M5493 Shipwright 2nd Class Bernard Phillips, Royal Navy
Born on 28th December 1894 in Hudnall
Died on 10th January 1975 in Worthing, West Sussex
Bernard Phillips was born in Hudnall, then in the parish of Edlesborough, the second of the 6 children of John Charles Phillips and Fanny née George.
His siblings were:
- Agnes, born in 1892
- Constance, born on 19th February 1897
- Denis, born on 20th July 1900
- Basil, born on 14th July 1904
- John, born on 8th August 1910
On 6th June 1898, both Bernard and Agnes started at Little Gaddesden School. Bernard was only 3½ years old while Agnes was 5 or 6.
Little Gaddesden School had a Diocesan Inspection in January or February each year, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. The names of those children who distinguished themselves in this examination are recorded in the School Log Book. Bernard’s name is included in January 1901.
The Family in 1901 4
By 1901, the family lived at 45 Little Gaddesden and Bernard’s father was a Land Agent’s Clerk. Agnes, 8, Bernard, 6 and Constance, 4 were at school while Denis was a baby aged 8 months.
Commended for School Attendance 3
The March 2nd 1903 entry in the Little Gaddesden School Log Book recorded the names of children awarded prizes or commended for good attendance. Both Bernard and his sister Constance were commended.
Then, on 14th March 1904, Bernard was one of ten children who received a prize of 2 shillings for full attendance throughout the school year which, at that time, started in March. Others awarded prizes that year included Walter Bunn, Godfrey Bunn, Victor Collier, Archie Wells and Arthur Whitman.
On 31st August 1909, when Little Gaddesden School resumed after the Harvest Holiday, the Log Book noted that Bernard Phillips, Standard 7, had left school. He was then aged 14½.
The 1911 Census shows 16 year old Bernard working as a Carpenter’s Apprentice on the Ashridge Estate. The family still lived at 45 Little Gaddesden and his siblings Constance, 14 and Denis 10, were at School. Basil, 6 and John, a baby of 7 months, were at home.
The Little Gaddesden Scouts 5
When the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop first met on October 26th 1911, Bernard Phillips, then aged nearly 17, became Assistant Scout Master. The Scouts first met in the Reading Room at John o’Gaddesden’s House but meetings soon moved to the Armoury, at 27 Little Gaddesden, the home of their Scout Master, Harry Temple. Miss Bridget Talbot was their President and Mr Humphrey Talbot their Treasurer.
A number of the Scouts subsequently served in the First World War:
Lion Patrol: Stanley Austin, Sidney Bellamy, Edward Bunn, Kenneth Edge, Gerald Green, Henry F (Frank) Johnson, Patrol Leader, George Pinnock, killed aboard HMS Black Prince at the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916 and Jim Whitman.
“Bright Boy Scouts – Clever Performance at Little Gaddesden – High Approval” 5
According to the hand written ‘Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922’ kept by their President, Miss Bridget Talbot, the Little Gaddesden Scouts gave a concert/variety entertainment at the school in early February 1912, assisted by Scoutmaster Temple and other supporters. The extract below is from a press cutting reporting the event, pasted into the Scout Diary. The cutting is undated and unattributed but is probably from the local “Gazette”.
Perhaps the one item in the programme which overtopped the others for novelty and excellence of execution was the Kirkby Malzeard sword dance by six members of the Troop (B. Phillips, F. Johnson, A. Whitman, J. Whitman, A. Halsey and A. Basford) with Scoutmaster H Temple as the singer of the introductory verses and violin-player for the dance itself. Its intricate movements were performed with admirable precision and, at the end of the dance, the holding up of the “nut” or star formed by the interlaced swords was greeted with the most enthusiastic applause by the spectators, who would gladly have seen the whole performance again.
Joining the Royal Navy 6
On 14th January 1913, 18 year old Bernard Phillips, an Apprentice Carpenter and Joiner, joined the Royal Navy to serve for a period of 12 years. He was then 5 feet 4½ inches tall, with a 34½ inch chest and he had brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. Bernard joined as Carpenter’s Crew at Chatham and his Service Number was M5493
He served initially at HMS Pembroke II, Chatham and then, from 19th March 1913, aboard HMS Implacable.
From the Little Gaddesden Scout Diary: August 1914 5
War between England & Germany was declared on Aug 4. The L.G. troop are proud to record that their former Asst Scoutmaster (who had left some time ago to join the Royal Navy) Bernard Phillips is now serving his country on board H.M.S. “Implacable”. George Pinnock is also on H.M.S “Powerful” waiting to go to sea. A Whitman is with the Territorials.
