John Ernest Victor, from Devon to the USA, to the Somme

John Ernest Victor was born in Devonport in 1890, the sixth child of John Victor and Eliza Crewes. His father was a Cornwall-born hammer-man in the docks and Eliza was the daughter of a carpenter. They’d already lost a son and daughter, and their next daughter also died young, they had a further daughter, Eliza May, so John would have grown up with four sisters about the house.

Blue-eyed, brown-haired John Ernest saw his older sisters settle down, and became an uncle. He became a plumber and gas fitter apprentice.  In 1907, aged 17, he attested into the Royal Garrison Artillery Territorial Force (Devonshire RGA unit); he still had 3 years and 9 months to complete on his apprenticeship at that point. He became a Gunner with the RGA and received annual training on the Maker Heights and the Staddon Heights.

In 1911 when he was 21 he joined the Royal Navy.  He served on the Vivid (the cadet ship I believe rather than the Naval base), but in November 1911 was invalided and spent four months in Plymouth Hospital.  I’m love to know the background to these intriguing remarks, perhaps about a gratuity: 10/- Grat. for raising/saving the Vivid” Nov 1911.


Naval discharge notes for John Ernest Victor, 1911

John left hospital in March 1912 and perhaps fancied a new start as in July he headed for New York on the White Star Line’s Majestic.

I had previously lost track of his story, but I was contacted in June 2016 by my distant cousin Chris.

In 1914 after the start of the First World War John returned to England.  He traveled to Glasgow via Londonderry on the Caledonia where he enlisted into the Essex Regiment. He served as a Lance Corporal in the 9th Battalion.

Exactly a hundred years ago today, on 3 July 1916, John Ernest Victor died in action on the third day of the Battle of the Somme.  He is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial. There is a commemorative page here.

Grateful thanks to Chris for getting in touch and sharing John’s story.

Lynne Black, 3 July 2016


3 thoughts on “John Ernest Victor, from Devon to the USA, to the Somme

  1. Valerie Chamberlain

    Thanks for this blog and post.
    I’ve just received today a Somme 100 remembrance poppy, and Lance Corporal J E Victor’s name, his Essex regiment, service number, date of death and memorial happened to be in the box with the pin.
    Your post has enabled me to remember John Ernest in a family and historical context, which a service record alone could not do.

    1. starryblackness Post author

      Thanks Valerie, I’m glad it helped you and your family. I’m about to develop the story of a cousin from another family branch who died in November 1916, it makes these lost soldiers’ stories feel so much more personal.

      1. Valerie Chamberlain

        Lynne, as almost a year has passed, my thoughts turn again to the Armistice Day Remembrance and young John Ernest, whose anniversary passed on July 3.

        Today, I came across this reference to his name in the National Archives: which shows his birth certificate, stating that he had been born in 1892, so never lived to see his twenty-fourth birthday.

        Perhaps, like many young men, he passed for older than he was when he joined up? For me, this makes his brief history even more poignant.

        Best wishes

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