William Peel

William Peel VC
William Peel

Captain Sir William Peel VC KCB (2 November 1824 – 27 April 1858) was a British naval officer and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the third son of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Like his father, he was educated at Harrow School.

He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, and thus became Sir William Peel.

Military career

Peel was a captain in the Royal Navy, serving with the Naval Brigade during the Crimean War. On 18 October 1854 at the Siege of Sevastopol, he picked up a live shell with the fuse still burning from amongst several powder cases and threw it over the parapet. The shell burst as it left his hands. For this he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC); it is now displayed at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.

On 5 November at the Battle of Inkerman, he joined some of the officers of the Grenadier Guards and helped to defend the Colours of the regiment when they were hard-pressed. On 18 June 1855, he led the first scaling party at the assault on the redan and was himself severely wounded. On each of these occasions Captain Peel was accompanied by a young midshipman, Edward St. John Daniel as Aide-de-camp.

Edward St. John Daniel also received a VC (see below)

After the Crimean War, Peel served in the Indian Mutiny and was wounded at the Relief of Lucknow. At the age of 33, he died of smallpox at Cawnpore, India, on 27 April 1858.


Captain Peel wrote A Ride through the Nubian Desert (1852), detailing his travels of the preceding year.

Edward St John Daniel

He was 17 years old, and a midshipman in the Royal Navy, (Naval Brigade) during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 18 October 1854 at Sevastopol, Crimea, Midshipman Daniel was one of the volunteers from HMS Diamond, who, under the command of the captain (William Peel) brought in powder to the battery from a wagon under very heavy fire, a shot having disabled the horses. On 5 November at the Battle of Inkerman he, as Aide-de-camp (ADC) to the captain, remained by his side throughout a long and dangerous day. On 18 June 1855 he was again with his captain in the first scaling party at the assault on the Redan, binding up his superior officer’s severely wounded arm and taking him back to a place of safety.

Daniel also served in the Second Anglo-Burmese War and the Indian Mutiny. He later achieved the rank of lieutenant.

Daniel was the first of eight men whose VCs were forfeited. He was stripped of the medal on 4 September 1861 after being convicted of desertion and evading court-martial. His family sought the “restoration” of his award in a mid-twentieth century petition. However this was rejected with this statement: “…the restoration of forfeited awards may only be made on a petition to the Sovereign from the former recipient himself. In Daniel’s case this is not possible. Furthermore, as your proposal relates to events so long ago it is considered inappropriate to reverse the decision made in 1861 by Queen Victoria”. However, he and the seven other whose awards were forfeited are officially listed as VC holders.

Daniel died at Hokitika in the South Island of New Zealand on 20 May 1868. He is buried in the Hokitika Cemetery.

HMS Dreadnought

Postcard of HMS Dreadnought
HMS Dreadnought

Postcard of HMS Dreadnought.

HMS Dreadnought was a Royal Navy battleship whose design revolutionised naval power. The ship’s entry into service in 1906 represented such an advance in naval technology that her name came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, the “dreadnoughts”, as well as the class of ships named after her. Likewise, the generation of ships she made obsolete became known as “pre-dreadnoughts”. Admiral Sir John “Jacky” Fisher, First Sea Lord of the Board of Admiralty, is credited as the father of Dreadnought. Shortly after he assumed office in 1904, he ordered design studies for a battleship armed solely with 12 in (305 mm) guns and a speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). He convened a “Committee on Designs” to evaluate the alternative designs and to assist in the detailed design work.


Gunnery developments in the late 1890s and the early 1900s, led in the United Kingdom by Percy Scott and in the United States by William Sims, were already pushing expected battle ranges out to an unprecedented 6,000 yd (5,500 m), a distance great enough to force gunners to wait for the shells to arrive before applying corrections for the next salvo. A related problem was that the shell splashes from the more numerous smaller weapons tended to obscure the splashes from the bigger guns. Either the smaller-calibre guns would have to hold their fire to wait for the slower-firing heavies, losing the advantage of their faster rate of fire, or it would be uncertain whether a splash was due to a heavy or a light gun, making ranging and aiming unreliable. Another problem was that longer-range torpedoes were expected to soon be in service and these would discourage ships from closing to ranges where the smaller guns’ faster rate of fire would become preeminent. Keeping the range open generally negated the threat from torpedoes and further reinforced the need for heavy guns of a uniform calibre.

In 1903, the Italian naval architect Vittorio Cuniberti first articulated in print the concept of an all-big-gun battleship. When the Italian Navy did not pursue his ideas, Cuniberti wrote an article in Jane’s Fighting Ships advocating his concept. He proposed an “ideal” future British battleship of 17,000 long tons (17,000 t), with a main battery of a dozen 12-inch guns in eight turrets, 12 inches of belt armour, and a speed of 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph).

“Intermediate-dreadnought” Satsuma

The Royal Navy (RN), the Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States Navy all recognised these issues before 1905. The RN modified the design of the Lord Nelson-class battleship to include a secondary armament of 9.2 in (234 mm) guns that could fight at longer ranges than the 6 in (152 mm) guns on older ships, but a proposal to arm them solely with 12-inch guns was rejected. The Japanese battleship Satsuma was laid down as an all-big-gun battleship, five months before Dreadnought, but gun shortages allowed her to be equipped with only four of the twelve 12-inch guns that had been planned. The Americans began design work on an all-big-gun battleship around the same time in 1904, but progress was leisurely and the two South Carolina-class battleships were not ordered until March 1906, five months after Dreadnought was laid down, and the month after she was launched.

