Loss of 91 Irishmen on HMS MONMOUTH and HMS GOOD HOPE at the Battle of Coronel

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.

Coronel - HMS Good Hope
                      HMS Good Hope

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.

Coronel - HMS Monmouth
                                HMS Monmouth

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.

Queen’s Film Theatre; 11 November at 6.30pm and 16 November at 3pm. Book online: http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com/

Ulster men lost at Coronel:

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


HMS HAWKE: Heartbreaking Stories of Fathers-to-be Who Would Never See Their Newborn Children

HMS Hawke: Sixty two confirmed Irish sailors lost, of which forty nine are known to be Ulstermen.

During the week when the Royal Navy traditionally remembers the Immortal Memory of Admiral Nelson and his final victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, it is worth pausing to reflect on the centenary of a naval incident that had a significant impact on so many Ulster families, the sinking of HMS Hawke. One of the greatest single losses of Royal Navy sailors from Ulster, this incident occurred on the 15th October 1914 when the German Submarine U-9 which was patrolling the North Sea came across two British Cruisers HMS Hawke and her sister ship HMS Theseus.

HMS Hawke
HMS Hawke

Under the command of German hero Commander Weddigen, U-9 fired on the British ships. This was the same German submarine which had caused the deaths of almost 1,500 British seamen only 3 weeks earlier with the torpedoing of the ‘Livebait Squadron’. The submarine’s first torpedo hit HMS Hawke, igniting a magazine and causing a tremendous explosion which ripped much of the ship apart. Hawke sank in a few minutes with the loss of her Commander and 523 men. Only 74 men were saved.

Sailors from Ulster lost on Hawke included the tragic loss of three fathers-to-be, leaving pregnant wives to fend for themselves throughout the difficult war years.

Leading Stoker Joyce Power left young twins and a pregnant wife in Ballymena. His daughter Margaret Hawke Power named after the ship he was killed on.

-Also drowned was Able Seaman Albert Patterson Wilson whose first daughter Frances was born only 4 weeks later on 14 November.

-Mariette Isabella Donald was born at the end of 1914, her father Martie Donald not returning to Carrickfergus to meet his newborn daughter.

-The Gorman siblings from Clifton Park in Belfast lost one brother, Charles on HMS Pathfinder in September only to hear of the death of another brother, Able Seaman James Toland Gorman, only one month later on HMS Hawke.

-Sullatober Flute band from Carrickfergus who lost one of their players Henry McMurran on HMS Cressy just 3 weeks before, suffered yet another tragedy with the loss of another member, Stoker (1st class) Andrew McAllister.

-Another loss for Ulster was Lieutenant Commander Ruric Henry Waring, the first of the sons of Colonel Thomas Waring JP of Waringstown to be killed. Ruric’s younger brother Major Holt Waring would be killed in 1918 at the Front.

In August 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, Hawke was part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, operating on blockade duties between the Shetland Islands and Norway. In October 1914, the 10th Cruiser Squadron was deployed further south in the North Sea as part of efforts to stop German warships from attacking a troop convoy from Canada. On 15 October, the squadron was on patrol off Aberdeen and HMS Hawke stopped at 0930 to pick up mail from her sister ship HMS Endymion. Hawke proceeded to return to her station without zig-zagging to avoid danger, and was out of sight of the rest of the Squadron when a single torpedo from U-9 struck Hawke and she quickly capsized. The remainder of the Squadron only realised something was wrong when, after a further, unsuccessful attack on Theseus, they were ordered to retreat and no response was received from Hawke. The destroyer Swift was dispatched from Scapa Flow to search for Hawke and found a raft carrying 22 men, while a boat with a further 49 survivors was rescued by a Norwegian steamer.

524 men drowned, including the ship’s Captain, Hugh P. E. T. Williams, and 49 Ulstermen. Only 74 men were saved, of which 6 were from Ulster.

