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Henry Percival SingletonChemist
Full name of worker at H.M. Factory Gretna (and any other names they are known by) : Henry Percival Singleton
Date and place of birth: 4th December 1895, Camperdown, New S Wales
Date and Place of Death: Date not known/ Australia
Childhood : Brisbane
Parents: George Singleton and Maud(e) Evans Slade
Parents occupations : Stone Mason
Schools / universities attended and years of attendance: University of Queensland – must have been immediately pre war
Occupation: Analytical Chemist
Place of residence at Gretna: Not known
Marital status: Married to Annie O’Connor In Stockton , England
Children : Trevor James George Singleton
Maurice Edgar Singleton
Russell Percival Singleton
Travels : Only during war to England for Munitions work
Trivia / any other information:
Books published (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Books written about the individual or mentioning the individual (Title, year of publication, publisher):
Mentioned twice in :-
Roy M. MacLeod (1989) The ‘Arsenal’ in the strand: Australian chemists and the British munitions effort 1916–1919, Annals of Science,
Blogs about the individual:
Websites about the individual:
Further links, notes, and comments:
Henry Percival Singleton
Henry Percival Singleton was born on 4th December 1895 to George 1857-1904 and Maud(e) Evans Nee Slade 1860-1926. The Anglican Parish Registers indicate that Henry was baptized on 26th January 1896 at St Stephen’s Church in the County of Cumberland, That his father was a stonemason and that they lived at 82 Missenden Road, Camperdown, New S Wales. His parents had married in the same church on 17th April 1892.
Henry was the 7th of 8 children born to George and Maud although only 5 survived beyond infancy.
Emily Pearl born 1884, the birth and death of a child in 1887 ( public member’s tree ), Coral May born 1888, 3rd July 1891 the baptism according to the Anglican Registers , of twin boys George Cyril and James Leslie who sadly died on 11th July and 20th July respectively. Thomas Edgar was born in 1892, Henry Percival in December 1895 and youngest sister Rita Maude on 6th August 1899 just 5 years before the death of his father in Queensland at the age of 47 leaving Maud a widow aged 44 with a large family to support. Australian electoral registers record Maud up to 1922 , performing Domestic duties and in 1906 and 1912 having Emily and Coral living with her and working as dressmaker and milliner. By 1914, only Thomas is listed as residing with her and he is described as a salesman.
According to the 1841 UK census, mother Maud’s father – Henry’s maternal grandfather hailed from Lambeth, Brixton, London being born in 1835. At 15 , the 1851 census lists him as a council labourer his father being a jobbing gardener. Clearly working class. A public members tree shows him in New South Wales in 1857, marrying there.
No information seems to be available regarding Henry Percival between his Baptism and the time of WW1. We know that Henry Percival has some connection with Queensland University through World War one project undertaken in recent years and through research can probably say that he studied Chemistry there graduating immediately prior to the outbreak of war and the subsequent involvement as described below of Australian Chemists in munitions work. We know that Henry worked at H.M. Factory Gretna , as his address is listed in the Dornock Farewell Magazine published at the end of the war. Interestingly, the address of 212 Chapeltown Road, Leeds seems to be a red herring. Having followed it through with an expert, Rachel Unsworth of Leeds Walking Tours who lives in the vicinity all I have discovered is that it was a lodging house and on a main tram route in Chapel Allerton. It could possibly have been the lodging house of his future bride.
“In July 1916, Leighton cabled Melbourne that Explosives Supply could use twelve more chemists, and in August the Ministry asked him for a further sixty. Following interviews in the capital cities, the first group of thirty-nine sailed on the Euripides from Melbourne on 11 September 1916, followed by thirty-three others on seven other troop ships by 25 October. In May 1917, a further thirty arrived. They were paid s p.a. (rather less than a junior science teacher) by the Ministry, with return fares guaranteed by the Commonwealth. They lacked the subsistence and family allowances given to ordinary factory workers; some brought their wives, some their children, but all at their own expense. On arriving in England, they were distributed by Leighton through eleven of the Ministry’s twenty factories and to private firms whose works had been co-opted by the Government. 75 Queensferry took at least twenty-two; and Gretna, twenty-eight. At its height, the Gretna works employed 59 chemists and their assistants.” Roy M. MacLeod (1989) The ‘Arsenal’ in the strand: Australian chemists and the British munitions effort 1916–1919, Annals of Science,
It is highly likely that Henry sailed aboard “SS Ajana” . http://www.flotilla-australia.com describes it as on “ 18th January 1917of convoy 28 departed Sydney with one AIF Officer and 17 Munitions workers. Photographs of SS Ajana are held by collections.anmm.gov.au
This number tallies with the number of chemists who were repatriated on SS Devanha after the war.
Again from the same journal, “In April 1918, when the Ministry’s Trench Warfare Supply Department was axed because of its failure to meet production targets for poison gas, Quinan took over, and moved his operations to a new green field site at Avonmouth. There, MaUoch was joined by Robert Boyle, sugar chemist of Queensland, H. H. Longbottom, ex-Public Analyst of Western Australia, Richard Quigley, a teacher from Sydney Technical College, Henry Singleton, pharmaceutical chemist from Brisbane—altogether comprising eleven of the thirty chemists working there. By the end of June, thanks to this infusion of effort, 3.5 tons of mustard gas had been produced, at the cost of great effort and many injuries”
Henry is obviously a prominent and promising young chemist , now aged just 23, singled out by Quinan himself. Henry’s time at H M Factory Gretna was probably from early 1917 to April 1918.
In January 1919, he married Annie O’Connor , in Stockton-on Tees, Durham. Presumably having left Avonmouth in the south of England to travel north. There are many unanswered questions. How had he met Annie?, Had she worked at H M Gretna? Was it she who lodged at 212 Chapeltown Road , Leeds? Did she live there because she had transferred to H M Factory Barnbow , Leeds.
Annie was born in Stockton in 1898 based on her age on the 1901 census. She was aged 3, living at 28 Hill Street West, Stockton near the docks , with step father Bernard Crilley an iron worker hailing from Derry , Ireland, mum Annie aged 35 born in London, John 10, James 8, Catherine 7, Mary 4 and Annie the youngest at 3. There was also a boarder listed as living with them from Ireland.
10 years later in 1911 there is now a Margaret, 9, Daniel 8, and Joseph 5 . Annie would have been 13, mum Annie is now 46 and the last 3 children have Crilley as a surname. 9 children had been born with 8 surviving. The census indicated that they lived in 5 rooms at 20 Bowers Street, Stockton and that Bernard still worked at the iron works.
Sadly Joseph suffered from Consumption as a child and missed months of schooling according to the registration documents for the school. He is listed as l living at home in 1939 in the 1939 register and died at the age of 57 in 1959. The other siblings all went into manual jobs related to the iron and chemical works in the area ( census information ) No record is available relating to Annie’s birth father but her mother was already remarried in 1901 when Annie was just 3. Mary also died prematurely aged just 15 according to death registers of the time.
Again several u answered questions arise. What brought Annie the mother from London to Stockton? Who was Annie junior’s father? What happened to him? What type of work brought Bernard the step father from Derry . And last but not least – How did she meet Henry Percival Singleton, a young Chemist working at H M Factory Gretna between 1917 and 1918.
Having married Annie in January 1919, the ships Passenger list for SS Devanha shows them being repatriated on this P & O ship originating its journey in Liverpool but they boarded in Devonport ( possibly because Henry had most recently been working at Avonmouth on the development of mustard gas. The listing is for 17 chemists and their families. He vis shown as being destined for Sydney. Henry was 23 and Annie 21 when they set sail on 9th May 1919.
“in 1919, Devanha repatriated Australian troops, and in 1920, one of her lifeboats which has been used during the Gallipoli Campaign, was presented to the Australian National War Memorial in Canberra”. SS Devanha | Military Wiki | Fandom (wikia.org)
The passage took 6 weeks to 22nd June ( Ship’s disembarkation list).
Again from the journal quoted earlier “Others found that the Australian government stopped short of paying their return voyage home, when they reached the nearest port of disembarkation in Australia, leaving North Queenslanders like Henry Singleton and rural Victorians and New South Welshmen to find the cost of their own last, lengthy journeys by land.”
This must have been a totally miserable journey from start to finish for Annie who was probably about 14 weeks pregnant when she embarked and almost 5 months pregnant when she eventually arrived at her new home. We know from the Australian birth index that Trever James George Singleton as born on 6th November 1919.
We know from local electoral registers that in 1922 right through to 1959 they lived in Sherwood/Moreton, Queensland and that Henry pursued his career as ana Analytical Chemist as that information is included in the register.
Annie produced a second son, Maurice Edgar in 1922 and a third Russell Percival in 1924. It seems that Annie continued to be a housewife according to subsequent electoral registers.
Russell Percival joined the RAAF ( Royal Australian Air Force) as a young pilot during WW2 and found himself stationed at RAF Pocklington near York with 102 Squadron ( Ceylon) ?????
Tragically on 12th June 1944 his plane crashed into a hillside in France killing all on board. Various sources including findagrave.com
Autheuil Communal Cemetery
Autheuil, Departement d’Eure-et-Loir, Centre, France
PLOT Coll. grave 1-6
426696 Royal Australian Air Force, 102 (RAF) Squadron
At 2204 hours on the night of 11 June 1944 Halifax MZ651 took off from Pocklington detailed to bomb communications at Massy-Palaiseau, France. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it failed to return to base. A Missing Research and Enquiry team later reported “the aircraft crashed in flames on a hillside near Autheuil approximately 8 miles north east of Everaux, Eure, France. All the crew members were killed.” Inscription
HIS DUTY NOBLY DONE. ALWAYS IN OUR HEARTS
Personal inscription on headstone is TOO DEARLY LOVED TO BE FORGOTTEN
This site shows entries relating to the headstones of all crew members. The history of Pocklington airfield describes this mission in this section alongside others that did not return.
Trevor James George joined the RAAF as an NCO listing in Victoria.
Unfortunately we do not know when Henry died but there is an Annie Singleton living in Darling Downs Queensland in 1977 according to the Electoral register for that year. Henry is not listed so possibly pre deceased her.