Search our records : Robert Woodgate

Surname: Woodgate
Forename(s): Robert
Service Number: WSA 162
Date of Birth: 6th July 1866
Force: Royal Naval Reserve Trawler Section
Civilian Occupation: Fisherman
Parents: George and Anna Maria Woodgate
Home address:

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Robert Woodgate was born in Beer on 6th July 1866, the son of George and Anna Maria Woodgate.  He was therefore 48 in 1914, making him the oldest Beer man known to have served in the First World War. 

In the 1881 census he was recorded as an apprentice smith, working for George Cawley, a blacksmith in Beer, but by the time of the 1891 census he was a fisherman, living in Steynton, near Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, with his wife, Elizabeth.

By August 1914 he was living in Milford Haven, and so seems to have been one of the many Beer men who moved to Wales to follow careers connected with the sea. 

Robert’s RNR record shows him as 5ft 3ins tall, with blue eyes and a fair complexion.  He served as skipper of a number of armed trawlers, beginning with the Koorah of Milford Haven in August 1914.  This was one of around 30 trawlers sent to the Dardanelles for minesweeping work in early 1915, in preparation for the landings at Gallipoli.  On 10th March 1915 the Koorah, skippered by Robert Woodgate, saved the crew of the Grimsby trawler Manx Hero when she was sunk by a Turkish mine while sweeping a minefield in the Dardanelles.

Robert skippered a number of other armed trawlers, including Halcyon and Salome..  He appears to have had a problem with his eyesight in 1916, which led to orders being issued for his discharge from the RNR, but these orders were rescinded in December 1916, and he was reinstated.

Robert also commanded the steam yacht Idaho from late 1916.  This was used as a tug in the latter stages of the war, and also gave its name to a base for Auxiliary Patrol vessels at Milford Haven. He was finally demobilised on 25th January 1920, making him the Beer-born Reservist with the longest period of wartime service.