The personal part

Posted on November 5, 2015

After ongoing research from Keith Owen at Aylesham we have uncovered a fascinating story of a local miner in the form of Richard ‘Dick’ Tubman, who was one of the youngest people to fight in the First World War.


Born 23rd November 1898, Richard grew up in Whitehaven, Cumbria. In 1914, at just 15 years old, he enlisted into the Kings Own Border Regiment and went to fight in France. Three days before his 16th birthday, he was wounded and hospitalised – it was only here that the army discovered his real age.

After the war, he returned to Whitehaven and worked in William Pit as a collier and member of the mine rescue team. In 1936, he heard that the Kent collieries were looking for miners, so along with around 35 others he came to Kent looking for work and was taken on at Snowdown Colliery. Many of these miners quickly moved back to Cumbria after finding the Kent mines too hot; Richard stayed however and was allocated a house in Kings Road, Aylesham, where he lived with his wife Elizabeth and their four daughters (Elizabeth, Millie, Margaret and Mary) and son Richard. He helped to train local ATC boys and was a Warrant Officer.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Richard helped to set up the auxiliary Aylesham Fire Brigade, attending fires in Canterbury and the surrounding area during and after air raids. He and Elizabeth had a second son, Desmond, near the end of the war. Richard became secretary of the Local British Legion, helping service men returning home from war with finding new belongings such as clothing and furniture etc. Each year he arranged Remembrance Day Parades for the village and once took part in the Remembrance Service at the Royal Albert Hall, holding the banner for Aylesham. Along with Albert Gillie, who owned a bus company, Richard would arrange village trips to the FA Cup Final and Rugby League Final, as well as very popular mystery Saturday night outings. He was a member of The Grand Order of Buffaloes, reaching the position of Grand Master.

Richard Tubman was awarded the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I coronation medal for his services and for being one of the youngest soldiers to fight in the First World War.

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Richard’s story provides me with a local and personal WW1-related connection I have been hoping to find to help tie together many different interlinking strands of research and activity for my project. It makes me also think further about the significance of my own grandfather’s history and how I might present these personal relationships in the context of my overall research into the local mining heritage.

My thanks go to Desmond Tubman who provided us with the above story. It is one that very few people know about and that deserves much more attention, so I feel very privileged to have this information and hope to bring it to light through my final Joined Up artwork.

See my following blog post for an update on where I am with my artwork for Aylesham…