Thursday, 31 October 2013

Thomas Neal - Survivor of the Peninsular War

2014 is a special year for students of military history, not only will it be the centenary of the beginning of World War 1, but it will also be the bi-centenary of the end of the Peninsular War, a brutal war against Napoleon's occupying forces in Spain and Portugal, a war that could have been avoided, and until 1914, known as the original Great War. A war that saw Napoleon Bonaparte show his might on one side and Arthur Wellesey prove his skill and cunning on the other, a war that ended with Bonaparte attempting suicide and Wellesey becoming the Duke of Wellington, and a war that saw my 4x great grandfather, Thomas Neal fighting against the French army in the icy passes of the Pyrenees, marching for days through snow and rain, often under cover of darkness, and laying siege to ancient towns on the Spanish/French border.

Thomas Henry Neal was born in Fulham in 1791. During the 18th century, Fulham was in the borough of Hammersmith in the county of Middlesex. It was a rather seedy working class town with a bad reputation for gambling, crime and prostitution, so we can assume that Thomas did not come from a wealthy family and probably had a tough childhood. I have not yet been able to discover his parents, or anything about his schooling, if indeed he did go to school, but I do know that he was working as a cabinet makers apprentice in Fulham in 1808 when he was 18 years of age.

These were troubled times though. Napoleon Bonaparte and his French army had conquered most of mainland Europe. Thanks to Nelson's famous victory at Trafalgar in 1805, Britain had so far withstood the power of France, but the tide took another unexpected twist in 1808. Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807 and within a few months he had deposed the Spanish monarchy and installed his brother Joseph as King of Spain. With these two actions Bonaparte had created a new enemy, and given Britain a new ally. The Spanish uprising encouraged Britain to send an expeditionary force to Portugal in 1808 and so began a new war against the French which would last for over 5 years. The British Army needed to recruit new soldiers and many were found in towns just like Fulham. Thomas would probably have seen the posters around his home town proclaiming...

"WANTED; Brisk Lads, light and straight, and by no means grummy: not under 5 feet 5 1/2inches, or over 5 feet 9 inches in height: Liberal bounty; good uniforms; generous pay! Step lively lads and come in while there is time." ....

...and so on the 3rd April 1809, Thomas Henry Neal enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the 57th Regiment of Foot (West Middlesex) Regiment and began his military training at Portsmouth. The 2nd Battalion had been raised in 1803 as part of the army of reserve, so while the 1st Battalion were pursuing Napoleon's army out of Portugal, the 2nd Battalion remained on home soil. The Channel Islands were considered to be at risk from attack by Napoleon, so Thomas was one of those posted to defend the Channel Islands with 57th Foot and was based at Elizabeth Castle in St Helier in Jersey.

Soldiers of the 57th Reg't of Foot
Elizabeth Castle, St Helier, Jersey. 
In October 1809, the 1st Battalion had landed in Lisbon. As part of 2nd Brigade they were under the command of Daniel Hoghton. They suffered some heavy losses during the first two years of the Peninsular War, most notably at Albuera on May 16th 1811 when 87 men were killed and a further 318 soldiers and officers were wounded. The battalion does not appear to take part in any further battles in the months following this heavy massacre.

In late July 1811 Thomas Neal would have been told that he was leaving Jersey and going to Spain. In August a draft of men from the 2nd Battalion arrived in Spain and was used to supplement the survivors of the 1st Battalion. The reformed 1st Battalion of 57th Foot were reassigned to 2nd Brigade, which was part of William Stewart's 2nd Division, which in turn formed part of Sir Rowland Hill's right column of the British Army, commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesey, Marquis of Wellington. 2nd division became known as the "Observing Division", so Thomas Neal would not have been on the front line during his first few months in Spain. The division did get a reputation for launching surprise offensives though, which would have introduced the new recruits to a new style of "Guerrilla" type warfare.

