HMS Louvain began service as the SS Dresden, built in 1897 by the Earle Company at Hull. She operated on the North Sea route between Harwich and Antwerp.
In 1915 Dresden was taken over by the admiralty as an armed boarding steamer and renamed HMS Louvain. On 20 January 1918, on a regular run between Malta and Mudros carrying mail and men, she was torpedoed by the Imperial German Navy submarine UC-22 in the Aegean Sea.
The torpedo penetrated the hull and entered the dynamo compartment and she began to sink rapidly by the stern. Men began to abandon ship, but many boats were sinking as soon as they reached the water.
Despite Louvain’s escort MTB Colne stopping to pick up survivors and searching the area, there were only 16 survivors reported.
The loss of life in the boats was traced to the misunderstanding of boat drill by ship’s crew and passengers, and the decision to place all surviving officers together instead of distributing them across boats to have a steadying influence.
At least 206 men drowned of which 7 were Irish. Significantly at least 69 of the sailors who died were Maltese. Many were part of the crew of HMS Louvain while the others were due to serve on various ships of the British fleet. The sinking of HMS Louvain became one of Malta’s worst naval disasters.
The Irish men were:
Seaman John Connor, RNR from Kinsale, Cork
Seaman Denis Farrissy, RNR from Carrigeen, Cork
Leading Seaman Michael Golden, RNR from Wexford
Petty Officer (1st) James McCreedy, RN from Cork
Petty Officer Joseph McGillivray, RNR from Balbriggan, Dublin
H.M.S. Opal and H.M.S. Narborough were Royal Navy Admiralty M class destroyers.
On 12 January 1918, along with light cruiser H.M.S. Boadicea the destroyers went on night patrol to look for German minelayers along the Scottish coast.
The weather took a turn for the worse and both destroyers found themselves in serious danger. Visibility was very restricted and both Narborough and Opal were ordered to return to Scapa Flow.
However, despite reporting that they were on course for Scapa Flow, the destroyers never returned. Due to horrific weather conditions it was the next day before vessels could be despatched to search for them. It was two days before Opal was found wrecked on the cliffs at Hesta Rock, just to the north of Windwick Bay, South Ronaldsay. Narborough was found in a similar position nearby.
One survivor William Sissons was later located on a small island. He related that the ships had suddenly crashed straight into the rocks, probably due to a navigation error by his captain.
Both wrecks were abandoned and broken up by the sea over the next few weeks taking the bodies of both crews, bar William Sissons, with them – 92 men from HMS Narborough and 96 men from HMS Opal.
There were three Irishmen on HMS Opal:
Able Seaman James Connor, aged 21 from East Hill, Queenstown, Cork.
Engine Room Artificer (3rd), Charles Mayes, aged 27, born in Belfast.
Surgeon Probationer Louis Percival St. John Story, aged 22, from Ulsterville Avenue, Belfast.
H.M.S. Racoon was a Royal Navy Beagle class destroyer. In November 1917, Racoon joined the Second Destroyer Flotilla on the Northern Division of the Coast of Ireland Station, based at Buncrana in Donegal.
During the early morning of 9 January 1918, she was on her way from Liverpool to Lough Swilly to begin anti-submarine and convoy duties in the Northern Approaches. In blizzards and heavy sea conditions she struck rocks at the Garvan Isles just off Malin Head and sank with the loss of all hands.
The navigational error was revealed in a subsequent enquiry when it emerged that Racoon was taken between the isles, rather than going around, which would have been standard in the weather conditions. Visibility failed and she ran straight into one of the islands.
Lt George L.M. Napier and her entire crew of 95 men were lost. HMS Racoon now lies at a depth of 17m and can only be dived during slack water.
A few of her deceased were washed ashore in the locality and their bodies lie in graveyards across Antrim and Donegal as well as a few on the Scottish Isles. Those who were not recovered are remembered on the Chatham and Portsmouth Naval Memorials.
Six Irishmen were lost on HMS Racoon:
Stoker (1st) John Greer, aged 25 from Ravenhill Road Belfast. Buried in Belfast City Cemetery.
Ordinary Seaman Denis O’Reilly, aged 20 from Wolfe Tone Place, Cork. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial.
Stoker (1st) Albert Edward Roberts, aged 22, born County Dublin. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial.
Stoker (1st) Wesley Ferris, aged 24, from North Howard Street, Belfast. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial.
Leading Stoker William Gallie, aged 24, born Belfast. Remembered on Chatham Naval Memorial.
Stoker (1st) John Samuel Harvey (Gibson), aged 28, Zetland Street, Belfast. Buried Crossapol Cemetery on the Isle of Coll, Argyleshire.
Sixty naval men from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales died on 11 or 12 November 1917.
6 of these men were only teenagers, 30 were in their 20s, 16 in their 30s, and 8 were 40 or over, including one man who was 64 years old when he died.
These men are buried in Northern Ireland (1), Palestine (2), Belgium (4), France (1), Malta (1), England (4) and Egypt (1). The remaining 46 men are remembered on either the Portsmouth, Chatham or Plymouth Naval Memorial as their bodies were never recovered.
On 11 November 1917, HM Trawler Thuringia, HMS M15 and HMS Staunch were sunk by U-boats, accounting for 48 of the naval men killed in action. 8 men died on 11 November 1917 and 4 men on 12 November 1917 from wounds, illness or accident.
These men were from all parts of the Royal Navy fighting on land, at sea and in the air – they were regulars, reservists, volunteer reservists, air service, royal marines and mercantile marine.
