Able Seaman Robert Edward Mackay Campbell Ingham of the Royal Naval Reserves was born 1885 in Liverpool. He was the second youngest child of Percy, a joiner by trade, and Hannah Ingham (née Jones). In 1891 his family were living in Kirkdale, Lancashire. His father Percy passed away just two years later.
It appears that he spent most of his adult life at sea, mainly on transatlantic vessels. His first position was on the Commonwealth in 1902. This was a Dominion Line ship, sailing from Liverpool to Boston. Between 1903 and 1909 he worked as Able Seaman on board a number of ships serving routes between Liverpool – Quebec – Montreal and Liverpool – New York – Boston, including the Lake Erie, the Ottawa and the Caledonian. His service records describe a man of 5 foot 4 inches with grey eyes and fair hair, a man of good conduct and ability.
When he married Margaret Fisher Cors in 1909 at St Mary’s, Kirkdale, Lancashire Robert Edward had already been working as a Merchant Seaman for around seven years. They had three children; Lilian, Thomas Henry and Robert Edward, (named after his father). Thomas Henry died in infancy.
Between 1910 and 1914 Robert Edward served on various ships in the Cunard Lines including the Invernia, the Laconia and the Lusitania. His Continuous Certificate of Discharge book ends with his last ship in the Merchant Service, the Lusitania. His date of Discharge was 12 August 1914, days after the outbreak of war. It is a bitter irony that he was discharged from the Lusitania less than a year before the ship was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine near the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland with the loss of 1,198 lives.
Robert took part in the Defence of Antwerp with the Naval Brigade in October 1914. The British, fearful that the loss of Antwerp might be the first step in the conquest of the Channel ports, agreed to the Belgian request for reinforcements and began to land naval infantry. The Royal Naval Division, composed of men from the reserve of the Royal Navy, had no artillery or field ambulances and had no combat experience. In the haste to organise and move the units to Belgium, most went to war without even basic equipment such as packs, mess tins or water bottles. Ultimately Anwerp fell to German forces. Approximately 1,500 troops of the 1st Royal Naval Brigade crossed the Dutch frontier to escape and were interned in the Netherlands. Robert was with the RND units that managed to successfully withdraw from Antwerp and return to England.
Robert Edward Ingham was 32 years old when he was lost at sea, his body never recovered, leaving his wife and two children, only 10 and 5 years old, to mourn his loss.
We have been unable to locate a photograph of Robert E. M. C. Ingham but his only remaining relative, his granddaughter, has provided images of his “Continuous Certificate of Discharge” book to help illustrate his story.
Continuous Certificate of Discharge Book
Death Notice Robert Edward Ingham, Liverool Echo 9th February 1917
North Atlantic Seaway, vol.3,p.987 by N.R.P.Bonsor
1891 census uk
General Records Office UK
Liverpool, England, Crew Lists 1861-1919 [database on-line] Ancestry.com
Continuous Certificate of Discharge book
National Archives – Register of Shipping and Seamen: Royal Naval Reserve Ratings’ Records of Service
longlongtrail.co.uk: Chris Baker
Khaki Jack: The Royal Naval Division in the First World War by E. C. Coleman – Amberley Publishing