PETTY OFFICER 1st Class
Service No: 184815, Royal Navy –
Died November 1914 in the Medway HMS
On 26th November 1914 HMS Bulwark, a 15,000 ton battleship, was moored at buoy number 17 at Kethole Reach on the River Medway. She was taking on coal from the airship base at Kingsnorth, on the Isle of Grain. At 7.50am, as the crew were having breakfast, an explosion ripped the ship apart. The explosion was heard as far away as Whitstable to the south and Southend (in Essex) to the North. Eye witnesses stated that once the smoke has cleared, there was no sign of the ship. This evidence is supported by the fact that naval divers who investigated the wreck three days after the explosion found just two large
fragments of wreckage – a section of the port bow as far aft as the sick bay,and 30 feet further away, a section of the starboard bow. Debris from the explosion fell up to four miles away.
In all, the explosion killed 745 men and
51 officers. Five of the 14 men who survived died later of their wounds, and
almost all of the others were seriously wounded. There are mass and individual
graves in Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, for the Bulwark’s dead, who
were mostly drawn from the Portsmouth
area. Although the local papers
immediately suspected sabotage, the subsequent naval court of enquiry (held at
Naval Hospital, Gillingham) found that much of the ammunition for the ships
guns had been stored in the corridors between the 11 magazines, and that either
a fault with one of the shells or overheating cordite near a boiler room
bulkhead could have started a chain reaction which destroyed the ship. The bodies of the men who died when the ship
exploded, and of those who died later, are buried in Woodlands
Cemetery in Gillingham.
Those who could not be identified are buried in a communal grave.
Tom Tuck was born in Chideock in1877 and was the son of Job Tuck (b:1836in Symondsbury) and Elizabeth Cheney
(b:1839 in Puncknowle). In the 1881 and 1891 Census his father’s occupation is Thatcher. By 1901 Tom had joined the Royal Navy (aged 21) and was ‘crew’ on HMS‘Excellent’. Tom was killed in the explosion of HMS Bulwark on 26th November, 1914. His parents were notified at their address of
Brook Cottage, Mill Lane, Chideock. His effects were given to his brother Cyril, a Post Office Clerk and
totalled £349.10s.7d. Tom Tuck is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial – Panel 1. He is buried in Woodlands
Cemetery in Gillingham and commemorated on The Chideock War Memorial.