What this is about

To mark the centenary of the Great War, I am researching the WW1 histories of my ancestors. This blog documents my progress.
To read a summary of what I've discovered so far, select an ancestor/family member from the list on the right-hand side.

Arthur Easton Kennington

My wife's paternal great-grandfather, Arthur Easton Kennington, was born on 11th November 1860 at Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, to Charles and Elizabeth Kennington.

The 1881 census. Arthur is listed at the bottom

The latest census document I can find is the 1881 census, which shows him, aged 20, in lodgings at Clee-with-Weelsby and lists his occupation as fisherman. He married his second wife, Aberdeen lass Mary Ann Shand on 11th January 1899 and by 1906 was working as a ship's cook.

I stumbled across a reference to Arthur's service in the Great War while looking for information on his son, Robert (my wife's paternal grandfather). I discovered a medal roll for Arthur, service number 9731, listing him as being eligible for the British medal due to his services in the Fisheries Reserve.

Arthur's Medal Roll

This was confirmed by his medal index card, which stated that he was also awarded the Mercantile Marine medal.

Arthur's Medal Index Card

This prompted me to delve deeper, discovering a veritable fount of nautical information at the Ships Nostalgia Forum. The helpful Hugh MacLean pointed me in the direction of the National Archives - not in the War Office section where I had been searching in vain, but the Board of Transport, where many naval records are available to download for a modest fee.

A portion of Arthur's service record

Arthur's service record shows that originally, when not at sea, he was living at 195 King Edward Street, Grimsby, but later moved to 15 Cressey Street. The 5' tall, fair haired and blue eyed fisherman enlisted on 01/07/1918 and served on Her Majesty's Trawler Fortuna as ship's cook. It is not unreasonable to assume that he was already working on-board the Fortuna before the outbreak of war, as it was common practice that a trawler's crew were basically requisitioned along with the vessel by the Royal Navy.

The technical details of the Fortuna are as follows:-

S.T. Fortuna GY140
Official Number: 123567
Yard Number: 108
Completed: 1906
Gross Tonnage: 259
Net Tonnage: 111
Length: 128.4 ft
Breadth: 22.0 ft
Depth: 11.8 ft
Built: Cook, Welton & Gemmell Ltd. Beverley
Engine: 465ihp T.3-cyl and boiler by C. D. Holmes & Co, Hull

After operating under several owners, she was bought by Gimsby fishing magnate George Frederick Sleight in 1916, before being requisitioned for service in the Fisheries Reserve on 29/05/1917.

A Grimsby Trawler (I cannot find any photos of the Fortuna)

The Fortuna's aft was fitted with a 12 pounder cannon (possibly a Hotchkiss) with high angle mounting (meaning that it was intended for anti-aircraft fire) and she also carried a wireless transmitter (W/T).

For Arthur and the rest of the crew, life in the Fisheries Reserve would have business as usual, for the Fortuna was already trawling the Icelandic fishing grounds - one of the few fishing grounds still open to British trawlers during the Great War. I have found two references to the vessel being stopped and hailed by HMS Andes in 1915 (en route from Grimsby) and 1916 (from Aberdeen) which proves that she was fishing during the war before being requisitioned.

A very good article on Grimsby's fishing industry during WWI is 'WW1 and the Impact on Fishing and Coastal Towns' by Dr Katherine Storr

Arthur's service under the white ensign was terminated on 31/12/1918 and presumably he continued on the trawlers as a civilian fisherman. He passed away in 1933 after decades at sea, keeping the country supplied with fish in peacetime and wartime.

The Fortuna was once again called up for service in WWII and refitted for auxiliary patrol duties. Unfortunately she was attacked by German aircraft on 02/04/1941 off St. Abb's Head, Berwickshire with the loss of all hands.

The wreck of the Fortuna (courtesy of David Purvis)

Her story does not end there however, as in September 2012, the wreck of the Fortuna was dived by the Southsea Sub-Aqua Club. They have written a very interesting expedition report, and member David Purvis has also very kindly uploaded a video of the dive on Youtube.

The wreck of the Fortuna (courtesy of David Purvis)


  1. Is Skipper Samuel Charles Kennington one of yours?

  2. Not sure Edwin, we haven't got very far with this line of the family yet - very much an ongoing project!