Hugh Norton TATE was the youngest son of George Ralph TATE, a British army surgeon, and Sophia (née WAY), a farmer’s daughter. He was born in Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England on 12 February 1870. His older brother was George Temple TATE (born in 1867 – known by our family as ‘Grandpa Tate’); and his older sister was Mabel Barbara TATE (born in 1868).
Hugh’s father died in 1874 when Hugh was only four. His mother died in 1889 when he was 19. His maternal aunt, Charlotte WAY, had a significant role in his upbringing.
Hugh Norton was educated at Lord Weymouth Grammar School, Warminster, Wiltshire; and from the age of 14 trained in Liverpool as a merchant seaman, qualifying as an ‘extra master’ in 1895. In about 1897 Hugh joined the Marine Transport Department (colonial service) and worked as a captain of steamships on Lake Nyasa (now called Lake Malawi) in East Africa.
He married Maud Elizabeth SCRUBY (a nurse) in the early 1900s and their son Hugh Dawson TATE was born in England in 1913. In 1914 he was still working in Nyasaland when World War I broke out. He was involved in some of the earliest naval action in the war, helping to ferry troops and attack German positions on Lake Nyasa.
In late 1914 / early 1915 he was invalided out of service in Nyasaland and returned to England. There, it seems, the British Admiralty tried to enlist him for duties with the Royal Navy (but he had resigned from the Royal Naval Reserve in 1908). On 28 August 1915, still unwell from neurasthenia (‘shell shock’), he committed suicide under a train on the Great Eastern Railway line at Clacton-on-Sea. His son was only two years old at the time.
After his death he was mentioned in despatches for his contribution to the war, and received three war medals as a civilian (which was quite unusual).
Click here to see a more detailed family history of Hugh Norton Tate (pdf 1.1 MB).