John Pennington

John Peter Webb Pennington was born on the 18th June, 1882, to Edward Pennington, a wheelwright, and his wife Esther, daughter of the wharf’s foreman Peter Webb.

He worked as a clerk, first at the chemical works and then in 1902 he joined the Refuge Assurance Company at Stockton Heath. He married Mary Blundell in January 1913.

In 1916 there was a widespread appeal for men to join the Royal Naval Reserve and in May of that year John answered the call, and joined up as an A/B (Able Bodied seaman)

From his records we know that he stood at 5’10 and had dark hair and brown eyes, and although his character was ‘very good’, his ability was only ‘satisfactory’, although this isn’t truly surprising for a man who’d never been to sea before.

His record shows him joining the steam powered, armed merchant cruiser HMS ‘Changuinola’ as a signaller, starting on the 7th February 1917.  ‘Changuinola’s log book on that day records that she received mail from ‘Alsatian’ on that day but not men, while she did collect ratings from HMS ‘Columbella’ on the 13th February, and RNVR ratings on the 15th February when she came into Princes Dock at Glasgow for maintenance.

The log book of ‘Changuinola’ shows us that the ship was patrolling around the Shetland isles at this time and notes how men from the RNVR like John were being instructed as the ship was working. The ship prowled around, watching closely for passing ships that could be a threat and, where necessary, hunting and intercepting them to ascertain their purpose.

The log book also notes the number of men on the sick list each day. Respiratory illness was common within all military sections during World War 1, and of course the deadly “Spanish ‘flu” was active long before it was officially recognised in 1918. We don’t know when John went onto the sick list with Bronchial Pneumonia, but ‘Changuinola’s log book for the 16th March 1917 wrote:

[At Northern Base]

Lat 60.35, Long -1.37

0.50am: Esha Ness bearing S12E distance 7 miles

1.15am: Esha Ness Light abeam (S67E Magnetic) distance 4 miles

1.32am: Esha Ness bearing N63E, Muckle Roe bearing S51E, altered course S42E. Entered Swept Channel

2.17am: Muckle Roe abeam 0.25 miles

2.30am: Passed Boom

2.45am: Let go Starboard anchor in No 1 berth

3.15am: Ship swung, cable secured

7.00am: Hands fall in for coal ship

8.20am: Colliers CAIRNNEVIS & DE FONTAINE fast to port & starboard

8.25am: Commenced coaling

Noon: Stopped coaling for dinner

1.00pm: Resumed coaling

1.05pm: Able Seaman J W Pennington RNVR Official No 45. Age 34. Passed Away

4.00pm: Hands to tea

4.30pm: Resumed coaling

7.00pm: Hands to supper

7.15pm: Coaling party from HMS GIBRALTAR finished work for day

9.00pm: Stopped coaling for the night

Sick list 5


He was taken off the ship the next day and buried at the nearby cemetery of Voe, as the log book notes:

[At Northern Base]

Lat 60.35, Long -1.37

6.00am: Collier CAIRNNEVIS cast off

6.45am: Collier WESTWOOD fast port side

7.20am: GIBRALTAR coaling party alongside

8.50am: Finished coaling. Took in 850 Tons

9.00am: Colliers cast off

9.50am: Midshipman J Howell RNR discharged to Hospital Ship BERBICE

11.00am: Hands cleaning ship, unrigging coaling gear

1.40pm: Funeral Party left ship with mortal remains of Able Seaman J W Pennington RNVR for interment in Voe Cemetery

3.00pm: Stand by engines & as required to clear HMS MOTAGUA

3.10pm: Finished with engines

3.45pm: Funeral Party returned to ship

Sick list 2


HMS Changuinola in dazzle paint