Thomas William Disbrey

Rank Stoker 1st Class
Service No K/7403
Date of Death 02/05/1917
Age 29
Regiment/Service Royal Navy HMS Derwent
Memorial Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent, and Hendon War Memorial, in the London Borough of Barnet.


Thomas was born on 1st February 1889 to Thomas (1866-1923) and Annie Disbrey, nee Chapman (b.1870), of 3 Summers Lane, Finchley. Thomas had ten younger siblings; James (1891-1958), Oswald (1895-1963), Dorothy (1896-1976), Donald (b.1896), Herbert (1900-1964), Percy (1903-1986), Albert (b.1906), Cecil (1907-1980) and twins Benjamin (1910-1913) and John (b.1910). 

Thomas married Emily Rebecca Tompkins (d.1966) on 25th December 1910 at St Mary-at-Finchley. The marriage register records that Thomas was a stoker on HMS Welland, which was a River-class destroyer of 70 officers and men, his father was a labourer, and that Emily's address was 23 Belle Vue Road, Hendon.

The 1911 Census indicates that Thomas’ was still a stoker on HMS Welland, whilst Emily was a laundry hand. They had three children: Annie (b.1914), William (1916-1919) and Arthur (1917-1917).

It appears that Thomas started his naval career on 18th July 1910, when he was assigned to HMS Pembroke, the name for Chatham, his base port. It was the base to which he would return for training, if he was ill etc. and it also administered his drafts (what ship he served on) so he was referred to as a 'Chatham Rating', as that was the hub he revolved around. On enlistment he declared his occupation as 'painter'. He then served on: HMS George from 21st November 1910 to 5th June 1911; HMS Orontes, a depot-based ship in Malta from 6th June 1911 to 9th November 1911; HMS Tamar, the Royal Navy's base in Hong Kong from 10th November 1911 to 9th December 1913; HMS Pembroke from 10th December 1913 to 29th July 1914; and HMS St George from 30th July 2914 to 30th April 1915.

Thomas served in HMS Derwent, a River-class destroyer, from 1st May 1915. She was laid down on 12th June 1902 at the Hawthorn Leslie shipyard at Hebburn-on-Tyne and launched on 14th February 1903. She was completed on 1st July 1904. In August 1915, with the amalgamation of the 7th and 9th Flotillas, HMS Derwent was assigned to the 1st Destroyer Flotilla. When it was redeployed to Portsmouth in November 1916, she was equipped with depth charges for use in anti-submarine patrols, escorting of merchant ships and defending the Dover Barrage. As the convoy system was being introduced, in the spring of 1917, the 1st Flotilla was employed in escort duties for convoys through the English Channel. On 2nd May 1917, the ship struck a contact mine laid by German submarine UC-26 off Le Havre, France. She sank north of Whistle Buoy with the loss of 58 officers and men.

At the time of Thomas' death, his parents were living at 119 Squires Lane, Finchley, and his wife was living at 23 Belle Vue Road, Hendon. As a widow, Emily married James Thomas Willison, a 37 year old farm labourer, on 29th August 1920, at St Mary-at-Finchley.

Thomas’ nephew, Gerard Disbrey, was a member of St Paul’s for some 50 years and filled various roles in the church, including that of churchwarden.