Wireless Telegraph Operator 1st Class 117WTS, Royal Naval Reserve (H.M. Tug “Char.”).

Drowned on Saturday 16th January 1915, age 32.

Remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial, UK, panel 8.

Former student of Telegraphy.


Charles Wesley Stephens was born in 1883 to Robert and Julia Ann Stephens, of Manchester. As a Telegraphist with the General Post Office in Manchester, and living at 6 Priory Avenue, Higher Broughton, in 1911, he enrolled as an Evening Student on the Telegraphy Honours Course.

On 17th November 1914 a tug called Stanton, was acquired by the Admiralty from the North Eastern Railway. It was put to service as a patrol boat in the English Channel and was renamed as His Majesty’s tug Char. At 1.30 a.m. on Saturday 16th January, during a night of gales, the Char was badly damaged below the waterline when trying to get alongside and examine a Belgian petroleum tank steamer of 2,395 tons called Erivan. The Char began to fill rapidly with water, the crew called out for help, and the tug began to drift away. The Erivan, having also sustained damage putting it in danger of foundering, was unable to help the Char, but sent up rockets to call for assistance. At 2 a.m. the Deal lifeboat was launched in difficult conditions that could have easily washed the men on it overboard. After several hours searching for the Char, the lifeboat waited by the Erivan until daylight broke. When the lifeboat returned to shore it was sent out again to investigate a sighting of a vessel, possibly the Char, stranded on the Goodwin Sands, but when they reached the location there was nothing to be found. The lifeboat returned at 2 p.m. , 12 hours after first setting out. The Char was believed to have sunk with all the crew (18 men), including Charles Wesley Stephens, lost.

Charles has no grave. He left £368 10s. 10d. to Herbert Daniel Stephens, an insurance company clerk, and John James Stephens, a shipper’s clerk.

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