The Society Men, June 2014
William Frederick Everitt
Stanley Charles Kennard
Thomas Gerard King
Walter Ernest Murgatroyd
George William Waterworth
George William Dobinson
Hugh Leonard Hopps
John William Quested
Ernest William Brumpton
James Edward Sayer
Sydney Thomas Claw
Arthur Richard Town
Dessie Edgar Grylls
George Thomas Adams
Anthony Victor George Alsopp
John Robert Davies
Andrew Read Thompson
Thomas Arthur Jobbins
Thomas William Young
William Thomas Page
John W. Mussett
Reginald William Clover
William Frederick Farmer
John William Fysh
Ernest George Haynes
Charles William Hanson
William Sells (relatives not yet traced)
About Walter Ernest Murgatroyd
Mrs Lynne Wilson writes me:
My Great Uncle, Walter Ernest Murgatroyd was a stoker on HMS Aboukir and went down with the ship. I have been researching our family history and there are only a few of us left to remember Walter’s name and none of us knew him. His parents died young some years before him in Portsmouth.
I would like to thank you for keeping the memory of this terrible incident alive and not letting the names of those young men disappear forever.
Lynne Wilson. Sussex.
Walter Ernest Murgatroyd was born in Portsea, Hampshire on 09 November 1892. He is the 6. Child of Henry Murgatroyd (19 September 1853) and Lucy Elizabeth Parmiter (03 September 1858). Harry Edwin (21 April 1882), Ethel Lucy (1884), Mabel Rose (1886), Louisa Mary (13 August 1888), Emily (03 February 1890), Amy (25 February 1894) Gertrude Elsie (09 May 1895), Albert Edward (1897), Edith May (14 December 1897) and Arthur Leslie (04 February 1901) are his siblings. When Walter Ernest was 12 years old, his father died on 15 March 1905. When he was 14 years old his mother died, 16 December 1906.
About Harry Wilkins
Mrs Veronica van Zyl, from Canada, writes me about her relative.
I am most interested in your work on the sinking of the Aboukir, for my mother’s great uncle died on that ship. His name was HARRY WILKINS
born in 1867 in Chatham, Kent, son of Cornelius William Wilkins who in the 1901 English Census is listed as “a retired inspector of shipwrights”.
I believe Harry Wilkins was a ships engineer, so I am surprised that he is not on the list of the crew, on your website.’
After my reply: ‘Thank you for your very kind letter, and I would be very pleased to have Harry Wilkins remembered as a “Member of the Society”.
Unfortunately I know very little about him and I do not have a photograph. If you ever find one, I’d be very happy to see it. Some years ago I started investigating my family history as my mother died when I was too young to ask her very much; her father died before I was born so I could not ask him either, so all that I know is from my own research.
What I have found about Uncle Harry Wilkins is this:
Born about 1869 (no christening or birth certificate yet found)
According to the 1871 English Census: place of birth Chatham, Kent, England
According to the 1881 English Census: scholar
Not found with his family in the 1891 English Census
According to the 1901 English Census: a crew member aboard the Thetis, in the [British] Royal Navy, at St Helena on the night of the census taking.
And this I found yesterday: (Accessed 3 Feb 2014)
WILKINS, Harry, Engine Room Artificer 1c (Pens), 152465 (Ch), Aboukir, 22 September 1914, ship lost https://www.naval-history.net/xDKCas1003-Intro.htm#WW1Name
As far as I know he did not marry.
It is most likely that he attended the school attached to the dockyards in Chatham as I have been told that many of the family members were trained there, for several generations. He had 3 older brothers, and one younger, who were all shipwrights, most likely all trained at the Chatham dockyard school, too.
Sadly that is all I know about him
How dearly I would like to be able to attend the centenary memorials, but it is unlikely that it will be possible.
My grandfather Wilkins went to live in South Africa about 1903 and only visited his home in England once before he died, which is partly why we know so little of the Wilkins family story.
My married name is of Afrikaans descent. My husband’s ancestor with the Van Zyl name (which was “van Zijl” back then) was born in Delft, and went to to work for the VOC (Dutch East India Company) in South Africa in 1698, so yes, it is a Dutch name, but a long time ago.
About George William Waterworth
He is presented by Mrs Kathleen Stewart, nee Wilkinson.
My grandfather. George William Waterworth, my mothers father, was serving on board HMS Aboukir, when it was torpedoed off the Dutch coast.
My mother, Catherine Waterworth, was only 5 years old when the Aboukir was sunk, she remembered her mother telling her how her father spent eight hours in the sea after the Aboukir had sunk. When he was picked up he was taken to Chatham. He returned to Hartlepool after he was invalided out of the Royal Navy. Shortly after that he joined the Army, the Durham Light Inf. and was killed in France on 31st December 1917.
23 years later in the retreat of Dunkirk his son, Joseph, passed the cemetery where is father was buried. He tried to see his fathers grave but because the retreat was underway his officer advised against it.
Since doing research we have found my grandfathers grave is in the Canada Farm Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium. My grandfather was 26 years old when he survived the sinking of the Aboukir and was 29 years old when his life was taken. His name is commemorated on the headland war memorial in Hartlepool. George W. Waterworth was born at 34 The Shambles, York. in 1882, where his father had a butchers shop. He moved to Hartlepool with his family at the age of 7 years.
