Eric Edward Cheesman

Eric Edward Cheesman

Gillingham, Medway Unitary Authority, Kent, England
Death 11 Jul 1929 (aged 12)
Gillingham, Medway Unitary Authority, Kent, England
Burial Gillingham, Medway Unitary Authority, Kent, England
Plot BE 1356
Memorial ID 47057644 · View Source
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On July 11 1929 the local fire brigade held a fire demonstration during the annual fair. During the afternoon two of the men dressed up as a "bride" and "groom" and went around collecting contributions for the local hospital. In the evening they headed to a 40 foot structure constructed out of wood and canvas. This house was filled with "guests" of the wedding - local firemen, naval cadets and sea scouts. The plan was to light a fire in the house to make it appear that the house was on fire. The "guests" would cry for help and the Gillingham Fire Brigade would "rescue" them. Somehow this fire became real trapping the people in the structure.

All 15 men and boys that participated in this demonstration died including Cadet Eric Edward Cheesman. Eric's sister Molly was in the audience that night and her cries "Eric's burning" was the first indication to the crowd that this fire was for real. Eric was only 12 when he died.

Eric was the son of Edward Cheesman and Elizabeth Florence Jackson. Edward was the brother of William Cheesman my grandfather. Edward and William had three sisters as well, Rose, Matilda and Mary Ellen. Their parents names were William Cheesman, a carpenter and Ellen Hally. They lived in the Brompton area of London. In 1891 the children were orphaned when both their parents died within a short time period. My grandfather was picked up by the Dr. Barnardo Homes in London and in 1894 was sent to Canada. Edward was sent to the St. Mary's orphanage. To my knowledge these children never saw each other again. By 1901 Edward was working aboard the HMS Dasher, registration district being Gillingham. 1911 he is living at 7 Osborne Road in Gillingham with the family of Harold and Annie Duggan. On September 13, 1913 he married Elizabeth Florence Jackson. Eric Edward was born in 1916. His sister Mary, known as Molly, was born in 1923. Edward became ill either shortly before or after the death of Eric. He suffered until his death in 1933. Edward was laid to rest along side of his son Eric in the Woodlands Cemetery.

Elizabeth overwhelmed with the death of Eric and her husband's illness and eventual death relied on the strong support of her family to help her though those dark days. After the death of Eric and Edward, Elizabeth and Molly would continue to live 31 Watling Avenue/Street for a few years. When Molly married Leslie Blomfield in 1946 the family along with Elizabeth would relocate to Kings Lynn. Elizabeth would remaine close to Molly until her death in 1968. Molly and Leslie would have one child, a daughter, Hilary Blomfield. Hilary was born with cerebral pasly but despite her difficulties would become a school teacher. She never married and did not have children. One day in 1985 while teaching at school Hilary was taken suddenly ill. Sadly she passed away the following day. Molly would pass away in 1988. The family never recovered from the deaths of Eric and Edward. Molly showed signs of heartbreak and stress her entire life.

The family has said that in the days following Eric's death flowers were sent from all around the country, in particular lilys. There were so many that the overflow was sent to other members of Elizabeth's family homes. They never ever forgot the smell of those flowers.

I discovered the details of my cousins death which researching my mother's family history. Two incidents in our history prevented us from knowing of any of these events, the first being the fact that Eric's father had been orphaned, therefore separated from his siblings. The second was the fact that my mother had been placed for adoption at the age of two and therefore did not know her biological family. Upon my mother's request I began researching her history and discovered Eric's death in late January 2010.

Sadly I also discovered that this event had been largely forgotten in the very community it had happened. Although etched deeply in the memories of Gillingham's older residents it had been virtually erased from the local history. People in our generation had no idea this had ever happened.

I launched my web site ( early March which was soon followed by an on line petition to the council asking that they renovate these graves and erect a memorial in their memory in the local park where the tragedy happened. The petition received hundreds of supporters and in October of 2010 the council performed major restoration of these graves. Plans are now going ahead and a beautiful memorial is set to be placed in the Gillingham Park in 2011.

I continue to look for descendents of this family and the families of Rose, Matilda and Mary Ann Cheesman. I have extensive background information on the family and documents regarding the death of their parents. These will be made available to the families.

The men and boys who died as a result this tragic fire are:

Scout Reginald Henry Lewis Barrett

Cadet David Stanley Brunning

Cadet Eric Edward Cheesman

Leslie George Neale

Cadet Leonard Charles Searles

Cadet Ivor Douglas Weston Sinden

William Herbert Jack Spinks

Robert Dennis Usher

Scout Leonard Gordon Winn

Fireman Francis Bull Cokayne

Ronald Royal George Mitchell

Fireman Albert Joseph Nicholls

Petty Officer John Thomas Nutton

Fireman Arthur John Tabrett

Frederick Arthur Worrall

More detailed information about this incident can be found at:

Family Members

  • Created by: Lori Oschefski
  • Added: 24 Jan 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial 47057644
  • Lori Oschefski
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Eric Edward Cheesman (Dec 1916–11 Jul 1929), Find a Grave Memorial no. 47057644, citing Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, Medway Unitary Authority, Kent, England ; Maintained by Lori Oschefski (contributor 47220772) .