Percy John Lake
Percy John Lake was born on 1st March 1895 in South Town, Dartmouth. He was the second child, and the eldest son, of John Lake and Elizabeth Honeywill.
John Lake was not a native of Dartmouth. He was born in Godshill, near Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight. He had enlisted in the army, aged 18, in 1868, in Portsmouth, joining the Royal Artillery as a Gunner, and serving first in Britain for four years, then Malta for seven years, and Gibraltar for nearly four years. In 1884 he came home and transferred to the Coast Brigade, which was responsible for manning the UK's coast defence batteries and fortifications.
John had married for the first time on returning to England in 1884, in Plymouth. His first wife, Mary McNulty, died three years later. In 1890 he was stationed at Dartmouth Castle, and it was presumably then that he met his second wife, Percy's mother, Elizabeth Honeywill. John and Elizabeth married towards the end of 1891. She was born in Dartmouth in 1867 and so was several years younger than her husband. She was the daughter of John Honeywill, a mariner (also a gardener in later life) and his wife Mary Ann. In 1891 she was living with her widowed father in Bayards Cove.
In 1891, according to his service record, John suffered an accident on duty in which he severely sprained the muscles of his arm. He was treated at Dartmouth hospital. His injury was judged in a court of inquiry as likely to affect his "future efficiency" and on 31st March 1892 he was discharged "medically unfit", with a pension of 18d per day for life. His intended residence on discharge was 11 Newcombe Inn, Dartmouth.
According to the 1911 Census, John and Elizabeth had seven children, two of whom had died. St Petrox baptism records include records of six:
- Percy John's elder sisters, Amy and Melita Louisa, both baptised 19 January 1894. Amy was born early in 1892, very soon after the couple's marriage; and Melita in 1893.
- Percy John, baptised Feb 1st 1899, hence just under four years old; the same day as his younger sister, Mary Elizabeth, aged just under two. Mary Elizabeth died early in 1900.
- His younger brother Cyril Charles, baptised July 2nd 1902.
- His youngest sister Cora Anne Sabina, baptised St Petrox Oct 15th 1914 aged 9 (born June 24th 1905).
After Percy's father left the Royal Artillery, he worked as a labourer (according to the baptism records) and the family lived in South Town, Dartmouth. In the 1901 Census, John's occupation is shown as "scaffolding rigger".
John died in 1908. His small pension died with him and Elizabeth still had young children to look after. At the time of the 1911 Census she was working as a charwoman and she lived with Percy, Cyril and Cora in two rooms in Bayards Cove. Percy was working as a "Boat Boy". Evidently, Percy was known in the family as "Jack" (see below).
Percy joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class on a twelve year engagement on 11th February 1914, aged 19. The Navy needed stokers badly and offered a boy like Percy potentially a good career. Stokers had to be strong to feed the ship's boilers when at full power - if necessary, in tropical heat. Percy's naval service record states that he was 5ft 8in, with a chest measurement of 36 ins; that he had dark brown hair, blue eyes, a fresh complexion and a Maltese cross on his right forearm. Prior to joining he had been a "mess room steward merchant marine" - evidently he had moved on from "boat boy".
Percy's naval service record is brief. He first had a period of training at Devonport. HMS Monmouth was his first ship - he joined her on 30th July.
For Percy's service on HMS Monmouth, and his death at the Battle of Coronel, please see our separate article here.
An announcement of Percy's death appeared in the Dartmouth Chronicle of 20th November 1914:
Lake - November 1st - in loving memory of Percy John (Jack), the dearly beloved son of E and the late John Lake (South Town) who lost his life on HMS Monmouth, aged 19 years and 8 months
Percy appears on the Town War Memorial, the St Saviour's Memorial Board, and the St Petrox Memorial. Like all those who sailed from Plymouth during the First World War, but who have no known grave, Percy is also commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial on The Hoe.
Percy's naval record can be downloaded from the National Archives (fee payable) reference ADM 188/910/21996
John Lake's service papers were accessed through FindMyPast, Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913 (National Archives reference WO97, Royal Hospital Chelsea Soldiers Service Documents)
Websites quoted above accessed 28th October 2014.
Information Held on Database
|Rank:||Stoker 2nd Class RN|
|Military Unit:||HMS Monmouth|
|Date of Death:||01 Nov 1914|
|Age at Death:||19|
|Cause of Death:||Killed in action|
|Action Resulting in Death:||Battle of Coronel|
|Place of Death:|
|Place of Burial:||Commemorated Plymouth Naval Memorial|
|Born or Lived in Dartmouth?||Yes|
|On Dartmouth War Memorial?||Yes|
|On St Saviour's Memorials?||Yes|
|On St Petrox Memorials?||Yes|
|On Flavel Church Memorials?||No|
|In Longcross Cemetery?||No|
|In St Clement's Churchyard?||No|
|On a Private Memorial?||No|
|On Another Memorial?||No|