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Rev Captain Cuthbert Helsham Heath-Caldwell RN, DSC 


Born: 7 November1889 and died 7 November 1979.
Son of: Maj Gen Frederick Crofton Heath-Caldwell (1858-1945) and Constance Mary Helsham Heath-Caldwell (nee Helsham-Jones, 1869-1957).
Brother of:
1. 2nd Lt Martin Frederick Heath-Caldwell
Cuthbert married: Violet Charlotte Mary Palmer (1885-1971), daughter of Joseph Mansergh Palmer (1850-1924) and  Georgina Berlinda Palmer (nee Hartford, 1846-1940), 5 May 1919.
Cuthbert and Violet had issue:
1. Patricia Constance Mary Heath-Caldwell (1920-2005).
2. Diana Heath-Caldwell (8 Oct 1921 to 10 Oct 2015) who married John Chalton.
3. Rosamond Attwood (nee Heath-Caldwell, 1925-1982) who married John Attwood (1922-2023).
4. James Alexander Heath-Caldwell (1930-2023) who married Dora Ann Jones (born 1935).  James and Dora had three children, Hilary, Jeremy James and Michael.

We know about Cuthbert form the following sources:
1. Records of the Heath Family (see below).
2. Cuthbert's diary during his time in the Gulf 1911 to 1914.
3. Cuthbert's letters.
4. Mention in the book.  The Navy in Mesopotamia, by Conrad Cato, published 1918.
5. Mention in the book Tigris Gunboats, by Wilfrid Nunn, published 1932.
6. Mention in the book The Sailor's War, by Peter Liddle, published 1985.

The following account is from the book 'Records of the Heath Family' Vol 1 and Vol 2.

Cuthbert Helsham, born at Aldershot, Nov. 7th, 1889, educated at Winton House, Winchester, passed 11th as naval cadet, and two years later passed out of the Britannia 6th.  He entered the Royal Navey 3 October 1905 and went as midshipman to the Australian station for two years in the Flagship H.M.S. Powerful, then in the Home Fleet, until going to Greenwich for the usual Sub-Lieut. course: there he passed out well, obtaining four firsts and two seconds; after this he was for a short time second in command of a destroyer in the Home Fleet, then for 18 months in H.M.S.Triumph in the Mediterranean, and was promoted to Lieutenant in May, 1910.  After a few months in HMS Formidable, Home Fleet, he was given the command of an armed launch in the Persian Gulf, for the suppression of gun-running.

June 1913 to August 1914.  In command of armed launch Miner in Persian Gulf.  Two days after declaration of war, I left Muscat for Bombay.  On September 26th, 1914, joined HMS Dalhousie (a converted RIM ship), as 1st Lieutenant Commander EM Palmer in command.  Dalhousie was thirty years old, and could neither fight nor run away.  She was employed in the Gulf and Shatt-al-Arab.  November 3rd, joined HMS Ocean at the bar of Shatt-al-Arab.  November 7th, recommissioned Miner for river service, and was present at the capture of Basra and Kurna, then reputed site of the Garden of Eden.  In the advance to Amara we struck a few miles north of Ezra's Tomb.

The Senior Naval Officer up to and including the capture of Kurna, was Captain Hayes Sadler, succeeded later by Captain Wilfred Nunn, one of the very best, and a born leader.  After taking part in various minor activities, I commanded, later on, stern wheeler Masoudi, during General Gorrings operations leading to the capture of Nasiriyeh in July, 1915.



After a trip to Ceylon in HMS Espiegle, returned to Miner, arriving three days too late to take part in Townshend's advance to Ctesiphon and subsequent retreat to Kut.  Was employed in the lower reaches of Shatt-al-Arab, which was a delightful life, with plenty of duck and snipe shooting.  In January 1916, commissioned HMS Grayfly, shallow draught river gunboat, and arrived at the front shortly after the Sheikh Saad operations, which caused such a scandel.

