THE STORY OF HERBERT LOTT© Godfrey Dykes
It is reasonable to assume and I am sure that statistics would prove the case, that of all the prizes given to RN personnel for inventions and improvement to equipment (not to mention prizes for merit in performing ones job), the engineering branches and the operational room branches have bagged the majority. That is not surprising since these branches form the major part of the Royal Navy in personnel numbers and in technical expertise.
There are no books, no pictures, and no official naval websites about this great man (not even a mention), which is not only sad but in many ways an insult to twentieth century naval history.Whilst virtually every sailor has heard of this mans name and his association with the HERBERT LOTT TRUST FUND, few if any, appear to know who he was or how his money started a Fund which still plays a major part in the modus operandi of the Service.
If you have been awarded a prize from this Fund (or you are hoping to do so in the near future), or perhaps out of a need to understand the broader issues of belonging to the Navy, then you might like the following, researched and written by Godfrey Dykes, which tells the story of HERBERT LOTT.
This fund, so well known to many of you (and no doubt that some of you may have benefited from it by your own special merit), was set up by a gift from a man who thought a great deal of the Royal Navy. I wager that the vast majority of us (including myself) know (or might know) of his name but we haven’t a clue as to who he was.
Indeed, I was searching for a subject to write about and had short listed several famous people associated with the navy, amongst them people like – J.G. Lang (a Naval civil servant who signed countless numbers of books and documents used by the navy and over a long period of time. Here is an example that many of you will recognise.
There are no books, no pictures, and no official naval websites about this great man (not even a mention), which is not only sad but in many ways an insult to twentieth century naval history. However that has now been addressed. Another two names on the short list were Fred Quimby who, to submariners of my day, was nearly as important as ‘up spirits’ (if that were possible) in Walt Disney cartoons and Dame Sophia Wintz, yet another unknown person who is part of Naval folk law.
In 2005, the total strength of our Naval Services (RN + RM) is approximately 40,000. Imagine therefore, the year 1928 when 252,763 male sailors slept in the Royal Sailors Rest (RSR) bringing in a total of £30306.
The Royal Sailors Rest was viewed by sailors as being an integral part of the Navy, such was its importance to the men. For several decades it was jointly organised by two women, one of who became famous but the other is not generally known of today. However, unlike Herbert Lottt, there are pages on the internet which mention the second woman by name, and they give a little insight into her association with the famous women. I am talking about Agnes Weston and Sophia Wintz, the former the famous lady. Despite Agnes Weston becoming famous and Sophia Wintz more or less (in historical terms at least) being sidelined as ‘an also ran’, they nevertheless shared three very important historical events. They were both made Dames of the British Empire; both were given full naval ceremonial funerals, and both are buried together in a West Country cemetery. For Guzz ratings (or those in the know about Devonport) the main HMS DRAKE gate is on Saltash Road. If one were to leave the main gate and turn left following Saltash Road a short distance to the main road called Wolseley Road, one would first pass on the right hand side fives streets called Admiralty Street, Fleet Street, Victory Street, Renown Street and Ocean Street (real Navy land). At the junction with Wolseley Road, turn left and cross over the road. Proceed down Erith Avenue, on your right, which leads to Ferndale Road off which, and only a short total distance from HMS DRAKE, is Weston Mill Cemetary where Agnes and Sophia are buried.
Dame Agnes died in 1918, and Dame Sophia stayed at the helm of the RSR until her death in 1929. Royal sailors were profoundly and visibly distressed at both deaths for despite the standards we have today and our indifference to Christian religion, men of the fleet genuinely held them both in great affection. As numbers fell, the RSR Trust which took over on Dame Sophia’s death found it more and more difficult to make the RSR self sufficient and self financing and eventually, the RSR was no more in the major naval port. It survives today in two places only but only on a small scale relative to bygone days, one being at Gosport and the other being at Helensburgh.
Another forgotten name which all Royal Sailors of yesteryear knew well, at least metaphorically was Nancy Lee. It’s almost a certainty that eminent Victorian and Edwardian people like Herbert Lott would have been familiar with the tune, the words, and the usage of the piece in Naval ceremonial. The Royal Navy had two marches in days gone by which every self respecting Royal Marine Bandsman, nay, every military band, could play at the drop of a hat. One, and the best known march, was of course Heart of Oak which was played when the Royal Navy were marching past. The other was played when the Royal Navy was being reviewed in a parade which had other armed service present. When the order was given by the Naval Commander to “Advance in Review Order” , the band struck-up with Nancy Lee. Each separate armed force had its own ‘review order’ march, and of course, every regiment had its own regimental march.
The words were written by a Somerset man, Frederick E Weatherly (1848-1929). He earned his living as a lawyer and also wrote over 50 children’s books. The music came from the pen of a Liverpudlian Stephen Adams (b.1844). He became a well known baritone singer in the last quarter of the 19th century. These are the words:-
From my short list I decided to research Herbert Lott. I was amazed, and subsequently saddened to find no mention of him ANYWHERE on the Internet for, in his own way, he has manifestly contributed to the efficiency of the Royal Navy from as far back as 1906. Additionally, I was quite surprised to learn that the Navy didn't know too much about him either, and the ISBN lists revealed no published written account of him. The Who's Who throughout the 1920/1930 period ignored him and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies (The DNB) does not get anywhere near to a name spelt LOTT - what a sad affair!.