About George William Dobinson
Mrs Claire Atkinson sent me this email:
My name is Claire Atkinson and I am the Great-Great Grandaughter of George William Dobinson who was the Chief Carpenter on The Aboukir when it perished on 22/09/1914. I have a photograph I can email if you would find it useful.
There are 4 generations of George’s relatives living today. One surviving Granddaughter, 6 Surviving Great-Grandchildren, 9 Great-Great Grandchildren and 2 Great-Great-Great Grandchildren (my daughters). Most of the family are based in Whitstable so we are local. It would also be fantastic to find more out about George.
This was my answer:
Thank you for this. Yes I would be very pleased with the photo. This morning I received your email and this afternoon I have searched my archives if I could find something about him. I am afraid I just have details you already have, but nevertheless, here they are.
Dobinson, Chief Carpenter, George William, Royal Navy, Age 47, Husband of Phoebe I.S. Dobinson, of 439, Canterbury Road Gillingham, Kent.
And: from Alan Coles’book ‘Three before breakfast’ (1979) I quote: (page 59)
“The Aboukir was just torpedoed, the engineer lieutenant commander Percy Huxham was approached by Chief Engine Room Artificer Bill Smith, who knew more about the lay out of the Aboukir than most of the officers as he had been in charge of the ship’s working party when they were in dockyard.
‘What about flinging the wings sir’, Smith suggested. ‘The ship is going to port. Can I flood the starboard wings to right her?’ ‘That’s what I thought of doing’ answered Huxham.
He looked across the deck, over which water was lapping, and watched an argument between Lieutenant Commander Jim Parker and George Dobinson, the Carpenter.
‘The captain wants the starboard wing compartments flooded’, shouted Parker.
The old Carpenter refused to leave the quarter-deck. ‘That’s engineers’ work’ he protested.
Huxham ended the conversatioon by assuring them, ‘we’re trying to do all we can, Jim, but first we’ve got to get the compartment keys from the sentry’.
And this is all I have got.
About Hugh Leonard Hopps
Mr Christopher (Chris) Richford presents Hugh Hopps. He writes me this:
My father’s uncle, Hugh Leonard Hopps, his mother’s brother, was Surgeon Commander on HMS Aboukir and was one of those lost in the action. In my boyhood (1950/early 60s) I recall reading an account of the action, possibly from a newspaper of the time, which made mention that Surgeon Commander Hopps had ensured that as many sailors reached safety as possible. His body was never found, but my sister still has his wooden trunk. His brother, Lt Leonard Hopps 25th Northumberland Fusiliers, was also killed in 1916. My grandmother Frances Nina (née Hopps) also served as a nurse in France, where she met my grandfather, Sgt Christopher Richford (Seaforth Highlanders). My father, born 30/08/1923, was christened Hugh. He died in 2007 at Staplehurst, Kent. He was an RAF pilot both during and after the 2nd world war.
Hugh and Leonard Hopps are also recorded on the Burntisland, Fife, Great War memorial, the reason being that their father, James, was a senior Excise officer and moved to Edinburgh in the 1890s.
Years ago I bought my father Three Before Breakfast, an account of the action.
Information about Hugh Hopps is on the web: www.chippingnortonbritishlegion.com/surgeon-hugh-james-hopps.php. His photo is there too.
About Walter Nicol
Mr Elwyn Nicol wrote this in an e-mail,
My Grandfather and his five brothers were all serving in the RN at the outbreak of WW1. The youngest was Walter Nicol, a stoker, aboard HMS Aboukir. He was lost with the ship.
Walter was born in Liverpool on 8th November 1893. He was not married.
In a second email he continues,
My Grandfather’s baby brother, Walter Nicol, being unmarried, is a name amongst millions of servicemen with no immediate family to remember them and be grateful for their sacrifice. For my part, since I learnt of Walter, I think about him a lot and hope that my children will, one day, appreciate and remember his life and sacrifice.
Walter was born into a seafaring family. His five older brothers all joined the Royal Navy as young men and it was natural, I suppose, that Walter would follow suit, especially as his father, and grandfather were sailors. They lived near the Docks in Liverpool, so the sights, sounds and smells of the sea were all around him. The family lived in Morley Street, Kirkdale, Liverpool and were members of the local Protestant Reformers Church.
Walter worked for a short time while as a labourer in a biscuit factory before joining the Royal Navy at Portsmouth on April 10th 1912. His enlistment record tells us that he was 5’3”, had a 35” chest, had brown hair & eyes and a fresh complexion.
On August 1st 1914 he joined ‘Aboukir’ as a Stoker 1st Class, and of course, perished on September 22nd. ‘Drowned in North Sea when HMS Aboukir was sunk by German Submarine’ as his Navy Record states.
His Mother had received a letter with ‘a silver momento’ (now sadly lost) which said:
The keeper of the Privy Purse presents his compliments to Mrs Nicol, and is commanded by the King to say that his Majesty has heard with the deepest gratification that she has six sons serving in the Navy. The King sends Mrs Nicol his congratulations, and desires that she will convey the same to her sons together with his Majesty’s best wishes for their success, health and happiness in the noble career they have chosen.
