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  • Family gravestone, Nottingham General Cemetery, commemorating John and his brother, Frederick. Photograph Rachel Farrand (February 2019).
Person Details
30 Jan 1882
Somercotes Derbyshire
John William, known as Jack, was the son of Edward and Emily Steel. Edward was born in Stavely, Derbyshire, and Emily in Somercotes, Derbyshire. According to the 1911 Census completed by Edward, he and Emily, who by then had been married for 32 years, had had 12 children of whom only eight survived. Ten children were named on the census between 1881 and 1911: John William (Jack) b. 20 January 1882, Samuel b. abt 1883 Tibshelf d. 18 July 1898, Edward b. Tibshelf, Maud Rachael b. 1888 Stavely (J/F/M Chesterfield), Emily b. 1889 Swanwick (O/N/D Belper) d. 1891, Richard b. 1892 (A/M/J Nottingham), Frederick (Fred) b. 1893 (J/A/S Nottingham), Alice b. 1894 (O/N/D Nottingham), Eva b. 1897 (J/A/S Nottingham) and Ellen (Nellie) b. 1902 A/M/J Nottingham. Samuel died aged 15 in 1898 (J/A/S Nottingham) and Emily died in 1891 aged 1 (J/A/S Nottingham). Another son, Ernest, who died in infancy did not appear on any of the census. In 1881 Edward (22), a coal miner, and Emily (21) were living at the Old English Gentleman, Nottingham Road, Alfreton, Derbyshire, with their eldest son, John William (2 months). Also in the household was a visitor, Mary Hinds (13), and four lodgers, Thomas Stanton (39), Alfred Wheeler (23), Joseph Maudlin (45) and his son Samuel (24). Edward and Emily had moved to Nottingham by 1891 where they were living at 9 Gladstone Terrace, Nottingham. They now had four children; John (10), Samuel (7), Maud (3) and Emily (1). John's sister Emily died in 1891 some months after the census, and his brother Samuel in 1898. John joined the Royal Navy in August 1899. By 1901 the family was living at 11 Waterloo Terrace, Gadd Street, Hyson Green, Nottingham. Edward was now working as a bricklayers' labourer. In the household on the night of the census were his wife Emily (42) and children Edward (16) who worked in a lace office, Maud (13), Richard (8), Frederick (7), Alice (6) and Eva (3). At the time of the same census John was serving in HMS Prince George. John married Florence Louisa Betsworth in 1904 (A/M/J Nottingham); Florence's birth was registered in 1885 J/F/M (Southampton). They had at least three children: Ernest b. 1909 Southampton (J/F/M Droxford Hampshire), Edward b. 1912 (J/A/S Southampton) and Rose (birth registered 1914 J/F/M Southampton). John's brother Edward married Eleanor Elizabeth Kirk in 1905 (A/M/J Nottingham), and their sister Maud married Benjamin Wright in 1908 (J/A/S Nottingham). In 1911 John's parents were living at 21 Bateman Street, Hyson Green, Nottingham. Living at home with Edward and Emily were Richard (18) a bobbin and carriage maker, Fred (17) a beam maker, Alice (16) a cigarette packer, Eva (13) a cigarette box maker and Nellie (8). Also in the household was their grandson, Ernest Steel (2) who had been born in Southampton and presumably was their son John's child, and two boarders, Walter Long (17), a beam maker, and Albert Rolfe (25), a lace threader. In 1911 John (30) was in the Royal Fleet Reserve and working as a postman; he was living at the Royal Sailors Rest at 74-174 Commercial Road, Bucking Street/Chandos Street, Portsmouth. His wife has not yet been traced on the census, but given that their son Ernest was living with John's parents in Nottingham it seems that it was an unsettled time before John re-joined the Navy on 7 April 1911. His sister, Maud (23) was living at 6 Aston Terrace, Hyson Green, with her husband Benjamin (24), a twisthand lace maker. His brother Edward (26) a colliery labourer above ground, and Eleanor (28, b. Basford) were living at 71 Rye Street, New Basford, with their daughter Nellie (3). At the time of John's death Florence was living at 28 Emsworth Road, Shirley, Southampton. Florence married Patrick S McCracken in 1922 (J/A/S Southampton) and died aged 67 in 1952 (September Southampton). John's brother, Fred, served with the 17th Bn Sherwood Foresters (21819 Private) and was killed in action on 3 September 1916 (Thiepval Memorial). His mother, Emily, died on 9 August 1928 age 68 and father, Edward on 8 January 1935 age 75. Richard married Eliza Ann Lunt (b. 1890 A/M/J Uppingham Rutland) in 1919 (O/N/D December). He died aged 73 on 16 June 1965 (June Nottingham); his home address was 15 Liddington Street, New Basford. Eliza survived him.
He was a basket maker when he joined the Royal Navy in 1899. He transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve in 1907 and was a postman when he re-joined the Royal Navy in April 1911.