Monitor HMS M15 and the Acorn-class destroyer HMS Staunch were torpedoed by U-38, on 11 November 1917, after bombarding Gaza as part of the Third Battle of Gaza. Losses from HMS M15 were: 26 men (22 RN, 1 RNVR, 1 RNR and 2 RMLI) and 8 RN men were lost from HMS Staunch.
Losses HMS M15:
Petty Officer Stoker William Edward Benham, 48. Born Gosport.
Able Seaman Norman Birch, 23. Born Sale, Cheshire.
Shipwright (1st) Albert Cecil Chatel, 32. Born Portsmouth.
Leading Cooks Mate Oliver Wilson Christie, 26. Born Brighton.
Private Arthur Percy Cooper, 23. Born Winton, Dorset.
Leading Seaman Edgar Strugnell Cooper, 41. Born Portsea.
Armourer’s Mate Percy Ernest Foot, 36. Born Southampton.
Able Seaman Modesto Gispert, 24. Born London.
Seaman Benjamin Grant, 32. Born Wick.
Able Seaman William Frank Hughes, 24. Born London.
Chief ERA (2nd) John Osborne Mattison, 29. Born Midlothian.
Leading Seaman George Henry Norcott, 22, Born Essex.
Ordinary Seaman Cecil Henry Norman, 31, Born Guernsey.
Private Alfred Simpson, 35. Born Hampshire.
Able Seaman Ernest George Stewart, 21. Born London.
Leading Stoker Henry Stride, 30. Born Southampton.
Officer’s Steward (2nd) Alfred Talbot, 19. Born Herts.
Able Seaman Frederick Edward Wilfred Tiller, 23. Born Southampton.
Ordinary Seaman Robert John Tuttle, 33. Born Berkshire.
Able Seaman Albert Victor Williamson, 29. Born London.
Steward (2nd) George Alfiero, 17. Born Malta.
Signalman Frank Crossfield Frizell, 21. Born Swansea.
Stoker (1st) Frank Herbert Laurie, 27. Born London.
Able Seaman Arthur Edward Ridgewell, 19. Born London.
Able Seaman William Warwick, 20. Born Leicester.
Able Seaman Tom Wass, 19. Born Wigan.
Losses HMS STAUNCH:
ERA (1st) William George Hensley, 39. Born Berks.
Petty Officer Stoker Walter Albury Bridger, 30. Born Sussex.
Stoker (1st) Percy Thomas Gould, 25. Born Burton-on-Trent
Stoker (1st) David Thomas William Prior, 25. Born Cambridge.
Stoker (1st) Leonard Arthur Spinks, 25. Born Norfolk.
Stoker (1st) Reginald Thomas Alexander Swain, 20. Born Reading.
Stoker (1st) Adolph Burdon, 38. Born Hartlepool.
Petty Officer Stoker William Sharp, 35. Born Gateshead.
HM Trawler Thuringia sunk by the German submarine U-95 on 11 November 1917, off Youghal, Ireland. 14 Royal Naval Reservists were lost.
Stoker Llewellyn George, 45. Born Narberth.
Deck Hand Ernest Jenkins, 24. Born Swansea.
Deck Hand Robert Sandham, 38. Born Fleetwood.
Second Hand William Coates Alcock, 26. Born Hull.
Deck Hand George Alfred Amis, 25. Born Norfolk.
Trimmer George Patrick Anderson, 40. Born Hull.
Deck Hand John William Blakelock, 34. Born Grimsby.
Engineman William Cann, 47. Born Norfolk.
Deck Hand William Hart Greenacre, 31. Born Norfolk.
Deck Boy Albert Edward Grey, 17. Born Grimsby.
Leading Seaman Charles Harris, 38. Born Liverpool.
Trimmer Thomas Joseph Hurst, 29. Born Grimsby.
Deck Hand William Noel, 26. Born Hull.
Skipper Albert William Thornham, 46. Born Grimsby.
11 November 1917
Deck Hand Robert William Abbs, aged 27, RNR, HMS Vivid. Illness.
Able Seaman Edgar J Evans, aged 26, RNVR. Born Swansea. RND (Hood Btn). DOW.
Able Seaman John Jones, 30, RNVR, RND (Anson Btn). DOW. Born Bridgend. Buried Belgium.
Able Seaman William Burnside, 25, RNVR, RND (Drake Btn). DOW. Awarded Military Medal. Buried Belgium
Seaman Colman Flaherty, aged 23, RNR. Born Galway, Ireland. SS Basil. Collision.
Flight Sub-Lieutenant David Ross Kerr, 20, RNAS. Born Winnipeg, Canada. Admiralty 179 Dual Type tractor biplane, crashed and wrecked in UK.
Fireman Robert Lynch, 31, MMR. Born in Belfast, Ireland. HMS City of Oxford. Illness.
Stoker (1st) Robert Edward Cottrell, 24, RN. Born Kent, England. HMS Cyclamen. Illness.
12 November 1917
Leading Seaman Henry Glanfield, 32, RN. Born Cork. HMS Vivid. Illness.
Chief Gunner (Ret.) Charles McCoy, 64, RN. Born Portsea. HMS Enchantress. Illness.
Able Seaman Percival C Pitchforth, 19, RNVR, RND (223rd MGC). DOW. Buried Belgium.
HMS Drake was the lead ship of her class of armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy around 1900. She was flagship of the 6th Cruiser Squadron of the 2nd Fleet on it’s incorporation into the Grand Fleet upon the outbreak of World War I.
