Thomas Cole

Born 27th February 1883 – Died 31st May 1916

Personal History

Thomas Cole was born on the 27th of February 1883 in Bromley, London, the second son of John and Martha Cole. Shortly before he was born the family moved from Pembroke, where his father had been a labourer, to Bromley in the East End of London where he joined the Metropolitan Police as a Police Constable. By 1911 John, by then a police pensioner, was living at the Cottage, Brocket Park and working as a night-watchman. In 1904 Thomas was described as being 5ft. 9½ ins. tall with blue eyes and light brown hair.

On the 6th August 1910 he married Emily Elizabeth Birks at St. John's church, Leytonstone, Essex. They moved to 10, Lindley Avenue, East Southsea, Portsmouth where their daughter Doris was born in 1913. Thomas served his apprenticeship as a turner and fitter before enlisting in the Royal Navy on the 20th May 1904 for twelve years as Acting ERA 271638 (Engine Room Artificer) 4th Class. He was 21 years of age. He rose through the ranks and on the 1st of February 1914, aged 31, was promoted to the Office Class as Acting Artificer Engineer and confirmed in seniority as Artificer Engineer a year later. In April 1916 he volunteered for service in Rigid Airships but died before he could be selected. No record of attending St John's School.

War Record

Royal Marine Light Infantry Royal Navy Thomas served on many ships before he joined the HMS Black Prince, a Duke of Edinburgh Class armoured cruiser on the 14th February 1914. At the beginning of the war she was on patrol in the Mediterranean but in December 1914 she was assigned to the Grand Fleet. At the end of May 1916 the Black Prince took part in the Battle of Jutland. After action in which her Flagship, The Defence, was blown up she became separated from the Grand Fleet. It is thought that her Captain, in trying to rejoin the fleet, mistook in the dark a line of battleships ahead for the British squadron. He realised too late that it was the German Fleet and that they were less than half a mile away. The German battleship Thuringen caught the Black Prince in her searchlights and bombarded her with shells before she could fight back. The rest of the German Fleet joined in and within 15 minutes The Black Prince blew up with a tremendous explosion and the loss of all 857 members of the crew.

War Memorial

Artificer Engineer Thomas Cole is remembered together with the other members of the crew of the Black Prince on the Portsmouth Memorial, panel 11. His medals, the 1914-15 Star, Victory & British War Medals were issued to his widow.