Service:  Royal Navy
No: J45406
Date and place of birth: 27 November 1899 in Midhurst district, Sussex
Date and place of death: 31 May 1916, Battle of Jutland

Family background

Cornelius William Bridger was born 27 November 1899. He was the son of Benjamin James and Ruth Elizabeth Bridger, nee Wells, who married in 1894.

In 1901 the family: Benjamin (26), postman, Ruth Elizabeth (24), assistant clerk (working at home), Percival J (3) and Cornelius (1) were living in Stedham, Sussex. With them was Ellen Wells (66), widow, mother, postmistress (at home).

In 1911 Cornelius was 11 and listed as nephew in the household of William Wells (55), engine stoker paper mill, and Martha Wells (53). They were living in Stedham.

Benjamin James and Ruth Elizabeth Bridger, with their sons, Percival J (13) and Reginald E (4) were living at 112 Portland Road, Notting Hill, London. Benjamin Bridger was working as a jobbing gardener. It appears that Percival had completed and signed the census form (P J Bridger). Five other names appeared on the ‘official’ document but with no other information.

Military Service

Cornelius William Bridger served on HMS Impregnable from 20 October 1915. HMS Defence was his second ship which he joined 25 April 1916.

On his entry in the UK Navy Register his occupation was given as ‘errand boy’.

Death and commemoration

Cornelius William Bridger was killed in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. His body was never recovered. He was 16 years of age.

H M S Defence
H M S Defence (Navy photos)

BRIDGER, Cornelius W, Boy 1c, J 45406 (Dev)

Extract from the Official History; ” Naval Operations” by Sir Julian S. Corbett. 1923

………..Both the Defence and Warrior had already hit the doomed Wiesbaden. Still Admiral Arbuthnot, in spite of straddling salvoes, held on till within 5,500 yards of his prey he turned to starboard. Both ships were now in a hurricane of fire, which the Germans were concentrating with terrible effect to save their burning ship, and there quickly followed another of the series of appalling catastrophes which so tragically distinguish this battle from all others. Four minutes after crossing the Lion’s bows the Defence was hit by two heavy salvoes in quick succession, and the Admiral and his flagship disappeared in a roar of flame (6.20). The Warrior barely escaped a similar fate…………..

He is commemorated on the Stedham War Memorial and on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

His entry on the Naval Memorial is given as –

Bridger, Boy 1st cl. Cornelius William J/45406 R.N HMS ‘Defence’. Killed in action at Battle of Jutland 31 May 1916. Age 16. Nephew of Mrs M Wells of 30 [The Alley] Stedham.

Subsequent family history

Benjamin James Bridger died in 1938, in Edmonton district.

Elizabeth Bridger died in 1949, in Wandsworth district.

William Wells died in 1939, in Midhurst district.

Martha Wells died in 1926, in Midhurst district.

Percival James Bridger married Margarette Sarah Littlehayes on 15 April 1917 in Hanwell, Ealing.

He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps (Reg. no. 113193) during WW1 and received a military pension. At that time he was living at Albert Gate Court, Knightsbridge.

Percival Bridger died in 1981, in Birkenhead district, Merseyside.

Reginald E Bridger died in 1929, in Camberwell district.







Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project