In December, 1915, was awarded DSC.

In Grayfly was employed on lines of communication, involving an occasional exchange of shots with Arab irregulars, with now and then a week or two at the front, carrying out long range bombardments of Turkish trenches at Orah and Falahiyah.

When the Tigris was successfully bridged in the spring of 1917, Grayfly was recalled to Basra, and so missed the subsequent advance.  On the way up the river, our propeller got lost, and ten days passed before we could get another one up and fit it.  Entered Baghdad a week after the occupation, and was subsequently in action near Sindyah, proceeding as far north as Barura, about 70 miles above Baghdad.  Also visited Bakuba on the Diala river.  I left Mesopotamia in June, 1917, and had then days in Kashmir, was relieved in July, 1917, and after a months leave in England, joined Bulldog (in command) for service with 2nd flotilla (convoy duties in Atlantic).

In January, 1918, was transferred to Martial, employed on the same service.  In March I joined Peyton for service in the 14th Destroyer Flotilla, for service in the Grand Fleet.

Shortly after the Armistice, I joined Trojan in the same flotilla, and in February, 1919, joined Scimitar; all the above being destroyers.

I volunteered for China whilst in Trojan, and exchanged to Scimitar, as she was announced for an early start.

In October, 1919, I was married in Armagh Cathedral, to Violet, daughter of Surgeon JM Palmer of Armagh and sister of my former CO in Dalhousie.  I am now looking for a quiet job "on the beach".


Shortly after his marriage Cuthbert bought a house (Woodcroft, 45 Southampton Rd, Fareham in Hampshire) from Mrs Marjorie Stewart, wife of Maj Noel Trew Fitzpatrick RE.  The purchase was completed 27 Sept 1920 and the price was £700.  This was used as the family home through the 1920s but in the 1930s it was rented out until it was sold, 2 May 1937, to Ellen Kate Molloy for £900.

The note in the book 'Records of the Heath Family' was published in 1920 and so does not cover the rest of Cuthbert's life.  The following gives an overview of his later Naval appointments and later life:

HMS Hecla

Destroyer Depot Ship


15 Jun 1920

HMS Fishgard

Mechanical Training Establishment


3 Sept 1920

HMS Thistle



25 July 1922

HMS Excellent

Anti-Gas School Portsmouth


5 Sept 1924

HMS Foxglove



1 Oct 1926

HMS Fisgard

Mechanical Training Establishment


17 Dec 1929

HMS Constance



31 Mar 1932

HMS Tamar

Receiving Ship Hong Kong


1 Nov 1932

HMS Cardiff & Vesper

Reserve Destroyers


10 Nov 1934

Placed on Retired List



7 Nov 1935

After retiring from the Royal Navy, Cuthbert spent two years in Hong Kong where he met a Church Minster by the name of Bains who subsequently encouraged him to join the ministry.  Cuthbert returned to the UK probably around 1937 and became a Vicar for the parish of Brixton Deverall near Warminster.  He carried out pastoral duties for a number of years and then retired in the mid 1940s and bought a thatched cottage in Cattistock, Dorset, 'The Pound House'.  His father had died in 1945 at the ancestoral home of Linley Wood in Staffordshire.  Cuthbert's mother Constance continued to live at Linley Wood for a few years but in 1949 at the age of 80 she decided that she could no longer keep the house going.  The Linley Wood estate, together with the mansion house and the majority of its contents, was sold and Constance moved down and took up residence at 'Cattistock Lodge' in Cattistock, close to her son.  Constance died in 1957.  Cuthbert continued to live a relatively reclusive life in his thatched cottage until he passed away one night in his sleep in 1979 on the eve of his 90th birthday.  His unmarried daughter, Patricia, continued to live at the Pound House until she died in 2005.


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(Cuthbert Helsham Heath-Caldwell family letters) 
(Cuthbert Helsham Heath-Caldwell diary)