Our Family in World War One   Leave a comment

Our Family in the First World War

AlfredHenryTidmarshAlfred Henry Tidmarsh (right) was born (date unknown) to Henry Tidmarsh, the eldest of five children, the third of whom was my great-grandmother, Bertha, who married George Gulliver (b. Ufton, 1862), in 1887 when she was about eighteen. Alfred joined the Navy, following his uncle Alfred. He did… five trips to India on HMS Malabar, the troop ship, as a stoker and became the chief stoker and later diving instructor. He was serving on HMS Ramillies, the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet at the time of an earthquake, and he raced to give assistance to Admiral Sir Charles Beresford. He became a chief p. o. (petty officer), which was good for a village boy who left school at twelve. He got married, but his marriage was dissolved and he got married again to a Russian lady, of above all things! She was a governess to a rich family out there where his ship was anchored. He made quite a bit of money on the ship. He had a sewing machine and he used to make sailors’ suits. He only had to buy the collars and put them on; a very straightforward job. He also ran a bank for them, and had about a penny in the shilling. He did twenty-one years’ service and during the First World War, although pensioned, joined up and met misfortune when HMS Vanguard was blown up at Scapa Flow. On that day, 9th July 1917, 804 sailors lost their lives as a result of an internal explosion which sank the ship almost instantaneously. My Great Aunt claimed that Lord Mountbatten was on that ship, but was a survivor. However, I can find no record of Prince Louis of Battenburg, as he was still known then, serving on the ship, nor is he listed as one of the few survivors. Only two men were picked up, one of them an Oxford man. It is believed that Alfred he was interred in Kirkwall cemetery, probably due to (his) identity disk (revealing) him as a prominent mason.

Later, Alfred’s Russian widow and children lived in London, and Bertha Gulliver, Jessie’s sister, used to go and see them when she lived in London. Presumably, Alfred’s widow would have become a refugee from Bolshevik Russia sometime shortly after October/ November 1917, if she had not already left after the February Revolution. Anyway, the connection was maintained until the Second World War, when the family moved, and the Gulliver family never heard of them again. The children had a college education given to them by the Admiralty, and Grandma Tidmarsh had a small pension, as Alfred used to send her a little money, and the Admiralty never stopped it when he got blown up on the ship.


Alfred Gulliver (right, b. Ufton, 1893), my great-uncle, was the fourth child of George and Bertha Gulliver (née Tidmarsh), the second son. Alfred worked on a farm with his elder brother Vinson and his father when the family moved to Wroxall, not far from Berkswell Station, in 1904. He worked there until he was fifteen and then went into the Navy. He was a good-looking boy and, like his mother, had black hair and blue eyes, whereas most of the other children took after their father, with brown hair and blue eyes. He served on HMS Thunderer, the third Alfred in the family to serve in the Navy. He did very well in the Navy, becoming a Chief Petty Officer, and went all through the First World War. He later became, due to exceptionally good eyesight, a range-finder instructor, serving in the Second World War, aged fifty-five, but stayed in dock training the gunners. His wife, Lilly, lived in Coventry, and they had one boy, named Allan, who lived in Meriden until his death last year. He married Beryl and has one boy, Peter Gulliver.

Jessie Gulliver (b. Ufton, 1901) was working for Brown’s Butchers for a year before the First World War broke out, and then anyone who had bedrooms in Coventry had to take Australian soldiers in. She didn’t know what port they came in (probably Portsmouth), but they all came through Walsgrave and they all came past Caludon Lodge.

They were all dressed in khaki, with their hats turned up at the side, waiting for our government to say where they were to go. So three of them were staying at Brown’s. They’d had two fellows living and working there, taking the meat around in those days, but they’d had to go to war themselves.

So Mr Brown asked Jessie to take meat down to Stoke Park Hall, and they asked me to take their orders back to him, thinking he was her father. But he never increased her pay and if he didn’t give me my half a crown on Saturdays, I never asked him for it. Kids were funny in those days!

Now the War was on, and women could get well-paid jobs working on munitions. Jessie got a job working at the Royal Ordinance Works, Red Lane. She got much more money there and soon had enough saved for a bicycle. Instead of having to walk all the way across by Wyken Church, right up the Black Pad to the Works, night and morning, she could cycle:

That’s how my life went on through the war years. We were working from six in the morning till six at night on two pieces of bread and ‘dripping’ (lard) and canteen tea which you could have wrung a dishcloth out in.

Sometimes they were quite nervous about the war, although it didn’t affect the women directly very much, unless they lost a loved one on the Western Front. They did see, however, a huge airship, a Zeppelin, sailing over Walsgrave, which frightened us all to death, and made them realise some of the reality of modern warfare for the first time: It was terrifying, just like a great big boat.

Jessie said that:

…It was only really the rationing which touched us, because my mother had about ten of us at home, and had to go into Coventry for what she could get… it was a good job we had the garden and all the stuff from it and my Dad could always keep it beautiful and grow plenty of potatoes, cabbages, etc. We survived!


After the war, unable to find suitable married accommodation in Coventry, Jessie and her husband Tommy went to live with Lilly ,  Alfred’s wife, because Alf was still in the Navy and only came home on leave from Portsmouth, and they had a spare room.

Seymour (b. Ufton, 1900), the seventh child, my grandfather, was just an ordinary boy, two years older than Jessie, who therefore knew him well as they grew up together, playing outside. Their mother would quite often tell him to take her out, so she could get on with the housework.

At first, Seymour also went to work on the farm near Walsgrave with his father and brothers when he left school just before the First World War War. He then went to work in Binley Pit, first of all in the office. He tried to join the Army in 1917, although he would not be eighteen until the following spring. He was at Catterick Barracks when the influenza epidemic struck, wiping out almost all of the Company he had joined. He wrote to his mother and she arrived at the gates in Yorkshire, produced Seymour’s birth certificate and demanded her son back. She took him back to Coventry on the train, and he survived both the war and the epidemic.

Returning to the Colliery, he went underground as a collier, not just because, as a reserved occupation, it kept him from being conscripted in 1918, but also because there was more money to be earned working at the coalface. He married later that year.


Hand-written notes and verbal recordings (transcribed) made by Jessie Gardner (née Gulliver), 1992-3.

Letter written by Vinson Gulliver (b. 1888) in 1979 (typescript).

Posted August 4, 2014 by TeamBritanniaHu in Uncategorized

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