Mission Impossible: Zeebrugge and Ostende Raids Centenary

Zeebrugge News headlineOn 23rd April 1918, Zeebrugge and Ostende were attacked by British forces to stop German access to the sea. Both ports were linked by a series of canals to the inland port of Bruges and blocking them would provide safe passage for Allied merchant shipping.  Anti-submarine measures were a priority for the British, as merchant shipping was at crisis point as so many ships were being lost to U-boat attacks.

zeebrugge map Attack On The Belgian Coast. Times [London, England] 24 Apr. 1918
The Times, 24th April 1918
The aim was to sink three old Royal Navy vessels, IPHIGENIA, INTREPID and THETIS, which had been filled with concrete as blockships, at the entrance of Zeebrugge harbour to stop German submarines from accessing the English Channel. Two other blockships SIRIUS and BRILLIANT went to Ostende. 


“The men employed on the blockships and in the storming and demolition parties were bluejackets and Royal Marines, picked from a very large number of volunteers from the Grand Fleet and from all the naval and marine depots. There was great competition for the undertaking and we could only take a small proportion of the men who volunteered.” 

SIR ERIC GEDDES, in Parliament, 23rd April 1918

To get the ships into position, marines were to land from VINDICTIVE at night to storm the heavily fortified Mole, to prevent German attack on the three ships to be scuttled. Two explosive filled submarines were to destroy the viaduct which connected the Mole to the shore.

It was a highly dangerous mission, and chances of survival were so slim that the raiding teams were made up of volunteers.  The attack on the Mole failed as marines were mown down by gunfire. Only two of the blockships were sunk in the canal and only one submarine full of explosives made it to the viaduct.  Disappointingly despite the raids, the Germans were able to pass the blockships at high tide.

Well Done Vindictive! The Times (London, England), Thursday, Apr 25, 1918
The Times, 25th April 1918

It was an audacious suicide mission which resulted in limited success at Zeebrugge and total failure at Ostende. However, the press ensured it was promoted as a victory to the war weary public, and the bravery of the men who took part was highlighted by the eight Victoria Crosses awarded.  The entire 4th Battalion Royal Marines was awarded the Victoria Cross, resulting in a ballot– the vote was won by Captain Edward Bamford (RMLI) and Sergeant Norman Augustus Finch (RMA) who each were awarded the medal.* 

From over 200 British deaths and 600 casualties, at least nine of the men killed were Irishmen.

From the 4th Battalion Royal Marines:

Private HENRY CONKEY CAMPBELL, RMLI, from Foundry Street in Belfast. Buried in Dover. Age 19.

Private HUGH O’NEIL, RM, from Trillick, County Tyrone. Buried in Dover. Age 26.

Private DAVID O’SULLIVAN, RMLI, from Tallow, County Cork. Buried in The Netherlands. Age 20.

Private DAVID SNEYD, RMLI, from Dublin. Buried in Belgium. Age 25.

From HMS Vindictive:

Able Seaman JOHN CAINE, RN, from Middleton, County Cork. Buried in Dover. Age 22.

Petty Officer MICHAEL DANIEL HALLIHAN, RN, from Castlehaven, County Cork. Buried in Dover. Age 28.

Able Seaman JOHN HANNAN, RN, from Ladysbridge, County Cork. Buried in Kent. Age 32.

Able Seaman GEORGE LYONS, RN, from Cork. Buried in Dover. Age 33.

Able Seaman THOMAS GEORGE MCSHANE, from Lambeg, Lisburn, County Down. Buried in Dover. Age 24.

Remembered.  May they rest in peace.


* Others awarded the Victoria Cross were:

Commander (Acting Captain) Alfred Francis Blakeney Carpenter, RN

Lieutenant Richard Douglas Sandford, RN

Lieutenant Percy Thompson Dean, RNVR (Motor Launch 282)

Able Seaman Albert Edward McKenzie

Lieutenant-Commander George Nicholson Bradford, RN

Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Leyland Harrison, RN

HMS Louvain Centenary: One of Malta’s worst naval disasters

HMS Louvain SS Dresden
HMS Louvain / SS Dresden

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.

HMS Louvain Petty Officer 1st Class James McCreedy
Petty Officer 1st Class James McCreedy

At least 206 men drowned of which 8 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

Trimmer Andrew Macklin, (alias James E. Kelly) MMR from Belfast, Antrim

Petty Officer (1st) James McCreedy, RN from Cork

Petty Officer Joseph McGillivray, RNR from Balbriggan, Dublin

Fireman James O’Keefe, MMR from Ringsend, Dublin

Seaman William Sinnott, RNR from Wexford

*thank you to Andrew Macklin’s relative Robert Ralph for confirming Andrew’s alias and place of birth

Only one survivor from the loss of HMS OPAL and HMS NARBOROUGH

H.M.S. Opal and H.M.S. Narborough were Royal Navy Admiralty M class destroyers.

