Monthly Archives: May 2016

HMS Turbulent – Day and Night at Jutland

As Beatty’s line of battlecruisers engaged their German counterparts on the afternoon of the 31st May, the attached destroyers were roughly 2miles ahead of HMS Lion heading south. The ships of the 13th Destroyer Flotilla were steaming in three divisions under overall command of Captain J.U. Farie on the Light Cruiser Champion. The destroyer HMS Turbulent was at the rear of the division headed by the Narborough. At 4.15pm they were ordered to launch a torpedo attack on the German battlecruisers.

Destroyers were the lightest warships to fight at Jutland. They were used for patrolling and raiding, as well as to screen battle fleets during major actions. With no armour plating and small guns, the speed of these vulnerable ships was paramount in both defence and attack. The torpedoes they carried could cripple or even sink big ships but could only be launched when perilously close to the enemy. Rushing full speed into a storm of shell would strain the nerve of every man on board.

HMS_Turbulent-1916

HMS Turbulent was a new Talisman Class destroyer, launched on 1st January 1916 and completed by 1st May.  Her  crew of ninety ranged in age from sixteen year old Boy Telegraphist Kenneth Alfred John Moore to men in their forties such as the Chief Stoker, Arthur Cole.  Around a fifth of the crew were Londoners, as was Rotherhithe born Able Seaman Walter Boughen, a 24 year old married man with a son. Walter Boughen had joined the Navy in October 1909, serving on Armoured Cruisers before the war, and was on HMS Chatham when war was declared, operating in the Red Sea. In November 1914, the Chatham was involved in operations against the German commerce raider SMS Königsberg. In May 1915 the Chatham returned to the Mediterranean to support the Allied landings at Gallipoli. In 1916 she returned to home waters and joined the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet. AB Walter Boughen had joined the crew of the Turbulent just 19 days before, on the 12th May 1916.

Walter Boughen was married before the war in 1913 to Mitcham born Ethel Mary Pearcey, their son Charles Alfred Boughen was born on 14 May 1914. Ethel remained at her parents home at 2 Benedict Terrace, Belgrave Walk, Mitcham, during the war years. Walter’s return from the Mediterranean and the knowledge he would serve in home waters must have seemed like very good news.

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Benedict Terrace was opposite Century Road

Actions stations sounded and the ships of the 13th Flotilla swung round to close on the enemy at full speed, German destroyers were sent to prevent them getting within torpedo range. The two destroyer flotillas charged towards each other at a combined speed of more than 60 knots with guns blazing and black smoke belching from their funnels. Torpedoes launched by H.M.S. Petard and H.M.S. Turbulent sank the German destroyer V29, the tube crew on the Petard fired their last torpedo at the German Battle Cruiser Line at some 9,000 yards before both ships turned North when the leading ships of the German High Seas Fleet had already hoved into view. It may have been a torpedo fired by the Petard that stuck SMS Seydlitz at 17:57 ripping a 40-foot hole in her hull.

As the Turbulent and Petard returned to Beatty’s line, they came across the damaged Nestor, who refused their help, further on a huge oil patch was passed were HMS Laurel had stopped to pick up men in the sea.  HMS Petard rescued one man who was in fact Petty Officer E. Francis, a survivor from the after-turret of the Queen Mary. Both the damaged destroyers Nestor and Nomad were sunk by the concentrated fire of the German High Seas Fleet, but not before the surviving crew members had managed to abandon ship and taken to the small boats. The survivors were picked up by a German destroyer and Commander Barry Bingham of the Nestor, with others, were held as prisoners for the rest of the war. The award of Commander Bingham’s VC was announced in September 1916, whilst he was in captivity. His citation reads:

For the extremely gallant way in which he led his division in their attack, first on enemy destroyers and then on their battlecruisers. He finally sighted the enemy battle-fleet, and, followed by the one remaining destroyer of his division (Nicator), with dauntless courage he closed to within 3,000 yards of the enemy in order to attain a favourable position for firing the torpedoes. While making this attack, Nestor and Nicator were under concentrated fire of the secondary batteries of the High Sea Fleet. Nestor was subsequently sunk.

HMS Turbulent was now in the rearguard of the Battle Cruiser fleet, long hours followed with the strain of keeping watch in the dead of night for any sign of approaching vessels. The 13th Flotilla destroyers lost touch with their cruiser, HMS Champion, sometime around 11.30 pm and HMS Petard remained the Turbulent’s closest companion. Unknown to the British, the German Fleet was crossing their wake around midnight, with British destroyers in their path.

Events are described in the dispatch of H.M.S. ” Petard” dated 2nd June 1916:

At 12.15 a.m. course was altered to S.W. by W., and ten minutes later the line crossed ahead of a division of German Battleships. I sighted the leading battleship about six points on my starboard bow steering S.E. at about 400 or 500 yards. This ship switched on recognition lights, consisting of two red over one white light and, as some destroyer ahead of me in the line then switched on her ” fighting fights,” I think the Germans at once knew we were enemy. As ” Petard ” had no torpedoes left I could not attack, so I increased to full speed, and altered course slightly to port to avoid being rammed. I passed about 200 yards ahead of the German ship, who appeared to be one of the ” Wittelsbach ” class. As soon as we were clear of her stem, she illuminated us with searchlights, and we came under a heavy fire from her and the next ship in the line. Two salvoes seemed to strike us, and, in all, I think, we received six hits. I regret that I never saw ” Turbulent,” who was in station astern of “Petard,” after passing the German Squadron; according to the evidence of some of my Ship’s Company, I am afraid she must have been rammed and sunk.

