Alfred's grave is the third from the left on the third row back from the most distant edge [beyond the submariners memorial], coming back towards the church.
The row in the foreground of my picture is the third row back, and Alfred's grave is the third in from the left with the red flowers leaning on the tomb-stone.        

The plaque is made of bronze and is set into a crude concrete pillar as indeed all the memorial plaques are.

The results of the post mortem are too gruesome to reproduce and are now part of my museum housed in one of my garages - it would have been the more so had Alfred fallen in free space! Here, I will tell you that the boy did not fall from the top of the mast in free space, as one might imagine, and most of his descent [although seemingly at a great pace] was attached in some way or other to either a rope or a wire. He let go of the rope/wire when quite near to the ground but outside the protection of the safety net, and fell the remaining distance to the parade ground beneath.

Two close-ups of Alfred's memorial plate

Alfred [no doubt called Al by his friends] had no parents but he had a brother also serving in the navy.  Despite searches by the navy and the police, his forenames could not be ascertained nor were his whereabouts known; difficult to understand today.

Upon joining the navy had stated that he had no mother or father and gave his guardians home as being Captain Hamilton, National Nautical School, Portishead, Somerset. CLICK HERE to read a few lines about this school

Click to enlarge

The Inquest took place in the Sick Quarters at HMS Ganges on Monday morning the 8th October 1928 at 9.15AM.  The incident was described to the authorities as taking place [date and time] as indicated above, with the medical officer, Surgeon Commander R A O'Flynn R.N., first observing the deceased at 15.25PM in the mortuary in the Sick Quarters. On the following day he carried out a post mortem on the deceased observing that death was caused by multiple injuries and shock. At the time of the incident the 1ST OOD [Officer of the Day] was Lieutenant Commander YOUNG; the 2ND OOD was Lieutenant HILKEN and the OOW [Officer of the Watch] was Signal Bosun [a Warrant Officer], one Mr MANNING. As I have mentioned above, in addition to Alfred HICKMAN, four other boys were either on or in the vicinity of the mast at the time of the fall. They were SBNO [Ships Book Number] 6884, Charles ENDACOTT; SBNO 6345 Sidney BARKER; SBNO 5964 Clifford HULLFORD and SBNO 6345 Charles CLEAVER.  Each boy gave a brief statement on oath, and throughout it was stressed that no skylarking was taking place at the time. No statements were taken from the Duty Officers, but the Captains Secretary gave this short statement
"Sir, I am Reginald William Alexander ASHTON.  I am the  Captains Secretary and have charge of the records of HMS Ganges. I have seen the boy in the mortuary which I believe to be known as Alfred Herbert James HICKMAN, 2nd Class Boy RN. I inspected his service certificate which gave his date of birth 6th August 1912 at Stafford.  He is believed not to have any parents and gave as his guardian when he entered Captain Hamilton National Nautical School, Portishead, Somerset".

These are the boys witness statements:-

ENDACOTT: "I was sitting on the cross jack [cross tree - see sketch above] when I saw Boy HICKMAN trying to pull himself onto the the truck.  I heard a noise and he flew past me. He slid down the mast rope".

BARKER: "I had just passed him when I was coming down.  I asked him are you coming up again and he said I am going to have another go. Previous to this he told me that his hands were sore. I heard a noise of rubbing against the rope and saw him slip past me".

HULLFORD: "I was standing under the figure head. He had one hand on the rope and one on the truck. He let go with the hand on the truck and slid down the rope. He fell on my feet.  He came all the way down holding and let go just above the figure head. He hit the deck feet first and fell sideways on his hip.  His head did not appear to hit the deck very hard".  According to this witness, Alfred fell down the southern side of the mast, i.e., the quarterdeck end.  The figure head was known as the INDIAN PRINCE.

CLEAVER: "I was walking under the net when I saw him slipping down .  He was just below the lower yard.  He hit the ground feet first and then fell over on his side making a loud bump. He made no sound on the way down.  I did not see his head hit the deck.  His knees were bent up".

This death on the Mast led to questions being asked in the House of Commons. This snippet shows the question asked and the answer given.


HANSARD 1803–2005 1920s 1928 November 1928 21 November 1928 Commons Sitting ROYAL NAVY.


HC Deb 21 November 1928 vol 222 c1710 


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if his attention has been called to a recent fatal accident at the Royal Naval training establishment at Shotley, when a boy was killed in attempting to climb the great mast for training purposes; and whether he considers it necessary to retain mast climbing as an essential part of naval training?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The circumstances of the accident were of an exceptional character, and I am considering whether any precautions beyond the very complete system now existing are necessary.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Would the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that necessary training aloft is not cut down for seamen in the Navy, and is he aware that there is far too much infantry drill already for them?


