Life story written by Paul Beecroft
PETTY OFFICER TELEGRAPHIST
16th MARCH 1940 AGE 39
In the midst of life
We are in death
Arthur John TOWNSEND, who was known as Jack, was born in Reading on 18th July 1901. He was the second eldest son of William Henry and Emily Jane TOWNSEND. In 1911 he was living at 17, Derby Street, Reading with his parents and two brothers, William Maurice and Richard George. Nothing is known of Jack’s early years. The only known civilian occupation was that of a Messenger for the Post Office.
In September 1924, in Reading, he married Violet Annie OSBORN a local girl from 6, Blenheim Gardens, Reading who was born on 22nd February 1902. She was the daughter of William and Kate Osborn. Violet was the youngest of five children. She had three brothers and one sister. Two of her brothers were killed in action during WWI. Her brother Tom was with The Royal Berkshire Regiment and was killed in France on 4th February 1915. Her brother Frederick was in the Royal Navy onboard HMS Black Prince and was killed on 31st May 1916 during the battle of Jutland.
Following their marriage Jack and Violet lived at 38, Spring Gardens, Reading and then from about 1928 they resided in Blenheim Gardens, Reading. Although slightly confusing, they appeared to have resided first of all at number 6, the childhood home of Violet, and then later at number 8.
The marriage resulted in two children, Beryl who was born in September 1927 and Jack who was born in June 1930.
In September 1929. Jack is known to be serving in the Royal Navy. Exactly when he joined the Navy is not known but a later newspaper article states that he joined as a boy telegraphist in which case he was most likely 15 or 16 years old. Part of his service record shows that on 7th of September 1929 he is a Leading Telegraphist and stationed at what was known as
H.M.S. Victory I & II, both shore establishments. On the 28 th of February 1930 he was drafted to H.M.S. Fisgard where he was most likely receiving further training. Following this he was then drafted to H.M.S. Coventry, a light cruiser which he joined on 6th August 1930 as a Leading Telegraphist. He remained onboard HMS Coventry until December 1932 and then went back to Victory I. Following this he was drafted to H.M.S.
Hood, joining on 31 st August 1933. H.M.S. Hood was a battle cruiser which was sunk by the Bismarck in 1941. Jack spent three years on H.M.S. Hood and then returned to shore bases between August 1936 and January 1937. On 20th January 1937 he was drafted once again and joined H.M.S. London, a county class heavy cruiser. He would spend just over two years on H.M.S. London and then once again was drafted to Victory I. On the 14 h of September 1939 he was promoted to the rank of Petty Officer Telegraphist. Just days prior to his promotion WWII had commenced.
As Britain prepared for war and Jack was undoubtedly waiting to join another ship, he was able to come home on leave. He arrived home for Easter leave on Friday 15th March and he was very unwell. He was admitted to Battle Hospital and died the following day. This was
very sudden and unexpected. His cause of death was given as Cerebro Spinal Meningitis.
The Reading Standard reported his death on Thursday, March 21 st :-
Petty Officer’s Death
The death occurred on Saturday of Petty Officer Arthur John (Jack) Townsend, of Blenheim Gardens, Reading, at the age of 39. He arrived home for Easter leave late on Friday and died mid-day the next day in Battle Hospital from meningitis. He joined the Navy as a boy telegraphist 25 years ago. A Reading man, he leaves a wife, a son and a daughter. He was a member of the Royal Naval Old Comrades’ Club in Duke Street. The funeral service is being held today at St. Luke’s Church.
On March 29th the Reading Standard printed the following in respect of his funeral:
FUNERAL OF PETTY OFFICER TOWNSEND
The funeral service of Petty Officer Arthur John Townsend, of Blenheim Gardens, Reading, whose death occurred at the age of 39, took place at St. Luke’s Church, Reading, yesterday week, the Vicar, the Rev. P. Sumner, officiating. Internment followed in the Reading Cemetery.
The mourners were: The widow, Mr. W. Townsend and Mr. G. Townsend (brothers). . . .
Many other people attended the funeral including friends, relatives and neighbours. Wreaths were sent from many family members, the Petty Officers’ Mess and many others.
The same newspaper also printed a personal message from the family:
Mrs TOWNSEND and CHILDREN wish to thank all kind friends and neighbours for sympathy in their recent sad bereavement, and the staff at Battle Hospital for the kindness shown; also for the beautiful floral tributes sent.
8, Blenheim Gardens, Reading.
The following year on March 14th the family published the following which was included in the ‘In Memoriam’ section:
TOWNSEND – In beautiful memory of a devoted husband and loving father, Arthur John (Jack) Townsend, P.O., R.N., who died March 16, 1940.
“In memory’s garden we meet every day.”
8, Blenheim Gardens, Reading.
On March 13th , 1942, another ‘In Memoriam’ was published:
TOWNSEND – To the beautiful memory of P.O. Jack Townsend, R.N., who fell asleep March 16, 1940. “We meet every day in the garden of memory.”
From his loving Wife, Son and Daughter, Vi, Jackie and Beryl, 8, Blenheim Gardens, Reading.
Division 59, Row C, Plot 7