Samuel Bassford 1890-1918
Served 1907-1918

Samuel Bassford was born on Wednesday 29th October 1890 in Nottingham. He was the son of Sam and Sarah Ann Bassford (nee Dickens).

His father unfortunately passed away before he was born and as a consequence, he was raised by his twenty-two year old mother and grandparents John and Mary Dickens at 214 North Sherwood Street in Nottingham.

In 1901 aged ten, he was listed as the youngest of twenty-seven orphans at the Nottingham Gordon Home for Destitute Boys at 28/30 Peel Street in Nottingham. The home was actually two houses and only a few streets away from his grandparents home.. and by now he was commonly known and referred to as Sam. It’s unclear how or why young Sam came to being an inmate of the home which accommodated around 40-50 boys. When the boys entered, they were provided with a dark blue uniform with scarlet facings, a belt, cross-belt with pouch and a cap bearing the words ‘Nottingham Gordon Home’ and a pair of studded boots. Later on, brass buttons and buckled belts were introduced which had to be cleaned daily. As early as 1884, the home amalgamated with the Nottingham Boys Brigade, the Methodist organisation who were affiliated to the Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Square in Nottingham.

The Boys Home also gave recreation and pleasure to the boys including the acquisition of various musical instruments, of which there were sufficient for a Boys Brigade fife and drum band and a brass band, as well as a bugle band. All these bands could be hired to perform at public and private functions. Maybe the experience of playing in a band together with the practice of physical drill was the reason a number of boys joined the armed forces. Mention is made of boys joining the Royal Marines and the Royal Marines Artillery Band. Sam did just that and from the Boys Home and at just 5ft 4ins, the brown-haired boy enlisted at Nottingham and joined the Royal Marine Artillery: Chatham Division on 20th April 1907, he was allocated with service number 15461. At the time of joining.. Sam was noted as having tattoos, in particular an anchor and his initials SB on his right forearm, the anchor is the emblem of the Boys Brigade.

All the recruits were sent to the Depot at Walmer, Kent for training before being posted to their Divisions.

He was also assigned as Royal Marine Band Boy RMB/1297 and studied as a euphonium player. Sam was advanced to Musician on his eighteenth birthday, before being assigned his first ship.. HMS Prince of Wales on 22nd December 1908, spending two years. The ship was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet as flagship of the fleet's commander in February 1909 and was damaged by an explosion in one of her stokeholds in July.

In January 1911, Sam was posted to the Royal Marine Band of HMS Neptune, she was the flagship of the Home Fleet from May 1911-May 1912. He served on her for over three years, before transferring to the brand new battleship HMS Iron Duke on 10th March 1914.

Musician Sam Bassford gave service to his country in the First World War and by the outbreak, Chatham had become one of the Royal Navy's three manning ports with over a third of the navy’s two hundred and five ships manned by men allocated to the Chatham Division. The Iron Duke was the flagship of the Grand Fleet and saw action in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916, when she inflicted significant damage on the German battleship SMS König. The Fleet carried forty-seven Royal Marine Bands at the time, with a total of almost seven-hundred musicians. Sam served on the ship until 16th February 1917. He then transferred to HMS Crescent, a first-class cruiser of the Edgar Class, which was launched in 1892. In 1917, the ship was attached to the British Grand Fleet in the North Sea, from August 1918, the ship was tasked with the role of depot ship for the 3rd Submarine Flotilla at Rosyth.

Musician Samuel Bassford sadly passed away on Sunday 29th September 1918 aged 27 onboard the cruiser HMS Crescent. His record does not specifically state the cause of death, it merely indicates that he was killed or died by means other than disease, accident or enemy action. It is therefore unlikely that he succumbed to illness onboard... a number of shipmates died of pneumonia as result of a flu epidemic onboard the ship in 1918. Between 1918 and 1921, fifty-one men died in HMS Crescent mostly to disease, six of those ranks lost their lives by drowning.

At the time of Sam’s death Sarah was living at 19 Pegg Terrace, Goodhead St, Nottingham.

Sam was honoured with a traditional Naval funeral and is interred in the military plot of Dunfermline Cemetery, Fife, Scotland. Grave Ref: ED. 2563. The rights to the grave were acquired by a relative.

He is also remembered on an oak tablet with the names of those members of the church who had died, the tablet was erected on the east wall of the nave of the Holy Trinity Church in Nottingham. The church was demolished in 1956 and the board was transferred to the Holy Trinity Church in nearby Clifton. Along with other memorials, the board is currently in the boiler room/cellar at Clifton Holy Trinity.

He is also remembered on the memorial in the Nottingham Central Methodist Mission, otherwise known as Albert Hall. The Mission transferred in the 1980s to Lower Parliament Street Methodist Church and the Albert Hall was sold to make way for what is now the Albert Hall Conference Centre, but the memorial has been kept in its original location in the foyer to the auditorium.


The above link makes for interesting and important reading.

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