Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Great grandfathers sea chest comes home to HMS Warrior

10 March 2017
A Naval sea chest belonging to a former Royal Navy Officer has been donated by his Great Granddaughter to HMS Warrior where he served as the Ships Paymaster.

Lieutenant Commander Caroline Saunders of the Royal Naval Reserve Air Branch and is a Met forecaster at RNAS Yeovilton decided to offer the Victorian tin chest  to the ships after a bit of family research revealed that her Great, Great Grandfather had served with Warrior from September 1880 to August 1881.

“The old tin Sea Chest has been in the family for years,” said Caroline.

“Originally it was thought to be my grandfathers but when I inherited it I had a closer look and noticed there was a Brass plate with the initials ‘WF Woods’. (William Fredrick) My grandfather was R (Richard) Woods, WF was his father.”

Caroline’s research has found that WF Woods’ was among the first of the Paymasters to receive a commission, around 1860

Thankfully, many years before, a cousin had done a significant chunk of research into WF Woods’ Naval career as part of the background to his father’s memoirs (John Woods, Richard’s brother and Caroline’s great-uncle).

Caroline has a copy of his memoirs and vaguely remembered reading that ‘WF’ had served in HMS Warrior.

“On checking I found that yes, although only briefly, W F Woods had been the Paymaster in HMS Warrior between  1880 and 1881; and I wondered if I might have found a home for the tin chest, a better home than sitting getting rustier in my loft. 

“So I contacted the ship, gave them a brief outline of what I knew and would they like it.” 

HMS Warrior, who is embarking on a project to refurbish some of the crew living quarters were delighted and a genuine sea chest, especially one which had actually belonged to an actual member of the ship’s company, would make an interesting exhibit.

Caroline’s research has found that WF Woods’ was among the first of the Paymasters to receive a commission, around 1860 prior to that they were part of the group in limbo between the lower deck and the Wardroom which included Doctors and other Masters. (Warrant Officers) 

After that he spent many years at sea, at least five years on the China Station alone. 

Caroline continued, “His worst experience occurred in Nova Scotia where he was in an accident which left him with a broken pelvis, which necessitated several months on an unheated water-bed through the Canadian winter. 

“But he did well and ended up as Paymaster in Chief Fleet in charge of Chatham dockyard, which is where he was when my grandfather was very young, but retired on half-pay in the early 1900s and moved the family to Lucerne, in Switzerland.”  

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.