I considered my observation an injustice towards this man, and decided to find out a little bit about him so that came next year, 2005, when we navy people are celebrating the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson's victory and commemorating his death of 200 years ago, we might remember this good man for what he did so many years ago, the results of which are still tangible to this very day, and hopefully with shrewd management, will continue well into the 21st century for sailors of the Royal Navy.
Herbert Lott did what he did for the navy because he was concerned about its lamentable gunnery. I wonder what he must have felt when the logs on Jutland were released for public scrutiny?
Herbert's paternal grandfather Walter Herbert, died in 1856 in Faversham Kent, - death certificate 2A 338
and probably never saw Herbert. He was born in 1794 in the year in which the first of the Napoleonic sea battles took place now well known as The Glorious 1st of June. Although (as yet) I cannot be one hundred percent certain, it looks as though the family went back to Faversham (the home town of George, Herbert's father) after leaving Stepney, and there, in 1871, at the age of 57, his mother, Mary Ann, died. Her death certificate is Record Number 2A 432. If that were the case, then she would have been 42 when she gave birth and her husband would have been nine years her junior: Herbert would have been 15 when his mother died.
Herbert was obviously a clever and hard working young man. However, in those days he would have needed money to pay for a secondary education, Grammar School perhaps, and his father would not have been in a position as a labourer to pay for him. From the time he became a Stockbroker in the last decade of the 19th century, it is probable that his 'life style' might have been commensurate with his finances, and he would have been socially accepted by the City as well as by his august neighbours in Hastings. That event also begs a question about his finances, for I am reliably informed that to be a member of the London Stock Exchange one had to prove ones equity base and thereafter to lodge a sum of money as a guarantee of solvency. It is safe to assume that his parents would have been impoverished, his fathers meager wages being supplemented by his mother taking in washing and doing other domestic chores to help keep a crust on the table, and that the family home was rented or given as part of his wages from the Brewery. Thus, at his fathers death, there would be precious little to inherit. Where did that money come from? For his last seven or eight years on earth, he opted to live the life of a virtual recluse, living in a bedsit as a lodger. He was looked after by two spinster sisters, Miss Edith and Miss Annie Capel. They had much of the house and Herbert Lott had the downstairs front room as his abode. Being looked after for food, laundry, heat and light would have been important of course, but equally as important was having someone near at hand as his health began to fail. At this point in the story, I am talking about the period 1940 to 1947 (when aged 84 to 91), but Herbert Lott had had an association with this same house, probably also as lodger on and off, since as early as 1928, and possibly before that time too.
Herbert Charles LOTT was born in Stepney London in the summer of 1856, a year after the Crimean War finished and just before the first of the Iron Clad's (HMS Warrior - 1860) joined the fleet to international acclaim and envy! The following files are from left to right;
1. The record of July to September 1856 of births with the name LOTT. 2. Herbert's birth certificate. 3. The individual record of George Lott his father. 4. The individual record of Herbert, although he was listed as Charles - a common problem for genealogists.
His father was a Brewers Cellarman and Herbert was an Accountant. At the time of the 1881 British Census he was 25 and still living at home with his widowed father who was 58. His birth certificate is certificate 1C443 in the National Family Records system.
The Warrior had a gunnery outfit which was acclaimed to be the best in the world, and well that might have been, but the gunners never saw action and they were never tested. It was to be forty years later when the navy and its gunnery came to prominence with the Boer War when naval guns were landed ashore to fight the Dutch. After that there was another lull of thirteen years until the Navy were again tested in WW1. On this occasion the navy (and international observers) were divided about the ambiguous results of the Battle of Jutland, but were unequivocal on the resounding victory of the Battle of the Falklands when a major force of German ships were totally destroyed along with thousands of their men including Admiral Von Spee and his two sons. Herbert Charles Lott was an observer and a devotee of gunnery, gunnery per se. By the time he had reached the age of 50 in 1906, he got to wonder why the army were good at gunnery and the navy were clearly not - the army had recently experienced, with mixed fortunes, nearly three years of continuous war in the 1st and 2nd Boer Wars in South Africa and were au fait with all that was required of artillery. Lott decided that he would leave an amount of money in his will, which at his death would go to the navy specifically to fund training which would lead to better naval gunnery. By 1928 he was still alive (aged 72, an old man in those days) and he was said to be surprised by that. Recognising that the navy could do with extra money now, he entered into an agreement with the Admiralty to set up a fund "to encourage efficiency" based upon his firm belief that "on the Navy depends the safety of the Realms." However, I must tell you that for several years before 1928, the Admiralty had managed to find money available to REWARD Efficiency AND Inventions made by those employed in the Royal Dockyards and Inventions only for those serving in the Royal Navy where efficiency was the very root of discipline.
This file, taken from The Warrant Officer Journal of 1928, tells the story on an invention which MIGHT have also been considered for an award from the Naval Efficiency Fund, the original title of the Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund, and if so would have been one of the first to be considered. (Note the pdf file also contains a retype of the original page to make reading easier)
In the following book, OU 5225 (OU = Official Use which was used before BR = Book of Reference) on His Majesty's Dockyards at Home dated 1926 and as amended by many AFO's (Admiralty Fleet Orders), I want to show you two quite separate things. Firstly, because it is relevant to this story in a few paragraphs time, how the Board of Admiralty put their name jointly to OU documents, the first name (W.C. Bridgeman) being the First Lord of the Admiralty, an eminent civilian, following in order by the First Sea Lord, then 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc., as shown in this pdf file, only the first and third being important although page 2 is worth a read.