31 Aug 1916
1659640 - CWGC Website
205907 (R.F.R., Po. B.1976)
Able Seaman
Royal Navy
Last ship: HMS Alert. John joined the Royal Navy on 10 August 1899 when he was 17 years old and entered on a 12 year engagement (7 years + 5 years Reserve) on his 18th birthday, 30 January 1900. He served in the following ships and shore establishments: HMS Northampton, 10 August 1899-30 October 1899 (Boy 2nd Class); HMS Calliope, 31 October 1899-29 January 1900 (Boy 1st Class, 10 November 1899) ; HMS Victory, 30 January 1900-10 February 1900 (Ordinary Seaman); Duke of Wellington I, 11 February 1900-27 February 1900; HMS Trafalgar, 28 February 1900-30 June 1900; HMS Prince George, 1 July 1900-16 January 1903 (Able Seaman 1 December 1902); Duke of Wellington!, 17 January 1903-31 January 1903; HMS Apollo, 1 February 1903-19 September 1903; HMS Excellent, 20 September 1903-9 July 1903; Firequeen I, 10 July 1903-3 September 1904; HMS Excellent, 4 September 1904-30 September 1904; HMS Formidable, 1 October 1904-10 October 1906; (-), 11 October 1906-24 November 1906; HMS Victory, 25 November 1906-12 January 1907. John joined Royal Fleet Reserve Portsmouth (B.1976) on 13 January 1907. However, he re-enrolled in the Royal Navy on 7 April 1911 (SG) to serve to 29 January 1917 and served in the following ships and shore establishments: HMS Crescent, 2 August 1914-4 December 1914; Victory I, 5 December 1914-31 March 1915; HMS Clio, 1 April 1915-14 November 1915; HMS Alert (-), 15 November 1915-30 April 1916; Pembroke I (POW), 1 May 1916-31 August 1916 (date of death). His service record was annotated: ‘DD. 31 August 1916 whilst a prisoner of war in Mesopotamia, NP2/1026/19' and ‘NP6975/15. Wounded during operation in the Persian Gulf, reported 20/12/15.' and 'NP3289/16, Captured in Kut on 29 April 1916 and believed to be a prisoner of war.’ The RN&RM War Graves Roll has the cause of death as 'died on long march from Samarnah to Rameelavin. Cause not known.' John has no known grave and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial (Panel 1 and 60). HMS Alert (ex Alert Class sloop) was a depot ship on the East Indies Station (Persian Gulf) intermittently between May 1914 and February 1918. Extract: 'The siege of Kut-al-Amara. Turkish troops besieged General Charles Townshend's forces in Kut-al-Amara before the Allied troops could act on the British War Cabinet's advice to withdraw further down the Tigris. The siege of Kut-al-Amara lasted 147 days before the 11,800 British and Indian troops inside the garrison town finally surrendered on 29 April 1916. Conditions during the siege were appalling. In bitterly cold weather and with little medical treatment, many of the soldiers did not survive the winter. Several attempts were made to relieve the besieged town, but they encountered stubborn Turkish resistance and all ended in failure. Captured British and Indian soldiers were brutally treated on their march to Turkish prisoner-of-war camps in Anatolia. Of the 11,800 men who left Kut-al-Amara with their captors on 6 May 1916, 4,250 died either on their way to captivity or in the camps.' (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/firstworldwar/battles/mesopotamia.htm)
Inscription family gravestone, Nottingham General Cemetery: 'In loving memory of Emily, the dear wife of Edward Steel died August 9th 1928 aged 68 years. Also of the above named Edward Steel died Jany. 8th 1935 aged 75 years. Also Samuel, their son, died July 18th 1898 aged 15 years. Also Ernest who died in infancy. Also John William killed in action August 31st 1916 aged 35 years. Also Frederick killed in action in France September 3rd 1916 aged 21 years.' Steel. – In loving memory of our dear sons, Jack, died prisoner in Turkey, August 31st, 1916; Fred, killed in action in France, September 3rd, 1916. Two noble lives laid down. A loss too great to be forgotten. – Loving father, mother, brothers, and sisters.” (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) Nottingham Evening Post, ‘In Memoriam’, 3 September 1920: ‘Steel. In loving memory of our dear sons, Jack Steel, killed August 30th (sic) 1916, also Pte. Fred Steel, killed Sept. 3rd, 1916. Fondly remembered. Father, mother, brothers, sisters.’ (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) Nottingham Evening Post, ‘In Memoriam’, 3 September 1921: ‘Steel. In loving memory of our dear sons, Jack killed in action August 31st, 1916; also Fred, Sept 3rd 1916. Ever in our thoughts. Mother, father, brothers.' (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)
Remembered on


  • Family gravestone, Nottingham General Cemetery, commemorating John and his brother, Frederick. Photograph Rachel Farrand (February 2019).
    John William Steel - Family gravestone, Nottingham General Cemetery, commemorating John and his brother, Frederick. Photograph Rachel Farrand (February 2019).