I have no date for that lost letter, but do hope it was received before September 22nd 1914.
About John William Quested
John Quested survived; he was rescued by Captain Voorham’s SS Flora crew, and had a short stay in Holland. He actuallye stayed at ‘Duin en Kruidberg’ , Mr J.T. Cremer’s country estate. He put his signature in the Guestbook.
John Quested is represented by his great granddaughter Mrs Nicola St. Clair. She writes
My father told me this weekend how my great grandfather was on a 3rd boat off the coast of Holland during World War 1 and was involved in the naval tragedy you have written about. As I am sure you know, they believed the first two boats were hit by mines so they came to the rescue to find out that they had been torpedoed by the Germans. My great grandfather spent long hours in the water before a Dutch vessel picked him up, he was one of only 100 my Dad was told. The boat that picked him up was the Flora – my granddad went on to have children and my nan’s middle name was Flora – the boat that saved him.
I looked the tragedy up online and found your article. I have printed this out to show to my dad, who is now in his seventies.
If it weren’t for the Flora, my dad, myself and my gorgeous 2 young kids would not be here.
And this is John:
About Hedley Brown
Mr Sheridon Parsons is researching all the casualties in Wootton Bassett. He writes,
Hedley Brown was a 1st Class Stoker on the Aboukir. Although he never lived in Wootton Bassett his parents did, and they listed three of their suns on the local Roll of Honour.
Mr Parsons website is https://www.visitroyalwoottonbassett.co.uk/category/ww1-casualties.
His lines about Hedley can be found at https://www.visitroyalwoottonbassett.co.uk/hedley-brown.
About Hedley he writes:
1st Class Stoker Hedley Brown, was lost at sea, age 20. He is commemorated on Chatham War Memorial.
Hedley was born on 21st March 1872 in Christchurch, Hampshire. His parents were Frederick John Brown and Florence Martha Brown nee Elsworth. He enlisted in 1912.
Although it appears Hedley never lived in Wootton Bassett, his parents moved to the town ad arranged for Hedley and his two brothers to be included on the Memorial Plaque in the church.
Mr Parsons continues:
I am writing a book on Wootton Bassett in the Great War and have already collected more information on Hedley Brown. I would be thrilled to hear from relatives or anyone else with a specific interest in Hedley or his family. Please contact Sheridan@woottonhall.com to find out more.
Hedley’s brother Private Brian Brown died of wounds in France on 26th October 1917, age 24. He is commemorated on the Type Cot memorial Panel 1 and 162A. He served in the 2nd Royal Marines Battalion of the Royal Naval Division, Royal Marines Light Infantry.
Hedley’s other brother Alan died in France 10th July 1918, age 18 or 19 and is buried in Couin New British Cemetery, France, Grave Reference F.5. Alan served in the 8th Bn. Somerset Light Infantry.
About Hardy Andrew
He is presented by Mrs Cheryl Arnold, who is researching the War Memorial in Spalding, Lincolnshire. She writes
“Andrew was on the Aboukir, he is not on our Memorial but his father lived in Spalding. The local paper just reported his death, but gave no information on his life before the war”.
This what we know about him: Hardy Andrew, Seaman, 2672B, Royal Naval Reserve. Age 39, Son of Mr. Robinson Andrew, of 7 and 15, Sheep Market, Spalding. Husband of Mrs. S. Andrew, of 4, West St., Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.
About Ernest William Brumpton
Mrs Tina Brumpton sent this information about her Great Grandfather. Many thanks to Mrs Tessa Towner, Chair of FOMA, Friends of Medway Archives.
‘Ernest was born in Chelsea, 13th May 1878. He was a gunner in the Royal Naval Artillery, RMA 5923. He is remembered at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. When he was a teenager he lived in London with his parents. John William Brumpton (1854-1921) and Emma Teager (1855-??). He had a fall out with his dad. His father, a policeman, took him to court. The judge threw the case out. When they got outside Ernest said: “You will never see me again; I’m taking the Queens’ shillings”. And he joined the Royal Marines.
Whilst in the Marines he got involved in the Salvation Army. He was a high up member in Portsmouth. After his time was up he married to Julia-Anne Burgess and had two children. A son Ernest John (my granddad, 1906-1987) and a daughter Lillian Emma (1908-1977). So: both young children when he died.
He was in the reserves and when war broke out, he was called up and dead three weeks later.
On the morning of the sinking he was saved and in a lifeboat with other men. But he saw a close friend of his who had a bigger family then he did. He got his friend over to the lifeboat and they swapped places. So my great Granddad died in the sea and his body was never found. Havent traced the man who he saved, but would like to try one day. There is a book called Souls in Khaki (I havent read it yet) and there is a story of a man in it to believe to be Ernest.
His daughter said that he was picked up by the Cressy, which was then hit. And that’s when Ernest went down too. So there are several stories.
He was entitled to the General Service Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-1915 Star.
We have a house where my family used to live in our village called “Aboukir”. And it wasn’ t till I did the Family Tree that we found out why’.
About James Edward Sayer
This information is from Mr Gilbert Ashbee.