HMS Opal HMS Narborough NL 18 Jan 1918
Belfast Newsletter 18 January 1918

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.

HMS Narborough HMS Opal Memorial
HMS Narborough HMS Opal Memorial

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.

Centenary of the loss of HMS RACOON off Malin Head

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.

HMS Racoon Belfast Newsletter 14 January 1918
Belfast Newsletter 14 January 1918

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.

HMS Racoon Garvan Isles location
Garvan Isles location

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.

Centenary Sailors this Remembrance Weekend


Sixty naval men from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales died on 11 or 12 November 1917.

Centenary: Portsmouth Naval Memorial
Portsmouth Naval Memorial

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.

Centenary HMS M15
                                      HMS M15

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.


Cetenary: royal navy poppy

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.



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.

Centenary HM Trawler Thuringia
HM Trawler Thuringia

Losses Thuringia:

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.


Other deaths:

11 November 1917

Deck Hand Robert William Abbs, aged 27, RNR, HMS Vivid. Illness.

Centenary: Flight Sub-Lieutenant David Ross Kerr
     Flight Sub-Lieutenant             David Ross Kerr

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.

Serjeant Jack Bromiley, 22, RMLI, RND (2 RM Btn). DOW.  Buried Belgium.



RN               Royal Navy

RNR             Royal Naval Reserve

RNVR          Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve

MMR          Mercantile Marine Reserve

RND            Royal Naval Division

RMLI           Royal Marine Light Infantry

RNAS           Royal Naval Air Service

MGC           Machine Gun Corps

DOW           Died of Wounds


Centenary of the Loss of HMS DRAKE and HMS BRISK off the North West Coast of Ireland

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.

HMS Drake
                              HMS Drake

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.

HMS Drake Commemoration Service in Ballycastle
HMS Drake Commemoration Service in Ballycastle Photo: Robert White

Commander of the Belfast Regiment Irish National Volunteers Lost On HMS HAMPSHIRE

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.

Lord Kitchener, left, is seen aboard the HMS Iron Duke on June 5, 1916, the day before his ill-fated voyage on the HMS Hampshire. (National Army Museum archives)
Lord Kitchener, left, is seen aboard the HMS Iron Duke on June 5, 1916, the day before his ill-fated voyage on the HMS Hampshire. (National Army Museum archives)

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.

The Loss of RMS LUSITANIA on 7th May 1915

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.

Lusitania at the end of the first leg of her maiden voyage, New York City, September 1907.
Lusitania at the end of the first leg of her maiden voyage, New York City, September 1907.

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.

Lusitania: Cunard Advertisement
Cunard Advertisement

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.’

Lusitania Memorial
Lusitania Memorial

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.

Lusitania: Norman Wilkinson – The Illustrated London News, May 15, 1915.
Norman Wilkinson – The Illustrated London News, May 15, 1915.

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:

Lusitania, Frank Houston
Frank Houston

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.

Lusitania Thomas McAfee
Thomas McAfee

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:

Lusitania Robert McCready
Robert McCready

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.


Servicemen images courtesy of http://www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com

The loss of HMS GOLIATH during the Gallipoli Campaign


HMS Goliath
HMS Goliath

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.

HMS Goliath.
Senior Naval Officer Northern Ireland, Commander John Gray and History Hub Ulster Chair, Karen O’Rawe at Turkish minehunter TCG Anamur in Belfast Port commemorating the Centenary of the Gallipoli landings as part of the Last Post Project. Playing çanakkale türküsü on bağlama is Ioannis Tsioulakis and playing the Last Post on violin is Clare Galway. Also pictured are a sea cadet from TS Eagle and a marine cadet from TS Formidable. Pic By Paul Moane / Aurora PA

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.

Sudden Explosions: HMS Bulwark
                                 HMS Bulwark

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’.

Sudden Explosions: Stoker William Gray HMS Bulwark
Stoker William Gray HMS Bulwark

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.

Sudden Explosions: HMS Princess Irene
                         HMS Princess Irene

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’.

Sudden Explosions: Stoker James Maxwell, HMS Princess Irene
Stoker James Maxwell, HMS 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.

Sudden Explosions: HMS Natal
HMS Natal

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.

Sudden Explosions: Stoker William McConkey, HMS Natal
Stoker William McConkey, HMS Natal

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.

Sudden Eplosions: HMS Vanguard
                           HMS Vanguard

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.

Sudden Explosions: Able Seaman J McCracken, HMS Vanguard
Able Seaman J McCracken, HMS Vanguard

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.

Sudden Explosions: HMS Glatton
                              HMS Glatton

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.

Sudden Explosions: Able Seaman William Brown, HMS Glatton
Able Seaman William Brown, HMS Glatton

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.

Servicemen images courtesy of http://www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com