Thank you to Lenka Cathersides for the following research.
John Edward May was born in the 4th quarter of 1873 in Dorking, Surrey to butler John Keen May and Maria May nee Dowman.
Nevertheless, he stated upon his enlistment into the Royal Marine Light Infantry that he was born on the 9th of October 1875 in Dorking, Surrey.
John Edward´s father John Keen May was born in the 3rd quarter of 1839 in Worle, Somerset to miller Thomas May, born about 1815 in Worle, Somerset, and Jane Parker May nee Keen, born in 1812 in Worle, Somerset.
John Edward´s mother Maria Dowman was born in the 3rd quarter of 1847 in Hayes, Middlesex to master cordwainer John Dowman, born in 1819 in Hayes, Middlesex, and Maria Dowman nee Sage, born about 1819 in Hillingdon, Middlesex. At the time of the 1861 Census, Maria Dowman was a pupil of the Emanuel Hospital School for girls in Westminster. At the time of the 1871 Census, Maria lived with her family at Wood End Green in Hayes, Middlesex. She was stated to be out of employment domestic servant.
John Keen May and Maria Dowman married in the 3rd quarter of 1871 in the Registration District of St George Hannover Square, London.
John Edward May had 5 known blood siblings: Henry Thomas May born in the 4th quarter of 1871 in Hayes, Middlesex; Albert George May born in the 3rd quarter of 1875 in Westcott, Surrey; Olivia Maria May born in the 1st quarter of 1877 in Westcott, Surrey; Agnes Emily May born in the 2nd quarter of 1879 in Privett, Hampshire and Reginald Dennis May born in the 4th quarter of 1880 in Privett, Hampshire.
John Edward May was born in the 4th quarter of 1873 in Dorking, Surrey and was baptised on the 16th of November 1873 at St Martin´s Church in Dorking. At the time of the baptism, the family lived in Falkland Road, Dorking and John Keen was a butler.
At the time of the 1881 Census, the family lived in Privett, Petersfield, Hampshire. Maria was a butler´s wife and was looking after their children: Henry Thomas, John Edward, Albert George, Olivia Maria, Agnes Emily and Reginald Dennis. The household also comprised of Maria´s mother, the widowed Maria Dowman.
John Edward´s mother Maria May died in the 3rd quarter of 1882 in the Registration District of Petersfield, Hampshire.
John Edward´s father, John Keen May re-married Laura Lavington in 1886. Laura Lavington was born about 1863 in Stratfield Saye, Hampshire.
John Edward May had two known half siblings: Ernest Clare May born in the 4th quarter of 1888 in Privett, Hampshire and Winifred Emily May born in the 4th quarter of 1890 in Privett, Hampshire.
At the time of the 1891 Census, the family lived in Market Street, Alton, Petersfield, Hampshire. John Keen was working as a fishmonger and Laura was at home looking after their children: Olivia Maria, Agnes Emily and Reginald Dennis from John Keen´s first marriage and Ernest Clare and Winifred Emily from Laura and John’s marriage.
The 1891 Portsmouth Evening News reads that John Keen May was duped out of a £10 note. Charles Freake Wood, 32, described as an accountant, was indicated for unlawfully obtaining by means of false pretences £10 from John Keen May and sums of £5 from 5 other men, at Southampton, in November and December 1890.
“He engaged a young clerk, and by inserting advertisements in various newspapers, stating that the South of England Licenced Victualler´s Provident Association had several appointments open perpetrated a series of heartless frauds. Mr. May said that he was butler at Basing Park, when he saw an advertisement in one of the Portsmouth evening papers announcing that a manager was wanted for a small hotel. Applicants for the post were directed to write to the Echo office, Southampton, and witness sent a communication, to
which he received a reply from prisoner, who represented himself to be the Secretary of the South of England Licensed Victuallers‘ Provident Association. He went to Southampton, and saw prisoner at 71, High Street. They had some conversation respecting the matter, and witness learned from him that the house referred to in the advertisement was the Fountain Hotel. Witness went to the house with him and had a glass of ale. He expressed the satisfaction at the appereance of the house, but told prisoner that before deciding whether he would accept the post he would consult his wife. On the 27th November Mrs. May accompanied him to Southampton, and, believing that he would be appointed to the situation, paid Wood £10, prisoner telling him that the money was required as a deposit.“ Wood was an expert swindler and former convict. „He belonged to a family of criminals. His father had served two terms of penal servitude and was now on licence. His mother, brother and sister and other members of his family had also been convicted and assited him in carrying out his frauds.“ Wood was sentenced to five years of penal servitude, to be followed by five years of police supervision.