‘My connection with the Sayer family is through my great grandmother Elisabeth Sayer who was the daughter of John Sayer, the licensee of the White Swan Inn at Preston (Canterbury).
James Edward Sayer was also descended from this family and was born on 2 JulWhile writing this, it is Octobery 1879. On his eighteenth birthday he travelled to Chatham and signed for a twelve year term of service with the Royal Navy and subsequently served at various naval ships until his term of service was completed in 1909.
He appears to continue his naval career by joining a Chatham shore station until his assignment to the Aboukir on 2 August 1914. James survived the North Sea disaster but I have no idea how this was achieved. He continued his service by serving on the Pembroke and the Attentive before his service ended in April 1919 and he died two years later in Ewell Neurological Hospital, Epson and was buried at St. Mildred’s Church, Preston on 9 December 1921, aged 42.
James married Annie Elisabeth Griggs in 1910 and they had one son, born in 1915, who they named Aboukir James Joseph. I have traced the marriage of Aboukir to Irene Gladys Isles in 1942 and it appears that they registered two births; for Margareth Ann in 1945 and James Arthur in 1946. I have tried unsuccessfully to trace these two people. I regret I have no knowledge of the consequences of this disaster on family life, but the untimely death of James in 1921 and the circumstances in which he died would suggest that his experience on that fateful day might well have been a contributory factor’.
About Sydney Thomas Claw
Presented by Mrs Diane Billam, Sydney was her Grandfather. His details are: 186777 (RFR/CH/B/9334) Royal Navy. Age 34, Son of Andrew Edward and Jane Claw, of 18, Trevanion St, Dover, husband of Emily Ann Claw, of 7 Trevanion Place, Dover. He is remembered at the Chatham Naval Memorial.
Mrs Billam writes this: ‘We are looking to see if we have any other photo’s but I’m afraid we may be unlucky. Her served earlier in Royal Nvy, having joined up at Chatham, and was on HMS Powerful during the Boer War, when the guns were taken of the ship to Ladysmith to help to relieve the siege. I have his medal from the war, and also a copy of the captain’s log for the day the gund were taken off the ship, as I wanted to find out if Sydney went with them or not. Unfortunately only the officers are mentioned by name, so I still don’t know. It still makes very interesting reading.’
Suggestion Henk: He is remembered with some more details and photo at www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk.
About Arthur Richard Town
Presented by his Granddaughter Mrs Carolyn Green.
‘Arthur Town (K10183) was a Stoker 1st Class on HMS Aboukir and was 21 years of age at the time the three ships were torpedoed.
He was the youngest son of Jane Sarah and George Town and was born in West Ham, South London, on 14th January 1893. He initially signed up for twelve years in the Royal Navy in 1911, a year after the death of his mother.
I knew nothing of my grandfather’s naval career, except for a story that my mother used to tell me about him having been torpedoed three times, taken prisoner and then escaping dressed as a Dutch sailor. It was only when I came across his Naval Service Records a year ago and read Alan Coles book “Three Before Breakfast” that this began to make sense.
I searched for information on the internet about the ships listed in his service record and was amazed when I discovered what happened to HMS Aboukir, which he served on from 1st August 1914 to 22nd September 1914. This was followed by a week code-named “Pembroke” – which coincides with the period that the survivors were briefly interned in the Netherlands.
According to my mother, he was badly affected by his experience on HMS Aboukir but, nevertheless, was soon back in action, this time as Leading Stoker on HMS Europa, which played a leading role in the Dardanelles Campaign.
With the Naval Service record was a certificate which showed that he passed for Stoker Petty Officer on HMS Glory IV on 24th February 1919, at Murmansk. The records indicated that he was on Glory IV from 25th July 1918 to 20th November 2018. This ship was originally the Russian cruiser ‘Askold’, which was seized by the British Navy during the interventionist period of the Russian Civil War and was re-commissioned as HMS Glory IV in August 1918.
In between the wars, Arthur Town was based at Portsmouth and served for seventeen years as a stoker on the Royal Yacht, HMS Victoria and Albert. He married Charlotte Florence Corben, from Langton Matravers, Dorset and they had one daughter, named Edna .
In 1938, after retiring from the Royal Yacht, my grandfather re-joined the Royal Navy and served on HMS Effingham and HMS Frobisher as a Stoker Petty officer. He had hoped to serve on submarines – possibly to get his revenge for what had happened whilst on HMS Aboukir. However, he had recurring problems due to an eye injury and, in 1947, he was released from the navy after being deemed to be below naval physical standards.
Arthur Town retired to a cottage at Swanage, Dorset, where he died, aged 65, on 25th July 1958. He is buried, along with my grandmother, at the old cemetery at Langton Matravers’.
About Duncan Stubbs
The family lived in North Yorkshire. Duncan lived first by the sea at Redcar, and then in the countryside below the Cleveland Hills. His father was a solicitor in Middlesbrough.
My name is Duncan Barrigan. Midshipman Duncan Stubbs was my Great-grandfather’s brother. He was 15 when he died. This is just to tell you what sort of boy he was.
Duncan was the oldest child, then my Great-grandfather (a year and a half younger) and then their little sister, who was born when Duncan was 6.