Then a bit about the dockyard civilian awards made from the public purse, and generally speaking, the bits about Inventions equally apply to R.N. inventors.
The fund donated by Herbert Lott was set up to encourage FIGHTING EFFICIENCY and was loosely defined as..."the Fund should be used to provide awards of money to such personnel of the Royal Navy, Royal Indian Marine, Dominion Navies and Royal Marines as shall show marked efficiency in fighting practices, or, who shall contribute in single degree to the improvement of fighting equipment and appliances of the naval marine forces".
It was felt at that time that to confine awards to competitions would be too restrictive since there had become an increasing dependency on a highly centralised organisation rather than on individual skills. Herbert Lott initially contributed some £20000.00 followed by a further £5000.00 later - an enormous sum of money. The following link will take you to a money calculator which can tell you the value of these sums of money in today's terms: NOTE the reason for the two tables is that DECIMALISATION started in 1971. Here, by the way, is an EXCELLENT example of RPI which dictates our pensions, and AVERAGE EARNINGS (to which we pensioners aspire) and the enormous difference between the two. IT IS A SERIOUS MATTER - look at the figures in this calculation.
Herbert Charles Lott died on the 10th July 1947 aged 91 years in Wallingford near Oxford - however, he was a London man (Stepney) but had lived in Hastings, Sussex and then in Wallingford (at that time in Berkshire and now in Oxfordshire). The records show that he had two homes, his time being spent between Hastings and Wallingford, the former, the place he wrote his last will and the latter, the place where he wrote the first of his letters in 1928 to the First Sea Lord about his idea of a Fund for Efficiency. According to The City of London who keep records on their Stockbrokers, Herbert Lott was admitted to the London Stock Exchange in 1891 and from that time, had a life-long active interest with a continuous membership. We know at least two of his addresses before this time, one from his birth certificate and one from the 1881 census, and all other addresses until his death, from The Corporation of London Guildhall Libraries and of course his death certificate. (Note: I have covered over the first paragraph which deals with a separate subject).
Despite his long association with Wallingford (from at least 1928) he did not change his official address to Wallingford until 1941 at a time when he would have been 85 years of age. From the foregoing data, we can compose a simple and easy to follow record of his residences. Picture one in the file below is Wallingford.
I have already mentioned his birth place in which he lived for his first 25 years. It was at No 14 George Street, Ratcliff, Stepney, London. Virtually the whole area has now disappeared. Picture two in the file below shows Ratcliff and its environs sitting on the north bank of the Thames picture three in the file below is Ratcliff, as part of Tower Hamlets . The brief story of Ratcliff and it's debauched den of iniquities is told here The lost village of Ratcliff. In 1881 he moved to a smarter part of London, to No 2 Apsley Street which no longer exists today. This was followed in 1899/1900 to an address in the City of London @ 3 Copthall Avenue - just off London Wall, quite close to Barings, the hapless merchant bank of the 1990's. From 1910/1911 until 1930/1931 (20 years) he resided in Hastings, East Sussex, at various addresses in Carisle Avenue, a very smart part of town on the sea front, owned by the Monarch as Crown Estate Property, and now a hotel called the Chatsworth. In the early war years, 1940/1941, he moved to the town of Wallingford, then in Berkshire and now in Oxfordshire, another home on the Thames, to 20 St John's Road, where he died on the 10th July 1947 aged 91.
His time in Wallingford in his final retirement was to be short, for he died six years later in 1947 when age 91. He died from three ailments: (1) Exhaustion (2) Cancer of the Bladder (and almost certainly the 'old man's disease' = prostate cancer) and (3) Old Age, and his death certificate is shown here, with a supporting burial certificate as a PDF. As you will read further on, Herbert was cheated out of his burial request, but from this file, he at least was buried in consecrated ground at a time when many were not!
In 1948 the whole of the residue of his estate (after all taxes, other pecuniary gifts and funereal/legal costs) amounted to well over £100,000 (using his will, I calculate that the figure was probably better than £130,000.00) was left to the Naval Trust Fund thus ensuring a substantial sum of money to be available for all time. This was to be used in the furtherance of the objectives he had most at heart during his lifetime, namely efficiency. His WILL is published here as a PDF. All you need to know is integral to the file. To summarise Herbert Lott's will, he left virtually ALL of his money to the Government, half to the Treasury as death duties (£130k for the good of the people) and half to the Admiralty for the HLNTF (£130k for the good of naval people). When you come back (from reading the WILL) there are a couple of amplifying remarks to tell you about Herbert's will.
Note that his WILL was written in 1928, nineteen years before his death in 1947, and at that time he was residing at Chatsworth, Carlisle Parade, Hastings Sussex. He was seventy two years old and considered himself established as a Hastings person even to the point of choosing a burial site, namely in the churchyard at the nearby village of Guestling Green. Not long after his will had been signed, he left Hastings and until 1940/1941, moved between Hastings and Wallingford. He died without making a new will or having the original altered to suit his needs and new geographical base from 1941 onwards. I decided that a research visit to Hastings was necessary to see where Herbert lived and relaxed, and then to see his grave at that time thinking it to be in Guestling, his written choice. According to his will, Herbert Lott lived on the sea front in Hastings and wanted to be buried in a little village nearby. Here are a couple of pictures showing his home area and the approximate site of his requested grave.
