The following document was written by Gibbon William J Tomkin (1888-1971) at some point between the Second World War and his death. A copy was given to the Brompton Research Study Group at an oral history session held at the R.E. Museum on Friday 13th January 2012 by his grandson, Michael Tomlin of Maidstone Road, Rainham.
This Is Some Of My Life
I Gibby Tomlin was born in Old Brompton Chatham Kent on Sept 26th 1888. The above was the postal address. The place of my birth was 15 Manor St, Old Brompton. When I was a boy it was a very flourishing place. People in very prominate positions lived there. There is a Rd called Mansion Row. There were Generals of the Army. The Highest in the land at times used to lodge there. For a start as far as I can remember, life was not all honey although I like many other boy or girl made the best of it. My mother had 16 children. I was the eldest of them. My father was a baker. That was his part time job. His main job through having a pass to go in the R.E.s Barracks to serve the Cavalry Regiment with hot rolls at 6.30 AM. When I was 9 years old I used to have to get up early and help my father. Then I used to go to school in New Brompton (Gillingham now) the Wesleyan School Arden St. Then I used to meet my father on the Black Lion Fields opposite Mill Rd to help him with refreshments for the R.E. Sappers. They used to dig the trenches. At that time there was no main drainage in the toilets. Therefore diphtheria, enteric fever, small-pox, scarlet-fever, typhoid fever was prevalent. I myself had scarlet-fever, then diphtheria. Polly my sister had scarlet-fever. My sister Annie died with diphtheria when she was 4½ years old. My brother George also had scarlet-fever so you can see that is only a little of the trouble my mother and father had. I am now going to give a list of my brothers and sisters.
- Gib address 10 Roseberry Rd, Gillingham
- Polly died when she was 47
- George Killed in World War I
- Jack Went down on the Cressy in War I
- Hannah Annie died with diphtheria
- Louise address 19 Pier Road Gillingham
- Harry died when he was 2 years old
- William address 255 Woodlands Rd Gillingham
- Frederick address somewhere in Ilford
- James died when he was 2 years old
- Arthur died when he was 2 years old
- Kathleen died when she was –
- Bernard address Garfield Rd Gillingham
- Winnie address Chestnut Avenue, Walderslade
- Eileen address Brighton
- Paddy We called him that name he was a still born.
George was a fine footballer, he played for the Winchester Command against Reading and Swindon in friendly games.
Jack was a very good swimmer. He had a remarkable experience. He used to work for contractors by the name of Miller. They used to supply the ships with different refreshments. He used to travel to and fro Sheerness in a motor boat. In the foggy weather many a time I have had to go over to Gillingham Pier for him. My mother used to worry so much. On one occasion there was a motor boat belonging to Lipton’s, that’s another firm who supplied the Navy, this boat in the fog sank near the fort. Jack’s boat happened to be near. There were 3 men in the water all saved. Jack went in and got one chap out. One of Jack’s jobs was to collect the takings aboard ship. They were torpedo boats.
Jack going into the water I suppose like a lot of others would do. When he came home, I can see him now, he started to empty his pockets of money, golden sovereigns and ½ sovs. The money was what he collected from the ship, and as far as I can remember everything was alright. On another occasion in 1912 he was coming from Sheerness when a seaplane piloted by Commander Samson of the First World War circled round the boat and landed on the water. He called out to jack. Jack and his mate Ernie Burns went alongside the plane. Commander Samson ask Jack if he would get on the wing of the plane and do something. Then he said to Jack. Hold tight to the bamboo stays. He said he would go up and land ashore. Jack held on. He went. He told us he was in his sleeves and landed on the Eastern Ground. Then Samson called 2 sailors and told them to row his boat which went near shore and gave him 2/6. Another time all the sailors was watching him in the water trying to clear the propellers. When I worked on the floating dock, Grain where the big oil liners go, I was working on the Lion 25000 Battleship. On the dock there was several cranes. I see one crane lifting a network of provisions aboard. To my surprise I see Jack standing up holding the wire amongst the boxes. He was about 100 ft up. Jack was not frightened. George joined the East Kent Militia about 1909. He was 16 then. He put his age on because there was no check in those days. They started through the National Health Act 1911. He transferred to the 2nd Hampshire Reg. He went abroad to the island of Maurious on the East Coast of Africa. George was a fine chap. His money as a private 1/- per day. He used to send home I don’t know if it was 3/- or 4/- per week, I am not sure. He was a good boy. That’s all for George and Jack.
