but remains open to investors for the next few days.
It is not clear which Mr. Tremelling bought the Vineries, or whether both did, but on 2 April 1898 – the Cornishman has:
Early Potatoes and Strawberries—Mr. H. Tremelling, of the Land’s-End vineries, has just sent away 11 baskets of new potatoes. He has also some ripe strawberries.
Humphrey is at the Vineries in the 1901 census with 12 year old son Walter. His wife Jane Geake is with her brothers and sister at 51 Meneage St., Helston.
The next reference to the brothers is a report on a BAZAAR AT ST. LEVAN in the Cornishman 11th July 1901. The Messrs. Tremelling had a Fruit stall and are praised for contributing to the evening concert in an excellent programme. (There was also a gramophone.)
Humphrey went to Australia again, as is shown in this entry in the Cornishman’s Deaths column, Thursday 25 October 1906:
Death of Miss Ethel J. Tremelling.
Funeral at Helston.
We announce with regret the sad death of Miss Ethel J. Tremelling, daughter Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey Tremelling late of the Royal Lands End Vineries, at 16, Redinnick Place, Penzance, on Thursday, October 18th.
The solemnity of the death is greatly intensified by the fact that Mr. H. Tremelling, being in Queensland, is at present unaware of his great loss.
Among the mourners were Mr. and Mrs. James Tremelling, Uncle and aunt, St. Levan.
(One of the wreaths -“A token of sincere sympathy” – came from William Charles Polglase, brother of Richard Henry).
James continued cultivating the Vineries.
On Thursday February 13, 1908 this advertisement appeared in The Cornishman:
The last Testimonial on the right headed CARROTS AND TURNIPS.—Wireworm, comes from Cornwall.—J. T., Esq., Land’s End Vineries (November 21st 1907), writes:—I used Vaporite for my carrots and white turnips this year, and grew them clean and free from ravages of worm. I have had great trouble with worm and insects; I am so satisfied with its effect that I shall use more next spring.
He is still there in 1911 with his wife and three sons Stanley, Hedley, and Stewart, and Kelly’s Directory of Devon & Cornwall, 1914. [Part 3. Cornwall & Advertisements] has Tremellen, James, fruit grower at Lands End Vineries, St. Levan. At his Attestation James states his address is 14, Victoria St. Camborne. (with in-laws?)
Charles Henry Norman, Private SS/13846, according to S.D.G.W.* was born in Chester and lived in Penzance. His Service Record survives and tells a different and convoluted story but his life is still a mystery. I have not found him in census records and a birth register entry has only a Charles Norman born July – September 1869 in the Wirral District. More can be found about Edith Emily Tripp, with whom he had a relationship for about two years.
Charles had his medical examination at St. Austell on the 6th of July. At his attestation in Whitehall on the 7th his address is Rogers Cottage, Church Street, Helston. His birthplace is Cheshire, he is aged 45, a painter, and not married.
Under INFORMATION SUPPLIED BY RECRUIT Charles Henry Norman says his Next of Kin is a sister, Emily Norman, living in Boston, Massachusetts. The section Particulars as to Marriage has, in a different hand:
Platonic Wife Miss E. E. Tripp, Rogers Cottage, Church Street, Helston.
Edith Emily Tripp already had three children when she met Charles Henry Norman:
Annie Lilian May, born 6th October 1906, Elizabeth Mary, born 18th August 1908, Joseph Henry, born 26th October 1912, all born in Helston, all having the surname Tripp.
Charles Henry acknowledged two more as his:
Millicent Lucy Tripp born 21st January 1914 and Ruth Tripp born 22nd September 1915, both in Helston. The Particulars as to Children says he lived with Emily and maintained all five children.
I have not found any facts of Charles Henry Norman’s life before 1913; there are records of Emily’s.
Born in Helston, in 1891 age three she is in Helston Union Workhouse Meneage Street with her mother Mary Tripp ( a general domestic servant born c.1860 in St. Keverne) and a baby sister Beatrice Annie one month old (who died the next year).
By 1901, a little maid of 14, she has been found a position as a servant at Trythance Farm, St Keverne. The Farmer is Alice Rogers age 70, a widow, helped by son John age 38 and daughter Alice age 27, both unmarried. They also employ two labourers, Edward Williams age 19 and Fred Laity age 20, also single.