Herbert Charles Lott tells us that his address was firstly 8 and then 10 Carlisle Parade. One might read into such a document that these are addresses (8 first then 10) of 'home ownership'. This was not the case. Both these addresses belong to none other than the Crown, yes, to His Majesty King George V. Chatsworth was in fact a Royal Estate, smack bang on the 'smartest' part of the Hastings sea front, and, frequented by the Royals' themselves. This photograph shows the picture of a hotel, the Chatsworth Hotel, which has taken over the terrace where originally the front doors of numbers 7 to 10 Carlisle Parade once hung, turning four grand houses into one large building.
The whole area was owned by the Sovereign, and these holdings stretched along the south coast of England from Dover right through to Portsmouth. Herbert Lott was therefore a tenant, and not an owner. The house-manager of the hotel was very friendly and talked openly about the building. In the 1930's period, each house was individually leased to private persons, but in 1955 one person took all four leases. What follows is a copy of the first page of the Lease from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (1955) to a civilian lessee commoner, one, David Thomas Farmborough, a hotelier of Chatsworth Hotel. He held this lease and that of the adjoining house, number 11, for thirty years, until 1985 when he was able to purchase the properties outright from Crown Estates. Chatsworth Hotel today is owned by Aristel Hotels.
Adjacent to the Chatsworth Hotel of today, are the original symbols of Royal Majesty namely the Lion and the Unicorn, both of which, made of sand stone, have suffered badly over the years from sea front wind, storm and rain.
Just a few miles away from Hastings, down the A259, is the village of Guestling Green. Herbert had expressly stated in his Will that he wanted to be buried in Guestling Sussex, requesting that a suitable grave stone to be erected to his memory. Despite a thorough search of the churchyard no head stone was found bearing his name. However a delightful and helpful gentleman fielded my question about Herbert's grave. He himself, despite his many years in the area had not seen that name, but he knew of a genealogist, an archivist of local history who later was shown to be a county archivist, one Benny Wicking. Benny (a lady) was not present during the visit but was more than willing to field my questions over the telephone. She has promised to give me the information if it is forthcoming - IF he was buried there as requested ? I await her findings. During our telephone conversation, Benny mentioned that the Parish Council of Guestling, in common with many other Councils, had voted to limit burials to those people who were either born in the village, had lived in the village or who had worked in the area for a long period and were considered residents, and that parochial law was enacted during the second world war. That parochial law would have debarred Herbert from been buried in Guestling for he had none of the required qualifications. The research had to move on, and rather than just sit and wait for dear old Benny (who may or may not find the necessary details)(*) and for Donald Pyne (see below), the website of the Oxfordshire town of Wallingford was the next logical step in my search. (*) On the 4th February, the lady I mentioned above, Benny Wiking, contacted me to say that Herbert Lott was definitely not buried in or around the area of Guestling Sussex. However, the village of Fairlight is also in the general parish of Guestling and we both found it interesting that Herbert is now known to be at Wallingford, but in the Fairlight churchyard is a man who at one time was the Rector of Wallingford - strange, isn't it?
Here I learnt that Wallingford had three Churchyards, so I emailed the Vicar of a body which represents all three Anglican Churches, the Reverend David Rice. This is his response . Wallingford Town Council referred me to South Oxfordshire County Council, and their Public Amenities Department.
Eventually a Council Engineer, one Trevor Gwynne, located Herbert Lott's grave.
Although I was grateful, I was angry and bitterly disappointed at the news. Our dear friend Herbert had not only not been buried where he wanted to be, but that his grave was unmarked and lacking the "suitable monument" which he had requested in his will. A poor return for such an eminent benefactor. Herbert is buried in Wallingford Town cemetery in Grave Plot U17. Whilst of course the Royal Navy had no responsibilities towards Herbert Lott for his funeral arrangements (but I hope that the RN were represented at the highest level at his funeral), and his executors, The Midland Bank and their appointed Agents were less than sincere in their final duty towards this old man, I do feel that in the light of this new knowledge, that the dignity denied to Herbert fifty eight long years ago should now be afforded to him, and that as a quid pro quo, monies from the Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund should be used to purchase a suitable and fitting memorial which should reflect his association with the Royal Navy. Moreover, I propose that when the memorial is manufactured and is ready, the Royal Navy should be present at the positioning of the memorial (or at a date subsequent to the positioning if thought more suitable) in our traditional way, with some form of pomp and ceremony using a small number of men and women, RN and RM, perhaps those who have benefited from the Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund. Explicitly I mean Royal Navy and Royal Marine, and not the local RNA; other local naval association groups, or sea cadets, and that the ceremony should be conducted by a RN Padre (assisting if necessary the local cleric) leading a service of remembrance and of re-dedication of his 'lost' and uncared for grave.
I then decided to write to the current owner at 20 St John's Road. I wrote to the 'occupier' of that address on the off chance of learning more about Herbert . Within hours (literally) the occupier (a Mr Donald Noel PYNE, who incidentally was a HO (Hostilities Only) in WW2 serving in the Fleet Air Arm), had telephoned me and has promised to send me details of Herbert Lott's time at that house. Meantime, I asked others for a photograph of Herbert Lott, something I believe none of us has ever seen. The following file shows the responses received to my letters and emails.
