Thomas’ father (Charles Johnson Cottingham) and his mother Elizabeth Cottingham (nee Dumbrell) were also living in south Chailey and Charles was working as a bricklayer. Thomas was effectively the step-grandson of Frank Yeomans. For his grandmother, Jane Yeomans this was her third marriage.
Her first husband was John Cottingham who she married in 1869. At the time of that marriage she already had a son Thomas – probably by John Cottingham - and Thomas assumed the Cottingham surname at some point after 1881. He appears on census returns under a variety of names: James Charles Johnson (1871), John C Johnson (1881), Charles Cottingham (1891) and Charles J Cottingham (1901). When he married Elizabeth Dumbrell in 1899, his name was registered as Charles Johnson Cottingham.
John Cottingham died in 1881 (Jane is recorded as a widow on the census return for that year). She then married George Cottington in 1885 but he died later that same year (the marriage was recorded at Lewes in the March quarter of 1885 and his death, at the age of 35, was recorded at Lewes in the December quarter). She then married Frank Yeomans in 1892. Coincidentally, when in 1871 she was the 25 year old wife of John Cottingham, her future husband, seven year old Frank Yeomans, was living next door but one.
Thomas Cottingham joined the Royal Navy on
15th April 1913.
His occupation was noted as “under game-keeper”, his height as five feet
four inches, hair brown, eyes brown, complexion fresh. The only distinguishing mark worthy of note
was a mole on his back.
Thomas Cottingham was immediately posted to HMS Ganges, a boys’ training ship, where he remained until 12th November that year. His initial rating was boy, 2nd class, upgraded to boy, 1st class on 12th November. Between
November 1913 and 14th
March 1914, Thomas Cottingham served aboard HMS Hawke and then, after two weeks ashore at , transferred to HMS Monarch on Portsmouth 7th April 1914. On 29th April 1915, his eighteenth birthday, he was
automatically promoted to the rating of Ordinary Seaman and signed on for
twelve years. His height, at eighteen, was
noted as five feet seven inches and his hair as dark brown.
Thomas served aboard HMS Monarch until
25th July 1917 when he
joined HMS Dolphin, a submarine base and school. One week later he was transferred to HMS Thames and then, on the 1st October 1917, to HMS Maidstone. For the remainder of the war, Thomas spent
time at HMS Dolphin, HMS Victory ( ) and finally HMS Amazon. Portsmouth
His service record extends to
November 1928 and it is noted that his record was transferred which
presumably means that he continued to serve beyond that period. On 23rd July 1925 it had been noted that he was “to complete
[time in order to obtain a pension]” and this would have taken him up until 29th April 1935.
Throughout his time with the Royal Navy (up until 1928 at least), Cottingham’s character is noted as Very Good and his ability, latterly, as
He had been promoted to able seaman on Superior 1st December 1915 and then to leading seaman
on 1st April 1922.
In addition he qualified as a seaman gunner on
28th March 1916, re-qualifying on 10th October 1916,
17th July 1923
and 22nd July
1927. He also qualified as a
diver on 5th June
1917, re-qualifying on 1st May 1919.
Chailey Parish Magazine first mentions Thomas Cottingham in October 1914, noting that he is serving his King and Country. In October 1915 it notes that he is serving on HMS Monarch, in December 1917 aboard HMS Thames and in January 1918 aboard HMS Maidstone. In June 1918 and thereafter up until the final entry in July 1919 it records him serving aboard HM Submarines.
Thomas Cottingham is distantly related to James, William, George, Frederick and Alfred Cottingham. John Cottingham (Thomas’ grandmother’s first husband), was the elder brother of their father (William Cottingham).