William Henry Titheridge, Diarist and Royal Navy Officer

William Henry Titheridge was born in Alverstoke, Hampshire in 1875. His great grandparents, Richard Titheridge and Sarah Wheeler had moved to Alverstoke from Winchester in 1809. His grandparents William and Jane Anne Titheridge continued to live in Alverstoke and father Benjamin was born there in 1851.

Benjamin married Eleanor May Hicks in 1874 and they had two children, William Henry John born 1874 and Eleanor Mary born in 1877. Eleanor Mary died aged 5 followed 9 months later by her mother in 1883. When William Henry was 10 his father Benjamin married again to Mary Kate Galvin and they had 1 child Eily Kathleen.

William married Annie Eliza Springate in 1908 and they had 4 boys William Brownelle b1910 d1967, Peter AG b1914, Ben Springate b1920 and Robert Springate D b1922 d1963.

In the 1881 census William aged 5 is a scholar living in Alverstoke at 5 Shaftesbury Terrace with his parents, sister Eleanor and grandmother Eleanor.
In the 1891 census William aged 15 is already a sailor and is living with his father and step mother and sister Lily at 56 Shaftesbury Road.
The 1901 census shows William aged 25, a seaman in the Royal Navy, as a boarder with the Neale family at 51 Hawke Street, Alverstoke.
The 1911 census shows William aged 35 married and living with wife Annie Eliza aged 21 and son William Brownelle aged 6 month. William is described as a gunner in the Royal Navy.

From Naval records we can trace William’s Naval Career

HMS Ganges as boy seaman
HMS Excellent Gunners Mate
HMS Stag Gunner 1912 to 1913 in Malta
HMS Albemarle 1914 to 1916 Gunner Channel Fleet and Flag ship of Rear Admiral
HMS Albemarle saw little action during World War l.

On 5 August 1914 Albemarle joined the 3rd Battle squadron of the grand feet and remained there until 2 November. During this time at Scapa she was part of the Northern Patrol, operating north of the Shetlands. In November she was one of a number of ships sent to reinforce the fleet at the Dardanelles. After leaving Rosyth on 6 November 5 days later they ran into a severe gale forcing her to return Scapa as she had lost her bridge during the storm. She never got to the Dardanelles and at the start of 1916 she was still with the 3rd Battle Squadron. She was then sent to northern Russia to act as an ice breaker in the White Sea keeping Russian supply lines open. Her crew were transferred at the start of 1919 and she became an accommodation ship.

HMS Excellent February 1917 to June 1917
In the 1917 Navy List he is listed as Chief Gunner
HMS Princess Margaret Minelayer, evacuation of white Russians
HMS Princess Margaret was involved with the evacuation of a number of Russian aristocrats and others who were fleeing the Bolsheviks.
Retired from the Navy in 1926
Rejoined the Navy in 1939 at the outbreak of World War Two Lieutenant Commander
HMS Daedalus Barrack Master
Died at Haslar Hospital December 1962

William Henry kept a diary during World War 1 and Cheryl Titheridge wrote an article about it in 1989 published in Hampshire Magazine called “Glimpses of a Gunner’s War”

Below are extracts from the diary.`

Great War Diary Of William Titheridge Born 1874

Royal Navy Gunner  1914 – 1918 

August, 1914

After having the Captain explained the reasons for war, the ship’s company sang God Save the King and a great enthusiasm prevailed in the ship leaving to join the battle squadron. The Albemarle sailed from Portland to join the squadron in the North Sea. Initially much of the time was spent ~patrolling, searching for German battleships and ‘U’ boats and then Albemarle would put into various ports such as Immingham, Scapa Flow, Sheerness or Rosyth where they “.coaled” the ship, filling it with hundreds of tons of coal, a grueling job which often took many hours:  

September 10 1914

Proceeded from port searching for the enemy, sighted a German submarine which apparently missed the first ship of the line and in endeavoring to attack the second ship was rammed by the Hindustan. The submarine was then fired on by the ships of the line and three Lyddite from Albemarle, two of which took effect and blew up and sank her. Wreckage was observed astern of Albemarle and the bows of the submarine were up in the air, then a few bubbles and a ring in the water … then nothing else … poor devils. 

October 1914

During these months of the war HMS Albemarle spent much of her time patrolling the waters between Scotland and Lough Swilly in Northern Ireland. 

October 27,1914

“8 a.m., arrived in Lough Swilly and coaled ship. After arriving in harbour it was reported that HMS Audacious had been blown up forty miles from Lough Swilly, apparently by a mine laid by a’ trawler. She signalled for assistance and Olympic ‘came and took her in tow. She arrived at the mouth of the harbour and there turned turtle and blew up with two or three loud explosions and then disappeared. The crew had previously been taken off the ship so there was no loss of life. The above accident was kept very quiet and nothing regarding the loss was leaked out.”  

