Gunther, Robert Henry

Robert Henry Gunther was born in Flint on 5th October, 1877 and baptised on 28th October, 1877 in Denbigh, and was the sixth of 16 children to Charles (Karl) Gunther and Mary Ann (Gittins). He was a brother to Private Archibald Gunther.

Robert grew up living at 31, Castle Street and attended St Mary’s Catholic School, where, on Monday 11th February, 1889, the annual tea party and concert was given to the children of the school and prizes were distributed, which consisted of very handsome bound books on travel and other interesting subjects. Attendance prizes were given to Robert Henry and his brother Thomas. The prizes were donated by Mr Sydney Knowles Muspratt and presented by his wife and daughter.

Sometime in the 1890s Robert Henry enlisted in the Merchant Marines as an able-bodied seaman, so he may never have had a civilian occupation.

On census night in 1901 Robert was living at 4, Bell Lane, Poole, Dorset with Alice Eliza Perry who was listed as a servant. They married later that year in Poole, the town of her birth.

They were to have seven children, Robert Walter (1903–?), Isabella Sarah (1905–?), John (1907–?), Alice Esther (1910–?), George William Arthur (1911–?), Elizabeth Grace (1912–?) and Harry (1916–1982).

By 1911 they had set up home at 30, Queen Avenue, Goole, Yorkshire and later moved to 43, Phoenix Street, also in Goole.

Robert probably left the merchant service before WW1 then, when the war began, he joined the Royal Navy. However, nothing is known of his service career from then until his death, whilst serving again with the Mercantile Marines as a Donkeyman (a Rating who tends a donkey boiler, or engine, and assists in the engine-room).

In early November, 1914, Robert forwarded a letter to his mother stating that he was a patient in the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham and had been suffering from very serious injuries, but there was no intimation where he received them. He was at that time serving on His Majesty’s Ship, Brilliant, which was one of the cruisers engaged in bombarding the Germans on the Belgian coast. Brilliant was a light Apollo class cruiser. In 1906 she joined the Newfoundland Fisheries Service and remained on duty in Newfoundland’s waters until 1911.

The Admiralty hired thousands of vessels during the war and used them in various roles. The Steam Ship Greavesash was a privately owned, and was employed as a collier, and may even have been used in that role privately before the war. Coal was required almost everywhere to fuel most of the navy ships and many vessels were employed in this role.

Robert was serving on the Greavesash when, on the 26th February, 1918, 10 miles northeast from Cape Barfleur, France, she was torpedoed without warning by German submarine UB 74. She sunk en route from Le Havre for Barry Roads, which was a stretch of navigable waters that ships used to enter Barry docks. Robert was one of the eight lives lost.

His body was not recovered but he is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial, London, on Panel 8. As far as is known he is not remembered on any other war memorial.

He was awarded the Mercantile Marine Medal, the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Alice Eliza died at St John’s Hospital, Goole, on 2nd December, 1961, and was buried in Hook Road Cemetery, Goole.

Learn more about the other soldiers on the Flint Memorial

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