The invention by Charles Algernon Parsons of the steam turbine in 1884 led to a significant increase in the speed of ships with his dramatic unauthorised demonstration of his yacht Turbinia with her speed of up to 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph) at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee at Spithead in 1897. After further trials of two turbine-powered destroyers, Viper and Cobra, coupled with the positive experiences of several small passenger ships with turbines, Dreadnought was ordered with turbines.

The Battle of the Yellow Sea and Battle of Tsushima were analysed by Fisher’s Committee, with Captain William Pakenham’s statement that “12-inch gunfire” by both sides demonstrated hitting power and accuracy, whilst 10-inch shells passed unnoticed. Admiral Fisher wanted his board to confirm, refine and implement his ideas of a warship that had both the speed of 21 knots and 12-inch guns, pointing out that at the Battle of Tsushima, Admiral Togo had been able to cross the Russians’ “T” due to speed. The long-range (14,000-yard (13,000 m)) engagement during the Battle of the Yellow Sea, in particular, although never experienced by any navy prior to the battle, seemed to confirm what the RN already believed.


Admiral Fisher proposed several designs for battleships with a uniform armament in the early 1900s, and he gathered an unofficial group of advisors to assist him in deciding on the ideal characteristics in early 1904. After he was appointed First Sea Lord on 20 October 1904, he pushed through the Board of Admiralty a decision to arm the next battleship with 12 inch guns and that it would have a speed no less than 21 knots. In January 1905, he convened a “Committee on Designs”, including many members of his informal group, to evaluate the various design proposals and to assist in the detailed design process. While nominally independent it served to deflect criticism of Fisher and the Board of Admiralty as it had no ability to consider options other than those already decided upon by the Admiralty. Fisher appointed all of the members of the committee and he was President of the Committee.

The committee decided on the layout of the main armament, rejecting any superfiring arrangements because of concerns about the effects of muzzle blast on the open sighting hoods on the turret roof below, and chose turbine propulsion over reciprocating engines to save 1,100 long tons (1,100 t) in total displacement on 18 January 1905. Before disbanding on 22 February, it decided on a number of other issues, including the number of shafts (up to six were considered), the size of the anti-torpedo boat armament, and most importantly, to add longitudinal bulkheads to protect the magazines and shell rooms from underwater explosions. This was deemed necessary after the Russian battleship Tsesarevich was thought to have survived a Japanese torpedo hit during the Russo–Japanese War by virtue of her heavy internal bulkhead. To avoid increasing the displacement of the ship, the thickness of her waterline belt was reduced by 1 in (25 mm).

The Committee completed its deliberations on 22 February 1905 and reported their findings in March of that year. It was decided due to the experimental nature of the design to delay placing orders for any other ships until Dreadnought and her trials had been completed. Once the design had been finalised the hull form was designed and tested at the Admiralty’s experimental ship tank at Gosport. Seven iterations were required before the final hull form was selected. Once the design was finalized, a team of three assistant engineers and 13 draughtsmen produced detailed drawings. To assist in speeding up the ship’s construction, the internal hull structure was simplified as much as possible and an attempt was made to standardize on a limited number of standard plates, which varied only in their thickness.


Dreadnought was significantly larger than the two ships of the Lord Nelson class, which were under construction at the same time. She had an overall length of 527 ft (160.6 m), a beam of 82 ft 1 in (25 m), and a draught of 29 ft 7.5 in (9 m) at deep load. She displaced 18,120 long tons (18,410 t) at normal load and 20,730 long tons (21,060 t) at deep load, almost 3,000 long tons (3,000 t) more than the earlier ships. She had a metacentric height of 5.6 ft (1.7 m) at deep load and a complete double bottom.

Officers were customarily housed aft, but Dreadnought reversed the old arrangement, so that the officers were closer to their action stations. This was very unpopular with the officers, not least because they were now berthed near the noisy auxiliary machinery while the turbines made the rear of the ship much quieter than they had been in earlier steamships. This arrangement lasted among the British dreadnoughts until the King George V class of 1910. The crew numbered 700 officers and ratings in 1907, but increased to 810 in 1916.


Vickers, Sons & Maxim was the prime contractor for the ship’s machinery, but as they had no large turbine experience, they sourced them from Parsons. Dreadnought was the first battleship to use turbines in place of the older reciprocating triple-expansion steam engines. She had two paired sets of direct-drive turbines, each of which drove two 8-foot-10-inch (2.7 m) diameter, three-bladed propellers using steam provided by 18 Babcock & Wilcox boilers that had a working pressure of 250 psi (1,724 kPa; 18 kgf/cm2). The turbines, rated at 23,000 shaft horsepower (17,000 kW), were intended to give a maximum speed of 21 knots; the ship reached 21.6 knots (40.0 km/h; 24.9 mph) from 27,018 shp (20,147 kW) during her sea trials on 9 October 1906.

Dreadnought carried 2,868 long tons (2,914 t) of coal, and an additional 1,120 long tons (1,140 t) of fuel oil that was to be sprayed on the coal to increase its burn rate. At full capacity, she could steam for 6,620 nautical miles (12,260 km; 7,620 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).


