Lest We Forget

1914 - 1918

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.

Pearce, Herbert Charles

Leading Signalman, Royal Navy, HM Submarine E35
Service Number
24th March 1892 at Ongar, Essex
Thomas Pearce and Lottie m.s. Berry
Date of death
1st November 1918 (Aged 26)
Atlantic Ocean
Other Memorials
Inverkeithing Memorial (where his name is wrongly spelled)

Other Information

Herbert & Minnie Pearce
Herbert & Minnie Pearce

A regular in the Royal Navy (having briefly been a bricklayer), he married Minnie Bell of Pierhead House, North Queensferry on 24 July 1911 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. At that time he was a Signalman in HMS Africa, Home Fleet.

They resided at: Rock House, North Queensferry and had children Marion C. Lottie Pearce, born 1915 at Inverkeithing and Christina, born 1917 at Inverkeithing.

He had joined the Royal Navy, aged 16, as a Boy Signaller on 7 April 1908 in HMS Ganges the shore training establishment for boys, at Shotley, near Ipswich.

At that time he was only 5 feet 4 inches tall. He had grey eyes and scars on the top of his head and on his left knee.

On the 8 August he was drafted to HMS Impregnable, an old three-decker screw steamer, based at Devonport for training purposes, where he was made Boy 1st Class on 5 November. On 5 December he transferred to HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship, a holding base, until 19 March 1909 when he moved to HMS Pembroke l [Chatham RN Barracks], and two days later to HMS Cochrane an Armoured Cruiser.

On his 18th birthday, 24 March 1910, he became an Ordinary Signaller, still in HMS Cochrane.
He was now 5 feet 7 inches tall.

With effect from 4 April he was again in
HMS Pembroke 1, until 24 April 1910, when he joined HMS Africa, a “pre-Dreadnought” Battleship, where he was made Signaller with effect from 14 January 1912.

Africa went into reserve at the Nore from November 1911, but in January 1912 Africa took part in aircraft experiments. She was fitted for flying off aircraft with a 100-foot downward-sloping runway which was installed on her foredeck, running over her forward 12-inch turret from her forebridge to her bows and equipped with rails to guide the aircraft. Africa's crew tested the strength and stability of the rails by jumping up and down on them.

They then held the Short S.27 pusher seaplane in place. Lieutenant Charles Samson entered its cockpit to attempt the first British shipboard aircraft take-off on 10 January 1912, while the ship was at anchor in the River Medway. The aircraft moved quickly down the runway, dipped slightly after leaving it, but then pulled up and climbed easily. Samson circled Africa several times to the cheers of the crew, although on one pass he came uncomfortably close to the ship. After a few minutes, Samson climbed to 800 feet and concluded his historic flight by landing safely at an airfield ashore.

On 5 March Herbert was back in HMS Pembroke l for two months and then joined HMS Actaeon a shore training base at Portsmouth associated with HMS Vernon, the torpedo training base from 6 May 1912.

On 18 October he was back in HMS Pembroke l until moving to HMS Antrim, an Armoured Cruiser in the reserve fleet, on 3 December 1912.

On 16 May 1913 he was away to HMS Pembroke for one week before joining HMS Vulcan, the Portsmouth shore base used for torpedo training.

This seems to mark the point at which he became a submariner, on 22 May 1913.

As of 1 January 1914 he joined HMS Alecto, a Submarine Depot Ship based at Yarmouth, but after six weeks returned to HMS Vulcan on 17 February 1914. On 17 April 1916 he moved to HMS Dolphin, the submarine shore training base, Gosport, but at this point seems actually to have been in HM Submarine C25 which was usually Harwich based, but assigned to 1st Submarine Flotilla in Firth of Forth for a time in 1916.

HMS/m c25
HMS/m C25

The C Class submarines were 142 feet long and had a crew of only 16 men.

(HM Submarine C25 had a famous encounter very late in the war - after Herbert had left her - when she was attacked by German aircraft, and her commanding officer, Lt. Ronald Blacklock, and many of the crew were killed.)

On 23 August 1916 Herbert shifted to HMS Maidstone another Submarine Depot Ship based at Harwich where he remained until moving to HMS Vulcan again on 1 April 1917.

HMS/m E25

It appears to be at this juncture that he actually joined HM Submarine E35 [although this boat, built on the Clyde by John Brown, was not actually commissioned until 14 July].

(The E Class were the first British submarines to be fitted with internal watertight bulkheads. These internal bulkheads strengthened the pressure hull and enabled them to reach greater depths. She was 181 feet long, with a crew of 30 men.)

He was assigned to HMS Cormorant ll [a Trawler hired by the Admiralty] from 13 November 1917 at which point he was promoted to Leading Signaller. It is unclear what this posting entailed, but in practice he seems to have remained in E35.

He was finally moved to HMS Bonaventure, yet another Submarine Depot Ship at Gibraltar from 1 April 1918 until his death on 17 November.

We should note that Submariners of the First World War appear to have always been shown on the books of the Depot Ship rather than in the individual submarine, which appears just as an additional entry in their personal record. His submarine was based in Gibraltar on special duties.

With the aid of a wireless interception, British intelligence became aware of an intended meeting off Madeira between two German U-Boats

Herbert was part of the crew on 11 May when E35 under Lieutenant Commander Guy D'Oyly Hughes, succeeded in torpedoing and sinking U-154 a very large boat intended as a cargo carrying blockade runner. The second U-boat, U-153, then attempted to torpedo E35, which had to take evasive action.

In October the boat went into dock at Gibraltar and Herbert was granted home leave. Along with two other men, he obtained passage in the Norwegian steamer Glena, loaded with iron ore and bound for Glasgow.

On 1 November, she foundered in a gale about 140 miles North West of Cape Finisterre and he was lost, ten days before the war ended.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Scottish War Memorials Project

National Archives. Service Record

Scottish National Archives. Marriage Certificate

Census 1911

Len Chinnery (Grandson)

Submariners Association, Barrow in Furness




Here dead we lie, Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land, From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure, Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is, And we were young.

[A.E. Housman]

When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say,

For Your Tomorrow,
We gave our Today

[Kohima, attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds]

Poppy Poppy

If you have been interested by this material,
we ask that you make a donation to the Poppy Appeal