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Herbert Henry (H. H.) Niles (1891-1918)

The burial location (above|) and inscription (below) for Driver H. H. Niles

Herbert Henry Niles and his parents

Herbert Henry NILES (1891-1918) was one of seven children born into a fishing and seafaring family with origins stretching back to Devonport and Cornwall. At the time of his birth, the family were living in the Deptford / Greenwich area.

Research to date would suggest that Herbert, the eldest son, broke with the family tradition by serving in the army.  We are not sure why this was the case, as other male members of his family attended the Greenwich Hospital School to undertake naval training, and seemed to go on to serve in the Royal Naval Reserve.  As you will see below, Herbert had four brothers: one died in WW1 in 1917 and another in WW2 in 1942.  

Herbert’s mother, Sophia Jane Beasley (1871-1942), married twice and Herbert was the eldest of the three sons Sophia had with her first husband Henry Herbert Niles (1864-1894). Herbert’s father was the son of a Naval “Schoolmaster” and was a Seaman sailing the route from Greenwich to Grimsby. He was lost at sea in 1894 at the age of 28.

Herbert Henry Niles was a cloth-cutter and served as a Driver in the Royal Army Service Corps Battalion 838th HT Company (supply and transport) in WW1 (Regimental number T4/240781).

The two photos below show the Army Service Corps training Depot at Grove Park Barracks in 1915 where Herbert would have been trained.

Many of the driver training instructors were ex London Bus Drivers (none in this first picture, but they were allowed to wear their white topped caps with an ASC badge). Many of these drivers were to go on to drive the 1000 old bill type London buses called up in WWI to transport troops in France.

In 1918 the Army Service Corps were awarded the prefix Royal by King George V, in recognition of their WWI service.

Army Service Corps training Depot at Grove Park Barracks in 1915

Army Service Corps training Depot at Grove Park Barracks in 1915

Death of Herbert Henry Niles

Sadly, Herbert died of the Spanish flu in Lewisham Military Hospital (Lewisham Road) the day after the war ended (November 12 th, 1918).  The image below shows this hospital, which has now become University Hospital Lewisham.

Lewisham Military Hospital

Herbert is listed on the large Brockley Cemetery Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial and his remains are buried here under block 17 (see images at the beginning of this document). Herbert is also commemorated at the Lewisham Hospital war memorial. The surviving stones from this memorial were moved to outside the Old Library building on Lewisham High Street after WW2 damage.

Herbert left a widow (Clara Mary Ann, nee Brittan) and small child (Clara Florence May) living at 40D Armada Street, Deptford.  Herbert and Clara had married on 1st August 1915 at St Paul’s Church, Deptford and their daughter was born in June 1917, although sadly she died at the age of only two years in December 1919.  

Some information on Lewisham Military Hospital After the War

The First World War ended with the signing of the armistice on the 11th of November 1918. On 28th November 1918 the Lewisham Board of Guardians wrote to the War Office asking when they would be given back the Lewisham Infirmary building. Clearly now that the war was over the Guardians were keen to return to business as usual. Lewisham Military Hospital closed in May 1919 and was returned to the Board of Guardians. Lewisham Hospital continued to operate some of its poor law functions until the workhouse system was abolished in 1929.

Lewisham Hospital became part of the newly formed National Health Service in 1948. University Hospital Lewisham is now a major teaching hospital and is renowned for its maternity and paediatric care.

Memorial garden commemorating those who died in Lewisham Military Hospital during WW1

In 1919 a stone column and cross memorial was erected by the medical and nursing staff opposite the hospital gates to those servicemen who died in Lewisham Military Hospital and to nurses Dorothy Goodman and Helen Knibb who both died at their posts. Herbert Henry Niles is also commemorated on this Lewisham Hospital war memorial.

Sadly, this memorial was destroyed during the Second World War. The surviving stones were moved to outside the Old Library building on Lewisham High Street and are now part of a small memorial garden in front of the former public library, which is now part of University Hospital Lewisham.

The brothers of Herbert Henry Niles

Herbert had four brothers. Herbert’s brothers, John (‘Jack’) Thomas Niles and James Albert Niles, both attended Glengall Road School, London and we believe they may have gone on to the attend Greenwich Hospital School.

John (‘Jack’) Thomas Niles (1893-1965) served on Sun Tugs, Deptford, and returned to Grimsby at the age of 18 as a fisherman. His trawler was captured in WW1 by a German Warship and Jack was a Prisoner of War in Germany. After the war, Jack worked on the cargo ships in Grimsby for 27 years, he then worked in the Tug Offices, Grimsby.

James Albert Niles (1894-1942) was in the Royal Naval Reserve during WW1 and is listed as a ‘leading deck hand’. He also served in WW2, but he was lost at sea aboard SS Leo near Indonesia on a minesweeping mission during WW2.  He died on 29th December 1942.

After the death of Herbert’s father in 1894, Sophia married again in 1896. Her second husband was Henry David Grew, another seafaring man, a fisherman working between Greenwich and Grimsby. They had another four children, listed below, one of whom was the grandmother (Ellen Sophia Grew) of one of the authors (Lucy Henry). 

Henry Grew (1897-1978) attended Greenwich Hospital School. (Royal Hospital Schools including Trafalgar Quarters, School for Sons of Seamen, Romney Road, Greenwich). He served on HMS Ganges and various other ships until 1927. Henry’s service number was J24242.

Albert Edward Grew (1899-1917) attended Greenwich Hospital School and served on HMS Ganges and then H.M. Trawler “Thuringia”. Albert was in the Royal Naval Reserve and served as a ‘deck boy’ on H.M. Trawler “Thuringia”. He was killed in action off Youghal on the 11th of November 1917 after the ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat.  

On the 11th November 1917 the small Admiralty trawlers THURINGIA and HARLECH CASTLE were engaged in escorting the tanker ALCHYMIST towards a local convoy route. All three vessels were 12 miles south of Mine Head on a SW course when HARLECH CASTLE was suddenly rocked by an explosion which emanated from the direction of THURINGIA. There was not the slightest sign of the little vessel or her crew. The convoy later reported spotting a submarine some three miles astern of the convoy. This was later confirmed by the armed yacht BERYL. 

This is the entry in the UK, Commonwealth War Graves, 1914-1921, for Albert Edward Grew:

“GREW, Deck Boy Albert Edward, 958.S.B.D. R.N.R. H.M. Trawler “Thuringia”. Killed in Action off Youghal 11 Nov., 1917. Age 17. Son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Grew, of 365, Convamore Rd., Grimsby. 27.”

The THURINGIA and Deck Boy Albert Edward GREW RNR SBD 958

H.M. Trawler “Thuringia” 

Albert is remembered at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Chatham Naval Memorial.  He had not yet turned 18 when he died and was the favourite brother of one of the author’s grandmother (Lucy’s grandmother).

A.E. Grew listed under the heading ‘BOY’ on the Chatham Naval Memorial  

Herbert also had two younger sisters:

Ellen Sophia Grew (1902-1997) married a Grimsby inshore fisherman Robert Parrott and was the grandmother of one of the authors (Lucy Henry). 

Elsie Louise Grew (married name Waring) (1911-2002) married a professional footballer, Jack Waring.


This information was written and researched by Susan Hampson (compiler of family history for the Parrott family) with contributions from Lucy Henry (great niece of Herbert Henry Niles).   

November 2022