Orford Museum, Suffolk

Coastguard Cottages, Orford c 1900Coastguard Cottages, Orford c 1900, where the Sporton family lived whilst in Orford.
(OrfMus Ref: 2012.27.65)

 

George Sporton, who was serving on HMS Cressy, was lost at sea on September 22nd 1914 when the Cressy was sunk by the German submarine U9 whilst patrolling in the Broad Fourteens of the North Sea. He was the first Orford man to die in the war. He left a widow, pregnant with his son, and a 5 year-old daughter, Mary. Sporton, aged 31, a Naval Reservist working at the Orford Coastguard Station, was recalled to service a few days before the declaration of War.

More than 80 years later his daughter recalled the sum of £1-16s-6d (£1.83) as her mother's weekly income later in the war. This would equate to £152.80 measured against the RPI for 2014. However her memory might have erred on the generous side and perhaps included the resourceful Mrs Sporton's wages as an Admiralty clerk after they moved to London.

Rated as a Leading Seaman Sporton was probably treated as an NCO Class I whose widow could claim a pension of 18 shillings and 9 pence weekly plus 5 shillings for the first and 4 shillings and tuppence for the second child. On this scale she would have received £1-8-2d after the birth of her second child, equating to £117.90 a week today.

The widow of an ordinary private soldier with no children received 13s-9d (£57.61) scarcely a “living-wage” in modern terms. But that was not wholly out of line with an agricultural labourer's average earnings in 1914, typically 16s-9d. No doubt the Minister of Pensions calculated there would be one less mouth to feed, although accommodation might be a problem if a tied cottage had been lost.

 

 

(Refs: Letter from Mrs Mary Jones (nee Sporton); Great War Forum website; Imperial War Museum Enquiry Service; SRO extract from Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury; Website re. Agricultural Labour wage rates; Website Measuring Worth; The Purchasing Power of the British Pound 1270 to 2014.)

Those left behind –
widows' pensions and allowances

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