A surviving Stoker explained:
‘Those on deck for an instant immediately after the explosion saw the periscope of a submarine which showed above the water like a broomstick. The Hawke was holed above the engine room and commenced to cant over to starboard with alarming rapidity. Her plates were twisted and torn and a huge gap was rent in her side. An attempt to man the guns was made but owing to the extra acute list of the vessel it was found impossible to train them on the submerged craft. The horror of the situation was added to when a tank of oil fuel caught fire and the flames advanced with fatal rapidity. Seeing there was not the ghost of a chance of doing any good by remaining in what was obviously a death trap I determined to make a dash for it. I scrambled precipitately up the iron ladder to the main deck. All this had happened in less time than it takes to tell.’

He continued:
‘But such is British pluck and coolness of nerve even in the face of such a situation that already after the initial shock the Captain, Commander and a midshipman were on the bridge and calmly on the fleet manoeuvre in the Solent, orders were given out and calmly obeyed. The bugler sounded the ‘Still’ call which called upon every man to remain at the post in which the call reached him. Apparently during the first minute or two, the belief was entertained that all that was wrong was the boiler explosion, but the rapidity with which the cruiser was making water on her starboard side rudely and quickly disputed all minds of this belief.’

Another survivor explained that:
‘The Captain, Commander and the midshipman had stuck bravely to their posts on the bridge to the last, and were seen to disappear and the ship finally plunged bow first amidst a maelstrom of cruel, swirling waters’

One survivor when interviewed pointed out that:
‘the crew for the most part were Irishmen, the reason being that at the outbreak of war the Hawke which was one of the oldest ships of the British Navy, was stationed at Queenstown… there were only around 24 active servicemen on board, the remainder being fleet reservists’

None of these men’s bodies was recovered for burial, most remaining where they drowned. The centenary of the sinking of HMS Hawke and the tragic loss of so many men of Ulster will be remembered at the Royal Navy’s annual Trafalgar Day Service in Belfast on 19th October 2014.

Ulstermen known to have died on HMS Hawke are:

Stoker (1st class) Nathaniel Agnew, born Belfast

Able Seaman Robert Algie, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) David Bell, born Ballymena

Stoker (1st class) George Jackson Campbell, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) John Chisim, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Hugh Patrick Cormican, born Belfast

Able Seaman Hugh Crawford, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Robert Creighton, born Larne

Stoker (1st class) James Dickey, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Mariott (Martie) Robert D Donald, born Carrickfergus

Petty Officer (1st class) William James Elkin, born Coleraine

Stoker (1st class) Samuel Fee, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) William John Gillespie, born Lisburn

Able Seaman James Toland Gorman, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) William Greer, born Ballybay, Monaghan

Stoker (1st class) Robert John Hamilton, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) William James Harper, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Robert Hunter, born Belfast

Able Seaman William Johnston, born Carrickfergus

Stoker (1st class) Isaac Lewis, lived Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Andrew McAllister, born Carrickfergus

Able Seaman David McCaugherty, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Hugh McComb, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) William McFarlane

Stoker (1st class) James McNally, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) John Mills, born Belfast

Chief Petty Officer Charles Molloy, born Drumragh, Tyrone

Stoker (1st class) Edward Mullen, born Belfast

Able Seaman William James Ross, born Belfast

Leading Stoker Joyce Power, born Ballymena

Stoker (1st class) Thomas Henry Sefton, lived Belfast

Stoker (1st class) John Smyth, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Archer Thompson, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) David Tully

Stoker (1st class) Charles Edward Uprichard, born Lurgan

Stoker (1st class) Henry Wasson, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) James Wilson, born Newry

Able Seaman Albert Patterson Wilson, lived Belfast

Stoker (1st class) John Yates, born Belfast

Boy (1st class) Clare Robert Adams, born Enniskillen

Stoker (1st class) William Clarke, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Edward Crossin, born Belfast

Able Seaman John Thomas Gibson Dawson, born Belfast

Able Seaman James Charles Gamble, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Daniel Laverty, born Belfast

Stoker (1st class) Alexander Mairs, born Ballymena

Leading Stoker Patrick McEvoy, born Dechomet, Banbridge

Stoker (1st class) Hugh McGinley, born Inch Island, Donegal

Lieutenant Commander Ruric Henry Waring, born Waringstown


*Three years before, on 20 September 1911, Hawke, under command of Commander W. F. Blunt, collided in the Solent with the White Star liner RMS Olympic. In the course of the collision, Hawke lost her bow. The subsequent trial pronounced Hawke to be free from any blame. During the trial, a theory was advanced that the large amount of water displaced by the Olympic had generated a suction that had drawn Hawke off course. The decision of the first court to try the case provoked a series of legal appeals.