After the winter camp of 1812, Major General John Byng takes command of the 2nd Division and the 57th march northwards until the French army halts and tuns to attack its pursuers at the Pueblo Heights, Vitoria in June 1813. Hill's column are on the right flank overlooking the main battlefield and are engaged in battle for most of the day. Eventually the French retreat and the 57th take stock of their casualties. 5 soldiers were killed at Vitoria and a further 23 injured. Following this decisive victory at Vitoria, Sir Arthur Wellesey is promoted to Field Marshall.

Battle of Vitoria June 1813
57th Foot were then pushed forward to guard the Pass of Roncesvalles in the foothills of the Pyrenees and are attacked by two converging French forces. This battle sees Thomas Neal in the thick of the action and signals the first of many battles in the icy passes of the Pyrenees. Fought in terrible terrain, these actions cost the French over 13,000 casualties, but as Wellington remarked in his diary ... "It was a close run thing"

Fighting in the Pyrenees during July and August 1813
Following another decisive victory at Sorauren, Wellington decides to go on the offensive and the 57th are heavily involved in chasing the enemy towards the French border. During the attack on the fortress of Pamplona in July 1813, Major General Byng is wounded in action and Thomas is also wounded in the leg. Pamplona was a French Garrison which Wellington besieged for weeks, sometimes in violent rainstorms, denying the inhabitants any supplies or aid. The garrison eventually capitulated in October 1813 and the 57th were to march northwards again. This only gives Thomas a short time to recover before he rejoins the Brigade at the Battles of the Nive and Nivelle rivers. By this time snow was falling and the 57th were fighting by day and marching by night. On December 13th 1813, the 57th encountered the 3rd Battalion running towards them pursued by the enemy. 57th organised themselves into a firing line and fired volley upon volley of musket fire into the fast approaching French, stopping them dead in their tracks.

Wellington's 2nd Division fight their way across the Nivelle river into France.
Another titanic struggle was going on to the left of the 57ths defensive position, so Byng ordered his men to put in another counter attack and he led a spirited charge at the flank of the French infantry. The Nivelle was finally crossed later in the day, but 57th had suffered heavily in the days fighting with 16 officers and soldiers killed and a further 112 wounded. Major General Byng was one of those wounded, but he still continued to lead the 2nd Division from the front. Sir Rowland Hill's entire right column were now in France, encamped against the worst of the winter weather and defending the Pyrenees. By February, the 57th were on the march again towards the town of Orthez, where once again they faced the French in a bloody battle on February 27th.  The battle is another victory for the British army as they continued to push the French army further away from the Spanish border. At the siege of Bayonne in February 1814 Thomas is wounded again, this time with a head wound. This is strapped up in the field hospital and he is declared fit enough to be promoted to Corporal and join the brigade as they march towards Toulouse in April 1814. It is during the battle there that the British forces hear the news that Napoleon had officially surrendered. Thomas was awarded the Peninsular War Medal and granted 6 clasps for his part in the battles at Vitoria, Pyrenees, Nive, Nivelle, Bayonne and Toulouse.

British soldiers storm into Toulouse in April 1814.
57th Foot remains in France and marches all the way to Bordeaux from where the Battalion is shipped over to Canada to defend the frontier with the United States. This is only a short posting and Thomas is soon back in France where 57th Foot form part of the army of occupation for the next two years. On 25th March 1817, Thomas is promoted again to the rank of Sergeant, a rank he maintains until June 1818, when 57th Foot begins a 6 year stint in Ireland and Thomas is reduced back to the ranks as a private. During his stay in Ireland he is married to a local girl named Eleanor who is about 10 years his junior. They are married in Charleville, County Cork and in 1822, their first daughter, Sophia, is born. As with many Irish family records, I've hit the proverbial "brick wall" trying to find anything about Eleanor or her family, but I do know that Sophia was baptised in Charleville on 13th January 1823.

In September 1824, 57th's garrison in Ireland comes to an end and their new posting is to to sail with the convict ships to New South Wales, Australia, but possibly due to his age (he was 33 now) and the injuries he had suffered in the Peninsular, Thomas is transferred to the Royal Veterans Company on September 25th.

