Able Seaman Jacob (or John) Lawson Wren, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, was the younger of two children born to Abraham Guthrie Wren and Helen Wren (née Millar) of 5 Grafton Square, Glasgow, later of Newton Inn at Mearns Cross, Newton Mearns. He was born on the 27th of February 1894 in Hutchesontown, Glasgow. On his birth certificate, the 1901 census and his probate record he is registered as Jacob, but when serving in the Navy he is listed as John Wren. On the memorial in Mearns Parish Kirk he’s Jack.
He had two older half brothers, William and Alexander, from Helen’s marriage to James McArthur, who died in 1886 age 27, in Old Kilpatrick, and a sister, Helen.
Helen was still living in Old Kilpatrick when she had her first child with Abraham in September 1891. Her occupation on the 1891 census was spirit saleswoman and Abraham was a spirit salesman. By the time of the census in 1901, when Jacob was seven, the family were living at 14 Steven Parade, Bridgeton and his father was now running his own off-licence.
Jacob was an Apprentice Engineer when he enlisted on the 19th of January 1912 and joined The Royal Naval Division, Nelson Battalion, on the 22nd of August 1914. Formed in September 1914, from a large excess of naval personnel, the Division fought on land alongside the Army. It consisted of men brought together from the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Fleet Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a brigade of Royal Marines, Royal Navy and Army personnel. They participated in the defence of the Belgian city of Antwerp Sep 28 – Oct 10 1914. On the 27th of October 1914 Jacob was drafted to “Vivid”, a depot ship at Devonport. On the 24th of November 1914 he joined the crew of the Laurentic.
Jacob was 22 years of age when he died on the Laurentic. His body was never recovered. He is commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial, The Newton Mearns war memorial and on Mearns Parish Kirk War Memorial (noted as Jack L. Wren).
The 1914 Star was issued to his father on the 26th of March 1919.
LOST ON LAURENTIC.
Able-Seaman John Lawson Wren R.N.V.R., lost the Laurentic, was only son Mr. and Mrs. A. Guthrie Wren, Newton Inn, Newton Mearns. Fred B. Gray, R.N.V.R., engine-rom artificer, lost on the same ship, was a son of Mr. Gray, 8 North Frederick Street. Both lads were apprentice engineers with Messrs. David Carlaw & Sons, Finnieston Street, Glasgow.
Daily Record – Tuesday 06 February 1917
Mearns History Group
Old Glasgow Pubs
Ancestry.com. Scotland, National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936
The National Archives of the UK: Records of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
The Scottish Military Research Group – Commemorations Project
The British Newspaper Archive