Tom Howarth was a weaver.
In Burnley where Tom was born in the late 19th century, weaving and coal mining were the two main industries. Tom’s father, Henry was a coal miner. The family was to be hit hard when in 1907 Tom’s mother, Mary, died. Tom was only 8 or 9.
Most of the family were employed in the cotton factories.
In May 1914 Tom decided to join the Royal Navy where it looks like he lied about his age making himself 3 years older than he actually was. This was not unusual at the time.
On 4th of August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany.
Tom Howarth was serving on HMS Defender at the Battle of Jutland which took place from 31st of May to 1st of June 1916. 8,500 men were killed – 6,000 from the Royal Navy.
Also serving on Defender with him were other future shipmates from HMS Pheasant: John Hamilton, Joseph Randall, Harry Sultan and Cyril Grebbell.
Five brothers from the Howarth family served in World War 1.
The local paper often contained upbeat stories of men home on leave but increasingly the photos were of those killed or missing.
Willie Howarth, Stoker 1st Class was killed in action on 9th of June serving on HMS Dublin.
Dublin had taken part in the Gallipoli landings and was patrolling the Albanian coast. It was hit and damaged by a torpedo from a submarine of the Austro Hungarian Navy. Willie was 22. his grave is in Bari War Cemetery, Italy
Daniel Howarth a Lance Corporal with the 2/5th East Lancashire Regiment was missing in action in June 1916. His family were later informed he had been killed on what we now know as ‘Flanders Fields’. His death left a wife and 2 children. He was 33. His grave is in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
John Robert Howarth
John Robert Howarth was serving with the York and Lancaster Regiment in France when he was wounded and taken prisoner.
The losses in the Burnley community were considerable.
Able Seaman Tom Howarth was likely only 19 when he was killed on HMS Pheasant when it struck a mine off Rora Head, Orkney. There were no survivors. HMS Pheasant is a designated war grave. All 89 members of the crew are remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.
Help us to remember them in our exhibition HMS Pheasant 1917 starting on 30th of November 1917 at the Northlight Gallery Stromness as part of St Andrew’s Fair Saturday.
Click on this link if you wish to support our crowdfunder: HMS Pheasant 1917
If you are in Orkney I will be giving a talk on Saturday 23rd of November in the MacGillivray Room, Orkney Library and Archives, Kirkwall from 2.30 to 3.30pm.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame