More than a few Portsmouth men served in both the first and second world wars. As Britains premier naval port, its not surprising that Portsmouth became home to many of the men who had long careers in the senior service.
Chief Yeoman of Signals George Pankhurst was one of these men. Born in Fulham in London on 30 October 1886, he was a Barman before enlisting in the Royal Navy on 30 October 1904, at the age of 18 – he had obviously been waiting until he was old enough! His service records tell us that he was 5 foot 2 and a half inches tall, with Brown hair and Brown eyes, and a fresh complexion. By 1919 he had a tattoo of a bird on his right arm.
He initially served onboard ships such as HMS Northampton (training ship), HMS Hercules (ironclad battleship), HMS Revenge (battleship), HMS Barfleur (battleship), HMS Brilliant (cruiser), HMS Dryad (torpedo gunboat), HMS Bonaventure (Submarine depot ship), HMS Imperious (repair ship), HMS Blenheim (destroyer depot ship) and HMS Venus (cruiser). He also spent stints ashore at HMS Victory, the main shore base in Portsmouth.
The beginning of the First World War found George Pankhurst serving as a Leading Signalman on HMS Venus. In April 1916 he joined HMS Nomad (destroyer). On 31 May Nomad was present at the Battle of Jutland, where she was sunk by gunfire from Admiral Hipper’s Battlecruiser Squadron. 72 survivors were rescued by the Germans, including George Pankhurst. He was held as a Prisoner of War until 13 November 1918, when he was repatriated.
He was richly rewarded for his war service. On 17 March 1919 he was awarded the Cross of Military Virtue 2nd Class, a Romanian Decoration. He was then Mentioned in Despatches on 5 October 1919. At some point during his career he was also awarded the British Empire Medal.
After returning home Pankhurst was promoted to Yeoman of Signals and based at HMS Victory in Portsmouth until June 1919. He then served on HMS Dido (depot ship), HMS Greenwich (depot ship), HMS Columbine (base ship) and HMS Centuar (light cruise). In June 1925 Pankhurst was promoted to Chief Yeoman of Signals.
In 1926 he was pensioned ashore. It is unclear what exactly he did between 1926 and 1946, but at the time of his death at the age of 59 on 21 March 1946 he was serving as a Chief Yeoman of Signals at HMS Shrapnel, a shore base or ‘stone frigate’, which was actually none other than the Great Western Hotel in Southampton, near the main train station. He is buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth. At the time of his death he was recorded as living in North End.
George Pankhurst is a fine example of the kind of man who came to Portsmouth with the Royal Navy, and having had a long career afloat and ashore, fighting and being captured at Jutland, also died here in Portsmouth.