My Great-grandfather told my mother some stories about their childhood:
- their expeditions into Rook Wood, he and Duncan with Duncan’s rifle
- and being allowed into the signal box at the little railway station near their house, where the man let them work the levers for the signals
- and encouraging their little sister to ask their parents for a toy train for her birthday, just so that they could play with it
Duncan was the confident one – he was the leader in the mischief they got up to.
He was a very lively and likeable boy. He loved country stuff – horses, dogs – he was very good at sport – and by 1914 his main obsession was the new motorbike his father was buying – because in those days, Duncan could use it.
His letters home in the early summer of 1914 were all about the bike, and his father’s letters back say things like: remember, this isn’t YOUR bike, it’s shared with your brother, it’s under my control …
He’d been very lucky in the winter that year because his parents had let him go to Switzerland with some people to do winter sports, stretching the family budget a lot to give him this treat. We have a postcard from him to a family friend saying –
Do you think you could ask Daddy to let me go on a bob run? It is absolutely safe on the run we use, but the people I am staying with won’t take the responsibility. in brackets he adds (you might put it very gently)
By the time he was 9, he’d decided he wanted to go to sea, so he was sent down to a Hampshire prep school, and in May 1912 he entered the Royal Naval College, Osborne. He was cadet captain, he did extremely well. In May 1914 he went to Dartmouth.
In a postcard he sent to the same family friend on 1 August 1914, he says –
I say, you might sort of reassure my people and tell ’em that it is nothing serious as I think Mother will start to fret. I would be very grateful if you would.
I am in the ‘Aboukir’ cruiser and we will not probably see service unless there is a real set to.
I am sorry that I won’t be back yet to ride the bike. Do you realise that 1915 Douglases have 3 speed gears?
Well, I hope I will meet you again and until then, adieu.
He loved his time at sea – he didn’t get seasick – he loved the work – he was senior midshipman, and his commanding officer thought very highly of him – he was great friends with the gunner Mr Shrubsall, and they took the watch together – the gunnery lieutenant said that when he was in his hammock he could hear the two talking on watch and Duncan’s laugh could be heard all over the ship.
It was a boy’s ideal adventure and he was loving it, until it all ended …
His father was in the Territorials and on 4 August, when he was mobilized, he began to keep a diary and then within weeks he found himself recording the loss of his eldest son. They found out about the disaster from the evening newspaper and then they had the terrible wait for news – and waiting to see if his body would be found, but it wasn’t ever found.
Duncan left a big hole in the family, and he’s never been forgotten.
About Gunner William James Shrubsall RN
Unable to put names to many old family photos I became aware that as each generation passes so too does its story. I therefore decided to record as much of my family’s history as I could so my grandchildren and those who come after them would at least know something about their ancestors.
This led me to doing some research on my maternal grandfather, Gunner William James Shrubsall, who was lost when HMS Aboukir was torpedoed 98 years ago today.
Whilst William died 21 years before I was born his wife, Marion Eleanor, was very important in my early life. She never talked of her husband and it was only after she died that I learned something about him. I obtained a photo of their wedding and two of him in uniform. I downloaded a picture of the Aboukir from the Web, got reports of the sinkings from both the British and German sides and a picture of Otto Weddingen the captain of U9. I learned that Weddingen also died when his larger submarine the U29 was sunk after being rammed by HMS Dreadnought on March 18 1915. She is the only submarine known to have been sunk by a battleship.
This and other information I gathered was however impersonal until I came into contact with Henk. My researches then became much more interesting. Let me digress for a moment. One thing that I had learned from a great aunt was of my grandfather’s role at Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901. The Web provided the following:
“During Queen Victoria’s funeral procession at Windsor Castle a faulty ringbolt caused confusion in a team of horses. The Kaiser, who was a family mourner, suggested to an admiral that the sailors lining the route take over. The men were from HMS Excellent, the Royal Navy Gunnery School at Whale Island, Portsmouth. They unhitched the horse team, made some drag ropes and drew the carriage to Windsor Castle”.
It seems that my grandfather was in charge of that troop of sailors and thus in close proximity to the Kaiser who, by starting World War 1, was ultimately responsible for his death. A strange co-incidence.
Edward VII subsequently ordered that as a privilege for its services the Navy would provide the crew at subsequent royal funerals. The Navy in turn has always called on the men from HMS Excellent.
Back to HMS Aboukir. From Duncan Barrigan you have heard a bit about Midshipman Duncan Stubbs and he referred to one entry in his Great-grandfather’s diary:
“Duncan and the gunner Mr Shrubsole were great friends and took the watch together. Lt. Hughes wanted to change Duncan’s watch for some reason but Mr Shrubsole would not hear of it; he liked to hear Duncan talk at night and would not have any other midshipman with him. Hughes said that when he was in his hammock he could hear the two talking on watch and Duncan’s laugh could be heard all over the ship.”
Another entry said:
“Midshipman, Wykeham-Musgrave, told of going on deck with the other midshipmen after the Aboukir was struck, to be met by Mr Shrubsall, who sent them back down to close the watertight doors to the gunroom.”
I thus learned that my grandfather survived the actual torpedoing and was trying to help save the ship but more than that these two entries in a way breathed life into him.