There are several of my brothers and sisters I can’t recall too much. I was upset when my sister Hannah died with diphtheria. Also Harry who died when he was 2 on the same day as my brother William (Buller) was born. On another occasion I was doing my apprenticeship. Coming home from work my young brother Arthur died. I seem to always remember him. He was very fair, nice looking with a fresh complexion. Then there were the others who died. At present I can’t recall much about them. My youngest who lives at Brighton I’m about 24 years older. Then I have a brother (Mick) Bernard is his name. I am as much older to him as my father was to me. I was born in 15 Manor St Old Brompton. After a short time we removed to the other side of the street to No.4. After a time we moved back to No.15, and lived with my Grandfather and Granny Partridge. That was my mother’s maiden name. I was very young but I remember when my Granny was ill I used to have to go to Dr. Weekes who lived at the top of Mansion Row and get her medicine. My Grandmother died when she was 54. At that time I had other relations living in Old Brompton, Aunt Lou, Aunt Jennie, my Father’s sisters, also my other Grandfather Gibbon Tomlin who I am named after. He used to lodge with my Aunt Lou in Wood St. Coming back to 15 Manor St I should also say it was a very large house. My Aunt Julia, and Uncle Jack, my mother’s brother and sister also lived there. My aunt Julia for a time she worked in the Ropery Chatham Dockyard, and Uncle Jack was a school teacher, at the ragged school Brook Chatham. My Grandmother died when I was 7. I remember going to her funeral in the old Gillingham Cemetery. My first school Infants was at the top of Manor St. I went from this when I was about 5 to the Catholic School Maidstone Rd Chatham. After a time I was taken from there and went to the Wesleyan School Arden St. My father was a baker besides being what he called himself a dealer. When I was 9 I used to get up early every morning and be in the R.E. Barracks at 6.30 AM selling hot rolls to the soldiers. When I was 10 I was stricken with fever, scarlet and diphtheria. After 2 months I came out of hospital, my luck was still out, I was stricken with paralysis of the spine. I could only crawl about on my hands and knees like an animal. I got over that you can see. I was a long time away from school. I was taken away from the Wesleyan School and went to Holy Trinity School Old Brompton. It was from there I passed into the Dockyard which was Dec. 23rd 1902.
Following transcription of the document I decided to do a bit of digging into some of the names. Here is what I found.
Gibbon went into the Dockyard in 1902 and became a Shipwright. The censuses show him at 15 Manor Street in 1891. By 1901 he is at 4 Manor Street. In 1911 he is still living with his family at 10 Westcourt Street (one of the two properties formerly on the site of Green’s Coal Yard), where he is listed as a Shipwright. In 1914 he married Eliza Celia Valsler. Sometime between 1911 and 1937 he moved to 10 Rosebery Road, Gillingham and remained there until shortly before his death in 1971. He mentions several other members of his family and a couple of other locals in his account. It seems that many were known by nicknames, diminutives, etc of their given names:
Mother – Elizabeth Catherine Partridge was born Jan/Feb 1871, probably at Chatham Barracks.
She was the daughter of William Partridge (1831-1905), and his wife Mary Theresa Partridge (nee Houlahan, 1845-1898). Elizabeth’s death is recorded in the third quarter of 1933.
Father – Henry (Harry) Tomlin was born in about 1869 in Brompton (probably in Manor Street). He was the son of Gibbon James Tomlin (1822-1904) and Jane Anne Tomlin (nee Johnson, 1838-72) and was one of at least 5 children. Although he appears to have been christened Henry, he often seems to have gone by the name Harry. In 1881 he is a scholar living with his father and two sisters at 2 Manor Street. In 1891 he is living with his wife and 2 children at 15 Manor Street and is listed as a Dealer (Shop). By 1901 he is at 4 Manor Street with his wife and 7 of their children and is listed as a Dockyard Labourer. By 1911 the family have moved to 10 Westcourt Street, Brompton and he is listed as a Labourer. The family were still at this address in 1915. He seems to have died in Sussex in 1948.
