Posted by: michaeldaybath | May 31, 2016

Remembering the Battle of Jutland

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

The Portsmouth Naval Memorial (Hampshire)

The Battle of Jutland

The Battle of Jutland, sometimes also known as the Battle of the Skagerrak (Skagerrakschlacht) , was the most significant naval action of the First World War. The battle was fought in the North Sea, close to the coast of Denmark, between the Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy, under the command of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, and the German High Seas Fleet, commanded by Admiral Reinhard Scheer. On the 31st May 1916, a group of Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) battlecruisers under the command of Vice-Admiral Franz Hipper encountered Royal Navy battlecruiser squadrons commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty, which were were then lured south into the path of the German High Seas Fleet. In the initial engagement, two Royal Navy battlecruisers, HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary, were ripped apart by massive explosions, with enormous loss-of-life. Beatty then withdrew north, and drew the High Seas Fleet towards the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet. In the ensuing battle, a large number of ships on both sides were sunk and many lives lost. In total, the Royal Navy lost more ships (14) than the Imperial German Navy (11). In total, and in addition to the two battlecruisers lost in the original engagement with Hipper’s force, the Royal Navy also lost another battlecruiser (HMS Invincible), three armoured cruisers (HMS Black Prince, HMS Warrior, and HMS Defence), a destroyer leader (HMS Tipperary), and seven destroyers. The Kaiserliche Marine lost one battlecruiser (Lützow), a pre-dreadnaught (Pommern), four light cruisers (Frauenlob, Elbing, Rostock, Wiesbaden), and five heavy torpedo boats. The loss of life on both sides was dreadful, RN casualties (6,784) being almost double that of the Imperial German Navy (3,039) [1]. While the Battle of Jutland was a tactical disaster for the Royal Navy, its outcome did demonstrate once-and-for-all, however, that the German High Seas Fleet could not operate with impunity in the North Sea.

Remembering the dead in Somerset and Dorset

The names of those that died at the Battle of Jutland who have no physical grave feature on the CWGC’s Naval Memorials at Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. However, the names of casualties from Jutland also appear on war memorials all around the United Kingdom. My own studies of memorials in Somerset and Dorset hint at the profound effects of the battle on some families and communities, especially in navy towns and the coastal areas of West Dorset. This post will attempt to explore the Battle of Jutland with reference to a few (randomly-selected) war memorials in Somerset and Dorset.

Abbotsbury War Memorial (Dorset)

Abbotsbury War Memorial (Dorset)

The war memorial at Abbotsbury (Dorset) includes the names of two brothers, Petty Officer Stokers John and Frederick Dunford, who were the sons of John and Emily Dunford, a large family living at Rodden Row, near the centre of Abbotsbury. The brothers were serving on different ships at Jutland, but neither would survive the battle. John was the elder of the two and had been born at Abbotsbury on 11th February 1885. At the time of the 1901 Census, John was working as a shepherd on farm, but he joined the Royal Navy in May 1903. John was posted to the armoured cruiser HMS Black Prince in May 1912, and was still serving on her when the ship was deployed as part of 1st Cruiser Squadron at Jutland. HMS Black Prince was sunk after she lost contact with the rest of the squadron late on the 31st May. All 857 crew perished, including the 30-year old John Dunford. John’s brother Frederick (Fred) had been born at Abbotsbury on 22 June 1887, and by 1901 was working as a hurdlemaker (underwood), the same trade as his father. Fred joined the navy in October 1905 and began serving on the Acasta-Class destroyer HMS Fortune in December 1915. At Jutland, HMS Fortune was part of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, which was attempting to screen the rear of the Grand Fleet. Fred died, aged 28, when HMS Fortune and her sister-ship HMS Ardent were sunk, after both ships became separated from the rest of the flotilla.

 

Wool War Memorial (Dorset)

Wool War Memorial (Dorset)

Another casualty of HMS Black Prince was Able Seaman Reginald Gordon Hansford. Reginald had been born at Moreton (Dorset) on 13 January 1897, but by the time of the 1911 Census he was living with his parents Harry and Mary Ann Hansford at Wool (Dorset), where his father was a signalman with the London and South Western Railway Company. Service records suggest that Reginald joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in July 1912, and commenced his adult service as an ordinary seaman on 13 January 1915, when he had reached the age of 18. By that time, he had already been serving on HMS Black Prince for over eight months. Reginald Hansford’s name appears on the war memorial at Wool.

Litton Cheney War Memorial (Dorset)

Litton Cheney War Memorial (Dorset)

Many west country men were serving on the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary. Among them were Stoker 1st Class Charles Henry Dunford of Portesham and Leading Stoker William John Lee of Loders. Another casualty of HMS Queen Mary was Stoker 1st Class Reginald George Northover of Litton Cheney. Reginald had been born on the 29th May 1886, the son of George and Amelia Ann Northover (née Cooper). George and Amelia were married on the 29th January 1885, but both had been widowed and had children from previous marriages. George had been born at Puncknowle in 1850 and had at least three children from his first marriage to Jane Northover. Amelia had been born in 1856 at Frampton, near Dorchester, but by the time of the 1861 Census, she was living with her grandparents at Litton Cheney. Amelia married Stephen Trowbridge in 1877 and they produced two children before Stephen died in 1879. In their second marriage, George and Amelia had two children, Reginald and Mary, before George died in 1888, aged 36. By the time of the 1891 Census, therefore, Amelia had been twice-widowed; she was by then the head-of-household and was working as a net braider. The 1901 Census records that Reginald was a carter on farm, but his service record states that he worked as a postman before he joined the navy on 24th October 1904. By the time of Jutland, Reginald had been serving on HMS Queen Mary since November 1913. Before he joined-up, Reginald was apparently a bellringer at Litton Cheney; The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers Roll of Honour records Reginald Northover as a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers [2].