Among Petard’s dead was the ship’s surgeon, Hugh John Dingle (RNVR), the narrative of HMS Nicator speaks of the same events:

Some time after midnight, I cannot remember the exact time, the signal to alter course to S.W. came. For some time there had been a long lull between these intermittent bursts of firing, which we took to be a flotilla attacking, when suddenly we saw challenging going on, and some ship, I do not know which, switched on its fighting lights for a second or two and then off again, apparently by accident. Then without any warning searchlights were switched on abaft our starboard beam, and settled on the Petard, ahead of us. We saw three or four big ships, obviously Germans, silhouetted for a moment; then a burst of fire, followed quickly by another, and the light went out. The Petard was badly hit, and suffered a lot of casualties. Then all lights switched on again, this time on us for a fraction of a minute during which time we thought we were in for it too, but they trained aft on to the Turbulent, two ships astern of us and as far as I can remember, the tail of the line of destroyers. She appeared to be at absolutely point-blank range, and in a few seconds a ripple of fire seemed to run the whole length of her. It looked as if she were blown right out of the water. It all happened so suddenly that we hardly realised what was taking place, and it somehow did not strike us that this was the German fleet breaking through the line, unluckily at the weakest point, just between the battle fleet and battle cruisers. When daylight came we sent our surgeon probationer on board the Petard, as their surgeon had been killed with the first salvo. With only a destroyer’s medical outfit and no anaesthetics he performed wonders, and undoubtedly saved a number of lives.

Nine lives had been lost on HMS Petard, but HMS Turbulent was lost with all hands, the fate of the ship’s company being reported on the 2nd June 1916.

At the end of the Walter Boughen was one of the 8,517 names added to the CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL which stands high above the town.

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Walter Boughen’s widow, Ethel, choose to commemorated him on the Mitcham War memorial.

Life began again for Ethel when she was remarried to Edmund Charles Cresswell on 13th September 1923, at St.Peter and St.Paul, Mitcham. Edmund Cresswell, a veteran of the Great War himself, he had been a near neighbour of Ethel’s before the war.  No. 2 Benedict Terrace, remained their home for another decade, with Ethel’s parents as next door neighbours. Ethel had moved to Western Road by the time Walter’s son Charles Alfred Boughen married in 1936. Charles Boughen stayed in the area all his life, passing away aged 87 in 2002.

Footnote 1: Petty Officer Charles Norman Faulkner was also lost on the Turbulent.  Charles Faulkner had been born in Wallington and grew up in Carshalton.

 

HMS Southampton – Day and Night at Jutland

Cruisers and destroyers had sailed with Beatty’s battlecruisers, the cruiser screen acted as both the Fleet’s scouts and defence against torpedo attacks by destroyers. HMS Southampton, a modern light cruiser, was the flagship of Commodore William Goodenough’s 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron – Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham and Dublin.

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Among the Southampton’s crew was twenty seven year old Able Seaman Herbert Upton, an experienced sailor who had joined the Navy as a boy rating ten years before. Herbert had left home not long after his father died in 1906, leaving his widowed mother Kate and seven siblings in Mitcham.  Herbert was born in 1888 in Kennington, South London, were he spent the first 12 years of his life before the Upton family came to Mitcham around the turn of the century, living first in Tramway Terrace off the Carshalton Road and then Bruce Road, near Tooting Junction, a decade later.

Herbert Upton had joined the crew of HMS Southampton just two months before in March 1916, but he was old hand on ships of this type ship having served on the scout cruiser Attentive during 1914 and 1915, and others in his early years – Cressey, Powerful, Terrible and Blake. HMS Attentive was part of the Dover Patrol, and Herbrt Upton had seen action on 7th September 1915 during a naval bombardment of German positions at Ostend. The Attentive was an early victim of air power, the ship was bombed, suffering two killed and seven wounded. The air attack forced the squadron to briefly disperse, before returning to carry out the bombardment.

During the deadly exchange for fire between Beatty’s and the German battlecruisers on the afternoon of the 31st May, the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron were steaming at full speed on a roughly parallel track to Beatty’s line about a mile apart.

southampton_chart1

Sailors on the upper deck of HMS Southampton’s port side with the chance to look out could have witnessed the terrible demise of the Indefatigable and Queen Mary in the first hour of battle. Lieutenant Stephen King-Hall would later write:

At 4.15 (approx.) I as watching our line from my position in the after-control, when without any warning an immense column of grey smoke with a fiery base and a flaming top stood up on the sea, where the Indefatigable should have been. It hung there for I don’t know how many seconds, and then a hole appeared in this pillar of smoke, through which I caught a glimpse of the forepart of the Indefatigable lying on its side; then there was a streak of flame and a fresh outpouring of smoke.