I have not found any reports of paternity cases for the three children she has between 1906 and 1912. In the 1911 census Emily is on Releath Water Farm, Sithney, again a servant, and entered as single. Her girls Annie Lillian May Tripp and Elizabeth Mary Tripp are with her widowed mother, Mary Elizabeth Ware, age 40, born in St. Keverne. Mary Elizabeth Tripp married Thomas Ware 3rd. March 1902 – but he left her a day or two later according to the Cornishman of the 20th. March 1902. Emily has another relationship resulting in the birth of Joseph Henry, registered in the last quarter of 1912. She presumably took up with Charles Henry Norman the next year as the birth of his first daughter, Millicent Lucy, is registered in the first quarter of 1914.
*Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919
In 1921 His Majesty’s Stationery Office published, on behalf of and by authority of the War Office, two lists of those who died during the Great War. One volume, packed with minute typescript, gave the basic details of nearly 42,000 officer casualties. It required an additional eighty volumes to list all the ‘other ranks’ who gave their lives. Each of the original volumes represented one or more regiments, corps or other units of the British Army. Most were subdivided into battalions or similar groupings. There were often thirty or more of these per volume, each in alphabetical order. Regimental records were used to give Place of Birth, Enlistment and Home. It is known to contain errors.
Mark Trebilcock, Private SS/13902 gives Venton Vedna, Sithney as his address when he enlisted on the 7th July at London. Age 49, he had been married to Susan Bastian for twenty years; they had no children. Mark was born in Silverwell, St. Agnes in 1866. His parents John and Elizabeth came from St. Columb. In 1871 father John was a shepherd, brother William James a mine engine driver and sisters Jane and Ellen farm labourers. By 1881 Mark and his parents were living in Wheal Butson, both men farm labourers. His sister Bessie was a servant to William H. Hearl farmer of 220 Acres, employing 3 Men (Mark and John ?), 1 Boy, and 1 Woman. Mark is next in Goonown, St. Agnes, living with his widowed mother Elizabeth and her grandson John James, age 3 in 1891. Mark married Susan Bastian from Coverack in 1895 at Helston and they are living in Coverack in 1901. They next move nearer Helston and Mark is a farm labourer at Nansloe in 1911 about a mile from Venton Vedna. Mark Trebilcock’s life does not match the common image of the “cousin Jack” a prospector in foreign lands. His dwelling places are influenced by family and work, all within tens of miles in Cornwall. Unlike some of his brother volunteers the boarding of the Royal Edward would be an unparalleled experience.
Private SS/13903, Alfred Ernest SMITH, according to Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919* was born in Epsom, Surrey, and lived in Helston. The migration to Cornwall was made by 1911. Alfred is a domestic servant and his wife Isabella a cook for Andrew Newland Deakin headmaster of Falmouth School. He seems to have lost his parents at an early age. In 1881, age 4, he was living with his Aunt Sarah Hodesden, in Watford, Hertfordshire. She was a widow age 32 and worked as a Laundress. Her sons Jones Ambrose age 16 was a railway engine cleaner and William age 15 a general labourer. By 1891 Alfred had left his relatives and was in the Boys’ Home , 164 Shaftesbury Avenue, London. The premises included accommodation for 100 destitute boys and 35 working boys, together with a club, institute and offices for the Society. The many boys housed there received training – Alfred as a shoemaker. Ten years later Alfred has moved to Willesdon, Middlesex. He is a boarder at 44, Mordaunt Road and a general labourer. His home is under half a mile from 44, Harlesdon Gardens and living there is Isabella Croft Tate, domestic servant, his future wife. When Alfred married Isabella 28th November 1903 he is a coalman and Isabella has no occupation. Both parties’ fathers are deceased – Alfred’s, also Alfred, a brewer and Isabella’s father, Alexander, a soldier. Isabella’s brother John Charles Tate is a witness to the marriage. He was born in Roorkee, Bengal, like Isabella, to Alexander a professional soldier, and in 1901 he is a trooper of the 2nd Life Guards living in Regents Park Barracks, Albany Street.
Other Helston men in the 18th Labour Company.
They volunteered at Whitehall on the 7th July but at Aldershot were judged unsuitable for foreign or even home service.
The men above who were on the Royal Edward have been listed in their Service Number order.
After Charles Henry Norman, Private SS/13846 the next Helston volunteer is Walter Liddicoat, Private SS/13854
The gap is filled by other Cornishmen:
- Thomas Green born in St Blazey and living in Par is Private SS/13847.
- Privates SS/ 13848, SS/13849 and SS/ 13850, Rowe , Bray and Pratt are St. Columb men.