This particular accident was rather a peculiar one. I want to make sure whether or not some further precautions can be taken to avoid such an accident in the future. I am not dealing with the general question until I have investigated the causes of this accident.


In Ganges folk law, there is an entry which suggests than in 1949, a boy fell head first from the mast and landed with his head sticking through the safety net below.  It is said that this took all the skin from off his neck, but were it true, I suggest that his injuries [mainly through compaction where all the organs turn south and rush towards the head] would have been much more severe. I have scoured all the available documentation in the public domain including all the Suffolk newspapers covering Ipswich and Shotley word by word, but there is absolutely no mention of this occurrence. These newspaper are packed full of Ganges stories over the years, even revealing little known facts as in the following example below*. Every event worthy of printing for the education of the Suffolk yokels is published and a fall of this magnitude would have been centre page main headlines, both locally and nationally. Whilst I am not saying that such a fall didn't occur, I am suggesting that it was a relatively small incident [not a head first fall from the top] probably magnified many times over by Ganges boys, requiring that proverbial pinch-of-salt or is it a smally salt mine ?  It is classically expressed as 'cum grano salis' which is Latin.

* Snippet. From Thursday 1200 to Monday 1200 [4 full days] the 12th to 15th of February 1949,  the Captain stopped all boys training involving Number One Gymnasium and its surrounds, and gave the use of it to the local community [Shotley, Shotley Street, Shotley Gate, Erwarton etc etc] for them to stage their pantomime which was Cinderella. It was performed Friday and Saturday evenings, the times either side used to assembly the stage/scenery and to dis-assemble it. The gymnasium was packed on both occasions largely by Suffolk people, topped-up where necessary [bum's on seats and all that] by Ganges training staff and boys. Now, wasn't that a nice gesture ?


The second death, that of Boy Second Class

GORDON LINDSEY JX 839394 on the 8th October 1948 follows. Note that it was almost 20 years to the day after young Hickman met his death !

This is Gordon's Death Certificate GORDON ERNEST LINDSEY DEATH CERTIFICATE.pdf (No need to strain your eyes reading this.  I have decyphered the cause of death and I have printed it below shown in YELLOW highlighter)


8th October 1948

After a great deal of searching/researching I managed to find the details of a Ganges Boy who died in the Ganges swimming pool whilst under instructions.  I found the details in HANSARDS, which records the daily dealings conducted in the British Parliament.  The Edition was November 1948.

Ganges records show the swimming pool death event erroneously, not only pointing to the wrong year, viz 1944, but to a man, a HO, rather than to a 16 year old boy.

This is the brief story of his death from November 1948. 

Swimming Instruction (Boy's Death)

REFERENCE: - HANSARDS HC Deb 24 November 1948 vol 458 cc113-5W


Mr Tiffany

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if, as a result of his inquiries, he can now make any statement to the death of 2nd Class Boy Gordon Lindsey.

Mr. Dugdale

Yes. As Hon. Members will appreciate, it is of the utmost importance that officers and men of the Royal Navy should be able to swim, and the regulations provide that all boys entered in training establishments are to pass the prescribed swimming tests as soon as possible. There are two of these tests:

  1. (a) a provisional test carried out in a swimming bath;

  2. (b) the standard test carried out in the open sea.


In order to pass the boy has to swim 40 yards in a duck suit in deep water, after which he must be able to keep himself afloat by whatever means he chooses for three minutes. No boy is rated "Boy 1st Class" until he has passed both these tests.

Lindsey had joined H.M.S. Ganges five weeks before the end of the Summer term 1948.  Although he had shown some reluctance to undertake swimming instruction, he had been treated sympathetically and had made fair progress though without succeeding in passing his test. He had never shown any resentfulness of instruction or physical nervousness. By 8th October 1948  he was already well able to swim and this needs to be borne in mind in considering the degree of compulsion that was used to get him into the swimming bath. Despite his progress, Lindsey had apparently retained his reluctance to enter the water and on the day of his death he had to be escorted to the baths. On this occasion, as on former occasions, he was sympathetically treated. On the evening of 8th October, Lindsey first entered the water at about ten minutes to six and swam some 60 yards under the supervision of the physical trainer. He then took off the duck suit in which the test has to be performed and came out, being apparently unwilling to complete his test by remaining afloat in the water for three minutes. After ten minutes rest and putting on a dry suit he entered the water again and swam fifteen yards. He then came out and said he was tired.