She remained with the Grand Fleet until refitted in late 1915 when she was transferred to the North America and West Indies Station for convoy escort duties. HMS Drake was torpedoed by German submarine U-79 off the Irish North Coast on 2 Oct 1917 and sank in shallow water with the loss of 18 lives.
Shortly afterwards the destroyer HMS Brisk made a sweep up the Sound to assist her and was hit by U-79, firing one torpedo amidships causing a catastrophic explosion which broke her in two. The bow section sank in the Sound and the stern section was eventually towed into Derry. The explosion killed 32 men outright with another surviving with severe burns until pneumonia eventually took his life on 31 Oct 1917.
U-79 had a successful day, also sinking the Steamer Lugano, although no casualties were reported.
Of the 18 men who died on HMS Drake, Petty Officer Stoker Robert O’Brien was the only Irishman. He was from Skerries, County Dublin.
Of the 32 men who died on HMS Brisk, four were from Ireland. Officer’s Steward William Argent had Irish links as his mother Sarah was notified of his death at the Kinsale Coastguard Station in Cork.
The four Irishmen were:
Seaman Adam Carthy, born in Kinsale
Stoker Michael Fay, born in County Meath
Leading Seaman Michael Flood, Cork
Petty Officer Stoker John Owens, Lusk, County Dublin.
Able Seaman Cyril Brook who died from his injuries is buried along with three of his crewmates at Londonderry City Cemetery. None of the other men’s bodies was found, and their grave remains the sea.
There was a Commemoration Service and Service at Sea today in Ballycastle for those who died to mark the centenary of their deaths.
Today marks the Centenary of the sinking of HMS Hampshire with Lord Kitchener on aboard.
On 5 June 1916, HMS Hampshire left the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow, Orkney, bound for Russia. The Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, was on board as part of a diplomatic and military mission aimed at boosting Russia’s efforts on the Eastern Front.
At about quarter to nine in the evening, in stormy conditions and within two miles of Orkney’s northwest shore, she struck a mine laid by German submarine U-75.
There were at least 28 Irish sailors lost on HMS Hampshire.
One of them was the ship’s surgeon, Dr Hugh Francis McNally from Belfast, son of the principal of Raglan Street Boy’s School on the Falls Road. McNally, an ex St Malachy’s pupil had studied Medicine at Queen’s University and was a member of the Queen’s Officer Training Corps.
He joined the Irish National Volunteers at its formation and was immediately appointed company officer. On the retirement of Captain Berkeley he was appointed Commander of the Belfast Regiment with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
At the start of the First World War, he joined the National Volunteers. He was a magnificent organiser, and was responsible for the 1915 parade in Dublin. Newspaper reports at the time note that he ‘his name will always be remembered by the Belfast National Volunteers with the kindliest feelings’. On receiving his degree from Queen’s University, he joined the Royal Navy, giving his service ‘in the cause of humanity’.
His obituary notes ‘By his death a bright future has been cut short, while his loss to the Volunteer movement will be widely regretted.’
The sinking of HMS Hampshire was a grievous blow to the Allied war effort. The British Empire lost Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, whose organisational ability ensured that Britain had an army, of sufficient size, to be able to stand alongside her Allies in a major European conflict. Kitchener was a personality who was instantly familiar to all British people, both young and old, whose death was mourned as if he had been a close relative.
In addition to the crew, who numbered around 650, was Kitchener’s delegation, consisting of military officers, politicians and their staffs, who also went down with the Hampshire.
Only 12 men, all from the Ship’s company, survived the disaster.
On 30 April 1915, the Lusitania was in New York, being loaded with food and medical supplies. She was also secretly loaded with munitions for Britain for the war. On the same day, Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger was ordered to take U-boat 20 into the Irish Channel to destroy ships going to and from Liverpool.
On 1 May 1915, the Lusitania embarked on its crossing of the Atlantic with 1257 passengers and a crew of 702 under the command of Captain William Turner.
On 5 May, U-20 tried to destroy but missed several ships, including several neutral ones. That day, he destroyed the Earl of Lathom. The next day he fired two torpedoes at the Candidate, a steamer from Liverpool. The same day he destroyed another ship, the Centurion.
On 7 May the Lusitania entered the Irish Channel. Contrary to orders to travel at full speed in the submarine war zone around Great Britain, Captain Turner slowed the ship down because of fog. As a precaution, Captain Turner posted extra lookouts and brought the lifeboats out. Meanwhile U-20 was travelling west in the Irish Channel and sighted the Juno, a cruiser. It’s zigzag path made it difficult for a submarine to fire at and so it escaped. Captain Turner of the Lusitania did not do this because he felt that it wasted time and fuel.
At 1:20pm British time, Schwieger sighted something of note.
‘Starboard ahead four funnels and two masts of a steamer with course at right angles to us’
He submerged and waited until at 1:40pm when the ship turned towards him, and fired a single torpedo.
The 18 year old lookout on the Lusitania grabbed his megaphone and shouted to the bridge:
‘Torpedoes coming on the starboard side.’
Thomas Quinn, a lookout in the crow’s nest, saw the torpedo’s wake and sounded the alarm. There was a large explosion at the side of the ship just ahead of the second funnel. Then there was a larger, muffled explosion from the bottom of the ship. The ship tilted to the right and although the power failed, Captain Turner attempted to steer the Lusitania toward land in an attempt to beach her. Without power the rudder and engines did not respond and the watertight doors could not be closed.