- Private SS/13851, Hare, is from Truro.
- Privates SS/13852 and SS/13853 are more St.Columb men.
Walter Liddicoat, Private SS/13854 is age 43 when he enlisted with the others at Whitehall on 7th July. His home was at 46, Wendron Street, opposite the Polglase families. He left behind his wife, Adelaide Moyle, from St. Keverne, married on the 21st June 1910, and two young children–– Mabel Bennetts, born 5th September 1905, and Frederick John born 25th January 1911.
Walter was born in Porthleven, the son of William Liddicoat, a miner. William and his wife Mary had moved to Wendron Street by 1881: three houses away from Helston grammar School. Walter had seen six years service with the D.C.L.I. but now was not able to do full service in the army. After almost six months his Medical Report stated he suffered from acute rheumatism and dizziness caused by a blow to the head four years previously. His illness was not caused by military service, but army life aggravated his symptoms. Walter was engaged in Home Service until the 14th January 1916 and after discharge awarded the Silver War Badge with certificate in August 1917.
The Silver War Badge was instituted in 1916 and awarded to men who were honourably discharged under certain regulations. See the Long, Long Trail.
John Masters, Private SS/13855, was living in Church Street, Helston, when he volunteered with the others on the 7th July. He was 40 years old, unmarried and a labourer. His next of kin was his sister, Mrs. Hilda Colby who lived at 13 Exeter Street, Plymouth. He stated he had served for three months in the A.V.C. – but did he inform the Attesting Officer of his record there?
John Masters was among the first to “answer the call”. He had his first Medical Examination on the 25th. November 1914 at Weston Super Mare. He was born in Gunnislake and lived at 1 Chapel Street, Callington. He declared his age was 36 yrs. 2 mths. and he was a Carter with Horse Transport. He was diagnosed as having Bronchitis Catarrh and Defective Vision but was enlisted in the Army Veterinary Department. At his Attestation at Weston Super Mare the next day, the 26th he says he is 38 years 8 months.
He is unmarried and his next of kin is his mother Mary of 1 Chapel Street, Callington. His regimental number is 1335. After only three weeks he was admitted to the Royal Herbert Hospital Woolwich on December 14th W. E. Bullock, Lieut. R.A.M.C. diagnosed him with Chronic Bronchitis and recommended his Discharge ‘as not likely to become an efficient soldier’.
After his second attempt to join up John Masters was embarked on the SS “Princess Victoria” for France on the 18th August 1915 but was admitted to hospital on the 29th. He was discharged with chronic asthma on 30th January 1916 having served only 10 days before being discharged “unfit for further service” and sent back to the U.K. The entry for His Intended Residence was originally the BLUE ANCHOR, Helston, but this was crossed out and his sister’s Plymouth address written instead.
Richard Jury, Private SS 13901, of Dolphin Road, Helston, enlisted with the others on the 7th July. He had married Mary Elizabeth Gendall on the 25th September 1882 and had one child, Bessie Colenso, born in 1902. He took his Medical Examination at St. Austell on the 6th July when his age was stated to be 46. He was a mason and was described as muscular, almost six feet tall, weighed 10½ stone, with a chest measurement of 40½ inches. Unfortunately by September, still at Aldershot, he was diagnosed with chronic dyspepsia and “quite unfitted for work in the army”. He was recommended for discharge in October – his age now said to be 53!
After the War it was said that only three able-bodied men from Helston did not serve.
Cornishmen who died on the Royal Edward.
65 men of the 18th. Labour Company, A.S.C. who were born or lived in Cornwall died on the Royal Edward.
Two survived but died later in 1915.
There are also 3 men who died who have a connection to Cornwall:
AXWORTHY, Edwin Private 11738, 2nd Battalion. Hampshire Regiment.
He was born 1889 Okehampton, DevonFormerly was Pte. 13368 Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. He enlisted in Liskeard, Cornwall and his name is on the Parish War Memorial.
MARTIN, William Private 11891, 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment.
He was born Poltimore, Devon and lived in Lawarne. Formerly was Pte.13316 Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. He enlisted in Bodmin.
THOMAS, William Private 91, 54th (1st/1st East Anglian) Casualty Clearing Station, Royal Army Medical Corps.
He was born St Ives, Cornwall and lived in Lowestoft, Suffolk. He enlisted in Lowestoft. His wife is buried in Barnoon Cemetery, St. Ives, and William’s name is on her headstone.