I turned with a sinking heart and watched the remaining five battle-cruisers. I can – nor could I next day – remember no noise [sic]. We [the light cruisers] were not, of course, firing ourselves, and it seemed to me that I was being carried along in a kind of dream. I wondered what would happen next; each time the splashes rose on either side of the line of great ships it was like a blow to the body. We could not see from our low deck where the 13.5-inch shells were falling on that sinister eastern horizon from which the maddening jets of flame darted in and out.

At 4.23, in the flicker of an eyelid, the beautiful Queen Mary was no more. A huge stem of grey smoke shot up to perhaps a thousand feet, swaying slightly at the base. The top of this stem of smoke expanded and rolled downwards. Flames rose and fell in the stalk of this monstrous mushroom. The bows of a ship, a bridge, a mast, slid out of the smoke – perhaps after all the Queen Mary was still there? No! it was the next astern – the Tiger. Incredible as it may sound, the Tiger passed right over the spot on which the Queen Mary had been destroyed, and felt nothing. The time interval between her passage over the grave of the Queen,Mary and the destruction of the latter ship would be about 40-60 seconds.

What did worry me was that we were now reduced to four. We were by now right ahead of the Lion, and as I watched her, I saw a tremendous flash amidships, as she was hit by a shell or shells. I saw the whole ship stagger; for what seemed eternity I held my breath, half expecting her to blow up, but she held on and showed no signs of outward injury.

Actually her midship turret, manned by the marines, was completely put out of action, and had it not been for the heroism of the major of marines the ship might have gone. He lost his life and gained the V.C.

Ahead of the Lion, HMS Southampton was the first to to sight the German High Seas Fleet and raise the alarm.

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Sir David Beatty at once signalled to the battle-cruiser Force to alter course 16 points (180 degrees). This manoeuvre was executed by the battle-cruisers in succession. The German battle-cruisers were doing the same thing at the same moment.  The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron continued at full sped toward the German Fleet:

We disobeyed the signal, or rather delayed obeying it for two reasons: Firstly, we wished to get close enough to the High Seas Fleet to examine them and report accurately on their composition and disposition. Secondly, we had hopes of delivering a torpedo attack on the long crescent-shaped line of heavy ships which were stretched round on our port bow.

It was a strain steaming at 25 knots straight for this formidable line of battleships, with our own friends going fast away from us in the opposite direction. As we got closer I counted sixteen or seventeen battleships with the four KÖnig class in the van and the six older pre-Dreadnoughts in the rear. Seconds became minutes and still they did not open fire. I can only account for this strange inactivity on their part by the theory that as they only saw us end on, and we were steering on opposite courses to the remaining British ships, they assumed we were a German light cruiser squadron that had been running away from the British battle-cruisers.

The Commodore saw that we could not get into a position for a torpedo attack, and gave the order for the turning signal, which had been flying for five minutes, to be hauled down. Over went the helms, and the four ships slewed round, bringing our sterns to the enemy. Lt. Stephen King-Hall, HMS Southampton.

The relative position 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, Beatty’s battlecruisers and the 5th Battle Squadron as seen by HMS Southampton:

I took a general look round, and the situation was as follows: About three or four miles north of us our battlecruisers were steaming along, making a good deal of smoke and firing steadily at the German battle-cruisers’ distant hulls on our starboard bow. Then came a gap of two miles between the battlecruisers and the Fifth Battle Squadron. These latter four ships had passed the battle-cruisers on opposite courses when Sir David Beatty turned north, and as soon as they had passed him, Rear Admiral Evan Thomas turned his squadron to north by-west, and followed up the battle-cruisers.

It will be remembered that whilst this was going on we (Second Light Cruiser Squadron) had still been going south. When we turned to north, we found ourselves about a mile behind the last ship of the Fifth Battle Squadron. As flagship we had the post of honour nearest to the enemy. We maintained this position for one hour, during which time we were under persistent shell-fire from the rear six ships of the German line.

The Fifth Battle Squadron just ahead of us were a brave sight. They were receiving the concentrated fire of some twelve German heavy ships. Our own position was not pleasant. The half-dozen older battleships at the tail of the German line were out of range to fire at the Fifth Battle-cruiser, but though we had gradually drawn out to 15,000 -16,000 yards, we were inside their range, and they began to do a sort of target practice in slow time on our squadron. We all compared notes afterwards and decided that during this hour about fifty to sixty shells fell within 100 yards of the ship, and many more slightly farther off. I attribute our escape, as far as we were able to contribute towards it, to the very clever manner in which our navigator, zig-zagged the ship according to where he estimated the next salvo would fall.

At 6.17 p.m. the news that the Grand Fleet had been sighted right ahead spread round the ship like wild-fire. Forgotten was the steady shelling – now we’d give them hell. The battle drew on to its dramatic climax when as faintly ahead in the smoke and haze the great line of Grand Fleet battleships became visible curling across to the eastward. They had just deployed. Lt. Stephen King-Hall, HMS Southampton.

Albert Upton’s ship had survived this phase of the battle due to the combined skill, judgement, training, and team work of the officers and men who had spotted shell splashes, correctly calculated the time of travel of shells from distance ships, decided the Germans had fired to a “ladder pattern” and taken the best evasive action.

