Lionel Churcher was a cook on the AE2. A Cockney, born in Bermondsey on 11 March 1883, he joined the RN as a boy and served aboard a number of ships before being selected for submarine service.
By all accounts, Churcher was a fiery and temperamental POW. He clashed particularly with Australian corporal George Kerr, the Belemedik camp caterer who kept a detailed shorthand diary of events. The two adversaries were also drinking buddies and their imbibing sessions often led to fights. Churcher also liked to complain, loudly and often: his litany of irritations included ‘inadequate bedding’, ‘being ignored’ and ‘lack of assistance’ in his job as cook. Kerr wrote in February 1916 that ‘another binge drinking session ended in yet another brawl, where Churcher was knocked over’. By March this behaviour had been noticed by the warders and the camp authorities. On 11 March, Churcher’s birthday, he celebrated by really hitting the bottle. Kerr wrote in his diary: ‘When he was led away to prison Churcher cried out, “This is a bastard, isn’t it, on a man’s bloody birthday!”’
Shortly after this incident Churcher was among a party of Belemedik prisoners sent back to Afion Kara Hissar. From there he was sent with his AE2 crewmates Nichols, Wishart, Wilson and Harding to San Stefano prison near Constantinople. All these men had been in trouble at Belemedik but, ironically, they ended up in one of the best POW camps in Turkey. It appears they were selected because they were at risk of becoming habitual targets for the Turkish authorities, not for religious or other reasons as was previously thought.
In 1919 Churcher returned home to London. He must have been still reasonably fit and healthy at that time because he immediately reenlisted for service in the RN for another tour of duty as an able seaman.