Dreadnought’s main armament consisted of ten 45-calibre BL 12-inch Mark X guns in five twin Mark BVIII gun turrets. The forward turret (‘A’) and two aft turrets (‘X’ and ‘Y’) were located along the centreline of the ship. Two wing turrets (‘P’ and ‘Q’) were located port and starboard of the forward superstructure respectively. Dreadnought could deliver a broadside of eight guns between 60° before the beam and 50° abaft the beam. Beyond these limits she could fire six guns aft, and four forward. On bearings 1° ahead or astern she could fire six guns, although she would have inflicted blast damage on the superstructure.

The guns could be depressed to −3° and elevated to +13.5°. They fired 850 lb (390 kg) projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 2,725 ft/s (831 m/s), giving a maximum range of 16,450 yd (15,040 m) with armour-piercing (AP) 2 crh shells. Using the more aerodynamic, but slightly heavier, 4 crh AP shells extended the range to 18,850 yd (17,240 m). The rate of fire of these guns was about two rounds per minute. The ships carried 80 rounds per gun.

The secondary armament initially consisted of twenty-seven 50-calibre, quick-firing (QF) 3 in (76 mm) 12-pounder 18 cwt Mark I guns. The guns had an elevation range between −10° and +20°. They fired 12.5 lb (5.7 kg) projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 2,660 ft/s (810 m/s). The guns had a rate of fire of 20 rounds per minute. The ship carried three hundred rounds for each gun.

The original plan was to dismount the eight guns on the forecastle and quarterdeck and stow them on chocks on the deck during daylight to prevent them from being damaged by muzzle blast from the main guns. Gun trials in December 1906 proved that this was more difficult than expected and the two port guns from the forecastle and the outer starboard gun from the quarterdeck were transferred to turret roofs, giving each turret two guns. The remaining forecastle guns and the outer port gun from the quarterdeck were removed by the end of 1907, which reduced the total to twenty-four guns. During her April–May 1915 refit, the two guns from the roof of ‘A’ turret were reinstalled in the original positions on the starboard side of the quarterdeck. A year later, the two guns at the rear of the superstructure were removed, reducing the ship to twenty-two guns. Two of the quarterdeck guns were given high-angle mounts for anti-aircraft duties and the two guns abreast the conning tower were removed in 1917.

A pair of QF six-pounder (2.2 in (57 mm)) Hotchkiss anti-aircraft guns on high-angle mountings were mounted on the quarterdeck in 1915. They had a maximum depression of −8° and a maximum elevation of +60°. The 6 lb (2.7 kg) shell was fired at a muzzle velocity of 1,765 ft/s (538 m/s). They were replaced by a pair of QF 3-inch 20 cwt guns on high-angle Mark II mounts in 1916. These guns had a maximum depression of 10° and a maximum elevation of 90°. They fired a 12.5-pound shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,517 ft/s (767 m/s) at a rate of 29 rounds per minute. They had a maximum effective ceiling of 23,500 ft (7,200 m).

Dreadnought carried five 18-inch (450 mm) submerged torpedo tubes, two on each broadside and one in the stern. Twenty-three torpedoes were carried for them. In addition six 14 in (356 mm) torpedoes were carried for her steam picket boats.

Fire control

Dreadnought was one of the first vessels of the Royal Navy to be fitted with instruments for electrically transmitting range, order and deflection information to the turrets. The control positions for the main armament were located in the spotting top at the head of the foremast and on a platform on the roof of the signal tower. Data from a 9 ft (2.7 m) Barr and Stroud FQ-2 rangefinder located at each control position was input into a Dumaresq mechanical computer and electrically transmitted to Vickers range clocks located in the Transmitting Station located beneath each position on the main deck, where it was converted into range and deflection data for use by the guns. Voice pipes were retained for use between the Transmitting Station and the control positions. The target’s data was also graphically recorded on a plotting table to assist the gunnery officer in predicting the movement of the target. The turrets, Transmitting Stations, and control positions could be connected in almost any combination.

Firing trials against Hero in 1907 revealed this system’s vulnerability to gunfire, as its spotting top was hit twice and a large splinter severed the voice pipe and all wiring running along the mast. To guard against this possibility, Dreadnought’s fire-control system was comprehensively upgraded during her refits in 1912–13. The rangefinder in the foretop was given a gyro-stabilized Argo mount and ‘A’ and ‘Y’ turrets were upgraded to serve as secondary control positions for any portion or all of the main armament. An additional 9-foot rangefinder was installed on the compass platform. In addition, ‘A’ turret was fitted with another 9-foot rangefinder at the rear of the turret roof and a Mark I Dreyer Fire Control Table was installed in the main Transmitting Station. It combined the functions of the Dumaresq and the range clock.

Fire-control technology advanced quickly during the years immediately preceding the First World War, and the most important development was the director firing system. This consisted of a fire-control director mounted high in the ship which electrically provided data to the turrets via pointers, which the turret crew were to follow. The director layer fired the guns simultaneously which aided in spotting the shell splashes and minimised the effects of the roll on the dispersion of the shells. A prototype was fitted in Dreadnought in 1909, but it was removed to avoid conflict with her duties as flagship of the Home Fleet. Preparations to install a production director were made during her May–June 1915 refit and every turret received a 9 ft (2.7 m) rangefinder at the same time. The exact date of the installation of the director is not known, other than it was not fitted before the end of 1915, and it was most likely mounted during her April–June 1916 refit.