Shortly after her husband’s death my grandmother wrote a patriotic song as a call to arms. She called it “Our Country’s Name”. I even discovered that copies are available from The National Archive of Australia so it got some circulation. To our ears today it seems very emotional and jingoistic but we did not live through those terrible days. In late June a club that we are members of organised a visit to the Chatham Historic Dockyard and so Brenda and I took the opportunity to visit the Navy Memorial as I thought that my grandfather’s name may be inscribed on it. And indeed it was. Another rather poignant moment. And so here we are, 98 years on and still they are remembered. Happily Henk’s book will now bring their story to a much wider audience.
About Richard Fennessy
Mrs. Cheryl Arnold sent me a photo of the headstone of Mr. Richard Fennessy, at Spalding Cemetary. The photo says it all. No words needed as Mr Fennessey has a sea grave. Mr. Richard Fennessy (HMS Aboukir) was one of the first Members of our Society. He was presented by Miss Cecilia Mann. Until now this is all I know about him: Richard Fennessy, Private, CH/13254, (RMR/B/603), Royal Marine Light Infantry.
About William Pointer
William Pointer, able seaman, (220380) was son to Harry Pointer and Emma Ann Pointer living 4 Essex Road, Westgate-on-Sea, Kent. He was 29 when he perished on 22 September 1914. This information and the picture, showing the crew on deck, were sent in by Mr Pointers great-nephew Mr Brad Speller.
About Dessy Edgar Grylls
Desse Grylls (1849) was a Royal Navy Reservist, and his profession aboard was Stoker. He was awarded three medals during his servicetime. He was born in Llanelly, Wales but he lived in the Newcastle area. He was born around 1880, marries Isabella Hurst and had a daughter called Eleanor. His wife Isabella died in 1919. (Presented by Mr. Alan Bateson, Desse Grylls was the great grandfather of Mr. Bateson’s wife Carol. Mr. and Mrs. Bateson live in Newcastle Upon Tyne).
About George Thomas Adams
Presented by Mrs Noelle Kotze, living in Selby. George Thomas Adams was an Able Seaman, and in fact that is all Noelle knows about her great-grandfather. Anyone who knows more?
George Thomas Adams, 205993. (RFR/CH/B/9765).
About Henry Wright
He was 38 years old at the time and had joined the navy in 1894 and had been a sailmaker. He came out of the Royal Navy in about 1904 but because of the war was called up as a reservist.
My knowledge of Henry Wright came about when my brother and I donated the pearl shells that he had painted to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (search Google Henry Wright pearl shells to see them). The Achivist at the museum found his navy service record to determine the provenence of the shells and on this we saw the Aboukir.
Although we knew his name was associated with the Aboukir we had not been told anything about him by our family. Although I knew my great grandmother nobody talked to a 12 year old girl about someone who had died. That there were any survivors was probably helped by the fact the ships were sank early in the morning and in September the sea is not so cold.
Robert Whitham dived on the cruiser of his Great-grandfather this summer. He told about this extraordinary experience.
About Anthony Victor George Alsopp
Anthony Alsopp was midshipsman, 15 years young, from Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. He was son of the Hon. G.H. Alsopp, MP for Worchester from 1885-1906,and Lady Mildred Alsopp, the sister of the 7th Earl Shaftesbury. Anthony was the first cousin of the mother of Mr. Robin McGarel-Groves, Colonel Royal Marines. Mr. Robin McGarel-Groves presents Anthony and sent me a photo of Anthony with his ship, the Aboukir.
About John Robert Davies
Presented by Mr Ian Morrall. John Robert Davies was an able seaman, was married and had a daughter, Dorothy Davies. Any more information about him is very welcome.
John Robert Davies 178192 (RFR/CH/B/5466)
About Andrew Read Thomson
Presented by Mrs Wendy Ashley from Canterbury, Mrs Asley is Andrew’s Granddaughter. Her daughter Mrs Brigitte Saint, from Canterbury belongs to our Society too. Andrew Thompson was Chief Armourer aboard Aboukir. 340547. He was husband of Elisabeth Thomson from 64, Upper Milton Rd, Gillingham. He died at the age of 42.
About Thomas Arthur Jobbins
Thomas Arthur Jobbins was Stoker 1st Class aboard Aboukir. His granddaughter Mrs S.M. Topley gave me this token of remembrance at the Ceremony at St. George’s Centre,Chatham, 22 September 2012:
About Frank Douglas
Frank Douglas made it safely back home. He was rescued and ended up in The Netherlands. Presented by his granddaughter Mrs Anita Reason – Edwards.
About Thomas William Young
Mr Robert Cross just after the meeting in Chatham 22 September 2012 found out that his great uncle was aboard Aboukir of the fateful day, and died the day before his 21st birthday. The only thing he knows is that his name is listed on the War Memorial in Chatham. What I (Henk) know is this: Thomas William Young, Stoker 1st Class, K15465.
Who knows more? E-mail: Bxb26@msn.com
About Patrick Scamaton
Patrick Scamaton was aboard the Aboukir the Ship’s Steward Assistant, age 24, Royal Navy, 347430. He was son of Martin and Hepzibah Scamaton, of Gillingham; husband of Emily Eleanor Scamaton, of 31, Gillingham Avenue, Gillingham, Kent.