At the time of the 1891 Census, John Edward May was a page boy to Emily Maria Montross and her daughter Frances Fredericka Montross of 15-16 Elvaston Place, Kensington. The household further comprised of eleven other servants.
John Edward´s father John Keen May died in August 1892.
The 1892 Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser reads about an inquest held into the death of John Keen May, a butler employed by Mr H. Courage, of Red House, Leatherhead. Alfred Osborne, Mr Courage’s footman stated: “that on Saturday night, at 11 o´clock, deceased retired to bed in his usual health. He appeared to be very cheerful. Just after 7 o’clock on Sunday morning witness knocked at deceased´s door, but received no answer. He went around to the bedroom window, and on looking in saw the deceased lying on the floor. Another servant got into the room through the window, and found that the deceased was death. Deceased had occasionally complained of being ill and of suffering from pains in his chest. George Sumerfield, gardener, stated that he tried the door of the deceased’s room on Sunday, and finding that it was locked, he climbed through the window. He found the deceased lying on his face, partly dressed. He had apparently fallen down while in the act of putting on his trousers.” The jury returned a verdict of death from natural causes. From a post mortem examination, death was held to be due to a rupture.
John Keen May was buried on the 24th of August 1892 at St Mary´s and St Nicholas´churchyard in Leatherhead. At the time of his death he was residing and working at Red House, Leatherhead.
John Edward May enlisted into the Royal Marine Light Infantry, Chatham Division on the 20th of June 1895.
He was a private with a regimental number: CH8452.
John Edward May married Eliza Halls, by Banns, on the 1st of August 1908 at St Paul´s church, Hoddeston, Hertfordshire.
Eliza Halls was born in the 1st quarter of 1886 in Hoddeston, Hertfodshire to labourer and postman William Halls, born about 1854 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, and Rose Elvina Halls nee Scott, born about 1855 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire. At the time of the 1901 Census, the family lived in Burford Street, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. William Halls was working as a general labourer and postman and Rose was looking after their 7 children, including Eliza. Eliza stated that she was working as a domestic servant.
At the time of the 1911 Census, John Edward May and Eliza May lived at 6 Clifton Road, Shepherd Bush, London. John Edward was working as a cleaner. The couple did not have any children.
John Edward May was killed in action aboard the HMS Hawke, on the 15th of October 1914.
The HMS Hawke was a light cruiser, of 7350 tons, torpedoed by a German submarine off the Aberdeenshire coast in the North Sea on the 15th of October 1914. Captain Hugh P.E.T. Williams was in command of the Hawke.
According to the 1914 Aberdeen Journal the cruiser Theseus was also attacked about the same time, but was missed. “Men from the Hawke declared, that the submarine, after sinking their ship, waited in the expectation that the Theseus would come to the assistance of the Hawke, but acting on the recent Admiralty instruction, the Theseus steamed away for safety.“
“The Hawke was between 50 and 60 miles off Peterhead about 11 o´clock on Thrusday afternoon when the hostile craft, hitherto unobserved, made its appearance. The Hawke was strucked amidships in the starboard side, and terrible explosion occured. At once the warship canted, and began to settle down. The cruiser heeled over more and more on her beam. From one side it was impossible to launch any of the boats or rafts, at the other side it was attended by the upmost danger. Boats were holed and rafts smashed. Finally, in a little over five minutes from the time she was strucked, the Hawke turned turtle and went to the bottom.“
There were about 500 men aboard the Hawke, of these about 70 were saved. A large proportion of the crew of the Hawke were Naval Reservists.
John Edward´s body was never recovered and he is commemorated at the Chatham Naval Memorial on the panel reference 7.
John Edward May of 80 Edward Road, Walthamstow, Essex left to his wife, the widowed Eliza May £105, 13s and 11d in probate.
John Edward May received the British War and Victory medals and the 1914 Star.
Eliza May died in March 1966 in the Registration District of Ware, Hertfordshire. She was 80 years old.
Son of John Keen May and Maria May nee Dowman
Husband of Eliza May (nee Halls)
Regiment H.M.S. Hawke, Royal Marine Light Infantry
Date of Death 15th October 1914
Place of Death At Sea
Cause of Death Killed when H.M.S. Hawke was torpedoed.
Memorial Chatham Naval Memorial