*There were 6 known Ulster men who survived the tragedy. These were: Charles Trainer from Derry, JA Allen from Belfast, Thomas H Doyle from Belfast, Thomas Hoy from Larne, John Aitken, from Belfast and James O’Neill, from Belfast.

*William Hull from NOW assisted with this research.

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

THE LIVEBAIT SQUADRON: One of the Largest Naval Disasters in History with 32 Ulstermen Lost to Just one U-boat

Exactly seven weeks into the First World War, the action of 22nd September 1914 saw three large but old British Royal Navy cruisers, manned mainly by reservists and referred to as the Livebait Squadron, sunk by just one German submarine while on patrol in the North Sea. In all 1,459 men were lost off the Dutch Coast, on the three ships HMS Aboukir, HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue. Of these, at least 32 men had connections to Ulster, most of them Stokers and three quarters of them part time reservists. Their average age was only 27 years old.

31 Ulstermen from the Livebait Squadron are buried at sea. Only 1 Ulsterman has a known grave.

Livebait Sqaudron: HMS Aboukir
                                     HMS Aboukir

The morning of 22 September found a single U-boat, U-9 passing through the Broad Fourteens on her way back to base. Surfacing after taking shelter from a storm, U-9 spotted the unprotected British ships and moved to attack.

She fired one torpedo from a range of 500m, which struck Aboukir, flooding the engine room and causing the ship to stop immediately. Aboukir capsized and sank within 30 minutes. It was assumed that the ship had hit a mine, and the other two cruisers closed in to help.

U-9 resurfaced to observe Hogue and Cressy trying to rescue men in the water, and fired two torpedoes at Hogue from a range of 270m. Despite the ship opening fire on U-9, the two torpedoes struck Hogue and within 15 minutes she capsized.

Livebait Squadron: HMS Hogue
                               HMS Hogue

The last remaining cruiser Cressy was left to face U-9 alone but failed. Hit by two torpedoes, she capsized and floated upside down for 40 minutes before sinking.

One survivor explained how the men were;

‘much bruised and the skin was knocked off their bodies by the buffeting of the waves and contact with the wreckage’

Another man writing to his mother told of his experiences with the Livebait Squadron;

‘the sea was literally alive with men struggling and grasping for anything to save themselves. To add to the horror of the scene the Germans kept firing their torpedoes at us.’

He goes on to explain how he lost both of his brothers, all three of them serving on HMS Cressy;

‘I was just going to jump when I saw dear brother Alfred coming along the deck which was then all awash. Together we lingered for a moment, shook hands and told each other that whoever was saved to tell dear mother that our last thoughts were of her. We then kissed, wished each other goodbye, and plunged into the sea together, and we never saw each other again. Nor did we see any sign of brother Louis’

Witness reports of the time are inconsistent with survivors saying that anything up to 20 submarines where involved and that at least 2 were destroyed. In fact the only submarine involved, U-9 returned home the next day to a hero’s welcome with Commander Weddigen and his crew all receiving the Iron Cross. U-9 and Commander Weddigan would go on to sink HMS Hawke three weeks later with the loss of 524 men, over 40 of them from Ulster.

Livebait Squadron: HMS Cressy
                                 HMS Cressy

The disaster shook British public opinion and the reputation of the Royal Navy. There were reprimands and criticisms for those in charge. The reputation of the U-boat as a weapon of war was established. Sceptics in Germany fell silent and the Royal Navy never underestimated the U-boat threat again. In later years, it is estimated that 15,000 seamen fell victim to torpedo attacks. In this first major incident alone one tenth of that number perished.

