A Family History Collection
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The Fitch Family were living at 61 Byron Road, Gillingham at the outbreak of World War 1.
There were 3 Fitch boys (their oldest, Stephen, having died of TB in 1903) and 5 girls.
Only James was old enough for Service in 1915-he was 21-and he was training as an Ordinance Officer in the Royal Navy at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham.
William Junior (Billy) was an apprentice coppersmith in the Dockyard.
His brother Freddie was an electrical apprentice, also in the Dockyard.
Charlotte was 26 and had trained as a Nurse in a Convent. She nursed throughout the Great War, coming home occasionally at Christmas.
Victoria Rose worked at Featherstones Department Store but soon moved to a clerical job in Southill Barracks, Chatham.
It was during the years here that she met her future husband, Arthur Edward Higgins who was a Serving soldier. They married on his discharge in 1918.
Emily Howard junior (known as Con) had married an Irish Soldier, Joseph Connick. He survived the war.
The family was fortunate that all of their menfolk were to survive these terrible years. The older generation were too old for active Service and the younger, too young. Freddie and Billy were in 'reserved occupations' in the Dockyard and were lucky to survive the attempts to blow up the Navy in Dock!
The best description of life in a Naval Town in the Great War comes from Sheila Ironmonger's description of the Zeppelin dropping its bombs - no doubt aimed at the Dockyard only a mile or two away-
'One Sunday afternoon during the Great War, a large Airship - a German Zeppelin - was sighted hovering over Byron Road. The Fitch Family, with their neighbours, gathered at their front doors to view this unusual thing, quite unaware of the danger they were in. Without warning, a bomb was released from the Zeppelin making a direct hit on Moakes Bakery in Canterbury Street, opposite the Byron Road turning. The blast from the bomb travelled along Byron Road and the Fitch family were blown off their feet into the front hallway of 61 in a great heap of arms and legs. Fortunately no-one was hurt, but dignity was a bit battered - it caused amusement among the young people because it was the only time they had ever seen their parents in a loving embrace on the floor!'
James Fitch. circa 1916
Charlotte Fitch during Great War