Dreadnought used Krupp cemented armour throughout, unless otherwise mentioned. Her waterline belt measured 11 in (279 mm) thick, but tapered to 7 in (178 mm) at its lower edge. It extended from the rear of ‘A’ barbette to the centre of ‘Y’ barbette. Oddly, it was reduced to 9 in (229 mm) abreast ‘A’ barbette. A 6 in (152 mm) extension ran from ‘A’ barbette forward to the bow and a similar 4 inch extension ran aft to the stern. An 8 in (203 mm) bulkhead was angled obliquely inwards from the end of the main belt to the side of ‘X’ barbette to fully enclose the armoured citadel at middle deck level. An 8-inch belt sat above the main belt, but only ran as high as the main deck. One major problem with Dreadnought’s armour scheme was that the top of the 11 inch belt was only 2 ft (0.6 m) above the waterline at normal load and it was submerged by over 12 inches at deep load, which meant that the waterline was then protected only by the 8 inch upper belt.

The turret faces and sides were protected by 11 inches of armour, while the turret roofs used 3 inches of Krupp non-cemented armour (KNC). The exposed faces of the barbettes were 11 inches thick, but the inner faces were 8 inches thick above the main deck. ‘X’ barbette’s was 8 inches thick all around. Below the main deck, the barbettes’ armour thinned to four inches except for ‘A’ barbette (eight inches) and ‘Y’ which remained 11 inches thick. The thickness of the main deck ranged from 0.75 to 1 in (19 to 25 mm). The middle deck was 1.75 in (44 mm) thick on the flat and 2.75 inches (70 mm) where it sloped down to meet the bottom edge of the main belt. Over the magazine for ‘A’ and ‘Y’ turrets it was 3 inches thick, on slope and flat both. The lower deck armour was 1.5 inches (38 mm) forward and 2 inches aft where it increased to 3 inches to protect the steering gear.

The sides of the conning tower were 11 inches thick and it had a 3-inch roof of KNC. It had a communications tube with 8 inch walls of mild steel down to the Transmitting Station on the middle deck. The walls of the signal tower were 8 inches thick while it had a roof of 3 inches of KNC armour. 2 inch torpedo bulkheads were fitted abreast the magazines and shell rooms of ‘A’, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ turrets, but this increased to 4 inches abreast ‘P’ and ‘Q’ turrets to compensate for their outboard location.

In common with all major warships of her day, Dreadnought was fitted with anti-torpedo nets, but these were removed early in the war, since they caused considerable loss of speed and were easily defeated by torpedoes fitted with net-cutters.

Electrical equipment

Electrical power was provided by three 100 kW, 100 V DC Siemens generators, powered by two Brotherhood steam and two Mirrlees diesel engines (which later changed to three steam and one diesel). Among the equipment powered by 100 volt DC and 15 volt DC electrical systems were five lifts (elevators), eight coaling winches, pumps, ventilation fans, lighting and telephone systems.


Dreadnought two days after the keel was laid. Most of lower frames are in place plus a few of the beams which supported the armoured deck.

Dreadnought was the sixth ship of the RN to bear the name Dreadnought, which means “fear nothing”. To meet Admiral Fisher’s goal of building the ship in a single year, material was stockpiled in advance and a great deal of prefabrication was done from May 1905 onwards with approximately 6,000 man weeks of work expended before she was formally laid down on 2 October 1905 on No.5 Slip. In addition, she was built at HM Dockyard, Portsmouth which was regarded as the fastest-building shipyard in the world. The slip was screened from prying eyes and attempts made to indicate that the design was no different to other battleships. 1,100 men were already employed by the time she was laid down, but soon this number rose to 3,000. Whereas on previous ships the men had worked a 48-hour week, they were required on Dreadnought to work a 69-hour, six-day week from 06:00 to 18:00, which included compulsory overtime with only a 30-minute lunch break. While double shifting was considered to ease the long hours which were unpopular with the men, this was not possible due to labour shortages. Day 6 (7 October), the first of the bulkheads and most of the middle-deck beams were in place. By Day 20, the forward part of the bow was in position and the hull plating was well underway. By Day 55 all of the upper-deck beams were in place, and by Day 83 the upper deck plates were in position. By Day 125 (4 February), the hull was finished.

Dreadnought was christened with a bottle of Australian wine by King Edward VII on 10 February 1906, after only four months on the ways. The bottle required multiple blows to shatter on a bow that later became famous. Signifying the ship’s importance the launch had been planned to be a large elaborate festive event, however as the court was still in mourning for Queen Alexandra’s father who had died twelve days before, she did not attend and a more sober event occurred. Following the launch, fitting out of the ship occurred at No.15 Dock.

The ship’s construction cost £1,785,683. Other sources however state £1,783,883. and £1,672,483.


On 1 October 1906, steam was raised and she went to sea on 3 October 1906 for two days of trials at Devonport, only a year and a day after construction started. On the 9th she undertook her eight-hour-long full-power contractor trials off Polperro on the Cornwall coast during which she averaged 20.05 knots and 21.6 knots on the measured mile. She returned to Portsmouth for gun and torpedo trials before she completed her final fitting out. She was commissioned into the fleet on 11 December 1906, fifteen months after she was laid down.

The suggestion that her building had been sped up by using guns and/or turrets originally designed for the Lord Nelson-class ships which preceded her is not borne out as the guns and turrets were not ordered until July 1905. It seems more likely that Dreadnought’s turrets and guns merely received higher priority than those of the earlier ships.