Polly – Mary Tomlin, known as Polly, was born in about 1890, probably also at 15 Manor Street. “Polly” is a common nickname for Mary, which was derived from another nickname for Mary, Molly. In 1901 she is at 4 Manor Street, and in 1911 she is unmarried and still living with her family at 10 Westcourt Street. She may be the Mary Tomlin who married Herbert A Harbron in 1920. She died in about 1937.
George - George Patrick Tomlin, born about March 1891, almost certainly at 15 Manor Street where he is recorded as a 1 month old resident in the 1891 census. In 1901 he is with his family at 4 Manor
Street. Gibbon Tells us he joined the East Kent Militia aged 16. If this is correct then he must have joined up in 1907, not 1909 as Gibbon remembered. Unfortunately George seems to be one of the soldiers whose service records were destroyed in the Blitz, so this is hard to confirm. By the start of the First World War he had been transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire regiment (Service No. 8275). His Commonwealth War Graves record shows he was killed at Gallipoli on 7th August 1915. However, another source says he was killed on the S.S. River Clyde, a converted collier, which was run aground on 25 April 1915 beneath the old Seddülbahir fortress so that the troops could disembark directly via ramps to the shore. The troops emerging one by one from the sally ports on the River Clyde presented perfect targets to the machine guns in the fort. Of the first 200 soldiers to disembark, only 21 men made it onto the beach. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey and the Brompton War Memorial.
Jack – John Tomlin, known as Jack, was born 1893 in Brompton, probably at 15 Manor Street. Jack has been a nickname for John since medieval times. In 1901 he is with his family at 4 Manor Street, and in 1911 he resides with his family at 10 Westcourt Street, and his occupation is given as Shopboy.
Gibbon tells us he was lost onboard H.M.S. Cressy when it went down on 22 Sep 1914, and Naval records confirm this. Unusually, although he was on a warship, he was a civilian Canteen Assistant. Civilians are not usually recorded on military war memorials, but Jack is listed on the Brompton War Memorial, where he is given the rank of Petty Officer. The reason for this is unclear, but it may be that as he was killed as a direct result of enemy action he may have been given an honourary rank to allow his inclusion on the memorial. His body was never recovered for burial.
HMS Cressy was a Cressy-class armoured cruiser launched 4 December 1899 and sunk by the German U-boat U-9 in September 1914 whilst patrolling in the North Sea with her sister ships Aboukir and Hogue. At 6:20 AM on September 22, HMS Aboukir was torpedoed by U-9 and sank in 35 minutes. Thinking she had struck a mine, and sinking fast, the order was given to abandon ship. Hogue and Cressy approached to pick up survivors, throwing anything that would float into the water for the survivors to cling to. At 6:55, Hogue was struck by 2 torpedoes. U-9 dived and remained submerged. At 7:20, Cressy sighted a torpedo track, and the order was given “full speed ahead both”, too late. Cressy was hit forward on the starboard side, and lurched high enough out of the water that a second torpedo passed under her stern. At 7:30, a third torpedo hit Cressy on the port beam, rupturing tanks in the boiler room and scalding the men. Cressy rolled to her starboard side, paused, then went bottom up with her starboard propeller out of the water. She remained in this position for 20 minutes, then sank at 7:55. Unfortunately for Cressy, her boats had been sent to pick up survivors from the other 2 ships, and returned already loaded with men. As many as 5 men clung to a single life vest, and a dozen men to a single plank. Dutch fishing trawlers were in the area, but remained at a distance until 8:30 when the steamship Flora from Rotterdam arrived and rescued 286 men. The survivors were almost all naked, and so exhausted they had to be hauled aboard with tackle. The steamer Titan rescued another 147 men, and later 8 of Tyrwhitt’s destroyers arrived. All told, 837 men were rescued, but 1,397 men were lost, including Jack.
Hannah – Hannah Elizabeth Tomlin, known as Annie, was presumably born at Manor Street, Brompton. Her birth is recorded in the last quarter of 1893. Her death is recorded in the secondnquarter of 1898, confirming the age of about 4½ that Gibbon gives. She died of Diptheria.
