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William Cornelius Bellinger

Acting Leading Stoker K8657, William Cornelius Bellinger, Royal Navy


William Bellinger

William Bellinger.

William was born in early 1891, the son of George Bellinger and his wife Elizabeth née Wright. His father was a bricklayer. By the time of the 1901 census his eldest sibling, Alice, had already married and left home; his brother John was staying with Alice and her husband - no doubt escaping the cramped conditions in the family home in Adey's Buildings. Even with these two missing there were eleven of the family in their small terraced house. Elizabeth died in 1909, further complicating the care for the children.


After completing his schooling William got a job as a fishmonger's assistant before signing on for the Navy on 13 September 1910 as a Stoker.


He went through his basic training at HMS Victory II, the shore establishment covering Portsmouth Naval Base. This initial training was very short and he was soon posted to his first ship, HMS Renown where he would have learnt what the job of a stoker entailed.

His record shows all his postings and promotion:

HMS Victory II Stoker II 13 Sep 10 30 Sep 10
HMS Renown   1 Oct 10 19 Nov 10
HMS Victory II   20 Nov 10 24 Jan 11
HMS Pathfinder   25 Jan 11  
  Stoker I 13 Sep 11 30 Sep 11
HMS Victory II   1 Oct 11 9 Jan 12
HMS Good Hope   10 Jan 12 23 Dec 12
HMS Victory II   24 Dec 12 3 Sep 13
HMS Queen Mary   4 Sep 13  
  Act Lg Stoker 18 Nov 15 31 May 16

As can be seen from his record all of his war service was aboard the HMS Queen Mary, one of the Royal Navy's most modern battle cruisers, which entered service on 4 September 1913. HMS Renown was a battleship, commissioned in 1895 but sold for scrap in 1914; HMS Pathfinder was a scout cruiser and bears the dubious distinction of being the first ship sunk by a torpedo fired by a submarine (U21) on 5 September 1914; HMS Good Hope was a Drake class battle cruiser, sunk off the Chilean coast on 1 November 1914.


HMS Queen Mary

HMS Queen Mary.

On 31 May 1916 HMS Queen Mary went to sea with the rest of the battlecruiser fleet, under Admiral Beatty, in order to intercept a German fleet, under Admiral Hipper, that was about to put to sea. The Battle of Jutland was about to take place.


At 15.20 the German fleet spotted the British fleet, ten minutes later the British also spotted the enemy. As the two fleet closed on each other the Germans opened fire at 15.48, followed by the British.


The Queen Mary exchanged fire with two German ships hitting and damaging SMS Seydlitz, but fire from Seydlitz and SMS Derfflinger was doing serious damage.. Before long a large explosion aft spelled the end of the Queen Mary, she rolled over and sank. All but 18 of her 1284 crew perished. Among the dead were William and another lad from Newbury, Ernest Buckell. Two more local lads, George Southey from Thatcham and Charles Harwood from Bradfield shared their fate.


Destruction of HMS Queen Mary

The last moments of HMS Queen Mary.

The Queen Mary lies where she sank, broken in two. The wreck is designated as a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. [source: wikipedia]


Newbury Weekly News, 8 June 1916, p8 - Local War Notes

Acting Leading Stoker Bellinger, a brave and experienced seaman, who formed one of the crew of the battle cruiser, Queen Mary, was among the lost in the engagement of Thursday last, and Admiralty communication having been received to that effect. The deceased had been some years in the Navy, and was proud of his calling. He was aged 27, and unmarried. The deceased was originally on the Cape of Good Hope, from which he was taken off for the Pathfinder, and in due course was transferred to the Queen Mary. The coincidence is that all three of these vessels have gone down in the present war. He was home on short leave about three months ago. He is the son of William Bellinger, in the Corporation employ, who has an older son, John, attached to the 3rd Royal Berks. John was reported missing at the Battle of Loos last September, and leaves a wife and one child, resident in Newbury. He was in the employ of Messrs Plenty, and was one of the first in Newbury to respond to the call of Lord Kitchener. Another son, George, is in the Royal Berks, at present stationed at Portsmouth, and is expecting to leave for France shortly.


William Bellinger's name on Newbury War Memorial

William Bellinger's name on Newbury War Memorial (bottom middle)

William's body was not one of the very few recovered, he is remembered on the Portsouth Naval Memorial, Panel 16, on Panel 1 of Newbury's Town War Memorial, on a memorial board and a roll of honour in St Nicolas' Church, Newbury, and on the impressive memorial in the United Reform Church, Newbury.


William's brother John was also killed in action during the Battle of Loos in September 1915. He also had a cousin, John Preston, who died serving with the Royal Berkshire Regiment. His relationship with Preston was complicated when his father married Preston's mother in 1912 (their mother's were sisters Elizabeth and Ann Wright). Following this marriage Preston was both cousin and step-brother.


[images of HMS Queen Mary: wikipedia]


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