Although the Lusitania had adequate lifeboats for all on board, most lifeboats simply could not be launched. Due to the list, the lifeboats on the port side could not be launched. The starboard side boats swung out so far that many passengers had to jump from the deck to the lifeboats, risking falling into the water far below. A few lifeboats were launched that contained only crew members. Other lifeboats capsized and some were damaged when the torpedo hit the ship.
The Lusitania sank below the waves shortly before 2pm. It sank in only 90 metres of water, and since the ship was 239 metres long, the bow hit the bottom of the ocean while the stern was still up in the air.
Captain Turner jumped into the water as the bridge was about to go under. He swam for 3 hours until he finally found a nearby lifeboat.
The distress signals sent from the Lusitania reached Queenstown, where the Vice Admiral Sir Charles Coke gathered up whatever ships were available and told their captains to sail to where the Lusitania was. They arrived 2 hours after the sinking. They picked up any people still alive in the water and only 6 lifeboats.
761 survivors were collected by boats from Queenstown. 1198 people died.
Some Ulster passengers lost on the Lusitania were:
Frank Houston, the only son of Mr and Mrs Houston of Fernbrook Cottage, Carnmoney Road.
Thomas McAfee, originally from Belfast, who had moved to Toronto was coming home to enlist. He had worked at the York Street Spinning Mill and his sisters lived at Summer Street, Belfast.
Also lost was his friend Robert McCready who had emigrated to Canada a few years before. He was a photographer employed by Charles ad Russell photographers, Royal Avenue, Belfast. His father was William McCready of Oldpark Road, Belfast.
Some crew with Ulster addresses who died on the Lusitania were:
Isaac Linton, aged 48, and Michael Corboy, aged 49 both fireman from County Down.
Michael Rice, aged 60 and Patrick Campbell aged 35 both firemen from Newry.
Another Newry man lost was Patrick Loughran, a trimmer aged only 19 from Queen Street in Newry.
Kenneth Mackenzie, aged 25, a waiter from Belfast.
Trimmer William Field from Ship Street in Belfast was also lost, aged 31.
Edward Finnegan, aged 22, a trimmer from Castleblaney in Monaghan.
Sadie O’Hale aged 29, a ship’s typist from Ballymena.
Edward J Heighway an able seaman from Strangford was saved. Also saved were Able Seaman James Hume from Canmore Street, Belfast and Fireman Stephen Rice from Armagh.
The Gallipoli campaign resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 Allied and Turkish servicemen in just eight months. Serving both at sea and on land, the Royal Navy and Royal Naval Division lost many men in what was to become an unmitigated military disaster of poor planning that resulted in the loss of more than 44,000 Allied lives. In contrast, the defence of Gallipoli was the Ottoman Empire’s most successful military operation of the war.
One example of the local losses during the Gallipoli campaign is the loss of HMS Goliath on 13 May 1915. In total 73 men from Ireland were lost on this ship. In 1911, Coonagh, a small village in Limerick was recorded as having only 48 households of 202 people. Of these 98 were male and only 48 men were between the ages of 18 and 49 in the village. Of these men, 8 died on HMS Goliath. Seven of these men were fishermen like their fathers, the other an agricultural labourer. The impact of this loss is still felt today as Mick Cronin from Coonagh is currently fundraising for a memorial to these lost men.
The ages of the men lost on the ship ranged from 17 to 55 years old, the average age being over 30. Despite the myth that World War One was a ‘young man’s war’, there were many very experienced seamen who died at sea. This includes Armourer Michael Meyler from Wexford who was 55 years old when he died, and noted as a pensioner, and Petty Officer James John Beauchamp who was 48 when he died. Following in his coastguard father’s footsteps, James was a coastguard in Castleblaney. The youngest Irishman to die on Goliath was Boy (1st Class) Philip Duffy, a Monaghan lad. His service record notes his full enlistment on 23 August 1915, however he never made it to that date and his death date precedes his enlistment date.
The 73 Irish casualties who died during the sinking of HMS Goliath were from the following areas: 16 from Cork, 9 from Waterford, 9 from Belfast, 8 each from Dublin and Limerick, 6 from Wexford, 3 from Derry, 2 each from Monaghan, Down and Carlow, 1 from Antrim, Donegal, Wicklow, Kerry, Tipperary, Meath, Sligo and Louth.
Another Irishman, Signaller Frederick Parnell Waterson was severely wounded in action on HMS Goliath on 3 May 1915 during operations in the Dardanelles, died on 1 June 1915 of pneumonia. Previously a plumber, Frederick is buried at the Royal Naval Cemetery in Capuccini, Malta.
HMS Goliath was a pre-dreadnought battleship built by the Royal Navy in the late 19th century. Having been mothballed prior to the outbreak of the First World War, she was returned to full commission. Goliath was part of the Allied fleet supporting the landing at X and Y Beaches during the landing at Cape Helles on 25 April, sustaining some damage from the gunfire of Ottoman Turkish forts and shore batteries, and supported allied troops ashore.
On the night of 12 May, Goliath was anchored in off Cape Helles, along with HMS Cornwallis and a screen of five destroyers. Around 1am the Turkish torpedo boat destroyer Muâvenet-i Millîye eluded the destroyers and closed on the battleships firing two torpedoes which struck Goliath almost simultaneously causing a massive explosion. Goliath began to capsize almost immediately, and was lying on her beam ends when a third torpedo struck. She then rolled over and sank taking 570 of her 700 crew to the bottom, including her commanding officer. Although sighted and fired on after the first torpedo hit, Muâvenet-i Millîye escaped unscathed.