The position and general course of the opposing fleets around 6pm are show in these two diagrams, with HMS Southampton now to the west and close to the rear of the Grand Fleet’s line.

The Southampton was witness to the loss of armoured cruiser, HMS Defence. This ship was the Flagship of Admiral Arbuthnott, unaware in the poor visibility that the High Seas Fleet was so near, Arbuthnott made a misguided attempt to finish off the crippled SMS Wiesbaden. The ship astern was the Warrior, and it was evident that she was hard hit, burning in several places and wrecked. The Warspite, ahead of the Southampton, altered course for the centre of the German Line so drawing their fire, and at 8,000 yards slowly turned still firing her 15 inch guns. Lt. King-Hall described how HMS Southampton led an abortive attack on the sinking SMS Wiesbaden:

At 6.47 we reached the spot where it had taken place. The first thing we saw was a German three funnel cruiser, the Wiesbaden. She was battered badly, as she had been lying inert between the two lines, and whenever a British battleship could not see her target she opened on the Wiesbaden. We were simply longing to hit something, and this seemed our chance. Increasing speed to 20 knots we turned and led our squadron in to administer the ‘coup de grace’. Turning to bring our broadsides to bear at 6,000 yards, we directed a stream of 6-inch on the Hun, who replied feebly with one gun. There is no doubt that the men who worked that gun had the right spirit in them.

Beyond the Wiesbaden, at a range of about 14,000 yards, our old friends the pre-dreadnoughts were toddling along at the stern of the German line. During our approach to the Wiesbaden they had preserved an ominous silence. It did not remain thus for long. The six of them opened a rapid fire on us, and we were at once obliged to open the range without delay. We scuttled back to the tail of the British line as hard as we could, zig-zagging like snipe, with 11-inch crumping down ahead, on both sides, and astern of us.

Twilight was fast approaching and visibility was hampered by the pall of funnel and cordite smoke that hung over the sea. It was around 7.30pm that the Germans made their supreme effort to escape from the semicircle of the Grand Fleets fire that threatened to engulf them. Under cover of a smoke screen and a massed torpedo attack, from which Jellicoe turned his ships away, the German High Seas Fleet disappeared from view somewhere to the south-west. Around 8pm, HMS Southampton fired a salvo at 6,000 yards a she came abreast of a lone German destroyer, it remained afloat and was finished off by the Faulkner and some destroyers. Nerves would begin to strain in the growing darkness with just moments to react and decide if sighted vessels were friend or foe.

At 8.50 p.m. we sighted four German destroyers approaching us on the starboard bow, apparently intending to deliver an attack on the Fifth Battle Squadron. We opened fire at once, and hit the leading destroyer amidships. All four turned round and, pursued by our shells, disappeared behind a smoke-screen. This feeble little destroyer attack may be said to mark the conclusion of the day action as far as we were concerned. Directly afterwards we went to night defence stations, and nerve- strings were tightened up another turn. Lt. Stephen King-Hall, HMS Southampton.

The Battle of Jutland was about to enter a phase of night fighting that would continue into the early hours of 1st June. A series of confused and disjointed actions took place, often between vastly mismatched opponents and at such close ranges every shell fired was sure to hit its target with devastating effect. The Germans were better equipped for night fighting with superior search lights, star shells, and light to gunnery coordination. Unknown to the British, the High Seas Fleet was astern of Beatty and between the battlecruisers’s wake and the Grand Fleet. The most eastward German ships, on Scheer’s port bow, were the five light cruisers of the Fourth Scouting Group under Commodore Ludwig von Reuter and these ships came into contact with the British 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron and HMS Southampton was their Flagship.

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I groped my way on to the bridge and had a chat with the gunnery lieutenant, as a result of which he arranged that in the event of night action he would control the guns from the forebridge and I would be in general charge aft. A signalman, and the navigator suddenly whispered, ” Five ships on the beam.” The Commodore looked at them through night glasses, and I heard a whispered discussion going on as to whether they were the enemy or the Third Light Cruiser Squadron. From their faint silhouettes it was impossible to discover more than the fact that they were light cruisers.

We began to challenge; the Germans switched on coloured lights at their fore yardarms. A second later a solitary gun crashed forth from the Dublin, who was next astern of us. Simultaneously I saw the shell hit a ship just above the water-line and about 8oo yards away. As I caught a nightmare-like glimpse of her interior which has remained photographed on my mind to this day, I said to myself: ‘My G–, they are alongside us.’ At that moment the Germans switched on their searchlights, and we switched on ours. Before I was blinded by the lights in my eyes I caught sight of a line of light grey ships. Then the gun behind which I was standing answered my shout of ‘Fire!’.

The action lasted three and a half minutes. The four leading German ships concentrated their lights and guns on the Southampton; the fifth and perhaps the fourth as well fired at the Dublin. The Nottingham and Birmingham, third and fourth in our line, with great wisdom did not switch on their lights and were not fired at. In those three and a half minutes we had 89 casualties, and 75 per cent. of the personnel on the upper deck were killed or wounded. Lt. Stephen King-Hall, HMS Southampton.

