Ordinary Seaman Gilbert Harold Halstead was one of the 745 men and 51 officers who lost their lives when the battleship HMS Bulwark exploded at 7:50am on 26th November 1914 while anchored near Sheerness. Although sabotage or enemy action was initially suspected, a naval court of enquiry found that the explosion was caused either by a fault in one of the shells stored in a corridor or by the overheating of cordite that had been placed adjacent to a boiler room bulkhead. A list of the casualties was published in the Birmingham Daily Mail on 3rd December 1914.
Gilbert Halstead was born in Solihull on 10th February 1896, the only son amongst the five children of Harold William Halstead and his wife Evangeline (née Thompson). At the time of the 1911 census, the family was living at 14 Richmond Road, Olton, and 15-year-old Gilbert was working as a gun fittings hardener at a small arms factory, whilst his father was listed as Managing Director of a motor company. Ten years earlier, in 1901, when Gilbert was five, the family was living at Warwick Road, Olton and Gilbert’s father was listed as a carriage maker. Previous censuses show Harold as a wheelwright and apprentice carpenter.