Goliath was the fourth Allied pre-dreadnought battleship to be sunk in the Dardanelles. For sinking Goliath, Turkish Captain of Muâvenet-i Millîye, Ahmet Saffet Bey was promoted to rank of Commander (Major) and awarded the Gold Medal. The German consultant, Kapitänleutnant Rudolph Firle was awarded the Gold Medal by the Ottoman sultan and the Iron Cross (1st class) by the German General Staff.
Irishmen lost on HMS Goliath were:
Seaman Richard Allen RNR, from Coonagh, Limerick
Seaman Maurice Cronin RNR from Coonagh, Limerick
Seaman Patrick Cronin RNR from Coonagh, Limerick
Seaman Patrick Darby RNR from Coonagh, Limerick
Seaman John Davis RNR from Coonagh, Limerick
Seaman Thomas Davis RNR from Coonagh, Limerick
Seaman Thomas Grimes RNR from Coonagh, Limerick
Seaman Michael Hickey RNR from Coonagh, Limerick
Leading Seaman Michael Coleman RN from Aghada, Cork
Stoker Thomas Webb RNR from Bantry, Cork
Seaman Patrick Sweeney RNR from Castletown, Cork
Petty Officer James Crowley RN from CastleLyons, Cork
Seaman Robert Arnopp RNR from Kinsale, Cork
Seaman Daniel Collins RNR from Kinsale, Cork
Seaman John Mahony RNR from Kinsale, Cork
Seaman John Mahony RNR from Kinsale, Cork
Seaman Patrick Regan RNR from Kinsale, Cork
Able Seaman William Geoghean RN from Queenstown, Cork
Petty Officer John Keane RN from Templerobin, Cork
Gunner Charles McCarthy RN from Aghada, Cork
Stoker (1st) Jeremiah Kearney RN from Nackbrown, Cork
Shipwright (2nd) Richard Ahern RN from Youghal, Cork
ERA John Joseph O’Flaherty RN from Cork
Chief Stoker Denis O’Neill RN from Cork
Seaman William Dempsey RNR from Blackwater, Wexford
Stoker (1st) Patrick Murphy RN from Fethard, Wexford
Seaman Patrick Kavanagh RNR from Kildermot, Wexford
Seaman Michael Joseph Allen RNR from New Ross, Wexford
Seaman William Barron RNR from Ballyhack, Wexford
Armourer Michael Meyler RN from Wexford
Stoker John Garvey RNR from Bray, Wicklow
Stoker Myles Doran RNR from Carnew, Wicklow
Cooper Michael Cunningham RN from Clashmor, Waterford
Seaman James Flynn RNR from Corbally, Waterford
Seaman Michael Flynn RNR from Corbally, Waterford
Able Seaman James Mason RN from Passage East, Waterford
Seaman James Walsh RNR from Passage East, Waterford
Stoker (1st) Michael Power RN from Tallow, Waterford
Petty Officer Michael Gyles RN from Tramore, Waterford
Seaman Thomas Keohan RNR from Tramore, Waterford
Seaman William Power RNR from Tramore, Waterford
Able Seaman Richard McClatchie RN from Clonmel, Tipperary
Stoker (1st) Peter Carroll RN from Clontarf, Dublin
Chief ERA Robert Byrne RN from Dublin
Stoker John Larkin RNR from Ringsend, Dublin
Stoker Thomas Lee RNR from Dublin
Able Seaman Frederick William McDowell RN from Dublin
Seaman William McGee RNR from Rush, Dublin
Stoker (1st) John Steel RN from Dublin
Able Seaman George Edwin Upton RN from Dublin
Stoker Francis McKeown RNR from Dundalk, Louth
Able Seaman John Kearney RN from Slane, Meath
Chief Yeoman of Signals Robert Kilcullen RN from Waste Gardens, Sligo
Able Seaman George Wood RN from Valentia, Kerry
Stoker Samuel Gibson RNR from Carlow
Stoker (1st) Class Hector Hiles RN from Belfast
Stoker Robert Jones RNR from Belfast
Stoker John Jones RNR from Belfast
Stoker John McAnally RNR from Belfast
Stoker Robert John McDowell RNR from Belfast
Stoker Thomas Warnock RNR from Belfast
Seaman Gordon Douglas Simpson RNR from Belfast
Stoker (1st) Class Hugh O’Donnell RN from Belfast
Stoker Charles Holland RNR from Belfast
Private Alexander Harkness RMLI from Ballygarvey, Antrim
Able Seaman James Kelso RN from Kilkeel, Down
Stoker (1st) Class William Ernest Beringer RN from Portaferry, Down
Private Robert Hutchinson RMLI from Derry
Leading Seaman John Doherty RN from Derry
Seaman John Joseph Dennis RNR from Waterside, Derry
Able Seaman Philip Wright RN from Ballyarnett, Donegal
Petty Officer (1st) James John Beauchamp RN from Castleblayney, Monaghan
Boy (1st) Class Philip Duffy RN from Clones, Monaghan
Research by Karen O’Rawe, Chair History Hub Ulster.
