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{$text['mgr_blue1']} Nessworthy 2

For those in peril on the sea: The story of Matthew Nessworthy (1882 - 1916)

by Alan Craxford and Anne Brookes


We have recorded the military service, distinctions and sacrifices of the Nessworthy family during the First World War in a previous article (See "The Nessworthys at war"). Mentioned therein was a George Matthew Nessworthy. Since its publication, further details of his life have come to light and we are recording them here.

He was born on September 9th 1882, in South Shields on Tyneside, the second son of Matthew Nessworthy and Elizabeth Morrison. Although his name was registered as Matthew, at some stage, he acquired the alternative name, George, later in life - presumably as a familiar. He came from a background steeped in the traditions of the sea. His father, grandfather and several uncles were all mariners and several other close relatives followed the occupation of boat building. His early years were spent in Charlotte Street, a road which ran through the town's docks. It was perhaps inevitable that he would follow in their footsteps.

Stoker Matthew Nessworthy. 307653 CHATHAM

The following is a transcript of Matthew's service record with the Royal Navy which is now stored at the National Archive. This confirms his date and place of birth and also corroborates his shared Nessworthy features of modest height and pale blue eyes. It is noteworthy that he was employed as a gas stoker, and despite a number of minor infractions and misdemeanours which led to multiple short periods of detention (the details of which are not recorded), he rose to the rating of Stoker first class. Although the initial engagement was for a period of twelve years, he was invalided out of the Royal Navy with poor eyesight within three years and received a pension.

Name in full: Matthew Nesworthy              Date of Birth: 9 September 1882
                                             Place of Birth: Sth Shields, Durham
                                             Occupation: Gas Stoker
Date and Period of C.S.Engagements:  Age:   Height:  Hair  Eyes  Complexion: Scars

10 November 1904 - 12 years          T.E.   5-5˝    LBro  LBlue Fresh

Ships etc     Rating       From:      To:       Character:       If Discharged, whither 
Served in                                                        and for what cause:

Acheron       Sto 3 class  10 Nov 04            VG 21.12.04
              Sto          20 May 05  12 Jul 05 Fair 31.12.05
Pembroke II                13 Jul 05  04 Sep 05 Indiff 31.12.06
Roxburgh                   05 Sep 05  27 Nov 05                  Cells 14ds
                           12 Dec 05  21 Jan 06                  Cells 7ds
                           29 Jan 06  16 Apr 06                  Cells 7ds
                           24 Apr 06
              Sto 1 class  01 Jul 06  15 Nov 06                  Cells 14ds
                           30 Nov 06  14 Jun 07
                           15 Jun 07  26 Jun 07                  Cells 7ds
                           04 Jul 07  02 Sep 07
Pembroke I                 03 Sep 07  04 Sep 07
Hawke                      05 Sep 07  15 Nov 07
Pembroke I                 16 Nov 07  18 Nov 07                  Cells 3ds
                           22 Nov 07  05 Dec 07  Fair            Invalided
                                                                 (Defective eyesight)

The ships

HMS Acheron 1890

HMS Acheron 1890 (2)

Of the four secondments mentioned in the record above, three were to vessels. The fourth, HMS Pembroke, was the formal name of the Barracks at the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham, Kent. Opened in 1903, it saw service as an initial training facility for new recruits until its closure in 1984. The suffix, "I" or "II", was the number of the barrack block.

HMS Acheron

Starting life as HMS Northumberland, this 10,780-ton broadside ironclad took seven years to build at Millwall in London and was finally commissioned in 1868. Initially it was equipped with five masts and sails which towered above the hull but refits in 1875 and 1885 saw two masts removed and larger guns installed. She acted as flagship of the Channel Squadron in the 1887. In the early 1890s it was renamed HMS Acheron, confined to harbour and converted to a stokers training ship.