There were at least 32 casualties related to Ulster on board HMS Aboukir, HMS Cressy & HMS Hogue:


Stoker (1st) Norman Sidney Burrard, born Monaghan, died aged 20

Stoker (1st) Matthew Cleland, born Belfast, died aged 26

Stoker (1st) Hugh Donnelly, born Belfast, died aged 26

Able Seaman Edward Henry Everall, born Annalong, died aged 26

Stoker (1st) John Foster, born Dromore, lived Belfast, died aged27

Stoker (1st) William James Gordon, born Downpatrick, died aged 27

Able Seaman Frederick Charles Hamilton, born Lisburn, died aged 35

Sick Berth Steward Reuben John Johnston, born Belfast, died aged 37

Stoker (1st) William Johnston Kerr, born Belfast, died aged 25

Stoker (1st) William Martin, born Belfast, died aged 22

Stoker (1st) Gilbert McBride, born Belfast, died aged 26

Stoker (1st) Francis Leonard McLoughlin, lived Ballycashon, died aged 21

Stoker (1st) Edward Thomas Quinn, lived Belfast, died aged 29

Stoker (1st) Hugh Sands, lived Belfast, died aged 24

Able Seaman William Winter, born Newry, died aged 29



Stoker (1st) Peter Breslin, born Ardara, Donegal, died aged 27

Stoker (1st) Samuel Chancellor, born Belfast, died aged 22

Stoker (1st) Joseph McBride Hilland, born Belfast, died aged 24

Stoker (1st) Thomas Joseph Hughes, born Belfast, died aged 29

Stoker (1st) Alexander Jamison, born Doagh, lived Belfast, died aged 28

Stoker (1st) David Lewis, lived Belfast, died aged 25

Stoker (1st) John Logan, born Belfast, died aged 23

Stoker (1st) Isaiah Marshall, born Belfast, died aged 23

Stoker (1st) Henry McMurran, born Whitehead, lived Carrickfergus, died aged 27

Stoker (1st) Thomas Murphy, born Newry, died aged 31

Stoker (1st) Charles Neill, born Belfast, died aged 26

Stoker (1st) William Joseph Redmond, lived Belfast, died aged 29

Leading Carpenter’s Crew Joshua Singleton, born Hillsborough, died aged 37

Engine Room Artificer William Wright, born Belfast, died aged 31

Lieutenant Philip Arthur Graham Kell, linked to Portrush, died aged 37


Stoker William Clair, born Belfast, died aged 41

Stoker (1st) David Graham, born Whiteabbey, lived Whitehouse, died aged 36

Only one of these men’s bodies was recovered for burial, most remaining where they drowned. They are remembered at either Chatham or Portsmouth Naval Memorials. The wrecks of the three cruisers still rest on the seabed, the mass graves of so many men, although these are not protected and it is alleged that the wrecks are being salvaged for metal. The Centenary on 22nd September 1914 will be marked at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham with a Drumhead service and fall of 1,459 poppy petals, one for each life lost.

Ulster links to HMS PATHFINDER: The First Ship Sunk Using a Powered Torpedo From A Submarine

HMS Pathfinder
HMS Pathfinder

The first ship ever to be sunk by a locomotive torpedo fired by a submarine was HMS Pathfinder, a Pathfinder-class scout cruiser, on 5th September 1914. She was sunk off St Abbs Head in the Scottish Borders while on patrol, by U-21 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Hersing, taking with her 6 men from Ulster.  Despite the event having been easily visible from shore the authorities attempted to cover up the sinking and HMS Pathfinder was reported to have been mined.

Captain Francis Martin Leake, Royal Navy HMS Pathfinder
Captain Francis Martin     Leake, Royal Navy HMS                 Pathfinder

The majority of crew below decks had neither the time nor opportunity to escape and went down with the ship. There was some confusion at the time over the exact number of crew on board, but research indicates that there were 261 deaths and only 18 survivors.