The Uniform of the Royal Newfoundland Veterans Company
The Royal Veterans Company of the British Army consisted of soldiers from the rank who were no longer considered fit for duty. These soldiers could be discharged as in-patients and admitted to the Chelsea Royal Hospital (Chelsea Pensioners) or as out-patients and allowed to return to their families. Men who were still fit for garrison duty could transfer to a Veterans Company, which is the route Thomas Neal chose.

The first detachment of the Royal Veterans Company arrived in St John's, Newfoundland, Canada on November 19th 1824. The main duties of the garrison were usually ceremonial, but they could also be called upon for police duties or to break up riots in Newfoundland. Thomas was stationed at Fort Townsend in St Johns. In 1827 the company was renamed the Royal Newfoundland Veterans Company and Thomas was promoted back up to the rank of Sergeant again.

Thomas had taken his wife and young daughter to Canada with him and during their stay, four more children were born. George born in 1826, Margaret in 1831, Richard in 1833 and Thomas Jr in 1835. By this time Thomas's eyesight was beginning to fail.  He must have returned to England as his medical examination was undertaken at Chatham in January 1835.  The report reads ...

"I am of decision that Sgt Thomas Neal is unfit for service and that treatment in hospital is not likely to be of any advantage to his impaired vision, the effects of age". 

On March 10th 1835, Thomas is officially pensioned out of the army on medical grounds. He was aged 43 and is described on his pension documents as 5 feet 6 inches in height, brown hair, grey eyes with a fresh complexion.

I have no record of the families movements after this date until they turn up in Jersey again on the 1841 census. The family are living on Regent Road, St Helier and Thomas is listed as an "Army Veteran". Eldest son George is now 15 and working as a smith's apprentice and eldest daughter Sophia (my 3x Gt Grandmother) has found work as a live-in domestic servant with a family in St Saviour. Looking through the 1841 census, it's quite clear that a large number of Chelsea Pensioners relocated to the Channel Islands following the Napoleonic wars, so I wonder what the connection is. Let's not forget though that Thomas had already been to Jersey early in his career and there were also very strong  trading links between Newfoundland and Jersey, so I wonder what really brought him back to Jersey?

The family appear to have settled into their new surroundings and Sophia is married at St Helier Town Church on May 25th 1843 to Thomas Gallichan, a local shoemaker who later became the Harbour Policeman. On the 1851 census, the family have moved to Milbrook Place, Colombus Street in St Helier. Thomas is now listed as "Pensioner; late Sg't of Veterans Company". Sons Richard and Thomas are still living at home and interestingly, both are now working as "Apprentice Cabinetmakers", the same occupation Thomas had begun before he enlisted with the army 42 years earlier. There is also a grandaughter living at their home, Eleanor born in 1847. 

This is the point where I lose track of some the family. Their son George was married to Susan Hinchcliffe in St Helier in 1846 and Richard married Elizabeth Davey in St Helier in 1852. Margaret married Peter Main in 1850 and were soon living in Alderney where peter was ablacksmith. They had 7 children all born in Alderney. Margaret and peter were still in Alderney on the 1901 census but by 1911 Peter was widowed and living with his daughter Margaret and her family back in Jersey. I have not been able to find any burial records for either Thomas or Eleanor and I have no further information about their son Thomas. I can confidently trace Sophia through to her burial in St Helier in the 1870s, but her story is a whole different tale to tell another day.

Discovering the army career of Thomas Neal has answered so many questions in my family history, but at the same time it has created even more questions.... Who were Thomas Neal's parents? What really brought the family to Jersey in the first place? As with every family history project, the quest for answers goes on.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

SS St Julien

The SS St Julien was one of a pair of steam ships built by John Brown of Clydebank for the Great Western Railway's Weymouth to Channel Islands services. She was launched on the Clyde in Feb 1925. Her sister ship was the St Helier. My Grandfather, Charlie Pavey, was the Quartermaster on this ship during the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. He was born and bred in Weymouth but he must have met my "grandmother to be" on one of his trips to Jersey and after they were married he moved to St Helier and continued to work on the ships from his Jersey base.