At the outbreak of war, Carpenter’s Crew Bernard Phillips was serving aboard HMS Implacable. She was a Formidable Class battleship, part of the 5th Battle Squadron then assigned to the Channel Fleet to help protect the British Expeditionary Force as they crossed the Channel. She served with the Dover Patrol. However, on 13th March 1915 she left England for the Dardanelles Campaign, arriving at Lemnos ten days later. On 25th April she supported the main Allied landings at X Beach at Cape Helles. She then continued to support the campaign until 22nd May, when she left the Dardanelles for the Adriatic. Her role there was to help reinforce the Italian Navy after Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary.
However, in November 1915, HMS Implacable transferred to the 3rd Detached Squadron, based at Salonika, to reinforce the Suez Canal Patrol and assist the French Navy in blockading the Aegean coasts of Greece and Bulgaria. Bernard was promoted to Leading Carpenter’s Crew on 23rd November. HMS Implacable moved to Port Said, Egypt in late November. On 22nd March 1916 she left Egypt, returning to the UK in April 1916 for a refit. Bernard, however, did not serve on her again.
From 19th April to 7th August 1916 Leading Carpenter’s Crew Bernard Phillips was at HMS Pembroke II, the Royal Naval shore barracks at Chatham. Then, from 8th August 1916, he served aboard the newly completed Renown Class Battlecruiser HMS Repulse in the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron, part of the Grand Fleet; on 7th May 1917 he was promoted to Shipwright 2nd Class.
On 17th November 1917, HMS Repulse took part in the 2nd Battle of Heligoland Bight, near the main German naval base at Wilhelmshaven. She was attached to a strong force of cruisers sent to attack German minesweepers, which were clearing a channel through British minefields in the area. The action was, however, inconclusive; HMS Repulse fired 54 shells and scored 1 hit on the light cruiser SMS Königsberg but both sides were hampered by the presence of naval minefields.
Bernard served aboard HMS Repulse until 17th December 1918, when she went in for a re-fit at Portsmouth. On 11th December 1917 his cousin and future brother in law Thomas Buckmaster joined the ship as a Royal Marine Artillery Gunner.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper” 12
Bernard Phillips is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. His entry reads Phillips Bernard, Royal Navy. He is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. For his War Service, Bernard was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Sister Constance: A Red Cross Volunteer 1915 – 1916 13
At the outbreak of war, Lord and Lady Brownlow offered Ashridge House as the location for an auxiliary hospital and convalescent home for troops. This was controlled by St Albans Hospital and mainly staffed by the Red Cross. In 1915 and 1916 Bernard’s sister Constance, who still lived at home at 45 Little Gaddesden, volunteered part time for the Red Cross at Ashridge; her First World War Volunteer’s Record Card shows that helped at the hospital and with knitting. In 1923, she married her cousin Thomas Buckmaster who had served aboard HMS Repulse with Bernard.
Post-War Naval Service 6
Bernard continued to serve in the Royal Navy until 19th August 1921, when he was discharged by purchase. He was of very good character and superior ability. His post-War rank was Shipwright 4th Class and his service details were:
- 18th December 1918 – 30th June 1919 – HMS Victory II
- 1st July 1919 – 31st December 1920 – HMS Victory III
- 1st January 1921 – 19th August 1921 – HMS Repulse
In Spring 1920, while still serving in the Royal Navy, Bernard Phillips married Catherine Ellen Wass. Their first son Joseph John Phillips was born on 24th January 1921.
However, by the time their second son, Peter, was born in 1922, Bernard had left the Royal Navy and the family lived at 6 Bunstrux Villas, Bunstrux Hill, Tring.
The following year they moved to Eversley, Western Road, Tring, where their daughter Ann Bernadette was born in 1928.
By 1931, Bernard and his family had moved to Briar Bush, Ivinghoe Aston. The 1939 Register shows Bernard as a Works Manager and his son John as a Chemist’s Apprentice. Catherine had “Unpaid Domestic Duties.” However, by 1945 they had moved to 5 Barton Avenue, Dunstable, where Bedfordshire Electoral Registers show that they lived until at least 1965.
80 year old Bernard Phillips died at 8 Mill Road, Worthing on 10th January 1975. His Death Certificate lists his occupation as a retired Carpenter and his usual address as 5, The Grove, Ferring near Worthing. By the time of her death on 8th August 1983, his widow Catherine lived at 22 Nutley Close, Goring-by-Sea, Worthing.
3. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934
5. Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922, HALS, Hertford, Acc 3131
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson