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Person Details
31 May 1896
Robert ('Bob') was the son of Samuel Merchant. Samuel Merchant was born in 1862 (A/M/J Radford) and was married in 1880 (marriage registered J/F/M Radford). He and his wife Mary Ann had three sons; Samuel (b. 1880, A/M/J), William (birth registered 1882, J/F/M) and Robert (b. 31 May 1896). All the boys were born in Nottingham. In 1881 Samuel (20), a baker, and his wife Mary (21) were living at 6 Cyprus Street, St Ann's, with their one year old son, Samuel, as boarders in the household of William Challis. By 1891 they were living at 1 Rumford Street, St Ann's. Samuel was now working as a miner's labourer. He and Mary had two sons, Samuel (11) and William (9). Also in the house was a lodger, Mary A Dale (70), a widow. By 1901 Samuel, who was described on the census as married, was living at 10 Exchange Court, Mount Street, Nottingham, with his two youngest sons, William (19) and Robert (4). Samuel was a bricklayer's labourer and William was in work. Robert's brother William married Edith Morgan in 1902 (A/M/J Nottingham) and in 1911 they were living at 10 Exchange Court, Mount Street. William (29) was a bricklayer's labourer and Edith was a machinist. They had had four children but only one, Edith (8) had survived. In 1911 Robert (15) was living with his father at 2 Cranmer's Place, Mount Street, Nottingham. Samuel (49), now a shopkeeper, completed the census with the information that he had been married for 30 years and had had three children all of whom were still living. Also in his household was Agnes Millwood (44) who was described on the census form, as married; she had had 11 children all of whom were still living. Seven children with the surname 'Millwood' were living with Samuel and Agnes: Florence (20), Amy (15), Agnes (12), Harry (10), Minnie [Miriam Millwood Merchant] (7 b. 1904, A/M/J), Ginney [Jennie] (4 b. 1906, O/N/D) and Jim (2 b. 1909, A/M/J), and given Agnes' domestic circumstances (see below) it is probable that Samuel was the father of at least her three youngest children. Agnes Hannah (nee Daft) had married Herbert Millward (b. 1859) in 1883 (J/A/S Nottingham). The spelling of their surname varies on official records: Millward, Milwood and Millwood although by 1901 Agnes was using the spelling 'Millwood'. Herbert and Agnes probably had seven children, Lilian (b. 1883), Alice (b. 1886), Clara (b. 24 September 1888), Florence (birth registered 1891 J/F/M), Ernest (b. 1893), Amy (b. 1896) and Agnes (b. 1898). However, Agnes had another child, Harry, in 1901 (birth registered O/N/D) and subsequently three more (Miriam, Jennie and Jim). In 1891 Agnes and Herbert were living at 18 Exchange Close, Nottingham. Herbert (34) was a coal dealer. They had four daughters, Lilian (7), Alice (5), Clara (4) and Florence (5 months). There was also a boarder in the household, Leonard Tompkin (21). Herbert Millward (sic), was admitted as a patient (status 'pauper') to The Borough Asylum (City Lunatic Asylum) on Porchester Road, Mapperley, on 5 October 1899 and appears to have remained there until his death on 30 April 1918. By the time of the 1901 Census Agnes (34), who was working as a lace clipper, was living at 12 Albion Place, Nottingham, with six of her seven children: Alice (15) a machinist, Clara (12), Florence (10), Ernest (6), Amy (4) and Agnes (2). Also in the household was a boarder, Lilian Perkins (18). Agnes' son Harry was born later that year. Agnes' daughter, Clara, married Thomas Hancock on 31 October 1908 and had two children, Leonard Cyril (b. 19 August 1910) and Florence Lilian Irene (b. 14 October 1913). Thomas had joined the army in 1903 and transferred to the Army Reserve in 1906; he was mobilized on 5 August 1914 and was not demobilised until 6 June 1919. Clara died in 1972 aged 84. Samuel Merchant was still living at Cranmer Place when Robert was killed in 1916 and continued to live there until his own death on 26 November 1922. He had made a Will and Agnes Millwood was described as his widow although no record has yet been found of their marriage. Agnes died in 1960 aged 92 (buried 19 May 1960).
In 1911 he was an errand boy but gave his occupation as printer's assistant when he joined the Royal Navy the following year.
31 May 1916
245714 - CWGC Website
Able Seaman
HMS Defence Royal Navy
Robert joined the Royal Navy on 3 July 1912 when he was 16 years old, and two years later at the age of 18 signed on for 12 years. He served in the following ships and shore establishments: HMS Ganges, 3 July 1912-10 February 1913 (Boy 2nd Class, Boy 1st Class 10 February 1913); HMS Hawke, 11 February 1913-20 May 1913; Vivid I, 21 May 1913-6 June 1913; HMS Magnificent, 7 June 1913-30 June 1913; HMS Exmouth, 1 July 1913-22 August 1913; HMS Defence, 23 August 1913-7 January 1916 (10 days cells 8 January 1916-17 January 1916), 18 January 1916-31 May 1916 (Ordinary Seaman 31 May 1914, Able Seamen 15 July 1915). His Naval record was annotated, ‘NP4141/1916. DD 31st May 1916. Killed in action.' He was killed on his 20th birthday. His body was not recovered for burial and he is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. At Jutland the battle cruiser HMS Defence came under heavy shell fire from five German ships as she attacked a disabled German light cruiser. Two enemy salvoes detonated her rear magazine causing fires which spread to her secondary magazines which also exploded. She sank with no survivors from her crew of 903.
Nottingham Guardian 9 June 1916 Page 9 ref casualties at Jutland: Robert Merchant, HMS Defence (photograph). Nottingham Evening Post, Roll of Honour, 8 June 1916: ‘Merchant. On HMS Defence, Robert (Bob) loving cousin of Marion King; on his 20th birthday. His loving face and smile will never be forgotten. Loved by all.’ (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) Probate: Merchant Samuel of 2 Grammers-place [Cranmer-place] Mount-street Nottingham labourer died 26 November 1922 Administration (with Will) Nottingham 2 January to Agnes Millwood widow. Effects £316 4s 11d.
Remembered on


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  • Page 9 Nottingham Daily Guardian 9/6/1916. Caption reads' Robert Merchant age 20 of 2 Cranmers Place Mount Street Nottingham who went down with HMS Defence'.
    - Page 9 Nottingham Daily Guardian 9/6/1916. Caption reads' Robert Merchant age 20 of 2 Cranmers Place Mount Street Nottingham who went down with HMS Defence'.