Fires broke out among the scenes of carnage and wreckage on the Southampton’s upper deck.  Men manning guns had been mown down and the search light crew died instantaneously in a shell burst that carried the lights away. Others were terribly burnt or injured:

the upper deck was strewn with dead and wounded. One stumbled on them as one walked. By the aid of discreetly struck matches and shaded torches the upper deck was searched. I heard a groan and came upon a poor boy named Mellish. He could only say, ‘My leg – my arm’ Another man and myself got him down one of the two steep hatches that led to the lower deck. His injuries were sickening, but with a smile he said: ‘It’s no good worrying about me, sir!’ and then he died. I don’t think he felt any pain

Where were the Germans? Nothing but groans from dark corners. Though I did not know it at the time, the Germans had fled. They fled because our torpedo lieutenant, had fired a 21-inch torpedo. At 41 knots the torpedo had shot across and, striking the Frauenlob, had blown her in half. Out of 300 Huns in her, 7 survived. Lt. Stephen King-Hall, HMS Southampton.

The Lt King-Hall  had described the death of boy sailor Thomas Charles Mellish, a sixteen year old lad originally from East London with family in Camberwell, he had joined the Navy in March 1914 and been on the Southampton since February 1915.

Only in the early hours of daylight could the full extent of the damage to HMS Southampton be assessed, her deck, bridges and superstructure had all been swept in the storm of shell.

The funnels were riddled through with hundreds of small holes, and the decks were slashed and ripped with splinters. There were several holes along the side, but the general effect was as if handfuls of splinters had been thrown against the upper works of the ship. The protective mattresses round the bridge and control position were slashed with splinters. The foremast, the rigging, the boats, the signal lockers, the funnel casing, the mainmast, everything was a mass of splinter holes. Our sailors firmly believed, and continued to do so up to the day on which I left the ship, that we had been deluged with shrapnel. It was certainly surprising that anyone on the upper deck remained unhit. Lt. Stephen King-Hall, HMS Southampton.

On HMS Southampton 35 men had been killed or died of wounds, and 1 officer and 54 men wounded, some with terrible burns. Able Seaman Herbert Upton had not survived.  The bodies of the dead were committed to the deep in the age old tradition, wrapped in a sailor’s hammock and slid from beneath the flag, plunging into the cold grey waters of the North Sea.

In the misty dawn of the 1st of June, the Southampton found herself close to the 5th Battle Squadron and after passing through much of the British Fleet attached themselves to Beatty’s battlecruisers once more. Cruising slowly south as far as the German minefields and then north again there was little reason to remain in the North Sea. In worsening weather, it was a slow journey home as the some of the shores and plugs let in water. HMS Southampton did not reach the Forth of Firth until hours after the rest of the fleet – the crews of the battlecruisers cheered as they past.

Four years would pass before the Upton family had the opportunity to the honour the memory of a lost son.  Although Herbert Upton’s widowed mother Kate was still living in Bruce Road, not far from St.Barnabas Church, her son’s name does not appear alongside that of BARNES and HOPSON.  Herbert’s name simply appears as UPTON H. on the Mitcham War Memorial.

Footnote 1: K28504, Stoker 1st Class, George Albert GOSLING, from Beddington Corner,  served on HMS Warspite during the Battle of Jutland.

J35441, Boy Richard Walter William JENKINS, from Mitcham, served on HMS Warrior during the Battle of Jutland. He lived to celebrate is seventeen birthday on 11 July 1916.

 

Something wrong with our bloody ships today …

The intercept and decoding of German Naval wireless signals on Tuesday 30th May 1916 was the trigger for what would be the greatest naval battle of the war.

Naval forces were readied during that afternoon and steamed out that night from the anchorages at Scapa Flow, Cromarty and Rosyth. The Grand Fleet and Battle Cruiser Fleet had separately set course for the area off the Jutland coast, north of Horn’s Reef, anticipating a clash with the German Navy.

Well the day it happened, in the morning, there was a feeling somehow that things were happening. Because in those days we had no wireless or telephone or anything like that, the only thing was wireless, really, which was ship to ship. But there was a feeling in the air, somehow, that there was something happening. Then in the afternoon we found out that it was actually happening. We started to prepare for going into battle then, getting everything ready, getting prepared. So we knew then that later in the afternoon we were firing. Then of course we went to action stations.  Frederick Morris, HMS Marlborough.

Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty’s force of battlecruisers was headed by his flag ship HMS Lion, followed by the “Princess Royal”, “Queen Mary”, “Tiger”, “New Zealand” and “Indefatigable”.  Stoker 1st Class Albert Henry Barnes and Leading Seaman James Thomas Hopson were both on board HMS “Queen Mary”.  HMS Queen Mary, named after Mary of Teck, was the most modern battlecruiser in the fleet.  She was completed in 1913, with a main armament of eight BL 13.5-inch Mk V guns in four twin hydraulically powered turrets, designated ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘Q’ and ‘X’ from bow to stern with an absolute maximum range of 23,820 yd, a distance of over 12 miles.

