Steelworker at sea

Story by Suzanne Bingham

In 1916 the Great War had been raging for two years, with no prospect of it ending soon. Information from the front was vague, the death toll was high and civilian life became dominated by the war effort. The local steel firms were working hard to rearm the country.

In Pitsmoor there was a young man called Herbert Blackshaw, who lived at on Fitzalan Street, a small road that ran off Marcus Street. He was born on 19th June 1895, the third of six children, two of whom died in infancy.

The family were all employed by the railway, apart from Herbert, who in 1911 was a fifteen-year-old errand boy in the local steel works. His role kept him from enlisting immediately, which he did on 20th June 1916 – the day after his 21st birthday.

Wanting to see more of the world, he decided to join the navy, and signed up for the duration of the war. The records state he was sent to serve as a stoker, on the Pembroke II, a training ship moored at Sheerness in Kent. After six months he completed his training and was allocated to a ship called the Vulcan, a submarine depot ship, based around the ports of Greece.

The Vulcan’s role was submarine repairs and its workshop was not too dissimilar from a steelworks, so it’s not surprising the Pitsmoor boy was sent to work in such a familiar environment.

Herbert survived the war without incident or punishment, and returned to Pitsmoor in 1919. He returned to the steelworks, and married a local girl in 1921.

Despite his war experiences, he lived to the ripe old age of 79, completely unaware that the 100th anniversary of his enlistment would be commemorated in a local magazine.

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The content on this page was added to the website by Saleema Imam on 2016-07-21 17:37:58.
The content of the page was last modified by Graham Jones on 2016-07-22 07:40:34.

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