Category: Military
Rank: Quartermaster
Regiment or Ship: HMS Empress of Russia
Service Number(s): 218933
Occupation: Labourer
Date of Birth: 21.08.1886
Place of Birth: Bexhill on Sea, Sussex.
Date of Death: 1951
Place of Death: Battle registration district. Address: 48 Windsor Road, Bexhill on Sea

Photos and newspaper articles

Family Information

Parents:          Alfred Wooller, b. 1851 in Chelvington, Sussex, d. 1933, and Ellen Wooller (nee Vine), b. 1857 in Hellingly, Sussex.


Edith Wooller, b. 1881 in Hailsham.

Florence Wooller, b. 1882 in Hailsham.

William Henry Wooller, b. 1883 in Hailsham, d. 1915. W0256 WOOLLER William Henry

Nellie Wooller, b. 1885 in Hailsham.

Ethel Wooller, b. 1890 in Bexhill.

Oliver S Wooller, b. 1893 in Bexhill, d. 1963. W0255 WOOLLER Oliver S

Daisy Wooller, b. 1895 in Bexhill.

In the 1891 census Alfred and family were living at 39 Western Road, in 1901 at 57 Windsor Road but by 1911 had moved to 48 Windsor Road. In the 1911 census Alfred was employed as a bricklayer, Florence as a dressmaker, William as a house painter, and Oliver as a grocer’s assistant.

Spouse: John married Ethel Frances Neve (b. 1881 in Hastings) in Battle in 1908 and they had a daughter, Gladys, who was born a year later in Bexhill. In the 1911 census Ethel and Gladys were living at 48 Windsor Road with John’s parents – Alfred and Ellen.

First World War Experience

From John’s service record we learn that he signed up with the Royal Navy on 21st August 1902, as a Boy 2nd Class, for 12 years. When he joined he was 16 and was 5’ 2½” tall but by the time he was 18 he measured 5’ 8”. He had brown hair, blue eyes, and a fresh complexion. When the census of 1911 was taken John’s whereabouts was given as “Misc Locations R.N.” aboard H.M.S. “Sheikh”, as an Able Seaman, whose religion was Church of England.

His first ship was the St. Vincent and, in the Bexhill Observer dated 19th December 1914, it was recorded that he was a Quartermaster on board H.M.S. “Empress of Russia”.

John had a colourful naval career with several stretches in the cells: September 1905 – 7 days; October 1905 – 14 days; May 1907 – 14 days.

On 16th November 1911 he ‘ran’ (deserted), was recovered and sentenced to 90 days; then ‘ran’ again on 3rd December 1913 in Hong Kong.

Interestingly though, his character is given as varying from Very Good to Good – even with the spells in the cells.

His WW1 ship – H.M.S. “Empress of Russia” – was a converted liner. It was a new vessel which travelled between Canada and the Far East. At the outbreak of was it was impressed by the Admiralty – becoming H.M.S. rather than R.M.S.

An intriguing part of his service record is a ‘footnote’ saying:-

“…Wooller’s wife, who has petitioned HM the King for a full pardon for her husband that, in view of Wooller’s services in the war (in the Mercantile Marines) no further claim will be made upon him …….” – the rest is unreadable.

The researcher has gone no further with the claim that John was in the Mercantile Marines as that would have meant searching in the Royal Archives.

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