No.279184, Chief Stoker, James PLEDGER
Aged 38

HMS Natal, Royal Navy
Died in sinking of HMS Natal on Thursday, 30th December 1915

James Pledger was born in Stoke by Clare on 30th January 1877 (Risbridge Q1-1877 4A:523), baptised in St John the Baptist, Stoke by Clare on 15th July 1877, son of Samuel and Fanny PLEDGER (née CUDBY).
His service record gives his date of birth ( one year added). CWGC records appear incorrect, he was 38 at death, not 50

He was admitted to Stoke by Clare National/Voluntary School in March 1890.

1881 census...Aged 4, he was at The Green, Stoke by Clare with his father Samuel PLEDGER [42] farm labourer; his mother Fanny [41]; brothers Samuel [14] farm labourer, William [8] and Thomas [1]; sister Esther [11]. All were born in Stoke by Clare.

1891 census...Aged 14, a farm labourer, he was at Green Cottages, Stoke by Clare with his parents and brother Thomas.

1901 census...Aged 25, he was a stoker in the Royal Navy in Malta on the HMS Renown. His parents were at Upper Green, Stoke by Clare.

He married Melina SMITH in 1904 (later of Mill Green, Stoke by Clare and then 14 Millais Road, Leytonstone, London)

1911 census...He is not found in this census, he is still in the Navy. His wife Melina [39], born Stoke by Clare, was at 121 Chobham Road, Stratford, London. His parents and sister Esther were at The Green, Stoke by Clare. His mother had borne 5 children but one had died.

He enlisted in the Royal Navy on 19th February 1895, adding one year to his age. He was a labourer from Stoke by Clare, 5 feet 7.5 inches (171.5 cm) tall, brown eyes, brown hair. He signed on for 12 years. His service record is online and consists of a great number of vessels and training establishments. Confirming his presence in Malta for the 1901 census, aboard HMS Renown.
At the time of the 1911 census he was Stoker PO aboard HMS Natal. Promoted to Chief Stoker 20th October 1912, he died when HMS Natal sunk on 30th December 1915. Initially posted missing, his body was later washed ashore and is buried in Scotland.

During the afternoon of the 30th December 1915, HMS Natal, under the command of Captain Eric Back, blew up at anchor with a great loss of life. 421 crew and civilian visitors died in the explosion, including women and children. 400 of the crew survived.
HMS Natal was a Warrior Class cruiser of 13550 tons. She was launched in 1905 and had an interesting history before the First World War, including escorting the King and Queen on their Durbar visit to India in 1911-1912.
In 1914 she joined the Second Cruiser Squadron, which by 1915 was based in the Cromarty Firth, in the north of Scotland.The Admiralty courts- martial-martial into the causes of her loss concluded that it was caused by an internal ammunition explosion, possibly due to faulty cordite. Her hull was still visible at low water, and it was Royal Navy practice on entering and leaving Cromarty right up to World War II for every warship to sound "Still", and for officers and men to come to attention as they passed the wreck. After numerous attempts, much of the ship was salvaged. The remainder was blown up in the 1970's to level the wreck so that it would not be a hazard to navigation.

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

James Pledger is buried in Rosskeen Parish Churchyard Extension, grave C:363

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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