He was born Alfred Bunter on 11th June, 1869 at 4, Admiralty Street, East Stonehouse, Devon and was the illegitimate son of Robert Bunter and Sarah Jane Hill.
Fred’s father married Emma Hill in 1861 at Yeovil, Somerset. Emma had an illegitimate daughter named Sarah Jane. Robert and Emma had three children named John (1862-?), Samuel (1865-?) and Edith (1875-?).
Robert had an affair with his step-daughter Sarah Jane which resulted in the birth of Alfred who eventually became known as Frederick.
Fred joined the Royal Navy on 27th June 1890 at Devonport and served on many ships. His service record stated he was 5ft 5ins, had light brown hair, light blue eyes and a fair complexion. His character was described as “Very Good” throughout his career.
Fred married Margaret Ellen Davies on 23rd January, 1904 at the Register Office, Liverpool. She was a daughter of Joseph Davies of Halkyn, who was a stoker in a lead mine. In the 1911 census they were living at 61, Belgrave Road, Mutley, Plymouth. On 27th July 1912 he was discharged with a pension and they moved to live at 12, Chester Street, Flint. On 2nd August 1914 he was recalled for service and served on HMS Nottingham. Margaret meanwhile left Flint to reside near the Crown Inn, Halkyn.
On 19th August 1916 Town class, Birmingham type, Light Cruiser HMS Nottingham (Built Pembroke Dockyard, laid down June 1912, completed April 1914) was 120 miles South East of the Firth of Forth in thick fog when at 06:00 she was struck by two torpedoes from the German submarine U52 and then another 25 minutes later. She subsequently sank at 07:10 with the loss of few of the 401 lives aboard. She was also involved in: The Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914; The Battle of Dogger Bank on 24th January 1915 and the Battle of Jutland on 31st May – 1st June 1916. The following is the official report of the sinking by the ship’s captain Charles B Miller.
The Rear-Admiral Commanding,
2nd Light Cruiser Squadron
26th August 1916
I regret to have to report the loss of H.M.S. “Nottingham” under the following circumstances:-
About 6 a.m. G.M.T. on Saturday the 19th August, H.M.S. “Nottingham” was spread in Light Cruiser line diagram No. 6 G F.O. with H.M.S. “Dublin” 4 cables astern, her approximate position being about 80 miles to the Eastward of Coquet Island, course 181o, speed 18.5 knots, Zigzagging. The sea was 3 with tops of the waves breaking lightly and wind N.N.E., force 3.
She was struck by two torpedoes, fired from a submarine, on her port side, the first bursting between 28 and 40 station, the second, within a very few seconds, abreast No. 2 boiler room. The submarine was not seen. The ship settled down considerably and water appeared in the central passage above No. 2 boiler room. However by closing the necessary doors and shoring up No. 40 bulkhead the damage was localised and the ship retained her buoyancy. The explosion had damaged the steam pipes and thereby stopped the engines; it had also carried away both topgallant mast heads and rendered the wireless aerial useless. “Dublin” was communicated with by semaphore as soon as possible, the searchlights being out of action, and the emergency W/T. set was resorted to report to S.O. B.C.F. All boats and rafts were prepared and those of the ships company not required for the guns were fallen in. About 6.25 a periscope was sighted on port side and fired at, but a torpedo was observed to be approaching the ship which struck her abreast No. 1 boiler room on port side. The ship then began to settle down by the head, taking a slight list to port, and although the guns continued to fire on the periscope whenever opportunity offered, and some shots fell very close to it, I do not think the submarine was damaged. By about 6.45 the forecastle was under water and the sea washing across the deck abaft the foremast. All Officers and men were ordered to leave the ship, and all confidential books and papers destroyed.
All boats and rafts were fully manned, the side being accommodated therein, and extempore floats provided for the remainder of the Officers and men from empty cordite cases, paraffin tins, spars, etc. The ship was slowly drifting astern clear of the people in the water.
At 7 a.m. all Officers and men having left the ship and there being every likelihood of her sinking at any moment, I proceeded to leave her. About 10 minutes later she heeled heavily to port, then lifted her propellers out of the water and rapidly sank by the head.
The Officers and ship’s company were rescued by the T.B.D’s. “Penn” and “Oracle” assisted by a cutter sent from H.M.S. “Dublin.”
While employed in picking up the survivors several torpedoes were fired from one, or more, submarines, at H.M.S. “Penn” which were evaded by the exercise of considerable skill and coolness on the part of her Commanding Officer.
The Officers and ship’s company were taken into the River Tyne.
All the Officers were saved, but I regret to report that two Petty Officers died from exposure after having been rescued and one private of Marines sustained a fracture of the skull caused by the first explosion, and was sent to hospital on arrival in the Tyne in a dangerous condition. There are 38 ratings missing.
The Officers and ship’s company were sent to Devonport A.M. on the 20th August by special train and I reported the circumstances in person to Their Lordships, accompanied by Acting Paymaster Teasdale-Buckell who brought the ship’s ledger.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
Charles B. Miller
Fred drowned, his body recovered and buried in Tynemouth (Preston) Cemetery, Northumberland, England.
Margaret died on the 22nd February 1956 at 15, Sidney Road, Saughull, the home of her sister and brother-in-law Mr and Mrs Burgess. She was a native of Halkyn and went to Chester in 1930. At Halkyn she lived at Holly Cottage and was a member of the Parish Church. She had been in poor health for twelve months. During the Second World War Mrs Bunter was employed at the Upton Hospital. She was buried with her father in Halkyn Churchyard.