Able Seaman 190103, (RFR/CH/B/6413)
HMS Aboukir, Royal Navy
Died 22nd September 1914, aged 34
Remembered Chatham Naval Memorial
& both Blakeney War Memorials
Robert Balding was born in Blakeney, 13th January 1880 and baptised a month later, 13th February, at the Briston Methodist Church. He was the son of Robert John and Mary Ann Balding nee Folker, who were both born in Blakeney. Robert was the eldest son in a family of 7 children. His siblings, all born in Blakeney, were Maria, Sarah, Esther, Helen, William and James. After his mother died his father married the widow Emma Maria Reeve nee Daplyn of Hindringham. The only child of this second marriage was Maggie Balding.
His father was variously described as a bricklayer (1881) then Shipwright and Boat builder (1891) when living in the High Street. By 1901 the family had moved to Westgate Street but Robert was not with them. At this time his father was listed as a Ship’s Carpenter.
In 1911, Robert aged 32, is living at home with his father, stepmother and Maggie. He is described as a boat builder, worker, presumably employed by his father who is a boat builder working on his own account. The family were tenants of the Pightle, a three roomed cottage owned by H. N. Parker of Cley. Robert Balding senior owned Seaview on the north side of the Morston Road and this was possibly the site of his workshop before the property was sold for development.
There is a record for a Robert Balding, aged 21 in 1901, serving in the Navy as Able Seaman on HMS Pomone, stationed in the East Indies. This suggests that Robert had joined the Navy earlier and as a reservist was recalled to duty at the outbreak of war. Robert was serving on HMS Aboukir when she played a minor role in the Battle of Heligoland Bight before being stationed with her sister ships, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy in the North Sea, patrolling the Broad Fourteens.
On the morning of 22nd September 1914, the three Cressy-class armoured cruisers were sheltering together from bad weather, without the protection of any escorting destroyers, when they were all attacked in succession by the German submarine U-9. HMS Aboukir went down first followed within the hour by HMS Hogue then HMS Cressy. Robert Balding was one of 1,397 enlisted men (527 from HMS Aboukir), along with 62 officers, killed as a direct result of this enemy action; his body was never recovered for burial. In all, just 837 men were rescued from the cruisers.