Later, in the presence of his divisional officer, he tried again, but after swimming some distance he once more refused to stay in the water for the extra three minutes. Before entering the water again he was given an inflatable life-belt, with which he swam from the deep end, until he could touch the bottom. He was then told to swim back to the deep end, and this was to finish the instruction for that day. During this last length he was accompanied in the water by four boys of the life saving class to give him confidence and the physical trainer walked alongside the bath. During this return swim Lindsey was seen to be in difficulty and the four boys brought him to the side in a matter of seconds. It was immediately realised that the boy's condition was serious. Artificial respiration was commenced and the duty medical officer arrived within a few minutes, but I deeply regret to say that Lindsey did not recover.

At the Coroner's inquest a verdict of death by misadventure was recorded and it was found that death was due to syncope as a result of water entering the air passages of the larynx, trachea and bronchi. I understand that this form of drowning is very rare, and that the fact that this boy had a predisposition to it could not have been detected in advance. The Coroner expressed the view that there was no evidence of any ill-treatment but that on the contrary a good deal of trouble seemed to have been taken to teach the boy to swim. After full consideration of all the reports, my noble Friend sees no reason to dissent from this view, but he is inquiring further into the reasons for expecting the boy to pass the swimming test within such a comparatively short time. He has also decided that in exceptional cases of this kind the advice of a psychiatrist is to be obtained and that consideration shall be given to discharge from the Service should circumstances warrant this course


Swimming Instruction (Boy's Death)

 08 December 1948
Mr Edward Evans

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he is now in a position to make a statement on 2nd Class Boy Gordon Lindsey who was drowned during a swimming exercise at Shotley.

Mr J Dugdale

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Tiffany) on 24th November.

Mr Evans

While not wishing to pursue this tragic and unfortunate incident further, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he can give us an assurance that the training of officers and instructors in charge of young boys will be extended further than it is at present and go beyond the mere physical training of these boys?

Mr Dugdale

I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend means by that question. I am satisfied that the officers concerned there are fully trained, and that they did show great restraint and great care in their training of this boy.

Mr Attewell

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what were the methods of keeping afloat taught to the late 2nd Class Boy Gordon Lindsey during his period of instruction.

Mr Dugdale

Lindsey received instructions in breast stroke, swimming on his back, floating on his back, and in treading water.

Captain Marsden

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that there was something wrong in this boy's make-up, so that his original examination for the Navy should have stopped his entering the Service at all?

Mr Dugdale

No, Sir. It really was a most unusual case. It is a quite extraordinary thing that this particular combination of circumstances should have resulted in death. I have been assured by an eminent pathologist that cases such as this are exceedingly rare.

Mr Attewell

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if the parents of the late 2nd Class Boy Gordon Lindsey were present at the inquiry into the circumstances of his death; if the parents were represented at the inquiry: and by whom.

Mr Dugdale

Lindsey's parents were not present or represented at the Naval Board of Inquiry. The circumstances of the boy's death had previously been fully investigated at a coroner's inquest, which the boy's three brothers attended.

Mr Tiffany

Is my hon. Friend aware of the fact that this boy's mother—he has no father—was not present at the inquiry, and that she and I paid a visit to H.M.S. "Ganges" last Friday, and that we were received with every kindness and consideration by the captain, officers and boys? Will my hon. Friend consider the setting up of a commission, or a committee, of Members from all parts of the House to go into this matter in order to remove what is a definite misapprehension in the minds of many of us in relation to this incident?

Mr Dugdale

I do not think there is any need to set up a committee, but I am sure that my noble Friend and I would be only too happy to see any hon. Members who would like to discuss the matter.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

In view of the public anxiety about this case, will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his reply of a few weeks ago, and put a copy of the findings in the Library?

Mr Dugdale

We consider that we have to treat the findings of these inquiries as privileged documents. This consideration does not apply only to this inquiry, but to every inquiry generally. We have to be quite certain that the people giving evidence know that they are giving it in confidence. That consideration concerns not only this inquiry. It is a principle applied generally to inquiries. I think I ought to add that this inquiry was over and above the full public inquiry which took place at the coroner's inquest, at which there was no question whatever of any ill-treatment of the boy. The coroner was entirely satisfied that everything possible was done.

