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Monday, 8 December 2014

In Memory of Arthur Charles Titheridge 1883 – 1914 who died 100 years ago today

War Memorial in East Meon Hampshire

Today 8th December 2014 let us remember Arthur Charles Titheridge, Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry (Po 11220) who died 100 years ago today in the First World War, the first family member to die in World War One

Arthur Charles Titheridge was descended from the Titheridges of Cheriton and was the five times great grandson of John Titheridge and Ann Quallat.

Arthur was the 4th of 8 children born to Charles Titheridge and Ann Garret who lived in West Meon, Hampshire but later moved to Frogmore, East Meon.
Charles and Ann’s children were

           Ellen, born 1877 in West Meon
Emily Rosetta, born 1879 in West Meon
Esther, born 1881 in West Meon
Arthur Charles, born 1883 in West Meon
Albert, born 1885 in East Meon
May, born 1885 in East Meon
Ada Florence, born 1889 in East Meon
Gertrude Adelaide, born 1897 in East Meon
Arthur was born on 2 June 1883 and christened in West Meon on 15 July 1883. In 1891 census he is recorded as aged 7 living with his parents and siblings in Frogmore, a small hamlet that is part of the village of East Meon in Hampshire.

Arthur was a farm labourer when he joined the Royal Marines Light Infantry Division on 5th January 1901.  On enrolment he was described as 5foot 5 inches with fresh complexion, brown hair and eyes.  On his enrolment records his date of birth is given as 2 June 1881 – either he lied about his age to enable him to join up or there was a clerical error! In 1900 the annual pay for a private in the marines was 21 pounds 5 shillings and 10 pence per year.  On the 1911 census Arthur was still in the marines and he was aboard ship in Portland Dorset. His records show him to be very good in conduct and ability throughout his career.

Arthur Charles married Bertha Merritt on 26th August 1905 in East Meon.  They had seven children (and there was one more child who died before 1911)

Arthur George Roland, born 1907 in Alverstoke no more known about him
           Bertha Rosa, born 1908 in Alverstoke no more known about her
Albert Edward, born 1910 in Alverstoke emigrated to New Zealand
May I, born 1911 in Alverstoke died 1911
Kenneth Edwin, born 1912 in Alverstoke emigrated to New Zealand
John Titheridge, born 1913 in South Shields died 1913
Arthur S C, born 1915 in Alnwick died 1919 in Sedgefield 

In October 1914 Arthur found himself aboard HMS Kent as it left Portsmouth and set sail for the Falklands.  Here HMS Kent met the German navy and became involved in the conflict known as the Battle of the Falklands on 8 December 1914.

The German fleet had, on 1st November, defeated the Royal Navy at the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile.  This resulted in the loss of two Royal Navy warships, HMS Monmouth and HMS Good Hope, with the loss of nearly 1,600 lives, while the German Squadron had seen just three men injured during the battle.  The German commander Admiral Von Spee decided to attack the British base at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, believing it was undefended.  The British had however deployed a pair of battle cruisers, HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible, cruisers Canarvon, Cornwall and Kent; two light cruisers, Bristol and Glasgow; and an old vessel, Canopus. These were under the command of Vice Admiral Sturdee and were on orders to find Von Spee’s squadron and retaliate for the defeat in Coronel.  When the German ships Nurnberg and Gneisenau reached the Falklands early on 8th December they were surprised to see warships in the harbour and to be fired upon by HMS Canopus.  Von Spee decided to retreat and Vice Admiral Sturdee ordered his ships to pursue the Germans.  His battle cruisers caught up the Germans and opened fire.  Sturdee sent his light cruisers to chase down Nurnberg, Dresden and Leipzig.  HMS Kent chased down Nurnberg and at 17.00 hours opened fire.  Kent’s shells raining down on Nurnberg caused major damage and a fire broke out at 18.02, after another half hour the Nurnberg surrendered.  Kent’s crew lowered the life boat to pick up survivors, just 12 men were picked up before the ship sank at 19.26 and five of these later died.  During the battle four German cruisers were sunk with Von Spee's flagship, Scharnhorst, sinking rapidly first, followed by Gneisenau, Nurnberg and Leipzig.  Ten British sailors died during the battle, while none of the British ships were badly damaged.  However 2,200 German sailors were killed or drowned.  The only German ship to escape was the Dresden. As a result of the battle German commerce raiding on the high seas was brought to an end and Vice Admiral Sturdee’s victory was a morale booster for the British, reversing the earlier devastation at Coronel.

