Harry Finch was born in Chelmsford and joined the Navy in 1909 where he was a stoker. He was killed in the Adriatic in July 1916 when his submarine struck and mine and was lost. His home was in Upper Bridge Road.
Acting Leading Stoker, Royal Navy
His first posting was to H.M.S. Acheron as a Stoker 2nd Class. On 30th September 1909 he went to H.M.S. Berwick, before moving to H.M.S. Pembroke II from 16th January 1910, and then to H.M.S. Diamond from 22nd January 1910. There he was promoted to Stoker 1st Class from 10th May 1910, returning to H.M.S. Pembroke II from 4th August 1910. Through this period Harry’s character was assessed as ‘very good’.
On 13th August 1910 he moved to the armoured cruiser H.M.S. Indominable. The April 1911 census found Harry, aged 22, serving as an engine room stoker on the vessel in Chatham Dockyard in Kent. Meanwhile his mother and six of his siblings were recorded at 168 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford. His brother William was an engineer’s labourer at Marconi’s; brother Arthur was an engineer’s turner at Hoffmann’s ball-bearings factory; while brother George was a wood box maker at a horticultural ironmonger’s.
Harry returned to H.M.S. Pembroke II on 15th May 1913, before moving to H.M.S. Boaventure from 2nd June 1913, and was there at the outbreak of the war on 4th August 1914. He was promoted to Acting Leading Stoker on 1st October 1914 and then moved to H.M.S. Dolphin (Submarine H3) on 7th April 1915. Then Harry was posted to H.M.S. Adamant fron 1st July 1915, before returning to H3 from 1st April 1916. In June 1915 the Canadian-built H3 and three sister submarines had been the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean under their own power.
Harry was killed on 15th July 1916 on the H3 when she struck a mine in the Gulf of Cattaro in the Adriatic Sea while on patrol. All 22 men on board lost their lives onboard the 150 foot craft.
News of his death appeared in the Essex Weekly News on 4th August 1916:
“Naval Casualty - Mrs. Finch of 175 Upper Bridge-road. has received an intimation from the Admiralty that her second son, Acting Leading-Stoker Harry Finch, has lost his life on one of H.M. ships on war service. Deceased, who had served eight years in the Navy, was formerly in the 5th Essex Territorials. Of his four brothers two are in the Navy, one is in the Army, and one is working on munitions.”
The news of his death also appeared in the day’s Essex County Chronicle:
“Mrs. Finch, a widow, of 175 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford, has been officially informed that her son Harry, an acting leading stoker in the Navy, has lost his life on duty in one of H.M. ships on war service. Mrs. Finch has another son in the Navy, and another in the Essex Regt., who is now in hospital suffering from his third wound, a rather bad one in the thigh.”
Harry has no known grave and is commemorated by the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent. He is not commemorated by the Civic Centre Memorial in Chelmsford.
Harry’s mother died at 175 Upper Bridge Road in August 1917. His sister Christine lived to be 102.
Harry was born on 6th June 1888 in Chelmsford, the son of the gardener William John Finch and Alice Finch (nee Bonnington). His parents had married at St. Mary’s Church, Chelmsford (today the Cathedral) on 1st March 1884.
He was christened at St. John’s Church, Moulsham on 4th August 1888. At the time his father was employed as a gardener and lived in Lower Anchor Street, Chelmsford.
Alfred’s siblings, all Chelmsford-born, were: William Finch (born in 1885), Arthur James Finch (born in 1886), Frederick Finch (born in 1890, died in 1892), Alice Ethel Finch (born in 1893), George Ernest Finch (born in 1895), Emily Beatrice Finch (born in 1898), Christine Mabel Finch (born in 1902), and Leonard Victor Finch (born in 1904). For the baptisms of the children up to and including Emily Harry’s father was living at 2 Lower Anchor Street, Chelmsford.
In 1891 the census found two year-old Harry living with his parents and three siblings at 2 Lower Anchor Street. A decade late the next census listed at 3 Embankment Terrace, Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford (later number 168 and today’s number 175 - pictured) with his parents and five siblings. At both censuses Harry’s father had been recorded as a gardener. On 28th February 1907 Harry’s father died at that address, aged 61.
Harry joined the Royal Navy on 10th May 1909 for twelve years. He was given the service number K.2941. At the time he was five feet three and one-tenth inches tall, with a 35.5 inch chest. His hair was auburn, his eyes brown, and he had a fresh complexion. His previous employment had been a turner.