Rank: Able Seaman
Number: J/37837
Unit: HMS Begonia ROYAL NAVY
Date of Death: 6 October 1917
Age: 20
Cemetery: Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Hannah Saxon had married Arthur Wheatley in 1892 at Christ Church in the Bradford area of Manchester. They set up home in Romiley where her family was living and, in about 1895, their first child Arthur was born. Ernest followed on 19 August 1897. Arthur, senior, had died by the time of the 1901 Census and Hannah and the boys were living at her father’s home at 42 Compstall Road, Romiley.

Later that year, she married Moses Stansfield in a civil ceremony and went to live at 14 Pole Acre Lane, Woodley. Nothing else is known of Ernest’s life.

HMS Begonia was a Flower Class sloop which had been converted as a “Q-ship”. Q-ships acted as decoys – heavily armed ships disguised as merchant ships which would lure German submarines into surfacing for an attack with guns. Their use was much lessened by 1917 as, early in the year, the Germans adopted unrestricted warfare at sea which meant that they would simply torpedo merchant vessels rather than requesting a surrender and evacuation before sinking it.

There remains confusion about the ship’s fate. Some early reports indicate she was in collision with a German submarine, the U151. Other reports suggest the collision was with another British ship, HMS Parthian. No trace of the ship has ever been discovered and all 95 crew perished, including Ernest and another local man, Hellawell Bentley.

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