Qmary_plan

The Queen Mary was propelled by direct-drive steam turbines. The steam plant consisted of 42 Yarrow large-tube boilers arranged in seven boiler rooms, serviced by the mass of stokers.  Albert Barnes was just one of some 555 stokers out of the crew of over 1,200 men on board the Queen Mary at Jutland.  Albert Barnes and James Hopson had both joined the crew of HMS Queen Mary when she had first gone into service at Portsmouth on the 4th September 1913, and like any sailor would have been proud to serve on one of the Navy’s newest and finest vessels.

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HMS QUEEN MARY circa 1913

Stoker Barnes had only been in the Navy a year, the nineteen year old had been a baker’s roundsman when he joined in November 1912. He had previously served on the “Renown” and “Albemarle”. Albert Barnes had been born in Tottenham, North London in 1893, the first child of Arthur Albert and Mary Clara Barnes.  Albert was the oldest of five siblings, with three younger brothers and a sister.  The family had settled in Mitcham during the war years, living at 11, Heaton Rd., Mitcham which would remain their home until around 1937.

James Hopson was born near Canning Town in West Ham in 1892, close to the teeming docks of the London Port.  He came from a family who made their living as lightermen, and as a child was surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the seafaring world. James’ father had died when he was just three years old, leaving his mother Annie Jessie, James and his 13 year old sister Annie Genevera in difficult straits.  At the age of twelve James Hopson was sent to the Training Ship Exmouth moored in the Thames estuary off Grays in Essex, his future was set. The Exmouth was administered by the Metropolitan Asylums Board and used to train poor boys in all aspects of seamanship preparing them for a career at sea.  James T. Hopson joined the Navy as a sixteen year old boy sailor in January 1908. and had signed for 12 years on his eighteenth birthday, 28th February 1910. He had previously served on the Jupiter, Surprise, and Espiegle. Prior to joining the Queen Mary he had spent nearly six months at the shore establishment HMS Excellent which was used in part as a gunnery school.  This may give some clue to his role on the Queen Mary.  He was promoted Leading Seaman on 1st July 1915.

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“Q” Turret, HMS QUEEN MARY

Jame Hopson’s connection to Mitcham was via his only sibling, sister Annie. She had married ex. Navy man Charles Cornelius Driscoll at St Mark, Battersea Rise on 24 September 1905, their son Maurice was born in the following year. By 1911, the Driscolls were living in Mitcham at 32a Inglemere Road, it would remain their home for many years. Annie’s husband Charles Driscoll, ex. RNVR, served in both the RNAS and RAF during the Great War as an air mechanic at Handley Page Squadron bases between 1917 and 1919.

Whether thoughts of home and loved one’s flashed through the minds of sailors like Albert Barnes and James Hopson that afternoon in the grey North Sea is hard to know, more likely they were totally focused on what might lay ahead.

With the enemy sighted and action stations sounded, a fierce gun duel was fought as Beatty’s and Hipper’s battlecruisers steamed full speed on a near parallel southerly course, at ranges between 14,000 and 18,000 yards. German ships were first to shot at 3.48 pm with the advantage of better visibility than the British.

Within the space of 25 minutes both first the “Indefatigable” and then the “Queen Mary” suffered catastrophic explosions after being hit by shell fire.  Over 2,000 lives had been lost.  A remarkable series of photographs taken from HMS Lydiard, and not published until after the war, show both a fire on Beatty’s flag ship HMS Lion, and explosion of HMS Queen Mary.

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The scene was described by an eye witness on HMS Tiger:

Report of Midshipman J.L. Storey, Senior Uninjured Survivor of the Queen Mary. (as forwarded to the Commander-in-Chief)

SIR,—I deeply regret to report that H.M.S. Queen Mary, commanded by Captain C. I. Prowse, R.N., was completely destroyed when in action with the German Fleet at 5.25 P.M. on Wednesday, May 31. The total number of officers and men saved was eighteen.1

The circumstances of the loss of the ship are, as far as I know, as follows: At 4.20 P.M. the Queen Mary was third ship in the line of the 1st B.C.S., and action was sounded, and at 4.45 the order was given “load all guns.” At 4.53 fire was opened on the third ship of the enemy’s line, the range being about 17,000 yards.

The fire was maintained with great rapidity till 5.20, and during this time we were only slightly damaged by the enemy’s fire. At 5.20 a big shell hit “Q” turret and put the right gun out of action, but the left gun continued firing. At 5.24 a terrific explosion took place which smashed up “Q” turret and started a big fire in working chamber, and the gun house was filled with smoke and gas. The officer on the turret, Lieutenant-Commander Street, gave the order to evacuate the turret. All the unwounded in the gun house got clear and, as they did so, another terrific explosion took place and all were thrown into the water. On coming to the surface nothing was visible except wreckage, but thirty persons appeared to be floating in the water.

At 5.55 H.M.S. Laurel saw the survivors in the water and lowered a whaler and rescued seventeen. When this number had been picked up, H.M.S. Laurel received orders to proceed at full speed, being in grave danger of the enemy’s ships. All officers and men were treated with the greatest kindness by the officers and men of H.M.S. Laurel, and were landed at Rosyth at about 8 P.M., June 1.2

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant, J. L.

STOREY, Midshipman, R.N.
1:Part omitted here, concerning personnel recommendations.

2:All times above are in British Summer Time and not G.M.T.