Mr Sydney Silverman

In view of the answer my hon. Friend gave me a week or two ago about this matter of the representation of the parents at the inquiry, will he now say what facilities were afforded to the parents in advance of the inquiry to be represented at it, to attend it, to cross-examine and to call evidence themselves?

Mr Dugdale

I regret to say that the parents were not invited to give evidence, and, as I said in my letter to my hon. Friend, we have laid down that in future relatives will be invited to give evidence on Naval Boards of Inquiry into deaths or accidents whenever it is expected that they will have information of value to contribute. In the past, that has generally been the practice, but we have now laid it down that it must always be the practice in future.

Mr W R Williams

Who is going to decide whether the parents have evidence to contribute?

Mr Dugdale

Quite obviously there are certain cases when they will and certain cases when they will not. If a boy were suddenly killed by a bomb falling on him in a ship, it is probable that the parents could give no evidence of any value; but if it were something, as in this case, connected with his previous life, they would have such evidence.

Mr Attewell

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty what degree of compulsion was used to get into the swimming bath the late 2nd Class Boy Gordon Lindsey.

Mr Dugdale

The only form of compulsion used was to take the boy by the arm to the edge of the bath, when he either climbed down the steps or jumped into the water. This was done only when he was wearing a lifebelt.

Mr Tiffany

Is my hon. Friend aware that on the last occasion when the boy entered the swimming bath it was at his own wish that he did so, and that he himself made a request in order to get the test done with? Does not this in itself show the necessity of hon. Members knowing the full details of this occurrence and thereby removing any injustice to all concerned?

Mr Dugdale

The hon. Member is perfectly correct.

Commander Noble

Will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind that most difficult psychological problems can arise, and will he give an assurance that every care is taken over supervision and especially with regard to medical examination before the tests are carried out?

Mr Dugdale

Yes, Sir.

Mr Somerville Hastings

Can my hon. Friend say whether the whole of the facts of this sad case have been put before some competent psychologist?

Mr Dugdale

Undoubtedly they have.

Mr S Silverman

Does my hon. Friend realise that it is precisely in order to do justice to everyone, and to get all the facts established, that it is so necessary at an inquiry to have everyone represented who has any interest in the matter, and to have all the witnesses called?


This file shows where Gordon Ernest Lindsey' National Archives [GRO] birth details were recorded.  His certificate is kept at Peterborough and his number is 3B 258.  His mothers maiden name was Palmer.

I did try to get the Inquest papers for Gordon Lindsey [and for Raymond Davies below] but, as the following letter shows,  I [or rather researchers of the future were there to be any ?] will have to wait another 14 years [2023] for the Lindsey papers and 10 years [2019] for the Davies papers.  In the letter I have protected my address and the signature of the sender.

Click to enlarge

2nd July 1937

On Friday the 2nd July 1937, Boy Telegraphist Harry DAVENPORT - Ships Book No 7334 {DJX/ 149205} was happily playing cricket when he was struck on the head by a cricket ball.  He died in the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital.  Below is his death certificate.  He was 17½ years of age. He was in 249 class [his class left Ganges in July 1937 for their first sea drafts] residing in Benbow 29 mess with 250 class and he was the Captain [with Ganges Colours] of the Boys 1st XI. This is what was printed in the Shotley Magazine Term ending August 1937.




Two other ratings are recorded as 'drowning' whilst on the books of HMS Ganges and both were in 1944.  They were both Ordinary Seamen, one aged 17 and the other aged 18.

First the older of the two,  Maurice WRIGHT JX 657902.  Maurice was nothing to do with HMS Ganges, in fact he had been a crew member of HMS Hambledon.  He went ashore in Harwich but never returned back to his ship. Early on the 1st June 1944 his body was found floating in the River Stour off Parkeston Quay. There was a post mortem and an inquest [5th June 1944] in Harwich, under the Coroner for North Essex, revealing that the poor man had drowned and that the verdict was misadventure.  There is absolutely no evidence of foul play or excessive alcohol. His body was taken to the Royal Naval Hospital in HMS Ganges where the post mortem took place.  It was repatriated  from Ganges to his parents for burial back to his home town of Sutton-in-Ashfield.  However, and from my many researches not an uncommon occurrence, the dates the navy and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have of his death are incorrect and differed to the details recorded by HMS Ganges. This is his death certificate


 and from it we see that his death was on or before the 1st June 1944.  After the inquest on the 5th June 1944 his body would have been released, the actual burial taking place in the next week or so. On the death certificate his father occupation is shown  firstly as 'a foundry worker' subsequently altered to a 'furnace worker'.

