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Imperial War Museum War Partnership logoFirst World War - On this day...... 28th August 1914


Under review
George Edward CARLTON
b. 23rd October 1887, Worth (near Sandwich), Kent;
d. 28 August 1914 aboard HMS Laurel at Heligoland.

--- not a locally remembered man ---
- remembered at Chatham and Worth, Kent -

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Able Seaman, Service No: 228168
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy - H.M.S. "Laurel."
Killed in action 28th August 1914 Aged 29
Memorial CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL, Panel Reference 2.
Additional Information (CWGC): Husband of Harriett A. Madgwick (formerly Carlton),
of 3, French Cottages, Teynham, Sittingbourne, Kent.

Point of Clarification from CWGC records:

The reason for including George on the Society website is to clear up a possible confusion arising from a casual reading of the CWGC record (above).

Although the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record suggests a link between this man and Teynham, George Edward Carlton is not recorded on the Teynham Memorial. The reasons being that
(a) he was really a Faversham man at the time - home address No.4, Church Road, Lower Brents, Faversham; and
(b) it was only after George's death that Harriet remarried and moved to Teynham.

His age is also misreported. Born on 23rd October 1887, his death in 1914 gives his actual age as 26 years and 10 months when he died. This inaccuracy is not unusual for those wanting to find a future in the service of their country.

George Edward Carlton is remembered on the Eastry War Memorial, in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin in Church Street. George was the first Eastry man to lose his life in the Great War. More research into this and other Eastry men can be followed here. George was born the son of a journeyman ordinary agricultural labourer (also named George Carlton, mother named Charlotte) - essentially this means his father had to travel to find work as he had no strong local roots or service in a larger estate. This form of employment was extremely vulnerable to changes in local employment. So it is that, in the 1901 Census, we find the entire surviving Carlton family registered in the Eastry Workhouse. Not all his children survived to this date - infant mortality being high at the time. It is not always the case that the whole family stays together in the workhouse system, but George was able to hold his family together.

Life in a Workhouse.

Just to give a flavour of what their life might have been like in Eastry Workhouse and why George left as soon as he could to serve in the Navy. 1871 Records held by a Society Member show that inmates at Eastry Workhouse were given a range of jobs: adult males were working at picking oakum, nursing the sick, pumping water, cleaning the house, road-making, and garden work; adult females worked at nursing the sick, washing, making and mending clothing, cooking, housework, and needle-work; children under 16 (George was 13 in 1901) were employed in washing and ironing, making and mending their clothing, and housework. Unlike many workhouses, none of this work was paid in Eastry and it was the view of the Board of Guardians that the Workhouses had made no change to unemployment locally. This was a bleak outlook for inmates. "Picking oakum" was a common workhouse manual employment in which old ropes were teased apart for re-use in sealing wooden ships' hulls and deck planks - the oakum was mixed with tar/bitumen and worked into cracks/joints. Some common English phrases of today come from the punishing task of heating tar and oakum and forcing it into gaps between decking planks using spikes, hot irons and sanding blocks - the very worst job was to seal the joint between the deck and the vertical sides (the devil of a job) - as a punishment, "the devil to pay"; also, the very narrow timber tops of the sides (gunwales or gunn'ls) give rise to the phrase trapped "between the devil and the deep blue sea" (nowhere to go).

It is not clear exactly when George escaped life in the workhouse. However, by late 1909 he had married Harriet Nicholls and by the time of the 1911 Census he had joined the Navy. So, George was already serving in the Navy at the outbreak of the war. He is shown in the 1911 Census as serving in the Navy vessel, "HMS Dominion", Battleship 1st Class. Serving under Captain Morgan Singer; Station - 2nd Division, Home Fleet; Position on 2nd April 1911, Glengariff Harbour, Ireland. George E Carlton was one of 611 Able Seamen on board out of a total complement of 764.

While George had managed to find a way out of the workhouse, his father was still in Eastry Workhouse in 1911 aged 60, as were some of his surviving children - Emma (20) classified as an "Imbecile from birth", William John Carlton (16), general labourer, and Annie Louisa Carlton (12) at school.

George is mentioned in an account of the loss of his ship, "H.M.S. Laurel" found in the South Eastern Gazette on 5th September 1914.

“First-class Petty officer William Henry Durrant, whose home is at Folkestone, had a thrilling experience during the recent naval action off Heligoland.
On board the cruiser, "HMS Goshawk", which took a prominent part in the battle, Durrant was knocked down by a German shell, which split his left arm from the shoulder, extending to the back of the hand. A sailor standing on the right of Durrant was instantly killed, half of his body being shattered to pieces.
The injured petty officer, who is brother-in-law to Miss Austine, in the employ of Major Scott, of Kennington, and whose wife resides at Vicarage Road, Kennington, has since been removed to Chatham, where he is now progressing very favourably.
Among the British seamen killed in the fight was George Edward Carlton, of "HMS Laurel", whose home was at Faversham. He was 29 years of age, and leaves a widow and a little son, four years of age. He was a native of Eastry.”
Royal Humane Society Medal awarded for saving a man from drowning.


HMS Laurel Killed