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Person Details
11 Jan 1888
New Radford, Nottingham
John was the son of Thomas Law and Annie Law (nee Alvey). His father was born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, and his mother in Nottingham in 1860. They were married in 1882 (marriage registered J/A/S Nottingham) and four children were named on the census of 1891 and 1901: Ada (b. 1886), John (b. 1888), Nellie (b. 1895) and May (b. 1899). In 1891 Thomas (34), a cycle fitter, and Annie (30) were living at 1 Cambridge Yard, Cambridge Street, Radford, with their two children, Ada (4) and John (2). They were still living at the same address at the time of the 1901 Census. Thomas was now working as a wheelmaker. He and his wife had four children, Ada (14) who was a shirt machinist, John (12), Nellie (5) and May (1). John joined the RMLI in 1905 and married Ellen in 1910 (marriage registered A/M/J Nottingham). At the time of the 1911 census his wife Ellen (26), a lace dresser, was living at 2 Cambridge Yard, Cambridge Street, Radford. The census return was heavily altered regarding the status of the members of the household: John's name had been included on the census form, occupation 'Royal Marine, at sea', but the entry was crossed out and the status 'head' [of household] put alongside Ellen's name. Ellen's sister-in-law, Nellie Law (15), who worked in the lace trade, was living with her. John's parents and his youngest sister Mary have not yet been traced on the 1911 Census. His older sister, Ada, may have married Albert Edward Woolley in 1909 (A/M/J Nottingham) and if so in 1911 they were living at 29 Forest Street, Hyson Green, with their son Albert Edward (1). Ada Woolley, by then a widow, died on 7 January 1959; she was then living at 31 Radford Boulevard, Nottingham. A Nellie Morris of 11 Hicklings Yard, New Radford, was named as 'a friend' on John's RM records and she was notified of his death in 1914. No trace has been found of his wife, Ellen, after the 1911 Census.
He joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 24 August 1905.
05 Sep 1914
3049448 - CWGC Website
HMS Pathfinder Royal Marine Light Infantry
John joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry (Chatham Division) on 24 August 1905. HMS Pathfinder, a light cruiser, was patrolling off St Abb’s Head near the Firth of Forth, when she was torpedoed by the German submarine, U-21 (Lieutenant Otto Hersing). Pathfinder was short of coal and only making 5 knots so made an easy target. Although a look-out spotted the wake of the torpedo and the officer of the watch ordered avoiding action, the torpedo detonated below the ship’s bridge. Cordite charges were probably detonated as there was a second huge explosion and Pathfinder sank with the loss of 250 lives. There were only 18 survivors. This was the first U-boat success against a British warship and Pathfinder was probably the first warship sunk by a submarine. The explosion was seen by the writer Aldous Huxley who was staying at a house at St Abbs, and described the explosion in a letter to his father: 'I dare say Julian told you that we actually saw the Pathfinder explosion – a great white cloud with its foot in sea. The St Abbs’ lifeboat came in with the most appalling accounts of the scene. There was not a piece of wood, they said, big enough to float a man – and over acres the sea was covered with fragments – human and otherwise. They brought back a sailor’s cap with half a man’s head inside it. The explosion must have been frightful.' Law’s body was not recovered for burial and he is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial. The wreck is designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.
Another Nottingham man, J/16809 (Ch) Able Seaman Ernest Rockley, also served in HMS Pathfinder and was among those missing.
Remembered on