George Edwin Southern was born on 2nd February 1882 in Ermington, Devon, and having worked as a farm labourer, then joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class (Devonport No.297525) with Vivid II from 13th June 1901, being rated as a Stoker whilst with Bulwark on 11th August 1902, and then advanced to Stoker 1st Class whilst with Isis on 1st July 1906. Advanced to Leading Stoker whilst with Indus on 5th February 1914, he was aboard the battleship Marlborough on the outbreak of the Great War when a part of the 1st Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet. He was promoted to Stoker Petty Officer whilst aboard her on 1st November 1915, and was posted to Vivid II from 9th January 1916.
Posted to the light cruiser Cambrian from 19th July 1916, he then rejoined Vivid II from 8th September 1917, before joining the destroyer Bullfinch from 27th November 1917, but then joined Vivid II from 5th March 1918, before being posted to Wallington for service aboard the destroyer Sandfly from 20th March 1918, this vessel being then employed as a minelayer. Southern saw service aboard Sandfly for the rest of the war, and was awarded a Mention in Despatches for gallant and distinguished service in the London Gazette for 21st March 1919. Posted back to Vivid II from 1st February 1919, he then joined the battlecruiser Lion from 15th June 1919, and was with her when he was awarded the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 13th September 1919. Southern was pensioned from service on 12th June 1923.
HMS Vivid was the Royal Navy designation for the barracks at Devonport in England and for other nominal bases in Cornwall, Ireland and Wales. Vivid II was the Stokers and Engine Room Artificers School.
HMS Cambrian was a C-class light cruiser built for the Royal Navy during World War I. She was the name ship of her sub-class of four ships. Assigned to the Grand Fleet upon completion in 1916, the ship played only a small role during the war. Cambrian was assigned to the Atlantic and Mediterranean Fleets during the 1920s and was sent to support British interests in Turkey during the Chanak Crisis of 1922–1923. The ship was placed in reserve in late 1929. She was sold for scrap in 1934.
HMS Bullfinch was a three-funnel, 30-knot destroyer ordered by the Royal Navy under the 1896–1897 Naval Estimates. She was the third ship to carry this name since it was introduced in 1857 for a 4-gun wooden-screw gunboat. In July 1914 Bullfinch was in active commission in the 7th Destroyer Flotilla based at Devonport tendered to Leander, destroyer depot ship to the 7th Flotilla. In September 1914 the 7th Flotilla was redeployed to the Humber River. She remained in this deployment until the cessation of hostilities. Her employment within the Humber Patrol included anti-submarine and counter-mining patrols. On 15 August 1914, she was involved in a collision in British waters, with the loss of four stokers. In 1919 Bullfinch was paid off and laid-up in reserve awaiting disposal. She was sold on 10 June 1919 to Young of Sunderland for breaking.
HMS Sandfly was an Acheron-class destroyer of the Royal Navy that served during World War I and was sold for breaking in 1921. She was the seventh Royal Navy ship to be named after the small biting fly of the same name. In 1917 the Acheron-class destroyers Ferret, Sandfly and Ariel were converted to minelaying destroyers, capable of carrying 40 mines. Sandfly served with the 20th Flotilla, and operated out of Immingham.
HMS Lion was a battlecruiser built for the Royal Navy in the 1910s. She was the lead ship of her class, which were nicknamed the “Splendid Cats”. They were significant improvements over their predecessors of the Indefatigable class in terms of speed, armament and armour. This was in response to the first German battlecruisers, the Moltke class, which were very much larger and more powerful than the first British battlecruisers, the Invincible class.
Lion served as the flagship of the Grand Fleet’s battlecruisers throughout World War I, except when she was being refitted or under repair. She sank the German light cruiser Cöln during the Battle of Heligoland Bight and served as Vice-Admiral David Beatty’s flagship at the battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland. She was so badly damaged at the first of these battles that she had to be towed back to port and was under repair for more than two months. During the Battle of Jutland she suffered a serious propellant fire that could have destroyed the ship had it not been for the bravery of Royal Marine Major Francis Harvey, the gun turret commander, who posthumously received the Victoria Cross for having ordered the magazine flooded. The fire destroyed one gun turret which had to be removed for rebuilding while she was under repair for several months. She spent the rest of the war on uneventful patrols in the North Sea, although she did provide distant cover during the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917. She was put into reserve in 1920 and sold for scrap in 1924 under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty.