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Person Details
03 Oct 1896
Francis was the son of William and Jane Matthewson. William was a widower by the time of the 1901 census but an earlier census record shows that in 1881 William, his wife Jane E and their daughter Kate E. were living at 33 Island Street. By 1891 they were living on Ashling Street, Sneinton, and six children were in the household; Kate (10), William (8), Arthur (7 b. 16/12/1884), Nellie (5), Ada (2) and George (1). In the 1901 census William, now a widower, was living at 12 Berlin Terrace. Five children, Kitty (aka Kate, 20), Arthur (17), Claude Henry (8), Leonard (7) and Francis (4), were in the house while another daughter, Ada (13), may have been visiting a Mr and Mrs Wilkinson on Exchange Road, West Bridgford. By the time of the next census in 1911 William had remarried and was living with his youngest child by his first marriage, Francis (14), and his second wife, Elizabeth (54), at 7 Lammas Street, Meadows, the home of his stepdaughter, Elizabeth Wakeley (36) and her three daughters, Maud (15), Gladys (12) and Dorothy (7). At the time of the same census an Ada Matthewson, age 22, was working as a housemaid in the household of Mrs Rebecca Sansom, a widow of 6 College Street, Nottingham. Francis' brother Arthur had joined the Royal Navy on 3 July 1901, signing on for 12 years on his 18th birthday in 1902, and in 1911 there was a Royal Navy seaman, Arthur Ernest Matthewson, age 27, who was born Nottingham, living in lodgings at 56 Wood Street, Old Brampton, Gillingham, Kent. Arthur served in the Royal Navy until discharged shore on demobilisation on 15 March 1919, his last ship was HMS Indomitable. Another brother, Leonard, also joined the Royal Navy, serving from 22 November 1912 eventually being rated Stoker First Class. Following service in HMS King Edward VII he was drafted to HMS Royal Oak and after the war was invalided from the service on 23 February 1921. The youngest brother, George, too served in the Royal Navy and survived the war, being discharged as a Leading Seaman on 6 June 1921. Claude Henry enlisted on 7 September 1914, joining the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards. He served in France from 3 May 1915 and was discharged on 13 April 1917 being no longer physically fit for service. William senior's address at the time he was notified of his son's death in 1914 was 52 Granger Street, Meadow Lane, Nottingham.
In 1911 Francis was an errand boy and he was still employed as an errand boy when he joined the Royal Navy on 18 December 1912.
26 Nov 1914
2871654 - CWGC Website
Ordinary Seaman
HMS Bulwark Royal Navy
Francis joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class at the age of 16 on 18 December 1912. He signed on for 12 years on his 18th birthday, 3 October 1914, and was rated ordinary seaman the same day. He served in the following ships and shore establishments: HMS Ganges 18 December 1912-16 June 1913 (Boy 2nd Class, 24 May 1913 Boy 1st Class); HMS Hawke, 17 June 1913-24 October 1913; Victory I, 25 October 1913-27 November 1913; HMS Bulwark, 28 November 1913-26 November 1914 (Ordinary Seaman 3 October 1914). Register annotated, ‘NP 3063/14. DD 26 November 1914 when Bulwark was sunk.’ HMS Bulwark was a pre-Dreadnought battleship and part of the 5th Battleship Squadron, Channel Fleet. She was destroyed by an ammunition explosion at 0753 on 26 November 1914 while at No 17 Buoy off Sheerness. Only 12 men were saved from a ship’s company of 758. Matthewson's body was not recovered and he is commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial. The pre-Dreadnought battleship HMS Bulwark of the 5th Battleship Squadron, Channel Fleet, was sunk on 26 November 1914 by an ammunition explosion while at No 17 Buoy in the River Medway off Sheerness. Only 12 men survived from a ship’s company of over 750 and among the dead were sailors and Royal Marines from Nottinghamshire, many of whom came from the Meadows and Radford. Eye-witnesses in nearby ships described seeing smoke from the stern of the ship before the explosion, which appeared to have been in an after magazine. Divers who examined the wreck a few days later reported that Bulwark’s port bow had been blown off by the explosion and lay 50 feet beyond the mooring while the starboard bow lay 30 feet further away. No other large sections of the ship could be found. A Naval board of enquiry into the cause of the explosion concluded that the most likely cause of the disaster was the overheating of cordite charges stored alongside a boiler room bulkhead. It was also suggested that shells for the ship’s 6” guns had been stored in in cross-passageways connecting the ship’s 11 magazines and had, contrary to regulations, been packed too close together and were also touching the magazine bulkheads. A chain reaction explosion of the shells would have been sufficient to detonate the ship’s magazines. On the afternoon of Thursday November 26th 1914, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill rose to his feet in parliament. ‘I regret to say,' he began 'I have some bad news for the house. The Bulwark battleship, which was lying in Sheerness (on the River Medway) this morning, blew up at 7.35 o'clock. The Vice and Rear Admiral, who were present, have reported their conviction that it was an internal magazine explosion which rent the ship asunder. There was apparently no upheaval in the water, and the ship had entirely disappeared when the smoke had cleared away... I regret to say the loss of life is very severe. Only 12 men are saved. All the officers and the rest of the crew, who, I suppose, amounted to between 700 and 800, have perished. I think the House would wish me to express on their behalf the deep sorrow with which the House heard the news, and their sympathy with those who have lost their relatives and friends.'
Nottingham Evening Post, 17 September 1914: ‘Mrs. Watson, 6, Hawthorne-terrace, Loscoe-road, Carrington, has five brothers serving their King and country. Francis is on HMS Bulwark, George and Leonard are on HMS King Edward VII. Arthur is on HMS Indomitable, and Claude is with the Dragoon Guards. Her father, Mr. Matthewson, who is in the National Reserve, though turned 60 years of age, declares himself ready to serve.’
Remembered on