Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Thomas was born on 5th September 1890 in Teignmouth, Devon to parents George and Edith and baptised as an Anglican on 4th January 1891.
He was first recorded on the 1891 census at just seven months old, living with his mother and older sister Elsie at 2 Teign View Terrace, while his father was away at sea. Ten years later on the 1901 census the family were again recorded without George. Thomas was the eldest child recorded with three younger sisters and a baby brother all living at Crown Square, Middle Street in Teignmouth.
Thomas joined the Navy on 5th September 1908 for 12 years service aged 18, but had already served since 9th June 1906 as a Boy 2nd Class, recorded as 5’7” tall with brown hair and grey eyes. His training commenced at HMS Ganges shore based establishment until 25th February 1907
His service record read -
HMS GANGES - 09/06/1906 - 25/02/1907, rising to Boy 1st Class on 06/02/1907
HMS VINDICTIVE - 26/02/1907 - 25/04/1907
HMS CHARYBDIS - 26/04/1907 - 16/05/01907
HMS SUTLEJ - 17/05/1907 - 01/09/1907
HMS CHARYBDIS - 02/09/1907 - 25/10/1907
HMS ALBEMARLE - 26/10/1907 - 17/02/1910, rising to Ordinary Seaman on 05/09/1908 and serving 7 days in cells
HMS PEMBROKE I - 18/02/1910 - 25/02/1910
HMS CAESAR - 26/02/1910 - 06/06/1910, rising to Able Seaman on 27/02/1910
HMS DOMINION - 07/06/1910 - 14/10/1912 - recorded aboard during the 1911 census, the Battleship anchored in Glengarriff Harbour, Scotland, Thomas also married Mabel Cowmeadow on 09/06/1912 at St George the Martyr, Battersea.
HMS PEMBROKE I - 15/10/1912 - 27/03/1913
HMS LORD NELSON - 28/03/1913 - 16/09/1913 - There is a note after this last posting however, of the word RUN. Remarks on his file state:-
"A man giving his name of Thos.W.Hildebrand was arrested on 16th April 1915 and committed to confinement at Brixton as a deserter from HMS Lord Nelson. His description however corresponds with that of Thos.F.King, Stk 1 Class, a deserter from the 'Iron Duke'. (Man(?) therefore sent to R.N Barracks, Chatham for identification".
SUBNOTE - "The man committed to confinement at Brixton identified as (?) sentenced to 40 days (?) for desertion".
The bottom of the record is too damaged to read.
Comparing Thomas W Hildebrand's service records to Thomas Frederick King's, we can conclude the deserter was probably Thomas King. There are no further Navy entries on his record after he "ran" on 23rd March 1914. The two men would have also been compared, finding that Thomas King had many tattoos and Thomas Hildebrand had none.
There is, following this episode, an 18 month gap in Thomas Hildebrand's service record.
HMS PEMBROKE I - 02/06//1916 - 30/06/1915
HMS SIR JOHN MOORE - 01/07/1915 - 16/03/1916
HMS PEMBROKE I - 17/03/1916 - 15/09/1916
HMS BIARRITZ - 16/09/916 - 20/11/1916
HMS PEMBROKE I - 21/11/1916 - 30/12/1916
HMS VANGUARD - 31/12/1916 - 09/07/1917
His pension was awarded to his widow Mabel, to assist in the upbringing of their children - she was also sent his Star, Victory and British war medals following his death. He is remembered in perpetuity on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
(#141 - 390/843)
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 Free BMD
Devon, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1920 Anglican Parish Registers held at South West Heritage Trust; Taunton, Somerset, England
1891, 1901 & 1911 England Census
England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921 London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1931; Reference Number: p70/geo/023
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915
Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1848-1939 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services; Class: ADM 188; Piece: 420
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty: Naval Casualties, Indexes, War Grave Rolls and Statistics Book, First World War.; Class: ADM 242; Piece: 008 (1914 - 1919)
Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 TNA Series: ADM 242/8; Scan Number: 0899
World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923 Western Front Association; London, England; WWI Pension Record Cards and Ledgers; Reference: 097/0442/HIG-HIL
Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 Class: ADM 171; Piece: 105