Admiral John Heffernan

John Harold Heffernan b 1834 Rochester, Kent; christened 18th Jan 1835 St Mary's Chatham, d 17th September 1921 48 Lichfield Street, Burton Upon Trent.


It is probable that he was as a child fast tracked through his education by the navy once his ability had been recognised. He was to be one of the Royal Navy's new breed of engineering officers, often from humble backgrounds, spending long hours supervising the maintenance of equipment below deck and then sharing the mess with officers of much higher social status in the evenings.


He married Elizabeth 'Eliza' Sarah Hilton (b 1836 Pendleton, Lancs, d 1914) on 26th September 1861 at St James Lancaster. They had five children:

  1. Eliza Mary Elizabeth: b 1862 d 1941 marr Otto Fraser Frohwein (later Frowen). Two children: Joan Mary Hilton b 1897 d 1966 marr  1921 Louis Charles Leon Edward George; and John Harold Otto 'Jack' Frowen b 1898 d 1981 marr 1946 Beatrice Lucy Hilton.
  2. William Hilton: b 1865 d 1938 Croydon marr 1906 Gladys Lloyd Turner. He wrote to jhis brother Jack and said he wanted to change his  name to O'Heffernan. He qualified as  MRCS, Eng, LSA - Royal College of Physicians and was a captain in the RAMC. In 1901 he was a doctor in Pembroke. In 1911 he was practising in Wimbledon with the name O'Heffernan. His practise was hit by a smallpox epidemic (possibly in 1933) and he may have committed  suicide as a result. They had one son, Hilton 'Jack' Lloyd, b 1907 d 1998, who was very interested in radio and accompanied Logie Baird to the Arctic in 1911. He never married.
  3. Harold Hilton: b 1866 Portsea d 1945. Educated at Portsmouth Grammar and St Thomas's Hospital where he won the bronze medal in his 4th Year. In the 1881 census he is entered as Hefferman,  address Alma Villa, Victoria Road North, Portsea. In 1891 Physician and Surgeon,  Capt RAMC.  He married Maud Marie Isabe Fairweather 5th April 1894 at St Jude's Southsea. In 1901 census at 23 Rosedale, Wolston, Warwick. They had two children, Harold b  1897 who died the following year and Marie Frances Hilton who adopted the name O'Heffernan and died unmarried in 1985.
  4. John Herbert 'Jack': b 1868 Portsmouth d 1934. Educated at Christ's Hospital, Newgate St (at school in 1881)  and came to USA in 1884 at age of 16 / or 1889. He had been asked to leave medical school when he was heavily into gambling  and owed large sums of money. The final straw was when he pawned his  borther Will's microscope to help pay his debts. His father sent him  away. Coming to Canada "was the best thing that could have happened  to him." After retiring he became a magistrate in Regina, Saskatchewan, until his  death in 1934. He made several trips to England with his wife; most  memorable was in 1912. His wife decided that she wanted to go back on  the Titanic. However, all first class cabins were booked up. She was  presented while on a tour of the Royal Crown Derby china factory  with a teaset. He always wrote to his sister 'Trot' every Sunday evening. He married Susam Marie Bettschen in 1899. They had two sons, Hilton and Wilfred.
  5. Ellen Beatrice: b 1871 d 1948 marr Commander Frederick Marsh Sergeant in 1896 in Holborn. They had four children.


Letter (undated)

To Mrs Heffernan Alma Villa

Madam, I am sorry to send again will you kindly send me two shillings more today I want to get something for my wife. I will be sure to send it if she first money I take which wont be for a few days as this is the first please enpase [?] the liberty I taken should be glad if you will

Yours respectfully

M ????

Press cuttings (undated):

Mr William Hilton Heffernan, M.R.C.S., Eng., L.S.A. of Alma Villa, Victoria Road, North, having undergone the necessary examinations, was admitted, on the 17th inst., a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London.

Mr Harold Hilton Heffernan, son of Mr J.H.Heffernan, R.N. of “Alma”, Victoria Road N.Southsea, a former pupil of the Portsmouth Grammar School and of the Portsmouth Hospital, and now of St Thomas’s London, was one of the successful candidates in the recent examination for the diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Prior to this examination he at St Thomas’s in a competition among fourth year students, underwent an examination in practical surgery and surgical anatomy, and for his position in the competition was awarded a special bronze medal, with a special mention and a certificate of honour, this making the fifth certificate of honour he has received during his curriculum at St Thomas’s.

27 Sep 1911 (Golden Wedding of Sir John and Lady Heffernan)


Sir John Harold Heffernan, KCB

Sir John Harold Heffernan, on whom the King has conferred the honour of Knight Commander of the Bath, joined the Navy in 1855, being appointed to HMS Victory as assistant engineer. In 1858 he was engaged in laying the first Atlantic cable, receiving as commendation a gold medal and promotion.

From 1861 until 1864 he served on HMS Warrior, the first armoured battleship I the British Navy. Subsequently, he acted as engineer in charge of the water-propelled gun-vessel Waterwitch, and it is whilst in this capacity that he was instrumental in preventing the ship from foundering during s heavy storm in the English Channel. As fleet engineer of HMS Inflexible he was present at the bombardment of Alexandria. In recognition of his services on that occasion he was promoted to rank of inspector of machinery. For three years he was superintending engineer at Bermuda Dockyard, afterwards being in charge of Portsmouth steam reserve as chief inspector of machinery. During the period he held this appointment he was engaged in various Admiralty work including the committees on reorganisation for the mobilisation of the fleet, boiler designs, the reorganisation and revision of the stores for the engineering branch of the fleet, Until his retirement, which took place in 1892, he was chairman of the Committee of Designs for the machinery of the fleet. The Companionship of the Bath was conferred upon him in 1891. For the last twelve years Sir J H Heffernan has been living in Bentley Road, Prince’s Park, Liverpool.

Transcriptions of documents related to and commentary on the life of Admiral John Heffernan
Heffernan Text_Nov2014.pdf
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Service Records

Ships Admiral Heffernan served on

Newspaper report of marriage of Harold H Heffernan and Maud M I Fairweather
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