He is presented by his Great-niece Mrs Margareth Nicholls and her husband Peter Nicholls.
About Sidney George Willingale
Sidney George Willingale was a Petty Officer aboard Aboukir. Royal Navy, 197336. He was the Great-uncle of Mr Keith Willingale, who presented him and sent me his service record. This shows that Sydney was born 1 September 1889 in Southminster, Essex, and that his occupation was ‘labourer’. He had brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. His first term of service was 12 – 19 January 1889. At the bottom of his service record is written: ‘D.D. 22 Sep 1914 Drowned in North Sea when Aboukir was sunk by a German submarine’.
Mr Keith Willingale adds in his email: ‘Their Lordships were trying to come to terms with submarine warfare, which was considered somewhat underhand and the victims were therefore not described as “Killed in Action” in these early actions. Sydney was a son of George Willingale, a labourer too. He married Elisabeth Margarate Smyth,Marylebone, on November 3rd 1912. She was from Devonport, 20 years old, so 10 years his junior. They did not have any children. Interested? www.willingale.org
About William Thomas Page
William Page was a Leading Stoker, 291867, (RFR/CH/B/7537), Royal Navy. He was 33, son of William Page, of Kirby Cross, Essex, husband of W.T. Page of High St, Langford, Biggleswade, Beds. He left a young widow of 24 and two baby sons. Mrs Celia Shafto Sharer (nee Page) who presented him, adds: ‘My father Clarence William Page (known as Bob) and his brother Jack Passmore Page’.
About John W. Mussett
Colin Mussett wrote: ‘My grandfather was a seaman aboard HMS Aboukir who lost his life on that day. (RNR, 2633 B) and I have recently visited his grave at ‘s-Gravenzande, just south of The Hague’.
John Mussets body was washed ashore at an unknown spot somewhere on the Dutch coast. Mr Musset was buried at ‘s-Gravenzande, a village situated at the end of an imaginary straight short line between the spot where the cruisers went down and firm land. This explains why s-Gravenzande cemetery is the last resting place of some more drowned men from the cruisers.
About Reginald William Clover
Presented by Mr John Giles, from New Romney, Kent. John has a son Nicholas (51) and a daughter (49). Son and daughter are direct descendants of Reginald William Clover. Reginald was the grandfather of John’s wife, who died two years ago. After his death Reginald’s two sons were adopted.
About John William Fysh
Presented by Colin Fysh, his grandson. He writes: ‘My grandfather was John William Fysh, 2986A, Royal Naval Reserve. He was killed two months before my father also named John William was born here in King’s Lynn. Life must have been difficult for my family at that time. Did my Grandfather survive is a question I certainly would like to have answered. His body was never found so there is no grave or marker. His story along with his life ended by the pushing of a button by a German sub mariner by the order of another German’.
Colin is very interested in the names of the survivors who were in Holland. He just wants to be sure his grandfathers name is not on the Dutch survivors list. I’m doing my utmost to retrieve those lists.
About Ernest George Haynes
Mr Colin Haynes presents him and tells this sad story.
To start with an excerpt from The Great Yarmouth Mercury of the 31st of October 1914.
‘Grief and Sorrow for the Lost’
Only a comparatively few homes have been gladdened by the return of husband or father from the disaster. Across others, the grim great shadow of war has fallen, bringing grief and broken hearts.
One of the most moving stories is that of Mr. Ernest George Haynes (Mr Colin Haynes’ grandfather) whose home was 9, Blackfriars Road. His vocation was that of a fisherman but like so many more of his trade he belonged to the R.N.R. and when the call came in August he, with his mates, left home and loved ones for Chatham. In November he would have finished his time with the Naval Reserve – now he will return no more.
He and his distracted widow not long since shared an almost overwhelming sorrow when death robbed them of their only child of six years old. They were together looking forward to the joy of another little one in a few months, but this cruel war has intervened and the wife is left alone to face the grey sorrowful future. We are sure the warmest sympathy of the town will go out to her in her terrible hour of grief.
Mr Haynes was a steady loyal man, a good kind husband, a pleasant sociable companion. Among his neighbours he was greatly liked and respected for his amiable qualities and he was well known at the Mission to Seamen where he worshipped.’
Mr Colin Haynes adds: ‘Ernest George Haynes was lost on HMS Aboukir when it went down on the 22nd of September 1914. The “little one” mentioned was my father, Ernest John Haynes, born on the 2nd of December 1914. He was brought up by his mother and two maiden aunts. He went to marry in 1942 and had two sons, myself and Graham. My grandfather is commemorated on the War Memorial in St. George’s Park, Great Yarmouth and at Chatham.
After my father’s death, through searching family history, we found out that my grandfather had been married before (to Harriet) who passed away after giving birth to a daughter, who in turn gave birth to a daughter, Brenda. Brenda now lives in Great Yarmouth and we have been in contact.’
