William J Branchflower 1889-1947
RMB 484
Served 1904-1931
RM Pensioner Band 1940-1942


William James Branchflower was born in Taunton Somerset on Monday 25th November 1889 and baptised a month later. He was the son of Mary and Frederick.. who was a soldier in 1890’s. William their third child after daughters Lily and Agnes.
William was only fourteen and half when he enlisted into the Royal Marine Light Infantry, Portsmouth Division on 21st June 1904 with service number 13618... he was only 4ft 10. Young William was transferred after six months to RMLI Chatham. William was issued with a Clarinet and Violin to learn.

Musician Branchflower was posted to HMS Bulwark.. his first of many ships in May 1907. The battleship visited Trondheim in Norway, he was also onboard during the fleet review conducted by King Edward VII at Cowes in August 1907. After participating in the fleet manoeuvres earlier in October, Bulwark ran aground twice near Lemon Light in the North Sea while trying to avoid Dutch fishing ships but was able to get herself free both times. Her bottom was slightly damaged during the incidents and she entered dry dock at Chatham in October for repairs and a lengthy refit that lasted until March. In August 1908, the Bulwark was decommissioned.
William then joined HMS Magnificent.. another battleship, with other musicians from the Bulwark. He served on there between August 1908 and January 1909, she operated as the second flagship of the Home Fleet during that period. The flagship of the Home Fleet was passed on to HMS King Edward VII for several years, William served on the ship from March 1909 until August 1911.
William J Branchflower and Annie Edith Nobes were married on 28th October 1911 in Portsmouth, they lived at 3 Seaview Ave in Portchester. Shortly after their wedding, William was posted to the cruiser HMS Drake, he served on her for fifteen months until February 1913. His next venture came in April 1913 until August 1914 with HMS Impregnable, which at the time was a training establishment. During his posting, the couple’s first child arrived.. Lilian was born early in November 1913.

In August 1914, William was sent to serve with the band onboard HMS Exmouth and for the greater part of the First World War. She was a Duncan-class pre-dreadnought battleship, built to counter a group of fast Russian battleships, Exmouth and her sister ships were capable of steaming at nineteen knots, making them the fastest battleships in the world. Exmouth participated in the Northern Patrol and was then moved to the newly reformed 6th Squadron in late 1914, where she bombarded the German-occupied port at Zeebrugge. In mid-1915, the ship was transferred to the Dardanelles campaign, where she supported operations ashore. She was thereafter moved to Greece and later to the East Indies Station in March 1917. She performed convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean, before returning to Devonport in August 1917.
William then spent an extended period of time affiliated to the Royal Naval School of Music. Annie gave birth to Cecil Douglas who was born in October 1918 in Portsmouth, but William wouldn’t see his new child as he’d been posted onboard HMS Revenge two-months earlier.
On 21 November 1918, following the Armistice, the entire Grand Fleet left port to escort the surrendered German fleet into internment at Scapa Flow. At the time, Revenge was part of the 1st Battle Squadron. The Squadron was tasked with guarding the fleet while its fate was being determined at the peace treaty negotiations.

The War was over and normal life restored, 1921 saw the birth of couple’s second daughter Greta Sylvia. On 7th April 1922, William received the Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, the trio of war medals.. firstly, he was awarded the ‘1914-15 Star’.. the campaign medal of the British Empire, awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of the First World War against the Central European Powers. He also collected his British War and Victory Medals. Williams time onboard HMS Revenge came to an end in June 1922. He then returned to the training ship HMS Impregnable between June 1922 and October 1923, where he was awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
William then gave two and half years’ service on the light cruiser HMS Birmingham from November 1923 when she was recommissioned to the Africa Station with the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron as Flagship. She then continued to serve in foreign stations. William disembarked in April 1926.

In September 1926, William was posted to the band of HMS Renown. On 6th January 1927, William was amongst the 37 strong band from Eastney that embarked on HMS Renown for a tour of Australia and New Zealand accompanying the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother). The Renown was fitted out to accommodate the Duke, the Duchess and their entourage, they travelled across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean, via Tahiti, Fiji and New Zealand. The ship arrived in Sydney on 26th March, boats came out to welcome the battlecruiser and over one million greeted the royal couple’s arrival.
Further stops were enjoyed in Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra, before sailing for home via Albany, Fremantle, Mauritius, Suez Canal, Malta and Gibraltar, the ship arrived home on 27th June.

In September 1927, William joined the RM Band HMS Excellent, shortly afterwards the couple’s fourth and final child Gloria June was born in 1928. He remained at Whale Island until June 1931, when.. following a very eventful career that spanned twenty-seven years, Musician William J Branchflower was discharged from the Royal Marine Band on 29th July 1931.
As a civilian, Mr Branchflower gained employment as a skilled labourer at HM Dockyard Portsmouth. He was the head of the household when the family appeared in the September 1939 UK Register, living at 66 St Vincent Street in Gosport.

All Home shore establishments were supplied with Pensioner Bands during the 1940’s, as a military band was considered a necessity for training purposes. William.. following an absence of nearly nine years was one of those pensioners who were kitted out and issued with their instruments. He gave service between April 1940 and January 1941 at HMS Osprey, an anti-submarine training establishment established at Portland. From there William served as a pensioner at HMS Europa, which was the name of the Central Depot for the Royal Naval Patrol Service in Lowestoft from early part of the Second World War. William continued in the role until 26th October 1942, when at the age of 52, he was declared physically unfit for service.

William J Branchflower sadly passed away on 27th November 1947 aged just 59.
He is buried at St. Mary’s Churchyard, Waterside Lane in Portchester, Row 6. Grave 55.

Annie died about February 1977 aged 91, she is buried with William.
Their son Cecil passed away on 11th January 2004 aged 85 in Portsmouth, he is also buried at St. Mary's Church.

RIP William

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