HMS Roxburgh

HMS Roxburgh

HMS Roxburgh (3)

HMS Roxburgh was a Devonshire Class cruiser. Launched in 1904, she served with the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet until 1908. It appears that Matthew spent two years at these duties. After refits she saw service around Norway where she was damaged by torpedoes and was then on convoy duty in the North Atlantic. She was awarded a "merit mark" (painted on one of her funnels) for ramming and sinking a German U-boat in 1917. She was finally scrapped in 1924.

Her sister ship, HMS Hampshire, hit a mine on June 5th 1916 and sank off the Orkney Islands with the loss of her crew of 650 and her passenger, Lord Kitchener.

HMS Hawke

HMS Hawke

HMS Hawke (5)

Matthew's final, and brief, posting was to the Edgar class cuiser, HMS Hawke. He spent about six weeks on board just prior to his discharge from the service. This ship was built at Chatham and completed in 1893. Initially seeing service at various points around the Medita . After a refit it saw service in World War One as converted depot ship for destroyers and submarines. It was torpedoed and suck by a U-boat with the loss of 524 men on October 15th 1914.

HMS Hawke appears to have been accident-prone and an incident in September 1911 led to the development of one of the twentieth century's most intriguing maritime conspiracy theories (4). It was in collision in the Solent (outside Southampton) with the White Star liner HMS Olympic which was holed above and below the water line. The story goes that for insurance purposes the Olympic's owners surreptiously swapped it with its sister ship, Titanic, and it was the Olympic which actually hit the ice berg and sank.

Continued in column 2...

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Added: February 21st 2007
Updated: March 18th 2012

Civvy Street and the First World War

After his discharge, Matthew used his knowledge and training and became a seaman in the merchant marine. He returned to the North East of England where his mother still lived; his father had died at the turn of the century

He met and married local girl, Margaret Langley, in South Shields in the early months of 1916 (he is listed in the indexes as George M (6)). They set up home at 401, South Palmerston Street. Their son, John, was born that October.

During this time Matthew was serving aboard cargo ships as third engineer. On December 29th 1916 he was aboard the SS Lonada, a vessel of 1,286 tonnes. Five miles north east of the Shipwash Light vessel (off the coast of Harwich), it hit a mine and sank (7). Six people on board, including Matthew, were lost at sea. Two very similar In Memoriam notices appeared in the local newspaper:
"NESSWORTHY G. Matthew Lost at sea December 29th 1916. Husband of Maggie (nee Langley), 21 Alexander Street. Mourned by his wife and child."
"NESSWORTHY Matthew: Lost at sea December 29th 1916. Youngest son of Elizabeth and the late Matthew, 4 Charlotte Street, South Shields. Mourned by mother and sisters."

He is also commemorated at the Tower Hill Memorial, in Trinity Square, London

The Tower Hill Memorial, London

Tower Hill Memorial (8)

"The Tower Hill Memorial commemorates men and women of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who died in both World Wars and who have no known grave. It stands on the south side of the garden of Trinity Square, London, close to The Tower of London. In the First World War, the civilian navy's duty was to be the supply service of the Royal Navy, to transport troops and supplies to the armies, to transport raw materials to overseas munitions factories and munitions from those factories, to maintain, on a reduced scale, the ordinary import and export trade, to supply food to the home country and - in spite of greatly enlarged risks and responsibilities - to provide both personnel and ships to supplement the existing resources of the Royal Navy. Losses of vessels were high from the outset, but had peaked in 1917 when in January the German government announced the adoption of "unrestricted submarine warfare". The First World War section of the Tower Hill Memorial commemorates almost 12,000 Mercantile Marine casualties who have no grave but the sea."
Image and italicised text (c) The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (8)


1. Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services - 307501-308000The National Archives
2. HMS Northumberland (Broadside Ironclad, 1868-1927): Wikipedia
3. HMS Roxburgh Troopships, Battleships, Subs, Cruisers, Destroyers
4. The Titanic Conspiracy
5. HMS Hawke
6. George M Nessworthy and Margaret Langley: England and Wales, Civil Registration Index: 1837-1983: Marriages: S Shields 10a 1331 (First quarter 1916)
7. Notice of sinking of the SS Lonada
8. Tower Hill Memorial, London The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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