Research, Records & Archives: Charles & John Trembeth

Trembeth Research - Cornwall's Regimental Museum

By Deborah Vosper

Last year the museum put on a display of First World War Memorial Death Plaques and I became interested in two young men with the same surname for whom we have plaques.
Charles Trembeth, Private 23481, died on the 4th September 1916 and is buried at Thiepval. His brother, John Trembeth, Private 9365, died on 14th March 1915 and is buried at Ypres. But this story is not just about Charles and John, but also of their siblings.
George Trembeth was born in Tywardreath and in 1886 he married Rosalind Ann Hamley in Bodmin. From the census records it seems the family stayed in Bodmin after their marriage, with George having various labouring jobs.
On the night of the 1911 census George and Rose were living at Halgavor Hill in Bodmin, not far from the Bodmin barracks with their 9 surviving children. The house was small with only 4 rooms, one of which was probably the kitchen. The other three rooms would have been the parlour and bedrooms. One wonders where they all slept. According to the census return six of their fifteen children had already died. A stark reminder of the infant mortality rate at the turn on the 19th century before national health care and the NHS.
At home that night with George and Rose were Charles 23, George 22, Jonathan 20, Arthur 18, Richard 17, Nicholas 14, James 10, Ruby 9 and Tom 7. The youngest three were still at school. Charles and George were tin miners, Arthur a milkman, Richard and Nicholas both labourers and John a soldier, having already enlisted with the DCLI on the 8th February 1910.
Charles had previously enlisted in Bodmin with the DCLI as a boy, just 1 month short of his 14th birthday in 1901 and had signed up for 6 years, as had George in 1902 when he was also 14. It seems that after their 6 years of service they both left to become tin miners. Perhaps the remuneration was better?
By the outbreak of the First World War on the 28th July 1914, John was still a serving soldier and Nicholas had signed up for service with the Royal Navy as a cook in the April of 1914 when he was 17 years old.
Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum took over as Minister for War on the 5th August. The opinion of the popular press both in Great Britain and Germany was that the war would be over by Christmas. Kitchener however did not believe that this would be the case and on 11th August, just 6 days after his appointment he made his appeal for 100,000 soldiers to enlist under the “General Service” terms of 3 years or the duration of the war, whichever was longer. This figure was met within two weeks and on the 28th August he then asked for another 100,000 men.

Trembeth Brothers - Cornwall's Regimental Museum

It is apparent that the Trembeth family felt they had to do their patriotic duty and by the end of the war in November 1918, seven of the eight Trembeth boys had signed up for service with the armed forces.
George having previously been a boy soldier with the DCLI signed up and served with The Devonshire Regiment during the war.
Charles had re-enlisted with the DCLI in the November of 1915 and sadly had died within the year in the September of 1916.
John, already a serving soldier with the DCLI, was one of the 120 men to crew HMS Triumph. He sadly died on 14th March 1915.

Trembeth Brothers - Cornwall's Regimental Museum

Richard had also enlisted with the DCLI and received the British War Medal while an Acting Sergeant and probably also received the Victory Medal.
Arthur signed up with the Royal Berkshire Regiment and received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Nicholas served in the Royal Navy throughout the war as a cook and retired in 1941.
James, having enlisted as a boy in 1916 with the Royal Navy, then signed up for a further 12 years in 1919 and served until 1943.
Thomas, the youngest child, was only 10 years old when war broke out. I imagine he must have looked up to his courageous brothers and must have been deeply saddened when the news came home of the deaths of Charles and John. The war years must have been very worrying for George and Rose with seven of their sons serving.
In July 1919, less than a year after the end of the war, Thomas also enlisted with the DCLI. Our attestation books state that he was 18 years and 4 months. The stories of young men lying about their age in this case seems to be true. Thomas having been born in 1904 was in fact only a few months over 15 years old. He went on to serve with the DCLI until 1935.

Trembeth Brothers - Cornwall's Regimental Museum
Thomas Henry Trembeth
Trembeth Research - Cornwall's Regimental Museum
Group photo with Thomas Henry Trembeth, Top row, Second from the left.

This research has been carried out through the Museum’s records and archives, and online. We would like to know more about this family and would welcome any further information and photos that you could share with us.

Deborah Vosper, Research Team


If you’re interested in making a research enquiry, or if you’d like to know where to start with your family’s military history, have a look at our Research Page.