George LOVELAND 1875 - 1970

The following article first appeared in the Sussex Family Historian, Vol 21 No 4. (http://www.sfhg.org.uk/)

George Loveland
George LOVELAND (1875 - 1970)

The recent surge of interest in the Great War leading to my involvement in setting up an exhibition on the theme in Petworth, and more particularly an appeal for information from my teenage grand-daughter for information on the role of her family in that conflict, all caused me to look more closely at my maternal grandfather’s service in the Royal Navy. He was a great teller of yarns, and his five grandsons, my two brothers and I, and our two cousins, could all recall some of his tales. More importantly, his parchment service and conduct records, and his medals had all survived. So I had somewhere to start.

He was born in Pyrford, Surrey on 30th June 1875, son of a market gardener. By 1891 he had become an apprentice blacksmith in Sandhurst. Family legend has it that he ran away from home. However, he joined the Royal Marine Artillery on 27th August 1894, overstating his age by a year. His baptism certificate shows 1875.

I could recall him saying that he had sailed on HMS Rupert in December 1895, and had been wrecked. He claimed to have been hospitalised, where he had met a Napoleonic War veteran. That claim might just stack up given the age of powder monkeys. “Rupert” was indeed in trouble during his brief service on her. “Rupert” nearly sank during a voyage to Gibraltar, according to a press cutting dated 28th December 1895. He was then shore-based in Portsmouth until 14th April 1896, when he was assigned to HMS Trafalgar, a battleship launched in 1887. His trade by then was blacksmith’s mate. During his service on her she was based in the Mediterranean.

He moved again to another battleship HMS Royal Sovereign, on 12th September 1897, and sailed with her to the Mediterranean.  He transferred to the Royal Navy still as a blacksmith’s mate on 28th September 1898, still on board “Royal Sovereign”. He moved on to HMS Illustrious, another, newer battleship not launched until 1896, on 9th September 1898, serving on that ship only until 28th March 1899, seeing service in the Mediterranean again, participating in operations in Crete during the Greco-Turkish uprising.

From there he moved to HMS Duke of Wellington, an extraordinary survivor from 1852, which had been powered by steam and sail, built in the style of “Victory” herself. She had seen service in the Crimean War! By 1899 however she was based in Portsmouth as flagship, and latterly as a training ship. Between 1900 and 1902 she was commanded by David Beatty, who went on to have a very distinguished career.

Service on “the Duke” lasted until 7th June 1901, by when he had been promoted to blacksmith. Grandad told of standing to attention on deck for hours during the passage of Queen Victoria’s coffin from Cowes to Gosport on January 1901. By the end of the day his uniform was rigid with salt! (The onward progress of her coffin from Gosport to London, via Fareham is another story worth telling some time!)

He returned to “Trafalgar” which acted as guard ship in Portsmouth until 29th August 1902 when she was put into reserve. He thereupon was back on “Royal Sovereign” until 2nd May 1905. She too served as Port Guard Ship in the Home Squadron. She took part in manoeuvres off Portugal in August 1903. Another period in Portsmouth followed, during which he was promoted to blacksmith, on 1st August 1906.

The brief period 2nd October 1906 to 25th February 1907 saw him on the battleship HMS Majestic, launched 1895, which had just been placed in reserve at Portsmouth; he moved on as she became flagship in the new Nore Division on 26th February. He went instead to HMS Albion, a Canopy class battleship that had been launched in 1898, and he stayed on her until 24th August 1909. “Albion” had just been recommissioned to serve in the Home Fleet, and then the Atlantic Fleet. She was refitted in Malta and Gibraltar, and was with the fleet that visited London in July 1909, culminating in a Review of the Home and Atlantic Fleets by the King Edward VII and Queen at Cowes on 31st July 1907. “Albion” was paid off, and he moved back to Portsmouth, to “Victory”, and the shore establishment HMS Fisgard.

Transfer to HMS Hermione took place on 29th September 1909, an interesting period that only ended on 31st December 1912. After service in the Home Fleet “Hermione” began preparations for use as a tender for Britain’s first airship HMA No.1 “Mayfly” at Vickers yard in Barrow-in-Furness. He recalled this years later, claiming that people would ask when it would fly, to be told “Oh, it may fly…”. He also recalled how he led a team converting gun turrets to fire upwards instead of forwards. “Hermione” had by then hosted the first British seaplane experiments. “Mayfly” was wrecked in high winds as she was being moved out of her hangar on September 24th 1911, and the project abandoned.

