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The Journal of 207797 Able Seaman (Gunner) W. J. Judson

February 17 1908 to April 13 1910

Able Seaman (Gunner) W.J. Judson

Transcribed from the hand-written original by Donald A. Tomkinson


The journal begins at RN Barracks Plymouth, when he receives his draft to the crew of HMS REDBREAST, and the passage to Bombay to join the ship at the end of March 1908. It covers her activities as part of the East Indies Station and operations in the Persian Gulf. Finally, the journal covers the return voyage to Plymouth in April 1910 upon being relieved by the ship’s next draft. [Ship’s crews were ‘swopped out’ in periodic drafts from the UK, the whole crew being replaced on average every two years].



Transcribed journal

A 37 page A4 acrobat document


William was born in Nantwich, Cheshire, on the 15th January, 1884, the son of John Judson, a shoemaker, and his wife Mary Ann, and was the eldest of eight children.

He enlisted as a boy cadet in the Royal Navy the 8th. January 1900, and became an Ordinary Seaman on the 15 January 1902, serving on H.M.S. HIGHFLIER, and became an Able Seaman on the 25 September 1902. He served on a number of ships, including VIVID, EXCELLENT, TENEDOS, SAPPHIRE II, CAMBRIDGE and REDBREAST. His service record recorded that he was 5' 7" tall at 18, with brown eyes and hair, and with a fresh complexion.

&William seems to have had a lively mind with many interests. He was a keen amateur photographer and left a number of photographs. He owned a violin and must have been able to entertain his shipmates during his time in the Royal Navy. On one of his photographs his cap-band shows him serving on H.M.S. WAVENEY, although this ship is not recorded on his service record. He last served on H.M.S. REDBREAST and has left a record of his service on this ship from February 1908 until April 1910, which took place mainly in the Persian Gulf. He died only five months after returning home. His service record notes that he died of heart failure, suffering from Pneumoniac Nephritis, possibly due to an infection caught during his service in the east.


The second of nine REDBREAST Class composite gunboats built for the Royal Navy in 1889 (MAGPIE, REDBREAST, REDPOLE, RINGDOVE, LAPWING, GOLDFINCH, THRUSH, SPARROW, & WIDGEON). These 805 Ton vessels were the last class of composite- hulled gunboats built for the Royal Navy; vessels having an iron keel, frames, stem and stern posts with wooden planking. The ships had a crew of 76 and were 165 feet overall with a beam of 31 feet and a shallow draft of 11 feet, and had both sail and steam propulsion, Fitted with triple-expansion reciprocating steam engines, developing 1200 indicated horsepower, driving a single screw, they had a top speed of 13 knots (24 km/h. The class had a barquentine rig (three masts; square rigged on the foremast and fore-and-aft rigged on the main and mizzen masts).

The first four ships were armed with six BL 4-inch (101.6 mm) 25-pounder guns and four machine guns, the last five received a pair of 3-pounder quick firing guns in place of two machine guns. REDBREAST was to have her armament upgraded during one of her refits to include the 3-pounders, with one or more Maxim machine guns and a 3-pounder Hotchkiss.

REDBREAST was built by Pembroke Royal Dockyard and was launched on April 25th 1889. She was first commissioned at Devonport on February 27th 1890. She served on the Zambezi River from 1890, the first British warship to sail on that river. In 1893 she was transferred to the East Indies station where she remained on naval blockade, anti-slavery and anti-smuggling duties until she was finally paid off on March 14th 1911 at Bombay and later sold.


The REDBREAST operated from her base port of Bombay as far north as Bassra in Iraq. When in the Persian Gulf she patrolled out of Muscat calling at many islands and small ports on the Persian coast, Dhabi, Ras al-Khaimah and Bahrain.






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Topic: The Journal of Able Seaman W.J. Judson
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Chris Judson
Nov 2020
First Poster
Chris Judson (UK) says...

Really interesting this. He was my great uncle and I can see the family resemblance. Also two of my teenage sons are sea cadets so interesting to see how the wheels of time turn

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