Louise – Louisa Tomlin, known as Louise, was born in Brompton. Her birth is recorded in the last quarter of 1895. In 1901 she is living with her family at 4 Manor Street, and in 1911 she is with them at 10 Westcourt Street. In 1918 she married Frank Higgins and they had at least five children together. From 1937 (or earlier) until at least 1970 she lived at 19 Pier Road, Gillingham. She died in 1973.
Harry - Henry Alexander Tomlin, known as Harry was born in Manor Street, Brompton. His birth is recorded in the second quarter of 1897 and he seems to have died on April 12th 1899.
William – William Michael Tomlin, known as ‘Buller’ (from Billy?) was born 12th April 1899 in Brompton. In 1901 he is with his family at 4 Manor Street, and in 1911 he resides with his family at 10 Westcourt Street. On 24th June 1944 he married Elsie May Beaney (b. 30th December 1906, Medway Place, Wouldham, d.1996) at Christchurch Church, Luton, Chatham. At this time he was Storehouse Keeper. From at least 1937 until at least 1970 he lived at 255 Woodlands Road. He died in 1996.
Frederick - Frederick Bertram Tomlin was born 2nd March 1901 in Brompton. In 1901 he is with his family at 4 Manor Street, and in 1911 he resides with his family at 10 Westcourt Street. In 1938 he is living with his sister Louisa and her husband at 19 Pier Road. Sometime after this he moved to Ilford in Essex. In 1969 he married Ann P. L. Lock. His death was recorded at Redbridge near Ilford in the third quarter of 1973
James - James Joseph Tomlin, born and died in 1903. Although Gibbon records him as ‘died when he was 2 years old’ the records suggest he died at only a few months, which may also account for Gibbon’s lack of memory of the boy. His birth was reported in the third quarter of 1903 and his death in the last quarter of the same year.
Arthur - Arthur Eustace Tomlin was born in Brompton. His birth is recorded in the last quarter of 1904 and his death in the second quarter of 1907, making him just over two years old at time of death, as Gibbon remembered.
Kathleen - Kathleen Julia Tomlin, born in Brompton. She died at only a few months old. Her birth is recorded in the third quarter of 1906, her death in the fourth quarter of the same year.
Bernard - Bernard Leo Tomlin, known as Mick. He was born in Brompton on 28th August 1907 and in 1911 was living with the rest of the family at 10 Westcourt Street, Brompton. On 28th Nov 1936 he married Doris Margaret Ellen Elliott (1909-1993) and they had at least two children. From at least 1937 until 1970 or later they lived at 27 Garfield Road in Gillingham. He died on 27th January 1985.
Winnie - Winifred Jane Tomlin, born 11th September 1908. In 1911 she was living with the family at 10 Westcourt Street. In September 1930 she married William T Meade and they later lived at Chestnut Avenue, Walderslade. Her death was recorded in the first quarter of 2004.
Eileen - Aileen Anne Tomlin was born on the 24th September 1912. In 1937 she married William H Grosvenor in Medway. Sometime after 1937 she moved to Brighton, where her death was recorded in the third quarter of 2001.
Paddy – No records. Was still-born, probably 1913 or after.
Grandfather Partridge - William Partridge (1831-1905), originally of Ledbury in Hertfordshire.
He was a Private in the 39th Regiment of Foot (Regimental Number 3152) at Chatham Barracks, and had served in the Crimea, taking part in the Battle of Alma (he was awarded the Crimean Medal with
Alma Clasp). By 1881 he was living at 13 Slate Yard, Manor St, Brompton and his occupation is listed as Chelsea Pensioner and Labourer. By 1891 he is at 15 Manor Street (with his children, including Gibbon and his parents) and his occupation is listed as Gent Lab. In 1901 He is still at 15 Manor Street with his children and is listed as an Army Pensioner and Boarding House Keeper. He died in 1905 at Chelsea (an inmate of the hospital perhaps).
Granny Partridge - Mary Theresa Partridge (nee Houlahan, 1845-1898). She was born in Ireland in about 1844 or 45. In 1881 she was a general labourer and laundress. Her death was recorded in the second quarter of 1898 and she was buried at the Grange Road cemetery in Gillingham.