GWRSS St Julien just after launch with dummy funnel still in place.
St Julien was originally delivered with two funnels, but the second was in fact a dummy which was removed in 1928.  When war broke out in 1939 the service between Weymouth and the Channel Islands was suspended. St Julien entered Weymouth on at 8pm on September 9th carrying the last holidaymakers from Jersey. 3 days later she left for Avonmouth where she was initially put to use ferrying troops. However. after only two trips to St Nazaire, she was very quickly converted into a Hospital Carrier operating out of Newhaven and Southampton. She took part in the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, Boulogne and Cherbourg in 1940. On May 29th 1940, during the Dunkirk operation, St Julien was deliberately bombed by the Luftwaffe for a considerable period of time. Although she never received a direct hit, she was damaged by shrapnel from numerous near misses. It was during this raid that my grandfather was hit in the chest by flying debris and suffered the effects of shell-shock. St Julien remained just off Dunkirk for half an hour waiting for an opportunity to land, but when the air attacks started again she sailed back to Dover to offload her injured crew before returning to Dunkirk next morning where she successfully rescued 287 casualties.
SS St Julien with dummy funnel removed.
As I had mentioned earlier, my family were living in Jersey at the start of World War II. Grandad Charlie was sent home to Jersey to recover from his injuries that he had received at Dunkirk, but less than two weeks later the German army began their invasion of the Channel Islands. He quickly arranged for the family to evacuate the Island before the German forces landed, but he couldn't find his youngest son David (my father). Eventually he was found on the beach watching all the activity. My Uncle Dennis grabbed him and dragged him back home. They made their way to the harbour in St Helier with only the clothes he was wearing and a bag that my Gran had packed for him. They boarded a ship that took them to Southampton and from there the family made their way back the family home in Weymouth.

Grandad Charlie contracted TB whilst he was convalescing and eventually lost one of his lungs. He was unable to return to work the ship, but the St Julien spent the remainder of World War II as a hospital carrier and saw service in the Mediterranean as well as the D-Day Landings in 1944 where she pressed into service for the US Navy. She was damaged by a mine on June 7th and had to be towed back to England with her bows well down in the water. Less than three weeks later she was back in service in Normandy assisting with American casualties at Arrowmanches.
HM Hospital Carrier St Julien clearing casualties from Arrowmanches in July 1944

SS St Julien in St Helier Harbour, Jersey 1955. 
This photo was taken by my mother when she went to Jersey to see my Dad's family shortly before their wedding  .
In 1946 St Julien was returned to the GWR at Weymouth and was passed on to British Railways on 1st January 1948 when GWR became part of the British Transport Commission (British Railways). Another member of my Weymouth family worked on the ship during her final years. Alfred John Lanning Pavey was recorded as 1st Engineer on St Julien in 1948. He was the son of Grandfather's brother. St Julien made her last Channel Islands crossing on 27th September 1960 when the two sister ships were replaced by the new SS Caesarea and SS Sarnia. She was scrapped the following year and sold to Van Heyghen Freres, Ghent  in March 1961. She was last heard of being used by Dockyard workers at Walcheren in late 1963.
St Julien with windows plated up on the sides of the main deck and a white forecastle.

Propulsion: 4 Parsons steam turbines SRG two shafts 18kn 4350bhp

Ship Type: Passenger Vessel

Ship's Role: Channel Island ferry

Tonnage: 1885gross tons.

Length: 282.2 feet

Breadth: 40 feet

Draught: 13 feet

Owner History:
Great Western Railway Co, London; 1925-1939 and 1946-1948
British Railways Southern Region; 1948-1961

St Julien is towed out of Weymouth harbour for the very last time in 1960.
Photo supplied by Weymouth resident David Bishop. David's father also worked on board the St Julien.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Donald Poore Pavey & HMS Delight

One of the more sobering parts of my genealogical research, is finding the names of my relatives and ancestors on War Memorials. There are two Pavey's on the War Memorial on Weymouth promenade. The first is Thomas Lanning Pavey, my Grandfather's uncle. Tom was a veteran Merchant seaman , who just happened to be on leave when a German bomb landed directly on his house in St Nicholas Street in 1942. He is recorded as a "Civilian" casualty... It's so ironic that he died at home where he should have been safe, but had been involved in such a risky occupation during two world wars. 