December 1914

My first Christmas on board was spent back in Portland harbour. I received a parcel from an old family friend containing a Christmas pudding, tobacco, a pipe and cigarettes and, like every other serving seaman, a card from the King and Queen and a photograph of Princess Mary. All Mess decks were decorated, at noon the Admiral and officers went round the mess decks and were delighted with the spirits of the ship’s company. All officers were-invited to the wardroom to drink the Admiral’s health in champagne. A concert was held on the mess deck from 1.30 p.m. until 10 p.m. and everyone enjoyed themselves. We heard that at 10 a.m. a bomb had dropped on Dover – it fell in a garden and though no-one was injured it killed a dog. A number of British seaplanes made a raid and dropped bombs on German ships and gasworks early in the morning. 

January 1915

Time spent based in Sheerness, patrolling the seas doing firing exercises and target practice.  

5 March 1915

The Thordis was the first merchant ship to sink a German submarine. The Thordis was bound from Blyth (Northumberland) to Plymouth and just off Beachy Head the Captain saw the wake of a torpedo corning towards him; he avoided it and then saw the periscope of a submarine. He turned, rammed and sank it.

Another submarine was captured off Dover, having sunk a defenceless merchant ship. The crew were taken to Dover Castle and were treated as common prisoners and not as honourable prisoners of war and they will be tried by Court Martial for sinking a defenceless merchant ship carrying non-combatants, including women and children. According to reports this is the seventeenth German submarine _sunk to date; that leaves about seventeen more to get on with the work and some are not yet built. 

11 May 1915

Maori a destroyer, was sunk off Zeebrugge. The Crusader lowered boats to save the crew but was driven off by gun­fire from German batteries. They had to abandon their boats and some of the crew were taken prisoners. Cousin John Titheridge lost his life during this action. 

May 29, 1915

The ship Princess Irene was blown up at Sheerness. “She was loaded with blockade mines.

According to a report a German spy got on board and laid an infernal machine timed to go off by clockwork. A boat left the ship shortly before the explosion, probably carrying the culprit. Damage was done miles away and a number of barges were sunk … There are German Spies in Sheerness!”

December, 1915

We heard today that we are to leave for ‘duties’ in Russian waters, a distance of 2,000 miles from here, Rosyth.  

Christmas Day, 1915

The dockyard commenced fitting out the ship for ice-breaking by shoring the weak pans with timber and arranging for heating stoves to be placed about the ship.”  

January 1916

HMSAlbemarle has ploughed her way through the ice during her voyage to the White Sea in Russia, the sea is frozen over for six months of the year.  

January 22, 1916

“At 7 o’clock we stopped, held in by the ice and have remained here for the night. Everything is still and outside the ship is nothing but one mass of ice clinging. to the ship. The seagulls made tracks on the water at our stem, took their bath hurriedly and fled away. The food thrown overboard was a treat for them and see them fight! They ought to join ‘Kitchener’s Army’. 

March 22, 1916

Many ships have been loaded and have proceeded to Archangel – numbers. have laid-‘here’ unable to get through due to the thickness of the ice; others that have attempted have been caught in the ice, the ships have been lost and the crews perished of cold and starvation. Survivors of one ship tracked for days and nights over the ice to gain the land. The Captain was so exhausted he gave in and sat down mid-ocean on the ice and has not been heard of since. A few survivors arrived at Alexandrosk after tramping one hundred miles. frost bitten and in a state of starvation. One of the crew had his feet amputated through being frost bitten and he was sent home.”  

February, 1917

After months in Russian waters and six weeks in hospital then a month sick leave I joined HMS Excellent once again in Portsmouth.  

June 1917

Appointed to HMS Princess Margaret, a minelayer that was built in 1913-14 and joined the ship at Immingham, north-east England. Time spent patrolling and doing ‘mine’ work. Also evacuated White Russians following the Russian Revolution.  

September 30 1918

“Bulgaria surrendered” 

October 31 1918

Turkey surrendered 

November 1918

Austria surrendered 

November 7, 1918

At 2pm hostilities ceased and ended the Great War. The ship at Scapa Flow was ordered to sea and return to base. After two days at sea we arrived in the Firth of Forth. 

November 21 1918

German fleet surrendering – all ships escorted to the River Forth and anchored off Inchkeith. This undoubtedly was a fine sight – we then steamed round the surrendered ships and returned to harbour, the fleet still guarding the German ships who struck their colours by order of the CMC Sir David Beatty.



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