EDRED BUCKINGHAM (1876-1916)
Chief Engine Room Artificer 1st Class Edred Buckingham 269315, HMS Nottingham, was one of 38 men lost at sea when his ship was sunk by the German U-boat U-52 on 19th August 1916.
Everyone in North Hill knew the Buckingham family. They had been in the parish since the mid-1750s and by the time of Edred Buckingham's birth on 1st August 1876, his father Jabez was established as a successful wheelwright. At the time of the 1881 census, Edred was aged four and was living at Lewarne with his family. Ten years later he was still at Lewarne, recorded as a millwright's apprentice.
Edred was a career navy man, having joined up in March 1898 at the age of 22. On entry he was described as a fitter and he joined HMS Vivid, a shore training base, as an Acting Engine Room Artificer (ERA). An artificer was trained in mechanics and Edred had probably developed his engineering skills whilst working in the family business. He then joined the complement of HMS Rupert on 23rd February 1899. Thereafter his postings show the Royal Navy emerging as a modern fighting force.
The Rupert, pictured here, was a Victoria class battleship laid down in 1872, and her principal weapon was the ram on her bows. Rapid and revolutionary improvements to naval firepower, speed and armour meant that she was already out of date when Edred joined her. She was broken up in 1907. After six months on this outmoded vessel Edred was posted to HMS Theseus, an Edgar class protected cruiser which was part of the Special Flying Squadron, a small rapid reaction group. Whilst serving on the Theseus, Edred was promoted to full ERA.
The first day of the new century saw him join HMS Royal Sovereign, the largest battleship of her time and the template for her class until the advent of the mighty Dreadnoughts. He was only with her for ten days, after which he was returned to the Theseus.
The 1901 census showed that he was in Malta with the Theseus. He went on to spend a further period at the Vivid shore base, and was then deployed on 20th August 1902 to HMS Defiance, the navy's torpedo school where he stayed for nearly three years.
In 1902 Edred married Bessie Christina Harvey, a Devon girl from Broadwoodwidger, and in 1905 his only child, Lilian, was born in Devonport. Like so many naval personnel in the area they lived at Keyham, Plymouth. In addition to further spells at the Vivid, in January 1905 Edred joined HMS Hood, an old battleship fated eventually to be scuttled at the outbreak of war to protect Portland's vital harbour. This was followed by a spell on HMS New Zealand from June 1905 to June 1907.
From there he went to HMS Leander, a second class cruiser depot ship for torpedo boat destroyers based in the Mediterranean, and from there on to HMS Blake, a protected cruiser converted to a destroyer depot ship in 1907.
The navy was rapidly improving the fleet and Edred's skills were being honed as a result of his postings to more modern vessels. It was whilst on board the Blake that he was promoted to Acting Chief Engine Room Artificer Second Class. His next ship was HMS Indefatigable, a battlecruiser in the Second Battlecruiser Squadron serving in the Mediterranean. When he left the Indefatigable in June 1913 he did so with the rank of Chief ERA Second Class which was equivalent to a Chief Petty Officer. (The Indefatigable was later sunk on 31st May 1916 at the Battle of Jutland. Of her ship's company of 1019 men, there were just two survivors).
Edred's final posting was to HMS Nottingham which was a brand new Town class light cruiser of 5,440 tons. The Nottingham was present at the actions of Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914, Dogger Bank on 24th January 1915 and Jutland on 31st May to 1st June 1916. It is likely that Edred was present at these engagements.
On Saturday, 9th August 1916 the Nottingham was torpedoed in the North Sea by the German submarine U-52, which, for the rest of the war was to be a scourge of allied shipping. Of the ship's company of 500 only 38 lost their lives, mostly in the engine room. Among those who died was Chief Engine Room Artificer First Class Edred Buckingham. He was 40 years old. Engine rooms were noisy, hot, dangerous places at the best of times, but all too often lethal tombs when a ship was under attack. All those who worked in them toiled valiantly in extreme circumstances, well aware of the odds. They were brave, determined men.
On his death Edred left all his effects, valued at £434, to his wife. His daughter was eleven years old when he died. Bessie remarried in 1919 to John Pugh, a schoolteacher. Lilian married Harry Williams in 1942 but they had no children; she died in 1995 in Plymouth.
Edred Buckingham is also remembered on the Plymouth Royal Naval Memorial.
The images at the top of the page show (L-R): Plymouth Naval Memorial; HMS Nottingham at the Battle of Heligoland; British War Medal (WW1)