During the battle Nurnberg had hit HMS Kent thirty eight times but this did not cause significant damage.  However one 4.1 inch shell struck HMS Kent close to the gun in Casemate A3.  Described thus by Adrian Beaumont in his book on HMS Kent

“The explosion killed and wounded all of the gun’s crew.  Worst still it happened while they were in the act of reloading.  One man was holding a bagged cordite propellant charge and it caught fire.  Those not already killed were horribly burnt by the fireball from the burning cordite.  The expanding fireball spread down the ammunition hoist into the magazine where a considerable amount of explosive remained”

A fire ensued but the magazine was flooded before the fire could destroy the ship.  Among the injured was Arthur.  Five men died on the 8th and 3 died later of wounds received.  The medical report with a list of casualties says

“Private Arthur Charles Titheridge R.M.L.I. was gun layer of the 6" gun in A3 casemate.  He was severely burnt about the head, face, trunk and limbs.  He was brought to the sick bay where picric acid dressings were applied and morphia administered but he died of shock at 11.40pm on 8th December."

Arthur is buried in Stanley Cemetery in the Falkland Island, Grave Number 783 and there is a commemorative plaque at the Cemetery to the men who lost their lives.

In England Arthur is remember on several war memorials:

Canterbury Cathedral has a plaque to remember the fallen from HMS Kent. It reads

To the glory of God and in memory of
T Spence Sergt R.M.L.I.
W S Kind Private R.M.L.I.
W Wood Private R.M.L.I.
A C Titheridge Pte R.M.L.I.
G Snow Private R.M.L.I.
S Kelly Private R.M.L.I.
G A Duckett Off Std
W Young Seaman R.N.R.
of HMS Kent who fell in actions off the Falkland Islands 8th December 1914
The table is erected by the Captain Officers and men of HMS Kent.

War Memorial in East Meon

In East Meon, his home village, the village war memorial, which is a cross in the centre of the village, bears Arthur's name.
He is also remembered on the war memorial at Eglingham parish in Alnwick, Northumberland the area where his last two children were born.

War Memorial in East Meon
Memorial services are being held today to remember the men who lost their lives in the Falklands 100 years ago.  In Canterbury Cathedral there is a memorial service and in the Falkland Island a memorial will be unveiled at Stanley Cemetery providing details of how seamen lost their lives defending the Falkland Islands during the First World War

 I have just found the most amazing booklet which I would recommend if you have an interest in HMS Kent.  It is produced by Canterbury Cathedral and tells all about HMS Kent and the Battle of the Falklands including pictures and first-hand accounts. It is by Adrian Beaumont and is called “HMS Kent her part in the Battle of the Falklands".  It can be viewed on line at


Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm currently researching the Eglingham war memorial which lists Arthur as one of the names. I am at a loss as to why the family were here, but I did find the birth of Arthur in 1915 (posthumous). Any ideas?

Ann Titheradge said...

Thank you for your comment on the blog. I have always been a little puzzled by the fact Arthur Charles Titheridge is mentioned on the Eglingham War Memorial in Northumberland. I assume that Arthur Charles and Bertha lived there before the war and that Bertha was living there when Arthur died.

Arthur Charles Titheridge married Bertha Merrit in St John's Portland Dorset in August 1905. I believe Arthur was stationed here in connection with his role in the Navy. In 1911 census the family were living at 1 Spring Street Alverstoke Hampshire with Arthur George Roland aged 3, Bertha Rose age 2 and Albert Edward age 1. Again Alverstoke has naval connections.

Arthur came from the village of East Meon in Hampshire and Bertha came from Frogmorre, Hampshire which is a small hamlet in East Meon. There is no known connection with Northumberland, and all parents are believed to be from Hampshire.

In 1913 Arthur left the Navy and joined the Royal Fleet Reserve. He was called up for service in July 1914 to become a private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry.

Birth and death records show that son John was born and died in September quarter 1913 in South Shields. Son Arthur was born in Alnwick in Mar 1915 and died in Sedgefield in December 1919.

It is clear the family moved north at the time Arthur left the navy - but why I have no idea. I can find no family connection with the north. The village of East Meon where Arthur and Bertha came from before their marriage was in a very rural setting. I have looked through the 1911 census for Eglingham and there are no obvious relatives and only one person I could see from Hampshire, no obvious relationship. My Records do not show what happened to Bertha after the death of Arthur but the boys Albert and Kenneth were taken to an orphanage in Portsmouth. What happened to baby Arthur between 1915 and his death in 1919? We believe he was adopted at birth. While researching this I found one person who thinks that Bertha married again in Hampshire after Arthur's death and died in 1918 in the Petersfield area, but I cannot back that up with any evidence at present.