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British Industrial History

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Francis James Charlton

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Francis James Charlton (1874-1908)

1908 Obituary [1]

Engineer Lieutenant FRANCIS JAMES CHARLTON, R.N., was born at Hexham on 1st August 1874.

His education was received at St. Stanislaus' College, Beaumont, and at St. Benedict's Abbey, Fort August., after which he entered in 1890 the Royal Naval Engineering College at Keyham.

On completing four years' work there, he went through a further course of studies at the Greenwich Naval College, and in 1895 was appointed to H.M.S. "Endymion."

A year later he went to Barrow-in-Furness as one of the assistants to the into Engineer Captain (then Fleet Engineer) R. W. Edwards, of H.M.S. "Powerful," the first of the great water-tube boilered ships at that time under construction.

In 1897 he proceeded in her to China, where she remained till the outbreak of the South African War, when she was ordered to the Cape of Good Hope. Much to his regret, he was not one of those selected for service at the front, so he remained aboard at Simon's Bay during the months of weary waiting for the return of his messmates after the relief of Ladysmith.

He arrived home in the "Powerful" in April 1900, and was shortly afterwards appointed to H.M.S. "Kestrel," torpedo-boat destroyer. From her he went as Senior Engineer to H.M. Battleship " London," for service in the Mediterranean, and after two years he was invalided home in consequence of a severe attack of fever.

On recovering he was appointed to H.M. Yacht "Victoria and Albert," in which he served from 1903 to 1907, when he was transferred to the senior list of Engineer Lieutenants, and was placed in charge of H.M.S. "Amazon," an ocean-going turbine-destroyer then being built at Messrs. Thornyeroft's works at Southampton. In this post he continued till the time of his death.

He was an officer of exceptional ability, as will be gathered from the importance of the ships on which he served. In 1908 he was one of those selected to give evidence before the Admiralty Committee charged with the duty of inquiring into certain matters affecting Engineer Officers and Officers of the Royal Marines. He was greatly interested in motor engines, and recently invented a variable-speed gear applicable to motor vehicles.

His death took place at Portsmouth on 25th July 1908, in his thirty-fourth year, as the result of an accident while riding a motor-bicycle in Portsmouth a week previously.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1903.

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