The second Pavey on the Weymouth War Memorial has fascinated me for a while, that of Donald Poore-Pavey. My father had told me that he had a cousin who had been killed when his ship sank off Portland during WW2, but I never knew for sure who he was talking about. Could this be him? Nobody else in my immediate family knew anything about Donald and the double-barrelled name was a bit of a mystery too?

I can now reveal that Donald was in fact my father's cousin. He was born as Donald Poore in Weymouth in the second quarter of 1919. The index of Births in England & Wales reveal that his mothers maiden name was Diplock, but something must have happened to his parents along the way as the next time I find his name mentioned is when he was adopted by my Grand Uncle Alfred George Pavey and his wife Edith (nee Penn). Donald grew up at No 60 High Street, overlooking the harbour and all its maritime activity. They later moved to the new council estate at Westham.

His adoptive father, Alf Pavey had been a sailor for most of his life. During WW1 he served aboard the "secret" armed trawlers Clyne Castle and Balmoral Castle that operated out of Portland harbour. It was dangerous work as these trawlers were both minesweepers and U-Boat hunters. Prior to joining the Royal Navy, Alf had worked on Cosens Paddle steamers. With so many more members of the Pavey and Penn family involved in harbour trades, it was no surprise that Donald chose to join the Royal Navy at the outbreak of WW2 when he was just 20 years old.

He was an able seaman aboard HMS Delight, a "Defender" class Destroyer built for the Royal Navy in the 1930s. During the Abyssinian crisis she had been deployed in the Red Sea, but returned to the home fleet at the outbreak of WW2 and played a major part in the Norwegian Campaign. 

On June 29th 1940, under the command of Mark Fogg-Elliott, HMS Delight sailed out of Portsmouth harbour to undertake escort duties in the busy English Channel on her way to the Clyde. This action itself put the ship in grave danger and contravened local orders preventing ships from sailing in daylight. The Royal Navy had already lost a large number of its Destroyers during the Norwegian campaign and at the evacuations of Dunkirk, so in order to preserve the remaining fleet, Destroyers were only supposed to sail at dusk or under the cover of darkness. Why Commander Fogg-Elliott chose to ignore this order is unclear, and it didn't take long before the newly installed Freya radar on the Hague peninsular detected HMS Delight and alerted the Luftwaffe of a target in the English Channel. At 6.35pm 16 German Junkers Ju87 dive bombers attacked Delight when she was 20 miles south of Portland Bill. Capt Fogg-Elliott used all of his experience and skill to twist and turn the ship avoiding any direct hits from the dive bombers, but a bomb exploding underwater caused a fracture in the forward fuel tanks, which caught fire. The fire caused ammunition in the magazines to explode and a sudden large explosion destroyed the fo'c'sle and B gun was blown high into the air.

As soon as the SOS was received, destroyers HMS Vansittart and HMS Broke were dispatched from Devonport to her aid, but four high speed boats from Portland were first on the scene. ML102, ML105, MASB 1 and MASB 5 arrived to find HMS Delight burning furiously. Captain Fogg-Elliott ordered that the injured crew be transferred immediately to ML105 and the Motor Launch sped away with 70 survivors. Motor Anti Submarine Boat 5 rescued a further 50 crew members while MASB 1 recovered the body of a sailor floating some 300 yards from the ship.

Motor Launch 102 lay with her bows against the burning ship to take away the remaining 8 crewmen, 6 officers and finally Captain Fogg-Elliott himself. ML102 circled the ship one final time and dropped a depth charge to try and sink the ship more quickly, but the charge only damaged the fittings and did not appear to damage her hull. At 10.10pm MASB 1 reported that only the bows of HMS Delight could be seen above the surface and she sank below the surface later that evening.