Photo by Aurora
Commemoration in Belfast
Turkish minehunter TCG ANAMUR and German minehunter FGS BAD BEVESEN were at Pollock Dock in Belfast on the Centenary of the Commencement of the land campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
History Hub Ulster, as part of the national Last Post Project, commemorated those naval personnel lost at Gallipoli from all countries involved in the First World War campaign. Musician Ioannis Tsioulakis played Turkish folk song çanakkale türküsü on traditional Turkish instrument the bağlama, and Clare Galway played the Last Post on violin adjacent to TCG ANAMUR berthed at in Belfast Harbour. Senior Naval Officer Northern Ireland, Commander John Gray, History Hub Ulster Chair Karen O’Rawe and sea cadets from TS Eagle and TS Formidable joined them to remember Ulster sailors lost in the Gallipoli campaign.
Across the course of World War One, 5 Royal Navy warships were destroyed by sudden explosions causing the deaths of 2291 sailors of which 98 were known Irishmen. 38 of the lost sailors were Ulstermen. These ships were HMS Bulwark lost 1914, HMS Princess Irene lost 1915, HMS Natal lost 1915, HMS Vanguard lost 1917 and HMS Glatton lost 1918.
On 26 November 1914, the 15,000-ton battleship, HMS Bulwark was moored on the Medway in Sheerness. While the men on board were having breakfast, the ship suddenly exploded. An eyewitness saw ‘a great volume of flame and smoke shot into the air. The ship seemed to split in two and then heeled over and sank’.
The sudden explosion was heard across a 30 mile radius. Once the smoke cleared no trace of the ship remained. The Times lead with the strapline ‘Ship’s company almost eliminated. The Bulwark disappeared in three minutes. The explosion shook every building in the vicinity, and some of the debris was thrown six miles’.
The Belfast Newsletter printed an eyewitness statement ‘At first we could see nothing but when the smoke cleared a bit we were horrified to find that the battleship Bulwark had gone’. He continues describing finding a body in the water ‘The poor fellow was terribly mutilated. One arm was torn off and hanging as if by a thread, while the body was terribly cut about. He looked as if he had been dragged for miles over rough stones, His clothing was in shreds and his flesh cut through’.
There was considerable damage in Sheerness and more than 700 men on the ship were killed. Winston Churchill reported the disaster to the House of Commons later that day, noting that only 12 had survived. There were rumours of sabotage or enemy action, but Bulwark was almost certainly destroyed after cordite was ignited and there may have been some mishandling of the powder charges.
30 Irish men were killed in the explosion, 7 of them from Ulster.
The Ulstermen were: Seaman James Begley of Greencastle, Donegal aged 24, Stoker (1st) Jeremiah Byrne of Kilcar, Donegal aged 38, Seaman Edmund Finn of Red Bay, Antrim aged 34, Able Seaman James Thomas Gardner of HM Coastguard Station, Carrickfergus aged 46, Stoker Hugh Gilmour of Banbridge, aged 36, Stoker William Gray from Hogarth Street in Belfast aged 32 and Lieutenant Alexander Cyril Montagu from Cromore in Portstewart aged 24.
Cordite, the propellant that once hurled British bullets and shells, is notoriously unstable and less than six months later there was a second sudden explosion on ocean liner Princess Irene built at Dumbarton in 1914 for Canadian Pacific Railways. She had been commandeered for war service as a minelayer and became HMS Princess Irene. On the morning of 27 May 1915 while in the Medway for a refit, a huge explosion tore through the vessel, shaking the ground for miles around and showering the surrounding villages with bodies and debris.
The Belfast Newsletter reported that ‘the explosion…was even more violent than that which accompanied the blowing up of the battleship Bulwark. Flying debris was scattered for a considerable distance, and a number of men on other ships in the vicinity were injured’.
‘A packet of butter which is known to have belonged to the vessel has been picked up in a garden in Newington, which is about 8 miles as the crow flies from Sheerness, and at the same place two towels bearing the words “Allan Line”, were picked up along with a large piece of wood bearing marks that it belonged to the Princess Irene’.
One mechanic working on a ship 1000 yards away was hit by debris and died the following day, and a little girl aged 9 was picked up dead on the Isle of Grain having been struck by a piece of iron from the ship. On Princess Irene 200 men died, along with 78 shipwrights, apprentices, skilled labourers and boys from nearby towns and villages. Once again sabotage was suspected, but the conclusion was that the mine charges were unstable and were awaiting replacement.
19 Irish men were killed in the sudden explosion, 6 of them from Ulster.
The Ulstermen were: Stoker (2nd class) James Larmour from Lilliput Street, Belfast aged 19, Stoker (2nd class) James Maxwell of Barbour Street, Greencastle aged 20, Able Seaman John McAdorey of Garmoyle street, Belfast aged 30, Stoker 2nd class Matthew McEnroe of Union Street, Derry aged 19, Leading Stoker John Carleton of Belgrave Street, Belfast aged 23 and Stoker (2nd class) Alexander McMurray of Bangor aged 22.
Just over six months later another explosion occurred near Cromarty, Firth on HMS Natal, a Warrior-class armoured cruiser. On 30th December 1915 the Captain was hosting a Christmas film show on board the warship. Invited along were wives of officers and nurses from a nearby hospital ship. Just as the party was starting at around 3.25pm, a series of massive explosions tore through the rear part of the ship and she capsized within 5 minutes. Reports that she had been torpedoed by a German U-boat or detonated a mine were proven false when examinations of the wreckage revealed that the explosions were internal. The Admiralty court-martial concluded that the explosion was caused by an ammunition explosion, possibly due to faulty cordite. The Admiralty issued a list of the dead and missing that totalled 390 in January 1916, but did not list the women and children on board that day, perhaps embarrassed by the loss of non-combatants. Losses are now listed between 400 to 421 people.