Within an hour of engaging the enemy, the lead ships of the German High Seas Fleet came into view,  both V.A. Beatty and  R.A Evan-Thomas turned their ships north  drawing the pursing German Fleet onto Jellico and the Grand Fleet ….. 

At the War’s end the Navy honoured their dead on three vast memorials at Portsmouth, Chatam and Plymouth.  The names of both A.H. BARNES and J.T. HOPSON were added to the Portsmouth memorial.

The more initmate setting of St.Barnabas Church, Mitcham is were their families chose to remember them –  ALBERT H. BARNES  &  JAMES T. HOPSON   – and on the Mitcham War Memorial.

Footnote 1:  The full account of survivor Petty Officer (Gunner’s Mate) Ernest Benjamin Francis, of “X” Turret, H.M.S. Queen Mary may be read here.

Footnote 2:  J20855, AB Stanley Hugh Sharpe served in HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland.  He was born in Colliers Wood and his family lived in Southcroft Road, Tooting during the War years. He would live in Mitcham in later life and passed away in Merton in 1980, aged 83.

HMS Lion, the flagship of Vice Admiral Sir David Betty, almost suffered the same fate as the “Indefatigable” and the “Queen Mary”.  Her “Q” turret, manned by Royal Marines,  was hit by a 12 inch (305 mm) shell fired from the German battlecruiser Lützow. The shell penetrated the joint between the nine-inch turret face plate and the 3.5-inch roof and detonated over the centre of the left-hand gun.  It blew the front roof plate and the centre face plate off the turret, killed or wounded all the everyone in the turret, and started a cordite fire.

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HMS Lion – Shell Damaged “Q” Turret

A catastrophe explosion was averted when the mortally wounded turret commander, Major Francis Harvey, gave the order for the magazine doors to be closed and to flood the magazines. How close the ship came to destruction was later discovered when several of the gunnery crew had been found dead, with their hands still clutching the magazine door handles.

Major Francis John William Harvey was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross – this is the citation published in the London Gazette, 15 September 1916:

“Whilst mortally wounded and almost the only survivor after the explosion of an enemy shell in “Q” gunhouse, with great presence of mind and devotion to duty, ordered the magazine to be flooded, thereby saving the ship. He died shortly afterwards.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavy British Losses in a Great North Sea Battle

Newspaper headlines across the country on Saturday 3rd June 1916 were dominated by a single item – “Heavy British Losses in a Great North Sea Battle”. A stunned nation was left asking the unthinkable, had the Royal Navy really been defeated?

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Copyright Trinity Group

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The Germans had fired the first salvoes in the propaganda duel, releasing a press statement at midday on 2nd June that was transmitted by wireless around world. They claimed an exaggerated victory, while down playing their own losses. The Kaiser waxed lyrical –

“The gigantic fleet of Albion, the rulers of the seas, which since Trafalgar for a hundred years has imposed on the whole world a bond of sea tyranny, and has surrounded itself with a nimbus of invincibleness, came into the field. That gigantic Armada approached, and our fleet engaged. The British Fleet was beaten. The first great hammer blow was struck, and the nimbus of British world supremacy disappeared.”

The Admiralty had not released its first communiqué until 7pm on 2nd June which was quoted verbatim in the following day’s newspaper reports, as typified by the Daily Mail’s coverage on its inside pages. The Admiralty’s bland and unadorned statement gave credence to German claims.

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Copyright Trinity Group

The British populace, brought up to believe in supremacy of their navy, fully expected an outright victory, their confidence was severely shaken. Some naval personnel would later say how they had been abused on shore by members of the public whose disbelief had turned to anger.

A second Admiralty communiqué issued on Saturday evening based on better information presented a more balanced view but still did little to counter the German claims of victory. Finally, a third communiqué was issued on Sunday evening making the case for a British victory.  This was widely reported in newspapers on the following day,  Monday 5th June 1916.  Public sentiment began to shift as newspaper reporting focused on the gallantry of the officers and men of the Royal Navy and tributes to the many lost sailors appeared alongside survivor’s stories.

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Copyright Trinity Group

Earlier reports of ships “sunk” always left room for hope, but by 5th June the reality was starkly clear, the “Great North Sea Battle” had claimed the lives of thousands of sailors.

Those hardest hit in Mitcham were the relatives of four men: Albert Henry Barnes, James Thomas Hopson, Herbert Upton and Walter Boughen.

Follow their Jutland stories during today ….

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Mitcham’s Forgotten Forty – Jones to Wood

The challenges included in this second set of the Forgotten Forty are: the common names JONES, SMITH, TURNER and WILLIAMS, for which there are no obvious candidates; JOVER, another mystery name and STOPHER O., another possible mistake (1).

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Some of names can be found on Church memorials within Mitcham, but that is not sufficient for identification.

MEMORIAL NAME

CHURCH NAME

JONES, W.

JOVER, H. J.

KETCHER, E. A.

KETCHER, Ernest A. at Christ Church

KING, F. E.

NEGUS, F. T.

NEGUS, Frederick. T. at St.Mark

PACKWOOD, A .

ARTHUR PACKWOOD at St.Barnabus

PERCY, N .W.

