IN Bugle 1098 we told the story of James Brownhill from the Low Town area of Holly Hall, Dudley, who was killed in action in 1916 when the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary was sunk at the Battle of Jutland.
Brownhill, born in 1882, was a stoker aboard the ship, which blew up when her forward magazine was hit, with the loss of 1,266 lives.
The article was of great interest to Carol Wollaston who has emailed these pictures to us. Her relative was also a stoker aboard HMS Queen Mary and may possibly have served alongside James Brownhill.
Carol writes, “I was very interested to read the article in the 12th September edition of the Bugle about the Black Country sailor who gave his life at the Battle of Jutland.
“An ancestor of my husband also died when HMS Queen Mary was sunk and I very much appreciated the detail given about the part played by this ship during the First World War.
“The ancestor’s name was Thomas Edward (Ted) Wollaston and he was born in Wolverhampton on 4th February, 1891, the youngest of William and Mary Wollaston’s seven children.
“In the 1891 census the family were in Great Hampton Street, Pratt’s Buildings, Wolverhampton, but by 1901 the father was dead and the family had moved to Stavely Street, Dunstall.
“Sometime before the 1911 census Ted must have joined the Royal Navy because in that census he was listed at Harwich as a Stoker 1st Class, aged 20.
“We have just one small photograph of a young man in naval uniform, hat worn at a jaunty angle and smiling. This may well be Ted. He is standing between two others wearing tartan.
“As with many family photographs, no one saw the need to write any names on the back because everyone alive at the time knew very well who they were!
“Little is known of his short life, however, we do have a postcard written by him. It was not dated but must have been after the Battle of Heligoland Bight in August 1914 because that is the engagement celebrated on the front of the postcard. He gave his address as 77 Mess, HMS Queen Mary, PO London. He was writing to his older brother, William Wollaston.
“His message reads, ‘Dear Will, just a line hoping you are quite well as it leaves me at present. Give my best to all at Willenhall. Have you heard from Nell yet. Best love to all your Loving Brother Ted xx.’
“Will was well known locally as a talented footballer who had experience with the Wolves before becoming a member of Willenhall Pickwick football club. He made his debut as a winger for that team in 1907 and played for them when they won both the league and Staffordshire Junior Cup in 1908. In the summer of 1910 he joined West Bromwich Albion who became Football League Division Two champions that season. However, by 1912 he had the responsibility of a wife and young son so he had to give up the football and settle down to the serious task of earning a living! How times have changed!
“As to the identity of Nell, we can only speculate.
“When the family heard news that the Queen Mary had been sunk, how worried they must have been and then devastated to learn that Ted was not among the 18 survivors. As a stoker, he would have been in the worst part of the vessel from which to escape.
“Notification of his death was sent to his eldest brother, Henry Wollaston, who was living with his family at Shaw Road, Bushbury.
“Ted is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. A memorial card has also survived which was signed by George, an old shipmate. We don’t know any other details of this friend or, indeed, if he survived the war.
“I would love to hear from anyone who has knowledge of any of the people mentioned above or who can comment on the uniforms in the photograph, though I realise how difficult this will be, given its size and quality.”
l Can you answer any of Carol’s questions? Do you have a similar story of wartime service by a member of your family? Contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle. co.uk or write to the usual address.