William Charles Duff 1883 - 1906

A brief history of William Charles Duff 1883 - 1906

William Charles, born 22 nd February 1883, according to his naval record at Streatham.

After his mother Phoebe's death in 1884, his father Robert James could not cope with nor support his family. The Union Workhouse Kingston did not accommodate children and placed paupers' children to other institutions, mostly to Cowley Oxford but lesser numbers also to Brentwood and Grays in Essex, and Margate and Ramsgate in Kent. The Duff children, Rebecca, Rachel, Esther, William, Catherine and Elizabeth were sent to the Cowley Industrial School, an austere institution run on strict and harsh disciplinary lines on the outskirts of Oxford. The site is now the BMW factory. However, the children benefited from a basic education of the four "R"s - r eading, w r iting, a r ithmetic and r eligion. It is believed that this stood them in good stead when it came to employment. Upon leaving Cowley Industrial School they were found employment in the Kingston area by the "Guardians".

It is known that he worked as an errand boy in a greengrocer's shop in Elm Road thought to be owned by the Sears family.

According to his Naval record -
Usual place of residence: 84 Elm Road , Kingston on Thames
Trade: Errand boy
Religious denomination: CofE
Next of Kin: Mrs Sears, 22 Club Buildings , Kingston on Thames
Naval Certificate number 3088
First entry into service: Port Division Portsmouth 31 st January 1898
Date of volunteering: 24 th January 1898 (i.e. age 14)
Commencement of time (presumed rated as an adult) : 22 nd June 1900
Period volunteered for: 12 years
Description on entry as a Boy: 5ft 1.3/4 in, fair complexion, dark brown hair, grey eyes Tattoo "anchor" on left arm.
Description on advancement to man's rating: 5ft 4in (and otherwise as before)

His service record -

  • HMS Caledonia 27 th Jan 1898 - 7 th February 1899 (training establishment)
  • HMS Boscawen 8h February 1899 - 12 th June 1899 (training establishment)
  • HMS Australia 13 th June 1899 - 26 th June 1899
  • HMS Resolution 27 th June 1899 - 18 th January 1901
  • HMS Duke of Wellington 19th January 1901 - 27 th May 1901

20 th June 1902 qualified as a TM (believed to be a Torpedo Mate)
2 nd September 19031 st good conduct badge granted

  • HMS Cressy 28 th May 1901 - 7 th February 1905
  • HMS "Excellent" 8 th February 1905 - 5 th October 1905 (training establishment)
  • Invalided as an Able Seaman out of the service at Royal Naval Hospital Haslar, Gosport , due to Tuberculosis, on 5 th October 1905.

His character and ability were rated as good and very good throughout.

However, note that during the above the 1901 census William Charles is shown working as a Greengrocer's Assistant at 162 Elm St (surely Elm Road ?) Kingston-upon-Thames

William Charles died aged only 23, in Kingston, of TB. His funeral was in Kingston Cemetery April 24 th 1906.


This page was last updated on 17th October 2010.