At a later date I received both a letter and a telephone call from HMS Excellent, the alma mater of all things naval gunnery, and bearing in mind Herbert Lott's original idea of rewarding efficiency in that skill, one might have expected the Whale Island Museum to have his photograph. Now, since I don't have a picture of Herbert Lott, and I know that he owned a boat (a skiff) which he used regularly on the Thames, I am going to use this silhouette to represent him.
As a matter of interest, it is believed that Herbert Lott formed an association with Wallingford in the late 1920's because boating on the river was all the rage for the 'jet set' and the seriously wealthy. Just down the road is Henley and in every stretch of water and lock there are devotees of high speed rowing boats.
In late February 2005, I paid a visit to Wallingford in Oxfordshire, to see where Herbert Lott lived his last few years and where he died as was buried. The pictures I took with associated comments are presented in the following photographs. In this album I show my proposal for his proposed new tombstone.
This is a still picture of Herbert's grave taken in February 2005.
It is a non-event in that there is literally nothing to see. The grave is just in front of that white letter 'T' you can see by the roots of the Yew tree on the right. On Sunday 20th March 2005 we visited the cemetery for the second time. I was able to search around the vicinity of the grave and found a chunk of white marble which was lying underneath the low branches of a nearby large shrub/small tree. With a suitable tool taken from my car I dug a hole at the head of the grave and placed this piece of stone in it to represent a grave-marker. We (Beryl, my wife and I) also placed a bowl of miniature daffodils on the grave, the first flowers ever perhaps. This picture shows that event.
Other photographs can been seen in the 'photo album shown just above in the preceding paragraph. All graveyards might be considered to be depressing places, but I can assure you that Wallingford's is totally depressing, being basically a field full of graves fifty percent of which are not even marked in any way, thirty percent of which are in a sad state of disrepair marked or not, leaving just twenty percent as decent, marked and cared for burial plots. In the following drawing, I show you AREA 'U' (Herbert's grave is U17) and the movie walks from one side of the area, past and through the other graves in this area, coming to a stop over Herbert's grave with my new head stone and flowers.
Here, at this point, I want to make a special mention of a former winner of an Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund Prize whilst serving in the carrier HMS Eagle. His name is Preston. E. Willson an ex Chief Radio Supervisor. He and his wife Brenda, have visited the grave on a couple of occasions and will continue to do so in the years ahead. On their last visit just before Christmas 2005 they laid a wreath and left a card. The following photographs show some aspects of that event, with Preston, or, and as you would expect with a surname of Willson, Tugg, kneeling at the grave side. I am grateful for their interest in this subject for their efforts and expense in helping to tend the grave. Thanks Tugg and Brenda. Their subsequent visits to Wallingford will not be recorded here.
FRIDAY 7th APRIL 2006. We had been staying with ex-RN friends near Hungerford, when, en-route home, my wife and I decided to visit Herbert's grave. It was a rainy (heavy showers) and cold day and our original intention was to lay flowers for Easter, but on arrival at the grave side it was clear that Tugg's wreath was still in excellent condition (I removed the waterlogged card) and that the daffodils we put there on our second visit (a year ago - see above), despite a very cold winter, were about to open. Hence, no new flowers were required. However, what caught our eyes was the new memorial stone which clearly had been laid very recently, perhaps a matter of a week or so ago. We have to thank the Royal Navy and specifically the Trustees of the Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund for making the provision for the memorial, which, nearly sixty years after his death in 1947, at long last adds some dignity to his last resting place, though in truth and notwithstanding this gracious gesture by the Trustees, it remains a pathetic, sad and forlorn site.
One's first reaction at seeing the memorial stone is that the stone is too small and one assumes not too expensive, but the Trustees intentions are that an additional memorial plaque will be placed inside St Barbara's Church in HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth, and this will be considered to be the site of official recognition of Herbert Lott's beneficial gifts of money to the Royal Navy. Thus, overall, the Trustees will have made a generous provision to say thank you to a man whose name is very much part of R.N., folklore.
If you visit the grave (and I encourage you to do so especially if you have benefited from the HLNTF whose capital he provided) I would ask you to go armed with a pair of scissors or a comparable cutting tool for the reason which follows. The stone, grey in colour and lettered with well thought out words, is approximately 12 inches by 12 inches and by an unseen but I guess a slender thickness in the order 2-4 inches, has been placed in the hole left by the removal of a piece of turf (15 inches by 15 inches) making its upper surface almost level with the surrounding grass. Regrettably, the stone is semi-porous and absorbs a certain amount of surface water turning the stone/engraved words black. When we arrived at the site the stone was almost unreadable, but after twenty minutes or so and no more showers, just a few black spots remained which are visible on the following photographs. Moreover, by placing the stone in the horizontal position and at grass level means that unless the grave is tended regularly (and I very much doubt whether the South Oxfordshire County Council will do that), the stone will very soon be partly or wholly hidden from view by the all invasive grass. The dew from the grass and the drip from the branches of the tree almost immediately above the stone will increase the actions of things like moss. Time will tell, but if you do visit, please spend a couple of minutes with your scissors! Thank you.
Notice the discarded piece of masonry I had used as a grave marker in the second from top picture, and the water staining on the bottom of the top picture.