Aunt Lou - Louise Shrubb (nee Tomlin) was born in about 1867 in Brompton (probably in Manor Street). She was the daughter of Gibbon James Tomlin (1822-1904) and Jane Anne Tomlin (nee Johnson, 1838-72) and was one of at least 5 children. In 1881 she was living at 2 Manor Street with her widower father. In 1889 she married Alfred ‘Fred’ Shrubb (1858-1912) a cab driver, and brother of the landlord of the Crown Inn in Wood Street. As William also ran a cab business from the rear of the pub it is likely that Fred worked for him. In 1891 Louisa and Fred were lodging with her father at 2 Manor Street. In 1901 they were living at 30 Wood Street with her father lodging with them. In 1911 she was a laundress living at 32 Wood Street. Her death is recorded in the first quarter of 1945. Aunt Jennie – Possibly Jemima Tomkin, but more likely Jane ‘Jennie’ Thompson.
Jemima Tomlin was born in about December 1860 in Brompton (probably in Manor Street). She was the daughter of Gibbon James Tomlin (1822-1904) and Jane Anne Tomlin (nee Johnson, 1838-72) and was one of at least 5 children. In 1861 she was living at 11 Whittaker Street, Chatham with her parents and elder sister Mary Jane Tomlin (1859-?). In 1881 she was a domestic servant in Lambeth, after this there is little trace of her.
Jane ‘Jennie’ Thompson was technically Gibbon’s cousin rather than aunt. She was the eldest daughter of Elizabeth Thomson (nee Tomlin, 1864-1909, daughter of Grandfather Gibbon) and JohnThompson (1858-1942). Jennie was born in 1883, probably in Brompton. In 1891 she was living with her parents and sister at 12 Manor Court. In 1902 she married Robert James Beaumont (1875-1940) and in 1903 they had a daughter who died in the same year, Jennie Mary F. G. Beaumont (1903-1903). After this it gets complicated as both Jennie and Robert remarry in the 1920s, but both start new families with their spouses-to-be long before that, Jennie in 1905 and Robert in 1908.
Checking the 1911 census we find her staying with Samuel Watford and family at 4, St Bartholomew’s Place, Rochester. She uses name Jennie Dunn and is living with David Wilson Montgomery Dunn (1878-1942), a Scots sailor, and their children Lilian and David. They state they have been married 9 years. On 27th November 1926, using the name Jane Beaumont, Widow, she marries David Wilson Montgomery Dunn at Medway Registry Office. They have at least four, perhaps 6 children together before their marriage. Jennie’s death is recorded in the third quarter of 1932 in Medway.
Grandfather Gibbon Tomlin – Gibbon James Tomlin was the son of James and Mary Tomlin, born on 10th February 1822 in Chatham and was baptized in Chatham on 7th June the same year. In 1841 he is a private in the R.M.L.I., and a patient in the Melville Hospital in Brompton (presumably, when not ill or assigned to a ship, his address would have been the Marine Barracks, Chatham.) He does not appear in the 1951 census suggesting he may have been abroad at that time. During the Crimean war (1854-5) he served as a stoker on board H.M.S. Euryalus in the Baltic Campaign. In 1858 he married Jane Anne Johnson (1838-1872) in Chatham. They had four daughters and a son (Henry Tomlin). In 1861 he was a labourer living at 11 Whittaker Street, Chatham with his wife and two daughters. By 1881 he is listed as a General Dealer at 2 Manor Street, Brompton, a widower lodging at this address with his 3 youngest children. In 1891 he is listed as retired Naval and is still at 2 Manor Street as the head of the family, with the other residents all listed as boarders. One is a 42 year old widow named Amelia Williams, but the others are his daughter and son-in-law Louisa and Frederick Shrubb, and 2 of his grand-daughters, Elizabeth and Annie Thompson. In 1901 he is a Naval Pensioner boarding at 30 Wood Street, Brompton, with his daughter and son-in-law Louisa & Alfred Shrubb. His death is recorded at Chatham in the third quarter of 1904.
Aunt Julia – Julia Thomas (nee Partridge) was born in Manor Street, Brompton on 17th April 1875, the daughter of William Partridge (1831-1905) and Mary Theresa Partridge (nee Houlahan, 1845-1898). In 1881 she and her family were living at 13 Slate Yard, Manor Street and she was a student.
