Wednesday 1 June 2016

Charles Robert Francis 31 August 1892-1 June 1916

Charles Robert Francis

31 August 1892-1 June 1916

Charles Francis was born on 31st August 1892 at Shalford in Surrey and was baptised at St Mary’s Church on November 6th. His parents Frank Francis and Eliza Perry were married at St Nicholas Cranleigh on 27 June 1889. Two days later, their first child Frederick John was born in Cranleigh. Eighteen months later saw the family living at Ewhurst where they welcomed Alfred. Two years after that Charles was born at Shalford and two years after that Harriet at Abinger. They were still at Abinger for the arrival of Bessie in 1897 and back at Ewhurst for the final addition to the family, William in 1905. On all the records Frank was listed as a general labourer so presumably many changes of employment accounted for many changes of location.

Charles joined the navy on 31 August 1910 at Portsmouth, signing on for 12 years. He was eighteen years old, stood 5ft 5ins and had dark brown hair and grey eyes. His first ship, with the rank of boy 2nd class, was the Ganges 1, which was a shore training establishment at Shotley in Suffolk. He progressed through the ranks becoming an able seaman in October 1911. On 3 December 1915 he joined HMS Tipperary, a destroyer.

A few months later the ship was at the heart of the Battle of Jutland along with her sister ships, H.M.S. Spitfire. H.M.S. Sparrowhawk, H.M.S. Broke and H.M.S. Ardent. Just before midnight on May 31st 1916, the four ships were engaged in heavy and close hand fighting with German warships. Tipperary was badly damaged and on fire, but managed to inflict a great deal of damage before in the early hours of June 1st, she went down. HMS Sparrowhawk and Ardent also sank while Broke and Spitfire made it home. Almost all of the crew of HMS Tipperary were lost including Charles Francis. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Portsmouth War Memorial.

By the time Charles died, his sister Harriet was married and her second child, born in 1919, was named Robert. Charles’s mother Eliza died in 1918 in Ewhurst at the age of 48 and his father Frank stayed on and also died there in 1940. Charles was a first cousin twice removed. His grandfather Robert Perry was my great great grandfather.


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