Churchyard cross at Southstoke, (Somerset)

Churchyard cross at Southstoke (Somerset), a memorial for Lt. J. H. Samler, R.N.

An officer casualty of HMS Queen Mary was Lieutenant John Harman Samler, who was the son of the Rev. William Surman Hadley Samler and Georgiana Frances Samler of South Stoke, near Bath. The Rev. Samler was vicar of South Stoke, and after the war a churchyard cross was erected in memory of his son; it is inscribed:

IN MEMORY OF LIEUTENANT JOHN HARMAN SAMLER RN | WHO WENT DOWN ON HMS QUEEN MARY | IN THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND | 31 MAY 1916 AGED 24 YEARS RIP.

The Rev. Samler described the memorial in his Brief Description of Southstoke: “The cross is a pattern of an old Somerset Churchyard Cross. The shaft is octagonal rising from an octagonal base, and is surmounted by canopied niches, at each corner of which rise four crocketed pinnacles. Carved in high relief, on the back of the niche facing east, the Crucifixion, on that facing west the figure of St. James the Great to whom the church is dedicated.”

Lieutenant Samler entered service in the Royal Navy on 15 May 1905, but had only been based on HMS Queen Mary since December 1915.

Church of St Mary Magdalen, Taunton (Somerset)

Memorial for Brigadier General C. B. Prowse and Captain C. I Prowse, Church of St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset)

The commander of HMS Queen Mary was Captain Cecil Irby Prowse. He has a memorial inside the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Taunton, a memorial that is shared with his younger brother, Brigadier General Charles Prowse of the Somerset Light Infantry, who died on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, just over a month after his brother [3]. The Prowses also have a memorial window in Yeovil church [4]. Thomas Hardy also wrote a poem in Captain Prowse’s memory, perhaps because Prowse’s sister (Ethel Florence Cowley) was the wife of the vicar of Stinsford, the Rev. Henry Guise Beaton Cowley [5].

The Sea Fight

31 May: 1916

In Memoriam Captain Prowse

Down went the grand ” Queen Mary”,
” Queen Mary’s” captain, and her crew;
The brunt of battle bare he,
And he died;
And he died, as heroes do.

More really now we view him,
More really lives he, moves with men,
Than while on earth we knew him
As our fellow,
As our fellow-denizen.

Maybe amid the changes
Of ocean’s caverned dim profound,
Gaily his spirit ranges
With his comrades,
With his comrades all around.

Church of St Andrew, Charmouth (Dorset)

Memorial for Fleet Surgeon H. L. Norris, Church of St Andrew, Charmouth (Dorset)

A final Dorset connection to the Battle of Jutland (although there will be many, many more) is a memorial tablet inside the Church of St Andew, Charmouth (Dorset). This commemorates Fleet Surgeon Hugh Leigh Norris, who died on HMS Indefatigable. He was the son of Dr Henry Edmonds Norris of Charmouth.

The CWGC Naval Memorials

Portsmouth Naval Memorial (Hampshire)

Detail of Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 10 (Hampshire)

The CWGC Naval Memorials are also worth exploring for their profound links with the Battle of Jutland. For example, a small part of Panel 10 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial (see above) contains the name of Rear-Admiral Hood, whose flagship was HMS Invincible,as well as senior officers from several of the ships sunk at Jutland, including HMS Queen Mary (Captain Prowse, Commander Blane, Commander Llewelyn, Commander Pennell), HMS Invincible (Captain Cay, Commander Shore, Commander Townsend), HMS Black Prince (Captain Parry, Commander Waterlow), and HMS Tipperary (Captain Wintour).

References

[1] I have taken these figures from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Jutland

[2] Central Council Rolls of Honour: http://www.cccbr.org.uk/rolls/. Curiously, Northover is not listed in the SGDR West Dorset Branch “roll of service” published in the Ringing World of 29 December 1916 (p. 242), which included the names of W. Darby, F. Dennett, H. Fry, S. Hounsell, G. Greening, P. Peach, and C. Trevett from Litton Cheney.

[3] CWGC Prowse Point Military Cemetery at Ploegsteert is named after him: http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/51303/PROWSE%20POINT%20MILITARY%20CEMETERY

[4] Somerset Remembers, The Prowse Window: http://somersetremembers.com/content/storys/family-life/the-prowse-window.ashx

[5] F. B. Pinion, A commentary on the Poems of Thomas Hardy (London: Macmillan, 1976), p. 226.

 

 

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