I said above that I would not mention the visits to Wallingford made by Tugg and Brenda Willson, but what I didn't tell you is that Brenda's sister lives nearby. Hence, those visits are domestic although at every opportunity they pay their respects to Herbert's grave. Yesterday, Friday the 28th April 2006, Tugg and Brenda visited the offices of Howard Chadwick Funeral Services, a Wallingford company charged by Commander Stephen Carter Royal Navy, the Secretary of the Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund, with the manufacture and placement of a suitable memorial stone on the grave. In conversation, Tugg was told by a lady in the offices of the aforementioned company that she had been advised to pay a visit to the grave site to see the 'poor' quality job the stonemasons had made of placing the memorial stone. She was quite shocked that it had not been completed to the plans and the brochure issued by the Howard Chadwick Company. Her complaint brought about the re-positioning of the memorial stone this time sat upon a suitable base as shown in the photographs above. The memorial stone has been lifted out of the earth (as shown above in the cameo dated 7th April 2006) and placed upon a supporting stone, rendering it to be a much more suitable and dignified solution (not to mention a more practical solution bearing in mind the upkeep of the site in the years ahead).
This is the grave as at Friday 28th April 2006.
I didn't expect to find anybody in Hastings who would have known him, so I did not look. In Wallingford there are a couple of people who remember him well and a couple who remember him in passing. One such person who remembers the time well but not the person, is Mrs Marjorie Constable, the 90'odd year old widow of Fred Constable who is shown in column 7 of the death certificate as the informant: the actual person present at Herbert Lott's death. Regrettably, despite, I am told, being energetically lucid, she refuses to discuss Mr Lott (**). However, George Wright now 83, whose 31 year old married brother Thomas, a Leading Seaman, died in the sinking of HMS Hood, was more forthcoming about his memories. George wasn't the only one who told me that Mr Lott was a loner, rarely speaking to anybody unless he had to. His memories were pre and post WW2, back to his childhood in the early 1930's when aged approximately 10 years old onwards. Evidently, Herbert Lott was of normal height and built, clean shaven, not bald or balding. He wore smart clothes, sometimes a white suit and straw boater. His demeanour suggested that he was not a happy man given towards being mean and grumpy, and although there was rumour that he "had money" he never flaunted his wealth. Even at and after his death, his wealth was not apparent to the locals who knew him and the environment of St John's Road Wallingford.
(**) - Not to be put off too easily, I wrote to Marjorie Constable. This is her 'sweet' reply and what beautiful handwriting for a lday turned 90.
Meeting Donald Pyne, the owner of 20 St John's Road since 1949 (two years after Herbert's death) opened the door to give me access to several of his friends. Dennis Gomm, a R.N., national serviceman in 1949 and now aged 74, worked at the Wallingford Boat House from 1945 until call-up. He remembers Mr Lott as being a 'strange' man, unwilling to speak to anybody unless they were in charge, even to the point of leaving 'empty handed' (cutting of his own nose to spite his face) rather than stooping to speak with/to those lower down the chain of management (***). Dennis tells me that Mr Lott had one indulgence namely his boat (a skiff) which he had had specially made for him and which was kept in the Boat House under the watchful eye of the Boat House Keeper, who, by the time Dennis arrived in 1945, had celebrated being at the Boat House for over 50 years. Mr Lott would come, often unannounced, to the Boat House, seek out the Keeper who would supervise his boat being put into the River Thames. Despite his elderly years, 88/89, he would then row up the section known as Benson Lock for about a mile where he would stop and read his books. On his arrival back at the Boat House, often running over the fishing lines cast from the banks of the river (some say on purpose) his skiff would be taken out of the water, cleaned and dried, and placed back into its special position undercover. He never thanked those dealing with his boating needs, and walked the short distance back to St John's Road. After Mr Lott's death, the skiff lay idle for some time until Dennis made an offer which was accepted. He kept the skiff for approximately ten years and then donated it to Abingdon Sea Cadets.
(***) - It is conceivable that during Herbert Lott's conversations with the Keeper of the Boat House, the subject of young Dennis Gomm's call-up into the Royal Navy, might have been mentioned. Upon hearing that, and given Mr Lott's now well established role as the Benefactor of the Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund (to encourage efficiency in the Service), one would think that he would have had a word of encouragement for the man who cleaned and polished his boat. That he didn't, (assuming the subject was mentioned) helps to cement the notion of his aloofness.
Herbert Lott's financial affairs were dealt with in London by his Solicitor Kerly, Sons and Karuth of 7 & 8 Great Winchester Street (just around the corner to the London Stock Exchange). In 1995 they were recorded as practicing from Austin Friars, just across the road from Great Winchester Street, but today (2005) they are not listed, either having ceased trading or having merged with another firm of Solicitors. They acted for the Executor(s) of the Will, namely the Midland Bank. The London 'lot' clearly succeeded in keeping their 'cards close to their chests', because it wasn't until I came on the scene at the end of 2004, that the people "involved" with Herbert Lott were aware of his wealth and its disposal. Today (now into 2005) some of them are amazed, especially now they know that the Estate Duty alone and interest paid on Estate Duty amounted to pennies short of £130,000-00, or in old money £130,000-0-0. To most of us that is serious money today let along 58 years ago, and now as always, a payment we all consider to be state robbery from the grave. I have contacted The Law Society, to see whether there is an archive of papers dating back some 60 years ago, which are available for research.
At present, things do not look good, and with the old Midland Bank long gone too, we may never get to the bottom of why the will was not executed properly. Almost to the day, one month later, the law society answered my correspondence on the 10th May 2005. Here, in their email, you can see that Herbert Lott's solicitors amalgamated in 1969 and now practice in Brentwood Essex. I contacted them by telephone, but predictably, all the records from 1947 had long been destroyed.