POWELL, C.

POWELL, C. at St.Mark

REED, A.

REED, Allan at St.Mark

ROBINSON, H.

ROBINSON, Herbert at St.Mark

SKINNER, W. F.

SMITH, F.

SMITH, Fred at St.Mark

SOANES, E.

SPEARING, F.

SPEARING, F. at St.Mark

STOPHER, O.

THOMPSON, J.

TURNER, J. C.

TURNER, James C. at Christ Church

TURNER, T. W.

WEAVER, F.

WEAVER, Frederick at St.Mark

WILLIAMS, W. J.

WILLIAMS, W. J. at St.Mark

WILSON, L.

WINTER, W. G.

WINTER, William. G. at Christ Church

WOOD, S.

Footnote 1: No plausible candidate for “STOPHER O.” has ever been found. However unlikely it might seem, the possibility of an error cannot be discounted. Olive Stopher was the sister of the casualty PTE. G/69984 J.F.W. Stopher buried at Church Road Cemetery. If Olive had put her brother’s name forward perhaps they had been interchanged in error.If you recognise any of these names, get in touch at mitchammemorial@gmail.com. If you like a challenge, you could be the one to solve the puzzle. Help identify these forgotten casualties of the Great War and restore their memory, put a personality to their names.

Mitcham’s Forgotten Forty – Baker to Holdsworth

The challenges in this first set of the Forgotten Forty include the common names BAKER, BARKER , COLE and GREEN, for which there are no obvious candidates; HABLIN, a name that seems never to have existed; DRAKE W., a possible mistaken name – should that really have been the DRANE W. buried in Church Road Cemetery?

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Some of names can be found on Church memorials within Mitcham, but that is not sufficient for identification.

MEMORIAL NAME

CHURCH NAME

BAKER, A. F.

BAKER, C.

BARKER, A. C.

BENNETT, T. G.

BIRCH, W.

WALTER BIRCH at St.Barnabus

BISHOP, F. C.

BRADLEY, S. C.

BRADLEY, Sidney C. at St.Mark

BUDD, F.

BUDD, Frederick at Christ Church

BUTLER, J.

BUTLER, James at Christ Church

CLARKE, F.

CLARKE, Frederick at St.Mark

COLE, C.

DRAKE, F.

FRANCIS DRAKE at St.Barnabus

DRAKE, W.

FIELD, V.

FIELD, Victor at St.Mark

FOX, D.

GRAY, G.

GRAY, G. at St.Mark

GREEN, A.

HABLIN, F.

HABLIN, F. at St.Mark

HALL, L.

HALL, Leonard at Christ Church

HERMITAGE, Y.

HIGGINS, C. C.

CHARLES D. HIGGINS at St.Barnabus ?

HITCHCOCK, W.

HOLDSWORTH, W. C.

WILLIAM C. HOLDSWORTH at St.Barnabus

If you recognise any of these names, get in touch at mitchammemorial@gmail.com. If you like a challenge, you could be the one to solve the puzzle.  Help identify these forgotten casualties of the Great War and restore their memory, put a personality to their names.

Mitcham’s Forgotten forty – the Identity Challenge

Currently, 541 of the 587 names on the Mitcham War Memorial have been identified, but in 46 cases identification remains a challenge.

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In Edwardian Mitcham, and at the time of the Great War, it would be hard not to know your neighbours. Streets teemed with children, adults worked, played sports, drank together and used the same local stores. Many had grown up together, had been to the same schools and families were interrelated by marriage, all within the confines of Mitcham. When the names were inscribed on the Mitcham War Memorial there was hardly a need to publish and distributes lists of men who were mostly well known within their respective parts of Mitcham. Things are not so straightforward a hundred years on.

For the uninitiated, identifying names on a memorial is just a process of laboriously checking the CWGC register with the occasional cross-reference to SDGW records. If only it were that simple.

This notion fails to recognise many factors. All branches of the armed services can be represented among those named and is not restricted to British Forces. A high percentage of CWGC registry entries contain no family details and men who died after discharge may have no entry at all. Distinguishing men with common surnames is always a problem, and family names are not always spelt, or used, consistently. While the chances of finding someone’s Army Service Papers is on average around 30%, for many units it is far lower. The papers of Army Officers are mostly only viewable at the National Archive, Kew, along with some RNVR and RNAS records. Service records for the RND and RMLI are held the Fleet Air Arm Museum. Exhaustive searches can be a very protracted business.

An added problem of identification is second guessing how the names were put forward and agreed. Those overseeing all aspects of the Mitcham War Memorial may have used criteria which roughly followed those of the then Imperial War Graves Commission, but it diverges in two obvious ways. Their treatment of deaths after discharge appear less strict and had its own self imposed cut off time. Their interpretation of any residency rules seems rather liberal in some case. While next of kin may have had roots in Mitcham, some men appear to have spent little or no time there.

To move from possible to probable to certain identification some standard of proof must be applied, where corroborative evidence from a variety of sources coincides. The Research Note pages of this blog explore the problems and common pitfalls in identifying individuals in more detail. Specific cases illustrate how a standard of proof may be formulated with a systematic search strategy.

For forty six individuals, that vital evidence has yet to be found.