About Charles William Hanson
Mrs Elisabeth Schroeder sent in a marvellous and comprehensive story about her great-grandfather, Charles William Hanson, a survivor of the Aboukir disaster. The story itself will be published In the next Bulletin, but for now we would like our readers to have a good look at the accompanying two photographs, shown below, representing HMS Aboukir crewmembers. In the first pictures we find Charles himself, seated in the centre. In the second photograph Charles is the one seated 2nd from the right, but who knows who the other men are? Elisabeth would really like to know and so you’re all invited to have a look and if anyone is able to identify one or more of the others, let them please come forward!
About William Sells
Why is it that the Dutch descendants of Captain Joop Berkhout (then Master of SS Titan, involved in the rescue operation) are still so often thinking of Commander William Sells? Here’s the story.
Commander Sells was serving on HMS Aboukir as second in command. He and Mrs Sells lived together at 82 High Street in Portsmouth. In Alan Coles’ book “Three Before Breakfast” his name appears on a number of pages. Since Commander Sells was one of the survivors of the disaster we may assume that the relevant passages are from his own pen. The following quotes are all taken from Coles’ book, where the situation on board HMS Aboukir is pictured, after she was hit by the first torpedo.
‘Commander William Sells had arrived on the bridge wearing only his trousers. Like everyone else aboard he had little idea of what was required of him, but he had been told by Drummond [Captain Aboukir] to make sure all the boats were swung out ready for lowering. Now he was regretting that a sailing pinnace, two cutters and two whalers had been put ashore at Chatham to provide more deckspace’.
Cdr Sells takes in the huge destruction caused by the torpedo and reports to Captain Drummond
‘Only one cutter and two of the smaller sea-boats can be launched by hand’.
‘Drummond was still positive that he could keep the Aboukir afloat. “If we can flood the wing compartments we may be able to get her upright.”, he told Sells.’
But all the steam had gone and as he spoke the ship keeled to port again. Drummond: “You’d better get all the men up, then,”’
During the next few minutes Cdr Sells is trying to secure the secret documents that were kept on board in steel boxes,
‘These were manhandled over the side by Sells and Lieutenant James Watson. But the boxes, which had to be lugged up the steeply slooping deck, did not plunge into the sea, as intended. They became entangled in the guard-rails and hung there, damning monuments to lack of foresight in an emergency.’
‘It was 20 minutes since the torpedo had holed the Aboukir and by now her starboard bilges keels were visible, the red lead glistening in the sun. Her starboard propeller stood proud of the sea, her four funnels almost parallel to the water. Waves reached Drummond and Sells on the bridge. The captain turned to his second in command. “I think she’s going, Sells.” “Yes, I think so, sir, “ the commander agreed. And Drummond ordered “Abandon ship. Every man for himself.” ‘
Cdr Sells eventually manages to slide down into the sea and was eventually picked up by a cutter that came alongside HMS Cressy and ‘Up the ladders from the cutter came the half naked bedraggled officers and men from the Aboukir. Among them Sells. The officers were taken to the cabins of their opposite numbers for dry clothes.’
Here, Coles takes a break in describing Sells vicissitudes. We now know what happened afterwards. Also HMS Cressy received a hit and went down, and thereafter HMS Hogue.
We meet Cdr Sells again when he is aboard SS Titan, Cpt Joop Berkhout’s ship, ‘In the captain’s cabin Commander Sells, the Aboukir’s second in command, was stretched out motionless. His eyes flickered as Captain Berkhout forced the lip of a wine bottle to his mouth. Sells sat up jerkily, looked around and exclaimed, “that was a long swim”. It was. He had been in the sea for three hours.’
A total of 268 men on board SS Flora, and apart from Cdr Sells another 113 on board SS Titan, went on their way to Holland. Over 400 on the Coriander and the JGC went back to Great Britain. HMS Lucifer subsequently stopped SS Titan and took over 82 men among whom Cdr Sells. ‘Left in the Titan were six severely wounded, four with inflammation of the lungs and nineteen too exhausted to be moved.’
Finally Cdr Sells safely arrives home with his wife in Portsmouth. On 3 October 1914 she, Mrs Augusta Sells, writes the following letter to Cpt Berkhout,
Portsmouth, October 3, 1914.
Dear Captain Berkhout,
I hope you will receive this little gift I am sending safely and that it will serve to remind you of the great gratitude I feel for your humanity and great kindness you showed to my husband after the disaster to his ship the H.M.S. Aboukir.
I feel sure you will be interested to hear that he is none the worse. He is indeed very well and hopes to be soon at sea again.
You will be glad also to hear that the little midshipman saved by your ship is quite well and unharmed by his experience. Captain Sells sends you his warm remembrances,
Together with Mrs Sally Simpson I’ve been trying to trace descendants of Mr and Mrs Sells in and around Portsmouth. Unfortunately, we failed, also because the local newspaper was unable to see the good of it and wouldn’t cooperate.
Mrs Sally Simpson is a member of www.ancestry.co.uk. and found the Sells family on the 1911 census,
Living at 82, High Street Portsmouth
William Fittesene Sells, age 30 years (1881) born Wokingham, Buckinghamshire Lieutenant Royal Navy
Alice Augusta Sells, age 40 yrs born London
William Sells, age 2yrs born Gillingham, Kent
Olive Sells , age 2 yrs born Gillingham.
The Berkhout family would be very grateful for anyone willing and able to help in trying to find any relatives of Cdr and Mrs Sells.