For the younger of the two, I regret to tell you that he was the subject of an Inquest by the Coroner at Ipswich, and is therefore a SECOND victim of known accidental deaths in HMS Ganges' swimming pool.

I have searched and found in the various databases, that seventeen year old Raymond Leslie DAVIES, CJX 678992 died in a manner which also necessitated the good offices of the Coroner; his death was therefore unnatural.  Here is Raymond's death certificate.


Raymond's death occurred under the same sad cause as that for Boy 2nd class Gordon Ernest Lindsey mentioned above. However, by 1944, deaths were so numerous that Parliamentary discussions and newspaper stories addressed the most horrific of these and had little time or space for accidental deaths.

See comments above re his Inquest documents.

I THINK IT NOW APPROPRIATE AND RELEVANT THAT THE GANGES ASSOCIATION AUTHORITIES NOW RE-WRITE THEIR HISTORY PAGE.    The record must show that the PTI Branch were partly responsible for 66⅔% of the deaths defined as MISADVENTURE.

Both deaths occurred during the war and are therefore recorded with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

  Below I show you their CWGC listings.


No Surname Rank Service Number Date Of Death Age Regiment/Service Nationality Grave/Memorial Ref. Cemetery/Memorial Name
1 DAVIES, RAYMOND LESLIE Ordinary Seaman C/JX 678992 24/03/1944 17 Royal Navy United Kingdom Plot 21. Grave 4427. MITCHAM (LONDON ROAD) CEMETERY
Page 1


Initials: R L
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Unit Text: H.M.S. Ganges.
Age: 17
Date of Death: 24/03/1944
Service No: C/JX 678992
Additional information: Son of Lloyd Samuel and Ellen Mary Davies, of Chelsea. Also served as Cadet, 291 Chelsea Sqdn., A.T.C.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot 21. Grave 4427.


In Memory of

C/JX 678992, H.M.S. Ganges., Royal Navy
who died age 17
on 24 March 1944
Son of Lloyd Samuel and Ellen Mary Davies, of Chelsea. Also served as Cadet, 291 Chelsea Sqdn., A.T.C.
Remembered with honour

Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission




No Surname Rank Service Number Date Of Death Age Regiment/Service Nationality Grave/Memorial Ref. Cemetery/Memorial Name
1 WRIGHT, MAURICE Ordinary Seaman C/JX 657902 28/05/1944 18 Royal Navy United Kingdom Sec. A. Grave 11577. SUTTON-IN-ASHFIELD CEMETERY
Page 1


Initials: M
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Unit Text: H.M.S. Ganges
Age: 18
Date of Death: 28/05/1944
Service No: C/JX 657902
Additional information: Son of George William and Edith May Wright of Sutton-in-Ashfield.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. A. Grave 11577.


In Memory of
Ordinary Seaman MAURICE WRIGHT

C/JX 657902, H.M.S. Ganges, Royal Navy
who died age 18
on 28 May 1944
Son of George William and Edith May Wright of Sutton-in-Ashfield.
Remembered with honour

Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission


The final death by misadventure was an electrocution when the man died of shock from the severe burns he received. He died on the 26th March 1919 in RNH Shotley whilst working as a civilian electrician in the HMS Ganges Power Station.  His residence was listed as the Shotley Post Office.  Not long before this event he had served in the Royal Navy and left as WW1 finished as a Petty Officer Telegraphist. As a mark of respect for this ex-serviceman he was given the honour of a naval grave and a naval headstone bearing his naval rank and official number.  He is buried at Shotley in St Mary Churchyard. This is his death certificate.


This is his memorial from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Casualty Details

Name: HILL
Initials: A
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Petty Officer Telegraphist
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Unit Text: H.M.S. "Ganges."
Date of Death: 26/03/1919
Service No: 223042
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: R.N. Plot. 159.

In Memory of
Petty Officer Telegraphist A HILL

223042, H.M.S. "Ganges.", Royal Navy
who died
on 26 March 1919

Remembered with honour

Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

* This large community over a long and protracted period also was touched  by crime, and no aspects of that went unvisited ! It also saw tragic accidents and scandals !

Mark my words, Ganges is well known for its recruit deaths, when well over 95% were due to illness and by comparison, only the tiniest percent margin for deaths on the mast.  Indeed, the swimming pool is the ogre and not the mast for deaths/injuries, but deaths from illness was a TERRIBLE LOSS measured by deaths in EXCESS of 150, bordering on the 200 mark.  For that story see this file GANGES AND SHOTLEY NAVAL BURIAL GROUND