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Pte A E Thorne - RMLI, Died 30/8/14. What's his story?


John_Hartley
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On a recent holiday, I briefly visited Kirkwall in Orkney.

 

In the cathedral graveyard, is a CWGC headstone noting that PLY/12386 Pte Albert Edward Thorne is "known to be buried" there. He died on 30 August 1914, aged 40, serving with HMS Gibraltar.

 

I was curious about why his actual grave is unmarked and, on returning home, see the CWGC information attached to his commemoration, dating to 1929, notes they could not find his grave. That seemed even odder as you would have thought there would be accurate records for a graveyard - I'm assuming here this is not an unmarked paupers grave as he was still serving.

 

I ask, accepting that this is a long shot, if anyone knows anything of his story. The nature of his death?  The burial at Kirkwall and the reason for the grave going missing?

 

TIA

 

John

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HMS GIBRALTAR was a Depot Ship in the Northern Isles in 1914, so a burial in Orkney is no surprise. Pte Thorne was an RMLI pensioner who had previously served in Portsmouth Division RMLI (Portsmouth/8419) and originally enlisted as Plymouth/6488 in 1893. He probably was discharged to pension just a few months before WW1. The 'loss' of his grave is puzzling. With only one naval grave (of five CWGC) in a cathedral graveyard one would have thought it was easy to keep track of. I would guess a death of illness.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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A little more information on the Scottish War Graves Project site

http://scottishwargraves.phpbbweb.com/scottishwargraves-ftopic642.html

The other two on the site appear from the background of the pictures to be part of a family plot.

 

I imagine he was interred in a common grave, especially given his family was from Plymouth.  Most cemeteries as you are probably aware have a common burial area. Perhaps an enquiry of the Cathedral authorities?

 

Ken

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32 minutes ago, kenf48 said:

I imagine he was interred in a common grave, especially given his family was from Plymouth.

I very much doubt that a death in RN service would have been rewarded by the Service with a 'common grave'. I think it more likely that the grave marker was lost (or removed) during the following four plus years of war.

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25 minutes ago, horatio2 said:

I very much doubt that a death in RN service would have been rewarded by the Service with a 'common grave'. I think it more likely that the grave marker was lost (or removed) during the following four plus years of war.

It was 1929 when the Commission noted that they couldnt find the grave. I assume they must have asked the cathedral authorities but I still find it odd that they had lost a grave location. You'd surely think that there would have been burial records which would have noted location, even if in a common grave.

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I must correct an error in my Post #2. In August 1914 HMS GIBRALTAR was not (yet) a depot ship but an operational cruiser in the 10th Cruiser Squadron enforcing the blockade between Orkney/ Shetlands and Faroes/Norway and calling at intervals in the Northern Isles for coaling. She last was at Scapa on 27 August and was on passge to or at Rosyth from 28 August to 2 September. Before that she had been at Scapa on 20 August and on North Sea patrol 21-27 August. Presumably Pte Thorne was landed from GIBRALTAR (sick?) in Orkney on 21 or 27 August and died ashore.

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I suppose he might possibly have died aboard in which case his death certificate would be in the Deaths at Sea files. Or is that too simple?

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Thanks horatio2.

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There is a slightly incomplete Scottish death certificate. He died on board the hospital ship Rohilla of  a. appendicitis, b, general peritonitis and c. operation(!). His death was reported by MAA (Master at Arms?) Hy Robbins.

 

About the loss of the grave, there are a number of possibilities.

It would be interesting to see what the burial register is like. Many of the old Scottish country churchyards indicate the locations of graves by things like 3 yards north west of the north west corner of the church (or even a distance from another grave). This is sometimes in abbreviated form. It is sometimes not possible to make sense of what was meant.

Although not relevant in this case, I know of a country churchyard where the minister decided to tidy the graveyard by having the gravestones moved into tidy rows thereby detaching them from the graves they belonged to.

The registers of some churchyards which I have used were sometimes quite roughly kept and in some cases the entry for a burial had been inserted between lines in register presumably because someone forgot at the time. I have also seen the wrong date in the register.

I have not come across common graves as such, but I have found areas where people were buried and no record has been maintained where individual burials are.

 

RM

Edited by rolt968
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Good find! He was obviously discharged to HMHS ROHILLA from GIBRALTAR before she left Scapa.

Interestingly Master at Arms Harry ROBBINS, O/N 104322, died (drowned) two months later in ROHILLA when she ran aground near Whitby.

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Nice one Roger!

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11 hours ago, rolt968 said:

Many of the old Scottish country churchyards indicate the locations of graves by things like 3 yards north west of the north west corner of the church (or even a distance from another grave)

The other four burials at Kirkwall also have fairly vague descriptions on the CWGC website. For example, one is recorded as "north of west end of church". I presume that description will be based on where the grave was actually found and, also, a description in the burial register. I could certainly see a scenario where, if Thorne's grave had not been marked (or an original marker had disappeared), then it may not have been possible to find it in 1929.

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  • 1 year later...

Hello, There is some fascinating information here thank you. This man was my great Grandfather on my father's side. He was my father's mother's father...

My sister has been to see the grave and has lots more info which I will share when she sends it to me.

 

I only have very sketchy memories of my grandmother talking about it. I believe she was only six when he died.

 

 

Edited by Guest
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I would have thought the military admin would have made sure a marker of some type was put on the grave at the time of his burial.

This lack of good records seems to be very common. In the cemetery where many of my family lie there are a lot of unmarked & lost graves. I tried to find one for a WW1 veteran & they could fine no record of the grave even though the local paper carried a full description of the funeral & burial. And this was in the late 1930's. I know I'm not aware of all that needs to be done in cemetery care & records but there ought to be a law for stricter records.

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