Who was Fred Hart?

Paul has been busy at the Gloucester Records Office. He has written the following post after discovering lots of records relating to Commander Fred Hart.

Photograph of Charles Wade and Commander Hart (both seated) in the garden at Snowshill Manor

Photograph of Charles Wade and Commander Hart (both seated) in the garden at Snowshill Manor

One of Charles Wade’s best friends was Fred Hart, or to give him his full title Lieutenant Commander Frederick Philip Hart R.N. The volunteers cataloguing Wade’s papers at Gloucester Archives have found more than 100 documents relating to Fred Hart’s naval career. It is not clear how these came into Charles Wade’s possession but their numbers suggest that Fred Hart was also someone who liked to hold onto things. Indeed it is quite unusual to see so many detailed documents on the various stages of a naval seaman’s career.

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Commander Hart's sword is currently on display at Snowshill Manor. The scabbard is inscribed 'PRESENTED TO MR.F.P.HART R.N. BY THE CHIEF and 1ST CLASS P.Os. OF H.M.S.BACCHANTE. AS A TOKEN OF GREAT ESTEEM. MARCH 1908.'

Commander Hart’s sword is currently on display at Snowshill Manor. The scabbard is inscribed ‘PRESENTED TO MR.F.P.HART R.N. BY THE CHIEF and 1ST CLASS P.Os. OF H.M.S.BACCHANTE. AS A TOKEN OF GREAT ESTEEM. MARCH 1908.’

Fred Hart was born in Harlow, Essex in 1879, the younger son of a waiter. His elder brother, William, went on to become a carver of wood and stone, living in Campden, Glocs. Fred joined the Navy in 1896 and progressed to Gunner in 1908. He served on various vessels and was eventually promoted to the rank of Mate in 1915, at the fourth attempt. In 1917 his superior was finally able to persuade the authorities that Fred should be promoted to Lieutenant, particularly because of his service under fire (his captain listed the 40 or so occasions that Fred’s ship was involved in action with the Dover Patrol off the Belgian coast). From the results of his later tests at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, in 1919, Fred was certainly comparable with the other lieutenants in his group when they took their exams.
Fred did not seem to have been treated too well by the “system” – not only was his promotion delayed, apparently on grounds of age, but when he came to request early retirement he found that officers who had come up through the ranks were treated less generously than those who had achieved the same rank after entering as cadets. So, after several discussions with the Admiralty, Fred took half pay and eventually retired from the Navy when he reached 45. The following year he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on the retired list.

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These Naval uniforms are part of the Wade Costume Collection. They are in the care of our Costume Curator

These Naval uniforms are part of the Wade Costume Collection. They are in the care of our Costume Curator

Further documents in the archives show that Fred volunteered to become a special constable during the General Strike in 1926. He was recalled for naval duty in 1939 and served at Devonport until May 1940.

Hart served on the HMS Cochrane during 1908 and the HMS Wildfire between 1899-1906

Hart served on the HMS Cochrane during 1908 and the HMS Wildfire between 1899-1906

Fred and Charles became great friends, often visiting antique shops and local sales together. They would cram their various finds into Fred’s car and drive back to Snowshill. On some occasions Fred would walk the 7 miles from Chipping Campden to Snowshill bringing with him some of his home-made wine. He would spend the afternoon at the Manor before walking home again.

This heavy lead figure of a sailor was one of many items Hart gave to Mr Wade for his collection at Snowshill.

This heavy lead figure of a sailor was one of many items Hart gave to Mr Wade for his collection at Snowshill.

After the National Trust took over Snowshill Manor, Hart was asked to become honorary curator in the interregnum before the permanent curator took up his post. Today at the Manor we still have many of Hart’s items on display including his sword which can be seen in the room known as Admiral. His mess jacket and cap ribbons were also given to Charles Wade and these can be viewed with the costume collection at Berrington Hall.

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