James Philip Alfred Bremridge was born about or on 30th September 1893. He was the first child of Henry Bremridge, the vicar of Winkleigh and his wife Dora who had come from a family in Cheshire near Manchester. Unfortunately, Dora died with the birth of her second child Godfrey, who is also on the Roll of Honour, in 1895. Thus neither of the sons had any real memory of their mother. Henry did not re-marry until nearly six years later to Charlotte May Roby Godwin who was half Henry’s age at the time. The Bremridge family was relatively wealthy so the two boys most probably had the best of care as their uncle, aunt and their daughter had come to stay in Winkleigh to look after them, but they still lacked a true mother. In Winkleigh, the vicar had a splendid vicarage set in its own grounds together with Glebe which consisted of 8.5 acres of farmland which provided additional income. It was normal for boys of such families to join the church or enter the forces.
James entered Royal Navy training establishments 5 May 1906 and passed out in 15 January 1911 with the comment that he was very zealous with the ablity to command. It was also noted that he was a boxer. He was immediately promoted to midshipman and transfered to HMS Temeraire for training to be an officer; the 1911 census records him on HMS Temeraire at Portland. The Temeraire was a new battleship similar to the Dreadnought but with internal improvements including heavier secondary armament and was now with the Home Fleet.
On 2 September 1912, James was transferred to HMS Blanche for a month, then returning to the Temeraire. The Blanche was a scout cruiser designed to operate with destroyers but was not really fast enough. Back on the Temeraire James continued his training and took his examinations, being promoted to Acting Sub Lieutenant on 15 May 1913. On 6 February 1914, James was assigned to HMS Chatham in the Mediterranean where she participated in the pursuit of the German ships Goeben and Breslau. HMS Chatham was a light cruiser launched on 9 November 1911, with a speed of 25.5 knots and main armament of eight 6in guns and a compliment of around 435. In March, James was promoted to Sub Lieutenant. Later that year she was sent to the Red Sea, and in September was sent together with HMS Dartmouth and HMS Weymouth to find and destroy the SMS Königsberg, which had been sinking British merchant ships off the coast of Somalia. By the time the British ships arrived in the vicinity, the Königsberg had again taken refuge up the river Ragifi because of serious engine failure; a common problem with this class of ships which were being recalled to Germany for replacement. When the Chatham arrived off the coast at the end of September, it was discovered that lookout positions had been established, but the location of the Königsberg was soon discovered. With the Königsberg was the collier Somali which the Chatham destroyed on 1st November when the Königsberg moved further upstream. The British did not had detailed maps of the river so were not inclined to follow with their larger vessels, so decided to block the river by sinking the their collier Newbridge (see photo below). At dawn on the 11th November, the Newbridge had been discovered by the German shore defences who started to fire at it. With the Newbridge was the armed steamer Duplex to rescue the crew, a steam picket ship armed with two 14 inch torpedoes to sink Newbridge if her scuttling charges failed and three cutters armed with machine guns and rifles as escort. One of these cutters came from the Chatham and was under the command of James. While still under fire the Newbridge was sunk and the cutters rescued the sailors. As a result of his actions, James was mentioned in despatches with the following: “was in Steam Cutter and his coolness in charge of it whilst Newbridge was being abandoned, contributed to keep down casualties”.
Attempts to find and bomb the Königsberg by air continued until the following March, despite many mishaps. As the Königsberg had now moved further upstream, she was out of range of larger ships so it was decided to use shallow water gunboats and so the monitors Severn and Mersey were towed from Malta. Their attack did not start until July and after several poor starts eventually damaged the Königsberg so severely that the captain decided to abandon ship and scuttle her.
In May 1915 HMS Chatham returned to the Mediterranean to operate in the Dardanelles to support the allied landings at Gallipoli. She oversaw the landings at Suvla Bay, where she was the flagship of Rear-Admiral John de Robeck who commanded the landing fleet. When HMS Chatham returned to England at the start of 1916, James was promoted to Lieutenant and was soon assigned to HMS Undaunted. At the end of his time on HMS Chatham his ability was described as above average, zealous and hardworking with good conduct under fire in Gallipoli and very good in charge of men. He had also carried out duties of Intelligence Officer with zeal and ability. James continued to get excellent reports throughout his time in the Navy
HMS Undaunted was a light cruiser commissioned in 1914, having a top speed of 28.5 knots carrying two 6in and six 4in guns as main armament with a compliment of 318. In 1917 she was appointed as leader of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla of the Harwich Force. James remained with the Undaunted until January 1918. After leaving the Undaunted, James went to the R N college at Greenwich to study and qualify in Gunnery for which he had applied and eventually progressed to Gunnery School Staff. Meanwhile, he was awarded a Masters Certificate for foreign-going ships.
In August 1921 James was granted 5 months leave on half pay so he could go to India with the view of marriage. However, he returned for duty in December. James eventually married Mary Eleanor Isabel Laurence in early 1922 and they had a son, James Philip Henry, about a year later. James continued to get excellent reports and it was noted that he was an excellent motorist and a good tennis player, liking most sports. He was described as short and of slight build but strong. With such a promising future career in the Navy it is with sadness that in September 1926, while serving in Malta as a Lieutenant Commander (G), he was taken ill and admitted to hospital where he died on the 21st of encephalitis. His wife remarried two years later to Col. Norman Bruce Ramsay. James’ son James also joined the navy during World War 2, but died 10 December 1941 in Singapore two days after his ship HMS Repulse was sunk.
25 March 2013