17 Irish men were killed in the explosion, 9 of them from Ulster.
The Ulstermen were: Boy 1st class Francis Pasteur Goodman of Keady, Armagh aged 17, Stoker 1st class William McConkey of Agnes Street, Belfast aged 20, Armourer’s Crew John Stratton of Portadown, Armagh aged 20, Stoker 1st class William Walsh of Spamount Street, Belfast aged 26, Boy 1st class Robert Woodney of Queensland Street, Belfast aged 17, Able Seaman Henry McKee of Malone Road, Belfast aged 24, Carpenter’s Crew Thomas McKeown from Cookstown, Tyrone aged 23, Engine Room Artificer 4th Class Nathaniel Taylor from Rockvale, Katesbridge aged 22 and Stoker 1st class Thomas Newell of Lachagh street, Belfast, aged 22.
HMS Vanguard was a St Vincent-class dreadnought battleship built for the Royal Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. She spent her whole career assigned to the Home and Grand Fleets. Aside from participating in the Battle of Jutland her service during World War I generally consisted of routine patrols and training in the North Sea. Just before midnight on 9 July 1917 at Scapa Flow, Vanguard suffered an explosion caused by an unnoticed stokehold fire heating cordite stored against an adjacent bulkhead in one of the two magazines which served the amidships gun turrets. She sank almost instantly, killing an estimated 804 men with only two picked up alive.
In terms of loss of life, the destruction of the Vanguard remains the most catastrophic accidental explosion in the UK, and one of the worst accidental losses of the Royal Navy.
30 Irish men were killed in the explosion, 15 of them from Ulster.
The Ulstermen were: Ordinary Seaman Alexander Baird from Upper Meadow Street, Belfast, aged 19, Stoker John Devine from Ballymoney, aged 32, Ordinary Seaman William Harvey, from City Street, Belfast, aged 18, Able Seaman Joseph McCracken of Crimea Street, Belfast aged 26, Stoker 1st class Samuel McIlvenny from Stratheden Street, Belfast aged 24, Naval Schoolmaster Hugh Robert Murray from Halliday’s Road, Belfast aged 22, Stoker 1st Class, William George Reid of Mervue Street, Belfast aged 23, Carpenter’s Crew Charles Magee Thompson from Gracehill, Ballymena aged 23, Midshipman Randal William McDonnell Johnston from Glynn, Co Antrim aged 17, Carpenter’s Crew Bernard Ferris from Co Derry, aged 22, Stoker 1st Class Hugh Fisher from Portaferry, Co Down, aged 27, Able Seaman Samuel Montgomery McCargo from Co Antrim aged 21, Carpenter’s Crew John Wilson Adams from Spittal Hill, Coleraine, aged 29, Stoker 1st class Thomas Rainey Agnew from Spamount Street, Belfast aged 23, Shipwright 2nd class John Neville from Cregagh Road, Belfast aged 37.
HMS Glatton and her sister ship Gorgon were originally built as coastal defence ships for the Royal Norwegian Navy, as Bjørgvin and Nidaros respectively. She was requisitioned from Norway at the beginning of World War I, but was not completed until 1918 although she had been launched over three years earlier.
On 16 September 1918, before she had even gone into action, she suffered a large fire in one of her 6-inch magazines. Attempts to deal with the fire failed and she had to be torpedoed to prevent an explosion of her main magazines that would have devastated Dover as well as other vessels nearby loaded with oil and ammunition.
It was found that the piling of clinker against the magazine bulkhead provided the source of the ignition of the cordite causing the explosion. Her wreck was partially salvaged in 1926, and moved into a position in the North Eastern end of the harbour where it would not obstruct traffic. It was subsequently buried by landfill underneath the current car ferry terminal.
2 Irish men were killed in the explosion, 1 of them was from Ulster.
The Ulsterman was: Able Seaman William Thomas Brown of Jonesboro Street, Belfast aged 20.
These five ships, needlessly lost during the First World War were not the victims of enemy action but rather the mismanagement of explosives and at least 2291 lives were lost.
A list of known Irish men on board these ships is available by contacting me by email.
There were 5 other Allied ships lost during the war to explosions. Italy lost the battleships Benedetto Brin and Leonardo-di-Vinci. Japan lost the battleship Kawachi and the battle cruiser Tsukuba and Russia lost the battleship Imperatritza Maria. A cordite explosion also occurred on board the Chilian ship Capitan Prat however this did not lead to the loss of the ship. In addition cordite handling problems caused 3 battlecruisers to fatally explode during the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
The destruction of Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock’s squadron by German Admiral von Spee at The Battle of Coronel occurred on 1st November 1914 resulting in the loss of 1,654 souls, 91 known to be Irishmen, 26 of them Ulstermen.
Ulster losses at Coronel include:
-15 year old Midshipman Gervase Ronald Bruce from Downhill, Derry, one of ten cadets lost on MONMOUTH.
-Armagh man Gunner James McVey who was underage on enlistment and was likely the first Ulsterman from the Royal Marine Artillery to die in the Great War.
-Antrim man Private Adam Morrow who was likely the first Ulsterman from the Royal Marine Light Infantry to die in the Great War.
-Five more Ulster teenagers were lost; Belfast boys Stoker (2nd) John McAteer, Boy (1st) William Connell,Able Seaman William A. J. Wilson and Ordinary Seaman Herbert Kelly as well as Ordinary Seaman Henry McNally who was from Draperstown.