One of these survivors of HMS Pathfinder was Captain Francis Martin Leake who had started his career as a young Lieutenant on HMS Caroline. Captain Leake stayed with his ship as she went down by the nose but was lucky to be picked up and saved.

He writes in a letter to his mother; “The torpedo got us in our forward magazine and evidently sent this up, thereby killing everyone forward”. He says of Pathfinder; “She then fell over and disappeared leaving a mass of wreckage all around, but I regret very few men amongst it, for at the time they were all asleep on the mess decks and the full explosion must have caught them, for no survivors came from forward.”

Another survivor was County Down man, Staff Surgeon Thomas Aubrey Smyth who gave an account of his experiences in a letter to his mother who lived at Bedeque House, Dromore.

Staff Surgeon Thomas Aubrey Smyth, Royal Navy HMS Pathfinder
Staff Surgeon Thomas Aubrey Smyth, Royal Navy HMS Pathfinder

“The explosion blew a great hole in the side of the ship. I was at the time in the wardroom, but ran up on deck immediately, and it was then evident by the way the bow was down in the water that she would sink rapidly. I should say the whole thing occurred in about ten minutes which time was spent in throwing overboard the few articles which would float (the reason there was not more of these was that in preparation for war all unnecessary woodwork is got rid of to prevent fire). I was then thrown forward by the slope of the deck and got jammed beneath a gun (which I expect is the cause of my bruising) and while in this position was carried down some way by the sinking ship, but fortunately  after a time I became released and after what seemed like interminable ages I came to the surface, and after swimming a short time I was able to get an oar and some other floating material with the help of which I was just able to keep on the surface. After holding on for a long time – I believe it was an hour and a half – I must have become unconscious for I have no recollection of being picked out of the water. You see we were alone when it happened, so it took a long time for the reserve torpedo boats to come out and it was too quick to get any of our own boats out, besides most of the few we had were splintered into pieces.”

There were at least 6 Ulster casualties on board HMS Pathfinder:

These Ulster men were:

Ordinary Seaman HERBERT DALEY born in Lurgan, died aged 20

Stoker (1st class) CHARLES JOHN GORMAN born in Belfast, died aged 24

Leading Stoker JAMES HERBERT HILLIS born in Banbridge, died aged 26

Stoker (1st class) WILLIAM SWANN born Glasgow, lived in Belfast, died aged 23

Stoker (1st class) ANDREW WEST born Belfast, died aged 23

Stoker (1st class) GEORGE SINCLAIR BELL born Belfast, died aged 28

None of these men’s bodies were recovered for burial and as such they still remain were they died. All six men are remembered at Chatham Naval Memorial. The wreck site of HMS Pathfinder is designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. The anniversary on 5th September 2014 was marked by the British Sub-Aqua Club who laid a wreath for the centenary of her sinking.

Pictures courtesy of http://www.greatwarbelfastclippings.com


First Ulster Casualties of the Great War: HMS AMPHION

HMS Amphion Lost 06 August 1914

The first Ulster casualties of the Great War were sailors on HMS AMPHION, the first ship of the Royal Navy to be lost in the First World War on 6th August 1914.  HMS Amphion was an Active-class scout cruiser and the wreck site is designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

Newsletter, 8 August 1914

These Ulster men were:

Engine Room Artificer (1st Class) HENRY JOHN BENNETT born at Tor Head in County Antrim, died aged 36.

Able Seaman WILLIAM CLARKE born in Moville, County Donegal, died aged 26.

Petty Officer (2nd Class) JOSEPH LYNCH born in Bright, County Down, died aged 39.

Able Seaman CHARLES GEORGE McCONACHY born in Belfast, died aged 25.

On August 4th 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. In anticipation of war, Germany had converted the Konigin Luise, a former holiday ferry into a minelayer. On the night of 4th August she left her home port of Emden and steamed south through the North Sea to lay mines off the Thames Estuary.