Dreadnought sailed for the Mediterranean Sea for extensive trials in December 1906 calling in at Arosa Bay, Gibraltar and Golfo d’Aranci before crossing the Atlantic to Port of Spain, Trinidad in January 1907, returning to Portsmouth on 23 March 1907. During this cruise, her engines and guns were given a thorough workout by Captain Reginald Bacon, Fisher’s former Naval Assistant and a member of the Committee on Designs. His report stated, “No member of the Committee on Designs dared to hope that all the innovations introduced would have turned out as successfully as had been the case.” During this time she averaged 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) between Gibraltar and Trinidad and 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) from Trinidad to Portsmouth, an unprecedented high-speed performance. This shakedown cruise revealed several issues that were dealt with in subsequent refits, notably the replacement of her steering engines and the addition of cooling machinery to reduce the temperature levels in her magazines (cordite degrades more quickly at high temperatures). The most important issue, which was never addressed in her lifetime, was that the placement of her foremast behind the forward funnel put the spotting top right in the plume of hot exhaust gases, much to the detriment of her fighting ability.


From 1907–1911, Dreadnought served as flagship of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet. In 1910, she attracted the attention of notorious hoaxer Horace de Vere Cole, who persuaded the Royal Navy to arrange for a party of Abyssinian royals to be given a tour of a ship. In reality, the “Abyssinian royals” were some of Cole’s friends in blackface and disguise, including a young Virginia Woolf and her Bloomsbury Group friends; it became known as the Dreadnought hoax. Cole had picked Dreadnought because she was at that time the most prominent and visible symbol of Britain’s naval might.

She was replaced as flagship of the Home Fleet by Neptune in March 1911 and was assigned to the 1st Division of the Home Fleet. She participated in King George V’s Coronation Fleet Review in June 1911. Dreadnought became flagship of the 4th Battle Squadron in December 1912 after her transfer from the 1st Battle Squadron, as the 1st Division had been renamed earlier in the year. Between September and December 1913 she was training in the Mediterranean Sea.

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, she was flagship of the 4th Battle Squadron in the North Sea, based at Scapa Flow. She was relieved as flagship on 10 December by Benbow. Ironically for a vessel designed to engage enemy battleships, her only significant action was the ramming and sinking of German submarine SM U-29, skippered by K/Lt Otto Weddigen (of SM U-9 fame), in the Pentland Firth on 18 March 1915. U-29 had broken the surface immediately ahead of Dreadnought after firing a torpedo at Neptune, and Dreadnought cut the submarine in two after a short chase. She almost collided with Temeraire who was also attempting to ram the submarine. Dreadnought thus became the only battleship ever to purposefully sink an enemy submarine.

She was refitting at Portsmouth from 18 April–22 June 1916 and missed the Battle of Jutland on 31 May, the most significant fleet engagement of the war. Dreadnought became flagship of the 3rd Battle Squadron on 9 July, based at Sheerness on the Thames, part of a force of pre-dreadnoughts intended to counter the threat of shore bombardment by German battlecruisers. During this time, she fired her AA guns at German aircraft that passed over her headed for London. She returned to the Grand Fleet in March 1918, resuming her role as flagship of the 4th Battle Squadron, but was paid off on 7 August 1918 at Rosyth. She was recommissioned on 25 February 1919 as the tender Hercules to act as a parent ship for the Reserve.

Dreadnought was put up for sale on 31 March 1920 and sold for scrap to Thos. W. Ward on 9 May 1921 as one of the 113 ships that the firm purchased at a flat rate of £2. 10/- per ton, later reduced to £2. 4/- per ton. As Dreadnought was assessed at 16,650 tons, she cost the shipbreaker £36,630 though another source states £44,750. She was broken up at Ward’s new premises at Inverkeithing, Scotland, upon arrival on 2 January 1923. Very few artefacts from Dreadnought have survived, although a gun tompion is in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

HMS Hannibal

Postcard from 1910 of HMS Hannibal

Postcard from 1910 of HMS Hannibal.

HMS Hannibal was a Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship built for the Royal Navy, and the sixth ship to bear the name HMS Hannibal. The ship was laid down at the Pembroke Dock in May 1894, she was launched in April 1896, and commissioned into the fleet in April 1898. She was armed with a main battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns and a secondary battery of twelve 6-inch (152 mm) guns. The ship had a top speed of 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph).

Hannibal served with the Channel Fleet (later reorganised to the Atlantic Fleet) after commissioning in 1898. In 1906 she underwent a refit, which included a conversion from a coal burner to using oil. She was placed in reserve from 1907, only to be mobilised in July 1914 as a precautionary measure prior to the outbreak of World War I. From August 1914 to February 1915 Hannibal was a guard ship at Scapa Flow. Later that year, her main armament was removed and she was converted to a troopship, serving in this capacity during the Dardanelles campaign. From November 1915 to the end of the war, she served as a depot ship based in Alexandria, Egypt. She was disposed of in 1920 and scrapped later that year.


Hannibal was 421 feet (128 m) long overall and had a beam of 75 ft (23 m) and a draft of 27 ft (8.2 m). She displaced up to 16,060 long tons (16,320 t) at full load. Her propulsion system consisted of two 3-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines powered by eight coal-fired, cylindrical fire-tube boilers. By 1907–08, she was re-boilered with oil-fired models. Her engines provided a top speed of 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) at 10,000 indicated horsepower (7,500 kW). The Majestics were considered good seaboats with an easy roll and good steamers, although they suffered from high fuel consumption. She had a crew of 672 officers and ratings.

