Alfred Edward Stokes was born and brought up in Chelmsford. After leaving school he worked as a fitter at Crompton’s and then Hoffmann’s before joining the Royal Navy early in 1914. He was killed when his ship, H.M.S. Hogue, was sunk by a German submarine in the North Sea in September 1914. His home was in New Writtle Street.
STOKES, ALFRED EDGAR,
Engine Room Artificer 4th Class, H.M.S. Hogue, Royal Navy
Alfred was born in Chelmsford on 2nd January 1892, the youngest of eleven children of blacksmith Thomas Stokes and Susan Stokes (nee Green). He was baptised at St John’s Church, Moulsham 2nd March 1892 at which point his father was as a blacksmith of New Writtle Street, Chelmsford.
Alfred’s father had been born at Stebbing in 1844; his mother at Finchingfield c1847. They had married on 19th January 1867 at St. John the Baptist’s Church in Finchingfield.
By 1881 they had been living at Rayne Road, Braintree; in 1891 they had been listed by the census in New Writtle Street, Chelmsford; on both occasions Alfred’s father was a blacksmith.
Alfred’s ten siblings included; Elizabeth Stokes (born in 1873), Louisa Stokes (born c1878), Annie Lily Stokes (born in 1880), Daisy Stokes (born in 1883), Ethel Mary Stokes (born in 1885) and Percy Stokes (born in 1888).
All his elder ones had been born in Braintree.
Alfred began his education at Moulsham Infants School in Moulsham Street, Chelmsford on 6th January 1896.
The 1901 census found him aged nine living with his parents and two siblings at 4 New Writtle Street, Chelmsford (pictured). His father was employed as a blacksmith at Crompton & Co., where he worked for more than 20 years.
In 1911 the census listed 19 year-old Alfred, his parents and two elder siblings at the same property. Alfred was a fitter for the electrical manufacturer Crompton & Co. His father was still a blacksmith there; his brother Percy was clerk at an electrical manufacturer, while sister Ethel was a coil builder at Marconi’s.
lfred’s father died at work early the following year, aged 67.
Alfred played centre-forward for his works’ football team.
Alfred joined the Royal Navy on 21st April 1914, signing up for 12 years, but he would be dead within six months. At the time he was five feet six inches tall, had a chest measuring 36 and a half inches. His hair was dark brown, he had blue
eyes and a sallow complexion. He was previously employed as a fitter and turner.
After training at H.M.S. Pembroke II Alfred was posted to the Cressy-class armoured cruiser H.M.S. Hogue. He was killed in the action when H.M.S. Hogue was torpedoed and sunk by the German U-boat U-9. on 22nd September 1914 in the North Sea along with her sister ships H.M.S. Aboukir and H.M.S. Cressy. At the time he was serving as Engine Room Artificer 4th Class M/7616. He was aged 22.
Over a thousand lives were lost. Another Chelmsford man, Willie George Bearman also died in the engagement.
The Essex County Chronicle of 25th September 1914 reported:
“Another Chelmsford man, on the Hogue and of whom no news had been received up to last night, was Artificer Alfred Edgar Stokes, son of Mrs Stokes, of 4 New Writtle Street. He left the Hoffmann Works about five months ago and joined the Navy at Chatham. At the outbreak of war he was appointed to the Hogue. He is 23 years of age, and well known as a footballer. He is believed to be saved, but seriously injured in both legs.”
The same day’s Essex Weekly News reported:
“Other Chelmsford men concerned, of whom no intelligence has yet been forthcoming are E. Stokes, a member of the crew of the Hogue, who was formerly centre-forward of the Arc Works Football Club; and a sailor named Cossey, of the Aboukir.”
Two weeks later the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“Alf. Edgar Stokes, E.R.A., was the son of Mrs Stokes, of 4 New Writtle Street, Chelmsford. He left Hoffmann Works about five months ago, and joined the Navy at Chatham. At the outbreak of war he was appointed to the Hogue, He was 23 years of age, and well known as a footballer.”
Alfred is commemorated at Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s, Church, Moulsham.
Alfred’s mother, whose health had deteriorated after hearing news of his death, died in the spring of 1915. She was 68 years old.