Saturday, 8 October 2016

A Family Tragedy

Original post:

Angela Waters had married Thomas Seal in the Maidstone area late in 1890.  She was born into a blacksmiths family in Maidstone and so both the Seal and the Waters families seem to have roots in the Kent area.  By 1911 Angela and Thomas had moved to Plumstead where they were living with four of their seven children, two sons and two daughters.  Thomas Seal was recorded at this point as a carter but he was able to get a job at the Arsenal and in 1915 was working in the Giro Department there.  As a result the family had a much sought after house on the Well Hall Estate in Brome Road.  The two girls, Ethel (12) and Gertrude (9) were registered at Deansfield School in 1915.

Jack Thomas, born on the 10th September 1900, enlisted in July 1917 joining the Royal Navy and serving at several different places.  At the moment I cannot establish whether Arthur George, his older brother, had also enlisted or whether he was working at the Arsenal.  Jack served for nearly two years his last service date given in his World War 1 Record is March 1919.  For two periods of his service he was based at HMS Pembroke* at Chatham which was the training base.  But the records also tell us that he never returned home when he left there.  On 24th March 1919 he was found dead in a train on arrival at Gillingham Station.  The result of the subsequent inquest held at the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham is recorded in his papers as follows:

‘…the Coroner, sitting without a jury, returned a verdict of “death from haemorrhage from bullet wound in chest, self-inflicted.  There is no evidence to show the state of the deceased’s mind at the time”.’

Thomas’s next of kin is given as his mother, Angela.  He is buried in New Cemetery, Gillingham, which means perhaps that unusually, given the circumstances of his death, he has been allowed the honour of a military grave.  We will never know if this was of any consolation to his mother and father who must have been doubly shocked at his death having perhaps assumed in the first months following the Armistice that he had apparently survived the war.

*HMS Pembroke was a training ship based in RN Chatham.  It was bombed by a Gotha in 1917 Sept and 136 naval ratings were killed.

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