The ship was armed with a main battery of four BL 12-inch (305 mm) Mk VIII guns in twin-gun turrets, one forward and one aft. The turrets were placed on pear-shaped barbettes; six of her sisters had the same arrangement, but her sisters Caesar and Illustrious and all future British battleship classes had circular barbettes. Hannibal also carried a secondary battery of twelve QF 6-inch (152 mm) /40 guns. They were mounted in casemates in two gun decks amidships. She also carried sixteen QF 12-pounder guns and twelve QF 2-pounder guns for defence against torpedo boats. She was also equipped with five 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes, four of which were submerged in the ship’s hull, with the last in a deck-mounted launcher.

Hannibal and the other ships of her class had 9 inches (229 mm) of Harvey steel in their belt armour, which allowed equal protection with less cost in weight compared to previous types of armour. This allowed Hannibal and her sisters to have a deeper and lighter belt than previous battleships without any loss in protection. The barbettes for the main battery were protected with 14 in (356 mm) of armour, and the conning tower had the same thickness of steel on the sides. The ship’s armoured deck was 2.5 to 4.5 in (64 to 114 mm) thick.

Service history

The keel for HMS Hannibal was laid down at the Pembroke Dock on 1 May 1894. Her completed hull was launched on 28 April 1896. She went into the commissioned reserve upon completion in April 1898. On 10 May 1898 she went into full commission to serve in the Portsmouth division of the Channel Fleet, under the command of Captain Sir Baldwin Wake Walker. She was part of a huge fleet of ships present in the Solent for the passage of the body of Queen Victoria from Cowes to Portsmouth on 2 February 1901. Captain George Augustus Giffard was appointed in command on 10 May 1902, and she was present at the Coronation Fleet Review for King Edward VII on 16 August 1902.

Earlier the same month, two officers and a seaman of the Hannibal drowned while on a fishing excursion outside Berehaven. In September 1902 she was part of a squadron visiting Nauplia and Souda Bay at Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. On 17 October 1903 she collided with and badly damaged her sister ship HMS Prince George off Ferrol, Spain. When a fleet reorganisation led to the Channel Fleet being redesignated the Atlantic Fleet on 1 January 1905, Hannibal became an Atlantic Fleet unit. Hannibal transferred to the new Channel Fleet (formerly the Home Fleet) on 28 February 1905. This service ended on 3 August 1905, when she paid off into reserve at Devonport.

Hannibal underwent a refit in 1906 in which she was converted to burn oil fuel and received fire control for her main battery. She then recommissioned in reserve on 20 October 1906. In January 1907, Hannibal went into full commission as a temporary replacement for battleship HMS Ocean in the Channel Fleet while Ocean was under refit. When Ocean returned to service, Hannibal remained in Channel Fleet service as a temporary replacement for battleship HMS Dominion while Dominion was undergoing refit. When Dominion returned to service in May 1907, Hannibal went back into the commissioned reserve, becoming a part of the Portsmouth Division of the new Home Fleet in July 1907. While in commissioned reserve at Portsmouth, Hannibal suffered two significant mishaps. On 19 August 1909 she struck a reef in Babbacombe Bay, damaging her bottom. On 29 October 1909 she collided with torpedo boat HMS TB 105, suffering no damage herself but badly damaging the torpedo boat. She underwent a refit at Devonport from November 1911 to March 1912.

First World War

The Royal Navy began a precautionary mobilisation in July 1914 when war appeared increasingly likely. As part of this, Hannibal and her sister ships HMS Mars, HMS Magnificent, and HMS Victorious formed the 9th Battle Squadron on 27 July 1914, stationed at the Humber to defend the British coast. Hannibal was serving as a guard ship on the Humber when the First World War began in August 1914. The 9th Battle Squadron was dissolved on 7 August 1914, and Hannibal was transferred to Scapa Flow, where she served as a guard ship until relieved by the first-class protected cruiser HMS Royal Arthur on 20 February 1915. Hannibal then paid off at Dalmuir.

The Majestic-class ships were by then the oldest and least effective battleships in service in the Royal Navy. While inactive at Dalmuir, Hannibal was disarmed between March and April 1915 except for four 6-inch (152-mm) guns and some lighter guns. Her 12-inch (305-mm) guns were taken for use aboard the new Lord Clive-class monitors HMS Prince Eugene and HMS Sir John Moore. After she was disarmed, she was laid up at Scapa Flow and Loch Goil until September 1915. Hannibal recommissioned at Greenock on 9 September 1915 to serve as a troopship in the Dardanelles campaign. She arrived at Mudros in this capacity on 7 October 1915. In November 1915, Hannibal became a depot ship for auxiliary patrol craft at Alexandria, Egypt, supporting both forces operating from Egypt and those in the Red Sea until June 1919, leaving Egypt for Malta on 9 September. Hannibal was paid off for disposal at Malta on 25 October 1919, was sold for scrapping on the 28 January 1920, and was broken up in Italy.


Postcard of HMS L16.

Postcard of HMS L16.

HMS L16 was a L-class submarine built for the Royal Navy during World War I.

Design and description

L9 and its successors were enlarged to accommodate 21-inch (53.3 cm) torpedoes and more fuel. The submarine had a length of 238 feet 7 inches (72.7 m) overall, a beam of 23 feet 6 inches (7.2 m) and a mean draft of 13 feet 3 inches (4.0 m). They displaced 914 long tons (929 t) on the surface and 1,089 long tons (1,106 t) submerged. The L-class submarines had a crew of 35 officers and ratings.