The Royal Navy, had spent months looking for the German East Asiatic commerce-raiding squadron known to be operating under Admiral von Spee in the Pacific without success. An intercepted radio communication, in early October revealed details of a plan devised by von Spee to prey upon shipping in the crucial trading routes along the west coast of South America. Patrolling South America at that time was Admiral Cradock’s West Indies Squadron, which consisted of two armoured cruisers, HMS GOOD HOPE and HMS MONMOUTH, the light cruiser GLASGOW, and a converted ex-liner, OTRANTO. Cradock was ordered to deal with von Spee even though his fleet was ill-matched when set against von Spee’s formidable force of five vessels, led by the armoured cruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU plus three modern light cruisers.
On 18 October von Spee, having heard of the solo existence of the GLASGOW, set off with his squadron from Valparaiso with the intention of destroying it. Cradock, who was aware that he was outgunned had been waiting in the hope of naval reinforcements. The Admiralty dispatched an armoured cruiser DEFENCE and an elderly battleship CANOPUS but neither reached Cradock before battle unexpectedly commenced on 1 November 1914. Deciding that he could wait no longer for reinforcements, Cradock determined to sail from the Falkland Islands to rendezvous with GLASGOW at Coronel, where she was gathering intelligence.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, issued orders to Cradock on 28 October instructing him to halt, pending possible reinforcement from the Japanese Navy. However Cradock had intercepted a radio signal on 31 October that LEIPZIG, the slowest of von Spee’s light cruisers, was in the area. He promptly ordered his squadron north to cut it off and found himself confronting von Spee’s entire force the following day at around 4.30pm. At this stage it is probable that Cradock’s force could have escaped by sailing towards CANOPUS as with the failing light, von Spee would most likely have lost contact with the British squadron. Instead Cradock chose to stay and fight; however he ordered OTRANTO to break formation and flee. In difficult seas, von Spee moved his faster vessels out of Cradock’s firing range; at sunset with the moon clearly silhouetting Cradock’s fleet, he began to shell the British force, with SCHARNHORST’s third salvo crippling the flagship GOOD HOPE and both GOOD HOPE and MONMOUTH were destroyed shortly afterwards, MONMOUTH under repeated battering.
Newspaper reports about Coronel at the time were confused and it was not confirmed until many days later what had actually happened to Cradock and his fleet. In fact on 4th November it was reported that HMS GOOD HOPE had not been damaged at all and on the 7th November it was reported that ‘The Admiralty have now received trustworthy information’ and that HMS MONMOUTH was ashore in Chile.
Eyewitness reports state:
“Monmouth continued to battle until her hull was riddled. She toppled over in the water and lay for a moment with her keel lapped by the waters, then plunged to the bottom.”
“After the Monmouth disappeared, the Germans closed in on the Good Hope, the big guns of the two battle cruisers firing with marvellous accuracy. With flames bursting from her in a dozen places, her superstructure carried away and her guns out of commission, the Good Hope finally turned and ran ashore with water pouring into her hull.”
A German report expresses that:
“German officers bear testimony to the great gallantry of the crew of the Monmouth, which while in a sinking condition, attempted to ram one of the German vessels.”
Although GLASGOW and OTRANTO both escaped, 1,654 men were drowned on GOOD HOPE and MONMOUTH. No survivors were found and Cradock himself was lost with his ship. Von Spee’s own fleet had suffered little damage, and sailed thereafter to Valparaiso to a rapturous welcome from the local German population.
Once news of the scale of the British defeat, and its consequent humiliation, reached the British Admiralty in London a decision was quickly taken to assemble a huge naval force under Admiral Sir Frederick Sturdee. This was promptly dispatched to destroy von Spee’s force, which it subsequently did, at the Battle of the Falkland Islands.
The loss of these men will be marked within the introduction to QFT’s screening of ‘The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands’. This new restoration from the British Film Institute National Archive is one of the finest films of the British silent era – a thrilling reconstruction of two decisive naval battles of 1914, recreated and filmed 13 years later, in peacetime. With a new score performed by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines.
HMS GOOD HOPE
Gunner James McVey, born Armagh, lived Belfast
Able Seaman David Boyd, born Dromore, lived Belfast
Stoker (1st) Hugh Brough, lived Belfast
Stoker (2nd) John McAteer, born Belfast
Leading Stoker Joseph Wood, lived Belfast
Leading Seaman John Weir Hanna, born Belfast, lived Aghalee
Able Seaman James McGregor Reed, born Turmore, Donegal
Able Seaman George Todd, lived Newcastle
Stoker (1st) John Bleakley, born Belfast
Boy (1st) William Connell, lived Belfast
Able Seaman Samuel James Dickson, born Edenderry, lived Belfast
Able Seaman Albert Henry O’Hea, born Londonderry
Leading Seaman Herbert Campbell, born Belfast
Private Adam Morrow, born Antrim
Able Seaman George Henry Patton, born Belfast
Able Seaman Alexander Rodgers, born Belfast
Able Seaman William A J Wilson, born Belfast
Seaman Samuel Johnston, born Newtownards, lived Donaghadee
Seaman John McMullan, born Downpatrick
Ship’s Corporal (1st) William McAllister, born Portrush
Leading Seaman John Bernard, born Belfast
Ordinary Seaman Herbert Kelly, born Belfast
Ordinary Seaman Henry McNally, born Draperstown
Leading Seaman Michael Molloy, born Ardglass
Able Seaman David Prentice, born Belfast, lived Dromore
Midshipman Gervase Ronald Bruce, born Downhill