There is a strong suspicion in my mind, from what has been said in Wallingford, that one of two courses were taken in disposing of the old man. Firstly, that the solicitor, wanting to keep the will from "prying" local (Wallingford) eyes, tasked the inhabitants of 20 St John's Road to make the local arrangements for the funeral for which they, the Solicitor paid the Undertaker direct for a simple burial, no one in Wallingford knowing the requirement of the will and therefore innocently not knowing of the tombstone request. Moreover, the London 'lot' didn't even bother coming to Wallingford: for what reason when they looked after his financial matters and not his welfare? Since Herbert Lott lived in one small room at 20 St John's Road Wallingford, his chattels, furniture and personal belongings would have been of no interest to the Executor or the Executors Agent, and these were probably taken by the Capel sisters as perks. Then the other theory, that the Solicitor did, as the will asked, defrayed the cost of the tombstone from the Estate, and since only the London Solicitor (who never bothered to visit Wallingford) and the Undertaker knew this, the Undertaker pocketed the money full well knowing that he (or she) would never be found out.
As you will see, Herbert Lott had first requested total anonymity not wishing to have his name overtly connected to the Fund, but subsequently, he agreed that the Fund should be called after him. Thus, in those early years it is reasonable that his photograph was not taken and not published. However, upon agreeing to his name being directly associated with the Fund, it is again reasonable that his photograph would be taken and published across 'naval media', but for some inexplicable reason it wasn't. In some ways this is an insult to this kind and generous man, manifest in that the Admiralty Board appears to have been willing to take his money but not to record his personal details and photograph for all posterity. Surely, his name should be up with the likes of the philanthropist Dame Agnes Weston (for example) and sponsor's like Wilkinson, famous for "the sword" (for example). Additionally, I would have thought that an OBE or a CBE or even a Knighthood would have been in order, but apparently not. Why, I wonder?
Under the 30 year release rule, the government has now released papers to the National Archives relating to matters concerning the Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund to the mid 1970's. I have visited their web site where I downloaded a couple of pages of interest which I have incorporated into a PDF. ADM files are of course Admiralty files.
I decided to purchase part of the original 1928/1930 Fund set-up document and in the following PDF file I have published the first twenty five pages of the first of many Board of Admiralty Packs on the subject. By doing this, I feel that there is sufficient data to whet your appetites and to give you a good understanding of what went on and to see first hand the original letters of Herbert Lott and the then First Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles E Madden Bt., GCB GCVO KCMG DCL(Oxon) LL.D. This is the famous Admiral during the first world war, the only picture I could find, dated 1917.
The following file is of interest because it tells of the Gun Carriage used for Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Madden's funeral
Admiral Madden is mentioned on my page "One hundred years of Admirals" 100 years of Admirals.
Before reading/downloading the file "Herbert Lott Naval Trust Fund - Institution" I recommend that you read and if necesary print this file which will help you to enjoy the pdf file.
The First Lord of the Admiralty was, from 1924 until 1929 W.C. Bridgeman Esq and from 1929 A.V. Alexander Esq both of whom had dealings with the setting up of the Herbert Lott Trust Fund.
As practiced there WERE two types of award made:-
a. By Commanders-in-Chief for competitions or practices to individual ships or units. Captains have discretion to expend the sum of money awarded as thought best for their ships company or to such part of it as was specially concerned.
b. By a special committee at Admiralty (MOD(N)) level to individuals recommended by Commanders-in-Chief on the submission of their commanding officers, who have contributed in signal degree to new or improved practices contributing to an increase in fighting efficiency.
However, as the Navy changes, so too must its administration and that affects every area of the Service equally. The following text comes from a web site. To keep up to date on the Awards go to the RN Official website and in the SEARCH FOR Box, key in Herbert Lott Awards.
Many seasoned readers will know that Herbert Lott means prizes - prizes for being top dogs in training, for doing your business very efficiently or for inventing something of use to the Naval Service. Whether you are an established or new reader, you will wish to know of changes that are being made to the way that the Herbert Lott Funds are managed.
The Herbert Lott Trust Fund was created in 1930. It was originally one big pot of money from which prizes could be awarded, irrespective of where someone was serving within the wider Naval Service. In the 1980s, when the Top Level Budget Holder structure was set up, the one Herbert Lott pot was split into six separate funds: one for CINCNavHome, one for MDG(N), one for the Fleet Air Arm, one for the RM, one for CINCFLEET and one to cover inventions. These separate funds were each established as independent charities with their own investments and trustees. That arrangement worked well enough for many years, but, as the Naval Service began to reshape itself and as parts of it went 'purple', it became clear that the arrangements were not reaching all those they were intended to reach. It also became obvious that there was no flexibility to transfer the wealth of one fund to another if circumstances warranted it.
2SL/CNH therefore ordered a review to be undertaken. That review has now been completed and the Admiralty Board has approved its recommendations. The major outcome has been, with Charity Commission agreement, the recreation of the one Herbert Lott Charity with a single prize pot. The advantages of this arrangement are that the new Board of Trustees will be able better to oversee the invested funds to ensure future growth while maintaining sufficient income to pay for prizes. With a single pot of money for investment, economies of scale can be applied to ensure that fund management and administration charges are minimised and that a coherent investment strategy can be maintained. The Board will also be able to apportion the prize fund annually to ensure an equitable distribution on a per capita basis across the whole Naval population, which under the existing regime has not been possible, to the disadvantage of some units and groups of Naval personnel.
