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Person Details
22 Jan 1880
Brant Broughton Lincolnshire
Robert was the son of Francis Beckett and his wife Harriett (nee Heald). His parents were married in 1879 (A/M/J Stamford); Robert was born on 22 January 1880 (birth registered 1880 J/F/M Newark) and he had at least three siblings, William, Elizabeth and Thomas, who were all born in Brant Broughton. In 1891 Francis (55), a grocer, and his wife Harriett (43, b. Beckingham) were living in Brant Broughton with their four children Robert (11), William (9), Elizabeth (7) and Thomas (3). Robert joined the Royal Navy in April 1898. In 1901 he was serving in Portsmouth but on the night of the census was a visitor in the household of Mark and Elizabeth Legg at 24 Buckland Street, North End, Portsmouth. His father Francis Beckett died aged 71 on 16 January 1908 and was buried in St Helen's churchyard, Brant Broughton. Robert left the Royal Navy the same year and by 1911 was working as a stoker in a factory and living as a boarder in the household of Joseph and Sarah Ann Hassell of Wheatley's Croft, High Road, Beeston, Nottingham. At the time of the same census Robert's future wife, Edith Annie Freeman (24, b. Breadsall, Derbyshire), was a housemaid in the household of Ralph Sadler, an army officer who had served in the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters in the Boer War, his wife and family at 34 Ashbourne Road, Derby. Robert and Edith were married at Breadsall, Derbyshire, on 11 October 1911 and had two sons, Robert T Beckett (b. 1912 J/A/S Basford) and John F Beckett (b. 1913, J/A/S Basford). They made their family home at 43 Gladstone Street, Beeston, Nottingham. No further records of Edith and her son John have yet been traced although the eldest boy, Robert Thomas, may have died aged 85 in 1998 (Jun Basford, b. 17 July 1912). His mother Harriett Beckett died on 26 August 1926. At the time of the 1911 census she was living alone in her home at Brant Broughton and was working as a 'monthly nurse'. She was still living in the village at the time of her death 15 years later.
Robert joined the Royal Navy on 26 April 1898 when he was 18 years old. He came ashore in 1908 (by purchase) and in 1911 was a stoker (engine) in an factory.
26 Nov 1914
2870620 - CWGC Website
Stoker 1st Class
HMS Bulwark Royal Navy
Robert joined the Royal Navy on a 12 year engagement on 26 April 1898 when he was 18 years old. He joined as a Stoker 2nd Class and was serving as a Stoker 1st Class in HMS Murry when on 4 February 1908 he left the Navy 'by purchase.' Robert was then assigned to the Royal Fleet Reserve (Portsmouth). Robert rejoined the Navy on 2 August 1914 and was drafted to HMS Bulwark on 1 September 1914 as a Stoker 1st Class. He was killed when HMS Bulwark sank following an ammunition explosion. His body was not recovered for burial and he is commemorated on the 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 I have some bad news for the house,' he began. '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.’
Probate: Beckett Robert Heald of Beeston Nottinghamshire stoker RN died 26 November 1914 at sea. Probate Nottingham 27 October [1916] to Edith Annie Beckett widow. Effects £291. Probate; Beckett Harriett of Brant Broughton Lincolnshire widow died 26 August 1926 Probate Lincoln 26 October to Elizabeth Beckett spinster. Effects £366 12s 6d
Remembered on


  • HMS Bulwark -
  • Photograph published on 7th December 1914 in the Nottingham Evening Post and is courtesy of Jim Grundy and his facebook pages Small Town Great War Hucknall 1914
    Robert Heald Beckett - Photograph published on 7th December 1914 in the Nottingham Evening Post and is courtesy of Jim Grundy and his facebook pages Small Town Great War Hucknall 1914