It was reported at the time that there was only minimal loss of life. Most newspaper reports say that 6 crew members were killed during the attack, but there were actually 8 crew members confirmed killed, another 4 crew were "Missing Presumed Killed" and a further 7 men died from their injuries later. Sadly, Able Seaman Donald Poore Pavey was one of those "MPK". There were also 60 members of the crew injured during the attack, some quite seriously. 
Report from the Times - August 1940
Following the sinking, there was an enquiry into the loss of HMS Delight, but very little was ever reported in the newspapers at the time and I have found very few reports or findings from that enquiry. Admiral Sir William James of Portsmouth is alleged to have said that he had no hesitation in sending out a single destroyer in daylight if the situation required it, but Admiral Sir Dudley Pound (First Sea Lord) and A.V.Alexander (First Sea Lord) were both of the opinion that a serious error of judgement had been made in sailing her by day.

There are several conflicting stories on the internet regarding the actual event and there has also been some debate over where the wreck of the ship actually lies. Some stories say that she sailed from Portland, some say that she suffered a direct hit from one of the dive bombers. There are suggestions that she struggled back to Portland harbour, but was so badly damaged that she was later taken out to sea again and scuttled off Portland Bill. I am confident that she sank where she was attacked as the report of the rescue attempt was researched using information from the log books of the Motor Launches that were sent to her aid. She now lies 22 miles south of portland Bill at a depth of about 55 metres, her bow is broken off, her sterrn is upright and the central section of her hull is upside down. A silent grave to those who died in the attack. 

Donald Poore-Pavey is also remembered on the Royal Navy Memorial at Portsmouth, (Panel 31, Column 1). It is also worth noting that Alfred John Lanning Pavey, named his second son Donald George Pavey in honour of his adopted brother, who tragically died so young.

Lives lost on HMS Delight, July 29th 1940.... 

Thomas Barton; Stoker.
George E Benford; Petty Officer Stoker. 
Andrew Bennet; Engine Room Officer.
William J Dennett; Able Seaman.
Frank C Hammond; Able Seaman.
Sidney Holdsworth; Stoker.
Frank Lawton; Chief Engine Room Artificer.
George A Morgan; Engine Room Artificer.

William Gibbons; Ordinary Seaman, (Missing Presumed Killed)
Donald Poore-Pavey; Able Seaman. (Missing Presumed Killed).
William Semple; Stoker. (Missing Presumed Killed)
Cyril H Storr; Able Seaman. (Missing Presumed Killed)

Cyril R Day; Leading Seaman. (Died from Injuries)
Harold Miller; Able Seaman. (Died from Injuries)
Leslie J Atkins; Ordinary Seaman (Died from Injuries)
Ernest S Homburg; Ordinary Seaman (Died from Injuries)
Ernest Jenkinson; Able Seaman (Died from Injuries)
Henry C Dickinson; Chief Petty Officer Stoker (Died from Injuries)
Richard E Morgan; Able Seaman (Died from Injuries)

Monday, 7 October 2013

Charles Lanning Pavey - Shipwrecked on the Brayes

I have recently been reading The Great Western At Weymouth by J.H.Lucking, a history of the Railway Steamers that operated between Weymouth and the Channel Islands. Members of my family have sailed on many boats on this route, including my grandfather Charlie Pavey, who worked on the "St Julien" and "Roebuck II" prior to WW2, but until I read this book, I hadn't realised that at least one of my ancestors had been shipwrecked on this route.

My Great, Great Grandfather, Charles Lanning Pavey had been born in Melcombe Regis in 1842, the son of Silvester and Lucretia Pavey. Silvester was a sawyer working alongside the harbour on the West Quay, so there was always a chance that their children would become attached to the sea in some way. Charles grew up living on the harbour and by the time he was 18 he was working on the boats. The 1861 census lists Charles as being on board the "Cadmus" in St Sampson's Harbour, Guernsey. The "Cadmus" was a 217 tonne sailing brig, built in 1858 and registered in Weymouth. It's fair to say that she was used to transport potatoes, vegetables and flowers between the Channel Islands into the busy Dorset port. He also worked on a ship named "Vivid" during the 1860s and the Paddle Steamers "Cygnus" and "Brighton".