This will remove the inequalities that currently exist where the different Charities award different levels of prizes for the same amount of effort. However, the important difference between the old 6 individual pots and the new big pot is that the Board of Trustees will be able to monitor the payments from the Prize Fund throughout the year and flex funds between the apportioned elements when required. The philosophy behind these changes is, of course, to make the arrangements more dynamic and beneficial to the Naval and RM communities. The new single Prize Fund will support three specific award schemes, namely:
• an efficiency award scheme for nominees serving afloat, ashore, overseas, in a tri-Service agency or in MOD appointments, to be known as the Efficiency Award Scheme. • a single scheme for the award of top students of courses and examinations, no matter whether nominees work afloat, ashore, overseas, in a tri-Service agency or in MOD appointments, to be known as the Training Course Prize Scheme - Prizes are not given to the top students of all courses – because of the diversity and complexity of different courses. Therefore Commanding officers are delegated an annual sum of money and encouraged to nominate only the most deserving top RN & RM students within their establishment. • a suggestions and inventions award scheme similar to that currently in existence.
The Admiralty Board has also agreed that the position of Hon Treasurer of the single fund, and Secretary to the Board of Trustees will be filled by the RN Charities Officer (who goes by the snappy title of FLEET SPT-P-SO1N1RNCH1!). He will undertake the day-to-day award management of the Training Course Prize Scheme and the Efficiency Award Scheme and manage the day-to-day administration of the Invention Reward Scheme but in this case, the scrutiny of nominations will be undertaken by ACOS(E) to CINCFLEET and his staff. Full details of the changes to the Herbert Lott scheme will be promulgated by DCI. If readers have any questions about these changes they should contact the RN Charities Officer, Commander Stephen Carter in the New Fleet HQ, Leach Building, Desk 4023. Summer 2004.
Despite the excellence of this RN website, I decided to go further and to ask the Navy direct for further information. I have made a PDF of their information which follows:
As a recent update to this file, the officer dealing with my request was Bill Churchill but he has now retired and has returned to his native City of Belfast to live. His boss, Commander Stephen Carter has taken over my case. After a meeting of the HLNTF Trustees, Commander Carter sent me this email H.L From Commander Carter. Commander Carter and I will be meeting in early September 2005 for further discussions.
Now it is time to tell you about some of the types of awards actually made to men and women in the Fleet which will give you a good idea of how the prize money is spent. Please click on the following link.
So that is the story of Herbert Charles Lott. If you know of anybody who has been awarded a prize from the HLNTF then please tell them to read this page. Unlike so many of us in the past, he or she will at least know about the man whose money they are about to spend.
Best regards. Yours aye.
Good sailing to you all.
P.S. Thank you for taking the trouble to read this page. Please remember the time and effort that has gone into producing it, not to mention the personal costs involved. If you use any of the data please attribute it back to the rightful owner.
POST SCRIPT 24th May 2018
Sadly, in March 2018 my dear friend Preston Willson (mentioned and shown above in the story) passed away aged 81. He with his wife Brenda, they occasionally visited Wallingford Cemetery (visiting the area to see relatives) and whilst there tended Herbert's grave leaving a floral display to brighten up a sad and depressing burial site. Before that (date not known), Donald Pyne, the owner of the house in which Herbert died and also mentioned in the main story and still a resident of Wallingford, visited the grave and performed a maintenance task; a wonderful gesture. With these two men now gone, the grave is not visited and as such, the grave is not tended!
Enter one Ken Sutton, a fellow ex-Warrant Officer Telegraphist R.N., and now the webmaster of the site http://www.commsmuseum.co.uk/, who, having visited my page, decided to break his journey up country to call in on Wallingford, a prosperous little town in Oxfordshire. He commented that he was "shocked" at the overall state of the cemetery, and the deplorable state of Herbert's pathetic final resting place, and was much distressed on his first visit. Mark my words, one could be in a typical inner city Dickensian cemetery, such is its state of disrepair and its unkempt appearance. This is Ken at the grave on a very wet day
and this is the sight he first saw upon arrival, surely enough to bring a tear to one's eye?
With limited tools to hand, he cleared the area around the tiny tomb stone, which as you can see had part fallen into top soil on the left hand side bringing it level with the ground. Immediately behind the grave is a typical graveyard bush/tree of the Yew type, and Ken thinks that it literally sucks all the moisture out of the ground in and around its root formation, the cause of this subsidence. This picture is taken after the maintenance had been completed.
and this picture shows the flowers laid as a mark of respect by Ken and his wife, both of whom I understand were in a sombre mood after the visit, and understandably so!
The tilt to the left hasn't, nor could be corrected, even though Ken attempted it. At least after their visit, for which we whole heartedly thank Mr and Mrs Sutton, the grave, humble and pathetic though it is at the best of times, was clean, fully readable and free of all debris and flora. It would be nice to think that former recipients of the Herbert Lott prize who have visited this page, might do similar things like Ken and his wife did, and it is possible that some of these people (and other RN or ex RN personnel not themselves in receipt of prize from this source) live in the environs of Wallingford and therefore might visit more frequently than the majority of us can. Thank you.