Reginald Charles GUMBLETON


Name: Reginald Charles GUMBLETON  R0010 
Born: 25 Jun 1892  Portsea RD, Hampshire, England
Parents: George A GUMBLETON Emily HISCOCK
Died:14 Mar 1915 Portsea RD, Hampshire, England
Buried: 14 Mar 1915  Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Occupation:   
Information kindly provided by Rob Jamieson

Reggie Gumbleton was Rob's great-uncle, the elder brother of his grandmother Beatrice (Trixie) Oliver, née Gumbleton.

He was born on 25th June 1892, in Portsmouth, the sixth of George and Emily Gumbleton's nine children (5 boys, 4 girls). The family lived in a succession of small terraced houses in Portsmouth, Copnor and Southsea, which George, a professional builder, had built himself. (Some of his houses can still be seen in Milton Rd, Southsea.)

A slim boy with light brown hair and blue eyes, fourteen-year-old Reggie started a four-year apprenticeship with the Royal Navy in 1908 as a Boy Artificer. He trained to be an engine-room fitter, turner or boiler-maker at HMS Fisgard, based in a collection of converted hulks and shore establishments around Portsmouth. (Apprentice artificers continued to train at Fisgard Squadron until 2010.)

On his 18th birthday in 1910, by now nearly 6 feet tall but still slightly-built, Reggie signed on for a 12-year engagement. He continued his training at a number of shore establishments, so that by the outbreak of war he had risen to the rank of Engine Room Artificer (ERA) 4th Class, but had only had two ship-based postings, amounting to less than a year at sea. He first joined the light cruiser HMS Amethyst in October 1913, and apart from a 4-month interval at shore bases in late 1914, remained with her until his death 17 months later.

Early in 1915, the Amethyst was despatched to the new Dardanelles campaign in Turkey to cover minesweeping and cable-breaking operations in the straits. From 19th February, the ship regularly escorted trawlers and picket boats, usually under cover of darkness, to provide protection against the Ottoman defences on the western and eastern shores.

At 3.50am on 14th March, Amethyst engaged forts and batteries which had started shelling the trawlers, then attempted to extinguish a searchlight which was illuminating the action. At 4.05, the ship began to attract heavy, accurate fire from two coastal forts and shrapnel rounds from a field battery at Suandere on the European (western) shore, sustaining nine hits in the space of 25 minutes, all to its port side.

Reggie was killed by a 6 inch field artillery shell that exploded between the ERAs' and stokers' bathrooms, killing 2 ERAs and a whole watch of 14 stokers. The family story goes that he'd only returned to the bathroom to recover a towel, fearing its theft. This anecdote may be borne out by the relative numbers of ERAs and stokers killed by this shell. A crew-member wrote in the Naval Review in 1916: 'It had been found impracticable to keep the stokers at action stations all night, and they were caught with one watch in their hammocks on the mess deck, and another, just relieved, in the bathroom washing. (...)

'[The shell] entered E.R.A's bathroom and burst in the ammunition hoist, large portions of the shell passing through the stokers' bathroom and, out the starboard side on the water line. The partition between the bathrooms, and the distributor box for the forward light circuit, were torn to shreds, and both bathrooms completely wrecked. All the 14 men in the bathroom were killed and terribly mutilated; the compartment was flooded to the water line, and that part of the ship plunged in darkness.'

At daylight, Amethyst anchored beyond the mouth of the Dardanelles on Tenedos Island to begin repairs. A total of 28 wounded (of whom 4 perished in the following days) were transferred to the French hospital ship Canada.

At 3.30pm, the destroyer HMS Ribble came alongside to pick up the bodies of Reggie and the 21 other ratings that had died in the action (as well as an officer and three men killed on the trawlers). They were buried at sea 4 degrees NW of Ponente Point at the north of Tenedos Island.

Reggie's name is inscribed on a sea-facing wall of the Naval Memorial on Southsea Common.  

DateEventPlaceReference
1892 Sep Qr Birth registration of Reginald Charles GUMBLETON Portsea RD, Hampshire, England Civil registration birth registers
31 Mar 1901 Reginald Gumbleton (age 8) living in 57 Newcome Rd, Portsmouth, Hampshire in 1901 census Portsmouth, Hampshire, England 1901 census
2 Apr 1911 Reginald Charles Gumbleton (age 18) living in Crichel, Lynton Gr, Copnor, Portsmouth, Hampshire in 1911 census Portsmouth, Hampshire, England 1911 census
14 Mar 1915 Burial of Reginald Charles GUMBLETON Portsmouth, Hampshire, England Burials index


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