For surface running, the boats were powered by two 12-cylinder Vickers 1,200-brake-horsepower (895 kW) diesel engines, each driving one propeller shaft. When submerged each propeller was driven by a 600-horsepower (447 kW) electric motor. They could reach 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) on the surface and 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h; 12.1 mph) underwater. On the surface, the L class had a range of 3,800 nautical miles (7,000 km; 4,400 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).

The boats were armed with four 21-inch torpedo tubes in the bow and two 18-inch (45 cm) in broadside mounts. They carried four reload torpedoes for the 21-inch tubes for a grand total of ten torpedoes of all sizes. They were also armed with a 4-inch (102 mm) deck gun.

Construction and career

HMS L16 was laid down on 1 September 1917 by Fairfield at their Govan shipyard, launched on 9 April 1918, and completed on 31 May. During the war, the boat operated from Harwich or Teesport. HMS L16 was sold in February 1934 to Malcolm Brechin, Granton, Edinburgh.


Postcard of HMS E9

Postcard of HMS E9.

HMS E9 was a British E class submarine built by Vickers, Barrow. She was laid down on 1 June 1912 and was commissioned on 18 June 1914.


Like all post-E8 British E-class submarines, E9 had a displacement of 662 long tons (673 t) at the surface and 807 long tons (820 t) while submerged. She had a total length of 180 feet (55 m) and a beam of 22 feet 8.5 inches (6.922 m). She was powered by two 800 horsepower (600 kW) Vickers eight-cylinder two-stroke diesel engines and two 420 horsepower (310 kW) electric motors. The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) and a submerged speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). British E-class submarines had fuel capacities of 50 long tons (51 t) of diesel and ranges of 3,255 miles (5,238 km; 2,829 nmi) when travelling at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). E9 was capable of operating submerged for five hours when travelling at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph).

E9 was not fitted with a deck gun during construction, and it is not known whether one was fitted later, as was the case with many boats up to E19. She was the first of her class to be constructed with five 18 inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes, two in the bow, one either side amidships, and one in the stern; a total of 10 torpedoes were carried.

E-Class submarines had wireless systems with 1 kilowatt (1.3 hp) power ratings; in some submarines, these were later upgraded to 3 kilowatts (4.0 hp) systems by removing a midship torpedo tube. Their maximum design depth was 100 feet (30 m) although in service some reached depths of below 200 feet (61 m). Some submarines contained Fessenden oscillator systems.


Her complement was three officers and 28 men.

Service history

At dawn on 13 September 1914, the submarine, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Horton, torpedoed the German light cruiser SMS Hela six miles southwest of Heligoland. Hela was hit amidships with the two torpedoes, fired from a range of 600 yards. All but two of her crew were rescued by the German submarine U-18 and another German ship. Although pursued most of the day by German naval forces, E9 managed to reach Harwich safely. Three weeks later, Horton sank the German destroyer S116 off the mouth of the River Ems. For sinking the cruiser and the destroyer, Horton was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

HMS Majestic

Postcard of HMS Majestic from 1905.​
HMS Majestic

Postcard of HMS Majestic from 1905.

HMS Majestic was a Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy. Commissioned in 1895, she was the largest pre-dreadnought launched at the time. She served with the Channel Fleet until 1904, following which she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. In 1907, she was part of the Home Fleet, firstly assigned to the Nore Division and then with the Devonport Division. From 1912, she was part of the 7th Battle Squadron.

When World War I broke out Majestic, together with the rest of the squadron, was attached to the Channel Fleet during the early stages of the war before being detached for escort duties with Canadian troop convoys. She then had spells as a guard ship at the Nore and the Humber. In early 1915, she was dispatched to the Mediterranean for service in the Dardanelles Campaign. She participated in bombardments of Turkish forts and supported the Allied landings at Gallipoli. On 27 May 1915, she was torpedoed by a U-boat at Cape Helles, sinking with the loss of 49 men.


Majestic was 421 feet (128 m) long overall and had a beam of 75 ft (23 m) and a draft of 27 ft (8.2 m). She displaced up to 16,060 long tons (16,320 t) at full load. Her propulsion system consisted of two 3-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines powered by eight coal-fired, cylindrical fire-tube boilers. By 1907–1908, she was re-boilered with oil-fired models. Her engines provided a top speed of 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) at 10,000 indicated horsepower (7,500 kW). The Majestics were considered good seaboats with an easy roll and good steamers, although they suffered from high fuel consumption. She had a crew of 672 officers and ratings.

The ship was armed with a main battery of four BL 12-inch (305 mm) Mk VIII guns in twin-gun turrets, one forward and one aft. The turrets were placed on pear-shaped barbettes; six of her sisters had the same arrangement, but her sisters Caesar and Illustrious and all future British battleship classes had circular barbettes. Majestic also carried a secondary battery of twelve QF 6-inch (152 mm) /40 guns. They were mounted in casemates in two gun decks amidships. She also carried sixteen QF 12-pounder guns and twelve QF 2-pounder guns for defence against torpedo boats. She was also equipped with five 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes, four of which were submerged in the ship’s hull, with the last in a deck-mounted launcher.