Meanwhile, HMS Amphion and the destroyers of the 3rd Flotilla were preparing to sail from Harwick. By daylight on the 5th August they were in the North Sea where they received reports of an unknown vessel ‘throwing things over the side’. At 10.25 Amphion sighted the unknown steamer and sent the destroyers Lance and Landrail to investigate. The Konigin Luise alteredher course and disappeared into a squall where she began laying mines. HMS Lance signalled she was engaging the enemy and is credited with firing the first shot of World War I.  The destroyers were soon joined by Amphion (which had won the fleetgunnery prize for 1914). The Konigin Luise was only lightly armed and offered little resistance. Commander Biermann changed course hoping to draw the British ships into her minefield. However, after receiving numerous hits, the ship was sunk.

HMS Amphion

The British destroyers sighted another ship flying a German flag and began an attack. Amphion recognised her as the St.Petersburg which was carrying the German Ambassador back to Germany from England. Amphion signaled the destroyers to cease fire but the signal was ignored. Captain Fox then put the Amphion between the destroyers and the St. Petersburg to deliberately foul the range and allow the ship safe passage. That evening Amphion and the destroyers set course to return to Harwick but due to reported problems with mines and submarines, the allocated course ran very close to where the Konigin Luise had laid her mines.

At 06.45 on 6th August, the Amphion struck a mine which exploded and broke the ship’s back.Abandon Ship was ordered. As most of Amphion’s boats were destroyed, the destroyers sent their boats to rescue the crew. However, although Amphions’s engines were stopped, she continued turning in a circle and she struck the same row of mines. Her magazine detonated and the destroyers were showered with debris. Amphion sank at 07.05 and 151 men were lost.

With the war only 32 hours old, HMS Amphion, which had primarily assisted in inflicting the first German Naval loss of the war, became the first British Naval war loss.

Known Irishmen on the Amphion were:

OWEN CALLAGHAN Stoker 1st Class, Waterford

GEORGE CHRISTIE Shipwright 2nd Class, Cork

ANDREW COLLINS Leading Stoker, Cork




MARTIN MUNNELLY Chief Stoker, Sligo


SAMUEL PARSLOW Stoker 1st Class, Wexford


HENRY JOHN BENNETT Engine Room Artificer 1st Class, Antrim

WILLIAM CLARKE Able Seaman, Donegal

JOSEPH LYNCH Petty Officer 2nd Class, Down


The official press bureau on Wednesday afternoon issued the following:-Ballymena Observer 21st August 1914

“3.30pm – at 9am on August 5th, HMS Amphion with the 3rd flotilla proceeded to carry out a certain pre-arranged plan of search and about an hour later a trawler informed them that she had seen a suspicious ship ‘throwing things overboard’ in an indicated position. Shortly afterwards the mine layer Konigen Luise was sighted steering east. Four destroyers gave chase and in about an hour’s time she was rounded up and sunk. After picking up survivors the search continued without incident till 3.30am when the Amphion was on the return course.

At 6.30 am Amphion struck a mine. A sheet of flame instantly enveloped the bridge which rendered the Captain insensible and he fell on the fore and aft bridge. As soon as he recovered consciouness he ran to the engine room to stop the engines, which were still going at revolutions for 20 knots. As all the forepart was on fire, it proved impossible to reach the bridge or to flood the fore magazine. The ship’s back appeared to be broken and she was already settling by the bows.

All efforts were therefore directed to placing the wounded in a place of safety in case of explosion and towards getting her a tow by the stern. By the time destroyers closed in it was clearly time to abandon ship. The men fell in with composure and 20 minutes after the mine struck, the men, officers and captain left their ship.

Three minutes later it exploded. Debris falling from a great height struck the rescue boats, destroyers and one of the Amphion’s shells burst on the deck of one of the latter killing two of the men and a German prisoner rescured from the cruiser. After 15 minutes the Amphion had disappeared. Captain Fox speaks in the highest terms of the behaviour of the men throughout.”

HMS Amphion, Newsletter 7 Aug 1914
Newsletter, 7 Aug 1914
HMS Amphion, Newsletter 7 Aug 1914
Newsletter 7 Aug 1914