PS "Brighton" was reputed to be one of the fastest steamers in England, second only to the Dieppe boats. She had been built in 1857 by Palmer & Co and initially went into service with  Maple & Morris Ltd sailing between Shoreham and the Channel Islands. Less than a year later, she was purchased by the Great Western Railway and leased out to the Weymouth and Channel Islands Steam Packet Company. She was immediately pressed into service on the new Weymouth to Cherbourg route, but this venture was short lived and by August 1860, "Brighton" had become a regular favourite on the busy Channel Island service running out of Weymouth.

By 1876, "Brighton" was starting to show her age, The ship was badly in need of repairs to her hull and required an extensive mechanical overhaul. Over the next two years she received new paddle boxes and a turtle-back hurricane deck. Mechanically she was treated to new boilers, cylinder pumps and the addition of surface condensers, giving the steamer a brand new lease of life. In 1878 "Brighton" was back in service sailing regularly to the Channel Islands and occasionally crossing the Channel to France. 

My Great Great Grandfather Charles Lanning Pavey was on board the "Brighton" during the night of the 1881 census, where the steamer was recorded as being in St Helier Harbour, Jersey.

On a particularly foggy morning in January 1887, "Brighton" steamed out of Weymouth harbour on her usual route to Guernsey, and on to Jersey. At 6.30am, in thick fog, "Brighton" hit a dangerous group of rocks known as the Brayes, just off the Northern tip of Guernsey. The ship was reported to have still been travelling at around 11 knots, and her hull was holed badly. Within 20 minutes she had sunk in deep water. All 24 crew and 23 passengers had taken to the lifeboats and landed safely at Bordeaux Harbour, Guernsey. The Captain, Thomas Painter was subsequently found guilty of negligence and had his licence suspended for six months. The exact spot of the wreck has never been determined, so the "Brighton" is still lying at the bottom of the sea, undisturbed. As a result of the loss of the "Brighton", GWR withdrew their financial support from the Weymouth & Channel Islands Steam Packet Company and decided to operate the route in their own right the following year.

PS Brighton in 1886, 
It's quite possible that my Great Great Grandfather did not sail again following the sinking of the "Brighton". Besides his career as a mariner, Charles and his wife had also been publican's, firstly at the Rose & Crown on Crescent Street in Melcombe Regis and then at the Ship Inn on the corner of Maiden Street and the Custom House Quay. The pub was a popular haunt for Weymouth mariners and it has also been suggested that it could have been the inspiration for "The Weeping Woman" pub featured in the novel "Weymouth Sands" by John Cowper Powys. It was here that Charles Lanning Pavey died on Christmas Day 1888, leaving his wife Annie and their 11 children to keep the ale flowing. The Ship Inn still remains today, but has been much modified since Charles Pavey was the publican, however, the exterior facing Maiden Street retains many of the buildings original features.

The Ship Inn on West Quay, as it appears today. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

What's It All About Then?

This is where I store and share stories from my family history... a journey into my ancestral past discovering the stories behind the people and places that make me what I am today. Over the past few years I have discovered so many interesting descendants that I need to write down their stories so that they are never forgotten. This will be the story of sailors, soldiers, chainmakers, nailmakers, farmers, factory-workers, dressmakers, charwomen, agricultural labourers, carters, miners, etc, etc. They came from Dorset, Devon and Cornwall in the south west of England, from Belper in Derbyshire, from Staffordshire and the Industrial Black Country, from Jersey in the Channel islands and a few from Ireland too. Some of them can be traced back to Medieval times and even Norman ancestry...

I hope you will enjoy reading their stories as much as I have enjoyed uncovering them... these are my  roots. my ancestral trails and my family tales ...