J/83010 ORD.S. R. CLIFTON. R.N.
Robert Clifton was born in on 12 January 1900 in Bamber Bridge. His father was Thomas Clifton (b. 1870 in Bamber Bridge), a cotton spinner. His mother was Alice Martin (b. 1870 in Bamber Bridge). Thomas and Alice were married in 1891 and they had five children: William (b. 1892), Richard (b. 1897), then Robert, then Philip (b. 1902) and Mary Ellen (b. 1908). In 1911, the family were living at 41 School Lane, Bamber Bridge. Robert was still at school.
Robert must have joined the Navy when he turned 18, at the beginning of 1918. After training in Portsmouth he was posted to HMS Glatton.
HMS Glatton was built for the Norwegian Navy in 1913 and requisitioned at the start of the War. She was built on Tyneside and launched in 1914, but then considerable modifications were made to her structure and armaments, so she wasn’t actually commissioned until 11 September 1918 when she sailed for Dover. In Dover harbour, on 16 September there was an explosion on board in an ammunition magazine and fire spread quickly through the ship. An ammunition ship was positioned only 150 yards away so the decision was taken to scuttle and sink the ship with torpedoes. 60 men were killed outright, 124 wounded of whom another 19 died from burns. Robert was among the dead, still only 18 years old.
An investigation into the cause of the blast initially blamed stokers for piling smouldering members from the boilers against the bulkhead next to the magazine, to cool down before being ejected as ash. But a later investigation on her sister ship HMS Gorgon revealed that the lagging and insulation of the bulkhead were deficient (some gaps had been plugged with newspaper rather than cork insulation) and rivets were missing which would allow hot air to ignite fumes from the cork. The wreck posed a hazard to ships entering the harbour until it was moved in 1926. It was later covered by landfill and now lies buried under the modern harbour terminal.
On 3 April 1930, the remains of one officer and 56 ratings (including Robert), lost with HMS Glatton, were interred in Gillingham New Cemetery.
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Service Number: J/83010
Date of Death: 16/09/1918
Service: Royal Navy, H.M.S. Glatton
Cemetery/memorial reference: Naval. 15. 804-6.
Cemetery: GILLINGHAM (WOODLANDS) CEMETERY, KENT
Additional Information: Son of Thomas and Alice Clifton, of 86 Station Road, Bamber Bridge, Preston, Lancs.
Robert’s brother Richard served in the Army. He was 242193 SGT. R. CLIFTON, East Lancashire Regiment. Richard enlisted on 11 December 1915, just after he turned 18. He was initially assigned service number 5085. He remained at home until March 1917 when he was sent to join the Expeditionary Force in France. He was initially posted to 2/5 Battalion and quickly promoted to Lance Corporal, Corporal and Sergeant, all within the space of a few days (November 1917). After landing in France in March 1917, 2/5Bn (part of 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division), saw action during Operation Hush, an attempt to dislodge the Germans from their submarine bases at Ooostende and Zeebrugge. After that, they were moved to the Ypres salient, where in October they fought in the Battle of Poelcapelle. Richard was wounded on 27 November 1917 and returned to England for treatment at Bury St Edmunds. He was posted back to the reserves in May 1918 and returned to France, this time to 11th Battalion, on 17 July. He was wounded again and gassed on 19 August 1918, when 11Bn was engaged in the Final Advance in Flanders. He was demobilised in August the following year.