In January I came across newspaper reports of the sinking of HMS Formidable in the English Channel. She was captained by Captain Arthur Noel Loxley. He was the son of the Rev Arthur Smart Loxley, Vicar of Fairford from 1878 to 1888, who died suddenly on Easter Day 1888 at the early age of 42. There is a memorial to Rev A.S. Loxley at the north end of the altar table which was put in situ in 1921 during the re-design of the high altar by Sir J Ninian Comper. Four of the vicar’s five children were baptised in Fairford Church. Arthur Noel was the eldest and baptised at Lamport, Northants in 1874, where his father was curate. After the death of their father when the youngest child was only one year old, the family moved to Gloucester.
Photo: Rev Arthur Smart Loxley, Vicar of Fairford from 1878-1888 (FHS Archive)
Arthur Noel had joined the Royal Navy in 1890 and risen to the rank of Captain by 1911. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 1915 HMS Formidable was torpedoed by a German submarine with the loss of 547 lives of about 750 aboard. The reports state that Captain Loxley remained at his post until the very last moment as the ship was still signalling when it sank. His name is listed on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
On 13 November 1916, the second son, Vere Loxley, a Captain in the Royal Marine Light Infantry who was serving with the 1st Royal Battalion of the Royal Naval Division was killed in action. He had served in Gallipoli and after being slightly wounded in France had returned to his battalion in October. One of the men who saw him fall said, “He died leading his men magnificently.” He is buried at Knightsbridge Cemetery, Mesnil-Martinsart, France.
On 18 October 1918 the youngest son, Captain Reginald Loxley, RAF died in Paris of pneumonia following influenza and is buried in the city cemetery at Clichy. He had flown with the Royal Naval Air Service at Gallipoli and in France had been wounded in action and joined the Department of Aircraft Production liaising with the French in the supply of aero engines.
Of the five children only Gerald, the fourth child, who had also flown with the RNAS and RAF during the war and was demobilised as a Major in 1919, and their daughter Gladys, who married a clergyman, survived.
Not only that, Arthur Noel’s son Peter who was a diplomat in the Foreign Office and rose to become 1st Secretary and Aide to Winston Churchill was killed 1 February 1945 when his aircraft, in which he was a passenger along with several more of Churchill’s staff, was lost over the Mediterranean.
The Loxley family certainly served their country well.