By 1891 she and the family live at 15 Manor Street and she is a dress-maker. In 1901 she is still living with her family at 15 Manor Street, but she is now a machinist in the Ropery in Chatham Dockyard. In 1902 she married Robert Arthur Lewis Thomas. In 1911 the couple are living at 10 Crown Street, Gillingham with the first four of their seven children. Julia’s death is recorded in the third quarter of 1950.
Uncle Jack – John Partridge, known as Jack, was born in Manor Street in 1877, the son of William Partridge (1831-1905) and Mary Theresa Partridge (nee Houlahan, 1845-1898). In 1881 was living at 13 Slate Yard, Manor Street, with his family. By 1891 he and the family live at 15 Manor Street and he is a Pupil Teacher. In 1901 he is still living with his family at 15 Manor Street, but he is now a Storehouse Labourer (probably in Chatham Dockyard). In about October 1901 he married Minnie Essenhigh. By 1911 the couple are living at 70 Rainham Road, Chatham with four Daughters. Miller Contractors – William Miller Ltd, Army & Navy Contractors, 13 Wood Street. Opened some time between 1899 and 1903 and remained at this location until at least 1913. By 1918 the business is at Richmond Road, Gillingham as William Miller Ltd, Admiralty Contractors. They are gone by 1922.
Lipton’s – Lipton’s Ltd, Grocers and Provision Dealers, 52 High Street, Gillingham (New Brompton). Part of the Lipton’s Grocery chain founded by Thomas Lipton in Glasgow in the 1870s. The Lipton’s in Gillingham opened between 1899 and 1903 and remained at that address until the 1920s. By 1930 it was at 128 High Street and remained there until the 1970s or later.
Dr Weekes – Henry Weekes M.D. was born in Wood Street, Brompton, in about 1844. He was the son of Henry Weekes M.D. (1814-1868) and Alice Weekes (nee Kennard, 1814-1877). In 1851 he lived with his family at 3 Wood Street, next door to the Highlander Pub (later the Crown). During he 1850s his family moved to Mansion House in Mansion Row and 1861 he is listed as a medical pupil at 1 Mansion Row. In 1866 he married Harriet Holman in East Sussex and may have been practicing there. His father died in 1868 and he inherited the house and the practice, although his son, Henry Holman Weekes (1869-1951) was born in Sussex so he may not have returned to Brompton immediately. In 1871 he is listed at 1 Mansion row and he is a Medical Practitioner.
Harriet died in 1878, and in 1879 he married Lucy Arkoll (abt 1850-1924). By 1881 the house appears as 15 Mansion Row (he had not moved, the numbering of Mansion Row was reversed when Brompton was renumbered in 1881) and he is a General Practitioner, Medical Member Of The Royal College Surgeons. In 1891 hw was still at Mansion House, and was listed as Medical Practitioner (Surg). He died on the 27th January 1896 and left his house and practice to his son Henry Holman Weekes. Henry Holman Weekes carried on the practice at Mansion House until at least 1901, but by 1911 the house had been sold and become apartments and for the first time in about 70 years there was no Dr. Henry Weekes in Brompton. The Weekes became so established as the Brompton doctors that there was even a local joke that “If you want a surgeon in Brompton you have to wait for Weekes!”
Commander Samson - Air Commodore Charles Rumney Samson CMG, DSO & Bar, AFC (8 July 1883 – 5 February 1931) was a British naval aviation pioneer. He also operated the first British armoured vehicles in combat. Transferring to the Royal Air Force on its creation in 1918, Samson held command of several groups in the immediate post-War period and the 1920s.
Samson entered HMS Britannia as a cadet in 1896, before becoming a midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1898. In 1911 he was selected as one of the first four Royal Navy officers to receive pilot training, obtaining his Royal Aero Club certificate on the 25 April 1911 after completing only 71 minutes in the air. He completed flying training at navy’s school at Eastchurch before being appointed Officer Commanding of Naval Air Station Eastchurch in October 1911. Samson took part in various early naval aviation experiments, including the development of
navigation lights and bomb sights. He was the first British pilot to take off from a ship, on 10 January 1912, from a foredeck ramp mounted on the battleship HMS Africa, which was anchored in the River Medway, flying Short Improved S.27 airplane No. 38.
When the Royal Flying Corps was formed in May 1912, Samson took command of its Naval Wing, and led the development of aerial wireless communications, bomb- and torpedo-dropping, navigational techniques, and night flying.