January 1st 1913 saw a brief attachment to HMS Terrible, another old battleship that saw little active service. 11th February 1913 saw the first of two attachments to HMS Minerva, a ship seemingly dear to his heart. He was eventually to name his house in Chichester after her. “Minerva” was by then a rather elderly cruiser launched in 1895. “Minerva’s” Great War logbook has been transcribed for the entire conflict, so it is possible to know where she was every single day of the War!

Seemingly every one of the Navy’s ships has been thus transcribed. The early part of the War was spent in the Irish Sea, and she then was involved in intercepting enemy shipping trying to return to Germany. She captured and scuttled the Bathuri. “Minerva” then escorted a troop convoy to Egypt in November 1914, and formed part of the Allied Forces supporting the Gallipoli campaign. She assisted in defeating the Demirhisa, a Turkish torpedo boat that had attacked Allied troop ships. She then supported Allied landings at Cape Helles and Sulva Bay in 1915. Grandad’s service on “Minerva” then moved to the China station in 1916, and on to the Indian Ocean and Red Sea in 1917. He recalled being on escort duty, and “Minerva” being unable to keep up, on account of her age.

He must have left her by 31st December 1917, because he returned to Portsmouth, and was shore-based there until he left the Navy on 7th June 1919.

Perhaps his last reminiscence came in extreme old age, when he was recalling serving on “Minerva” with a promising young gunnery lieutenant. His daughter, my late mother, wrote to this retired officer, and Grandad received a hand-written reply addressed to CPO Loveland RN recalling their service together 55 years before, signed by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Bruce Fraser of Northcape, hero of the sinking of the Scharnhorst, and recipient of the Japanese surrender in 1945, Grandad was clearly a good judge of character!

Two tales told to his grandsons align with each other. One recalls him describing how only the blacksmith was allowed on deck when they made fast to a buoy, or were letting go. If the hawser broke it would lash across the deck killing anyone in its path. Another recalls the greeting he received on boarding a new ship – “this is where your predecessor died!” Upon another such occasion he arrived, as the crew were all coaling, an experience loathed by all involved. The commander simply said “You don’t want to join this bit of fun, come back later!”

When it came to leaving the Navy he was offered a lump sum gratuity of £250 or a pension for life, he opted for the latter, and drew it for 51 years. Latterly he was occasionally visited to make sure he was still alive. He worked as an estate handyman until he retired in 1940. He is said to have been a difficult man, often falling out with his employers and leaving. Thus my mother claimed she went to 14 different schools between 1918 and 1927. He had lived in Chichester for several years, before moving to Bognor Regis. He is buried in Whyke cemetery, Chichester, although his grave cannot now be found, it having disappeared under the encroaching hedgerow. I have two small souvenirs to remember him by, brass shell case bottoms fashioned into miniature coal scuttles, and intended to serve as sugar bowls. Apparently blacksmiths would make these in quiet moments and sell them as presents to be taken home by his shipmates. Two little shovels have gone missing.

I have learned much about the Navy by following his career. His service record shows him appointed continuously from 1894 to 1919. Matching that record to individual ships I gradually realised that as his ship returned to port he might immediately be relocated to somewhere else, without any gap. Ten out of his twenty-five years of service were based in Portsmouth, rather than at sea. I also realised just how his experience ranged from part steam, part sail, via a turret ram battleship, via more modern battleships, to pioneering the response to aircraft, and witnessing an experimental airship, and on to active service in the Great War, not least at Gallipoli. It is little wonder he had tales to tell.

The veracity of one tale still eludes us though. He recalled seeing an island that had appeared – or disappeared – between making his way to the Far East and back again, , or vice versa. Unless someone reading this can help I can only hope a detailed reading of Minerva’s logbook might throw up something. Google certainly hasn’t.

Click here to download the full biography of CPO George Loveland RN (PDF 15 MB)

Andrew Howard.

For further information, please contact the author at: aandjhoward@btinternet.com