Majestic and the other ships of her class had 9 inches (229 mm) of Harvey steel in their belt armour, which allowed equal protection with less cost in weight compared to previous types of armour. This allowed Majestic and her sisters to have a deeper and lighter belt than previous battleships without any loss in protection. The barbettes for the main battery were protected with 14 in (356 mm) of armour, and the conning tower had the same thickness of steel on the sides. The ship’s armoured deck was 2.5 to 4.5 in (64 to 114 mm) thick.

Operational history

Majestic was laid down at the Portsmouth Dockyard in February 1894. She was launched on 31 January 1895, after which fitting-out work commenced. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy less than a year later, in December 1895, serving with the Channel Squadron at the Portsmouth division. She was present at the Fleet Review at Spithead for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria on 26 June 1897, and was later flagship to Vice-Admiral Sir Harry Rawson, Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet. Captain George Egerton was appointed in command on 28 June 1899, and paid off in April 1901, when Captain Edward Eden Bradford was appointed in command as she became the flagship of Rear-Admiral Arthur Wilson, who had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Squadron. She took part in the Coronation Review held at Spithead for King Edward VII on 16 August 1902, and in September that year was head of a squadron visiting Nauplia and Souda Bay at Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. She underwent a refit at Portsmouth from February to July 1904, and then became a unit of the Atlantic Fleet when a reorganisation resulted in the Channel Fleet becoming the Atlantic Fleet in January 1905. On 1 October 1906, she paid off into reserve at Portsmouth.

Majestic recommissioned at Portsmouth on 26 February 1907 to become flagship of the Nore Division in the new Home Fleet, stationed at the Nore. She began a refit later that year in which she received radio and new fire control systems. When the flag was transferred to another ship in January 1908, she became a private ship in the Nore Division. In June 1908, Majestic transferred to the Devonport Division of the Home Fleet, stationed at Devonport. Her refit was completed in 1909, and in March 1909 she transferred to the 3rd Division at Devonport, then in August 1910 to the 4th Division at Devonport, where she underwent another refit in 1911. In May 1912, Majestic became part of the 7th Battle Squadron in the 3rd Fleet at Devonport. On 14 July 1912 she collided with her sister ship Victorious during manoeuvres, suffering no serious damage.

World War I

Upon the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Majestic and the rest of the 7th Battle Squadron were assigned to the Channel Fleet. Majestic underwent a refit in August and September 1914, then covered the passage of the British Expeditionary Force to France in September 1914. She was detached from the 7th Battle Squadron from 3 October 1914 to 14 October 1914 to escort the first Canadian troop convoy. At the end of October 1914, Majestic was transferred to the Nore to serve as guard ship there. On 3 November 1914, she transferred to the Humber to serve as guard ship there. In December 1914 she became a unit of the Dover Patrol, and combined with battleship Revenge to bombard German coastal artillery from off of Nieuwpoort, Belgium, on 15 December 1914. In January 1915, she was based at Portland.

Dardanelles campaign

In February 1915, Majestic was assigned to participate in the upcoming Dardanelles Campaign to open the Turkish Straits, and she departed early that month under the command of Captain H. F. G. Talbot to join the Mediterranean Fleet. Upon arriving at Malta, she was fitted with what was termed “mine-catching” gear so that she could serve as a “mine-bumper”. She joined the Dardanelles force on 24 February 1915, and on 26 February 1915 departed Tenedos to bombard the Ottoman Turkish inner forts at the Dardanelles that morning. On 26 February 1915, Majestic and battleships Albion and Triumph became the first Allied heavy ships to enter the Turkish Straits during the campaign, firing on the inner forts from 0914 until 1740 hours. Majestic took a hit below the waterline, but was able to continue operations and patrolled the area again on 27 February 1915. She supported the early landings, shelling the forts from 1125 until 1645 hours on 1 March 1915 and again while patrolling on 3 March 1915. She arrived at Mudros on 8 March 1915.

On 9 March 1915, Majestic circumnavigated the entrance to the Dardanelles and bombarded Ottoman Turkish positions from 1007 until 1215 hours. She returned to Tenedos on 10 March 1915, patrolled off the Dardanelles again on 15 March 1915, and again returned to Tenedos on 16 March 1915. Majestic participated in the final attempt to force the straits by naval power alone on 18 March 1915. She opened fire on Fort 9 at 1420 hours and also engaged Turkish field guns hidden in woods. She shelled Fort 9 until she ceased fire at 18:35; the fort meanwhile fired on the mortally damaged battleship Ocean. Majestic was hit four times, twice in her lower tops and twice on her forecastle, and returned to Tenedos at 2200 hours with one dead and some wounded crew members. Majestic returned to patrol duties on 22 March 1915. She shelled Turkish positions on 28 March 1915 from 0950 to 1015 and from 1250 to 1340 hours and again opened fire on 14 April at 1458 hours. On 18 April, she fired on the abandoned British submarine E15 aground near Fort Dardanos and in danger of being captured; two picket boats, one from Majestic and one from Triumph, destroyed E15 with torpedoes, although the boat from Majestic was itself sunk by Turkish shore batteries while retiring. Majestic returned to Tenedos on 21 April 1915.

On 25 April 1915, Majestic was back in action, signalling London that Allied landings had begun at Gallipoli and supporting them with coastal bombardments until 1915 hours. She brought 99 wounded troops aboard at 2110 hours and recovered all her boats before anchoring off Gallipoli for the night. On 26 April 1915, she was back in action early, opening fire at 0617 hours. On 27 April 1915 she exchanged fire with Turkish guns, with several Turkish shells achieving very near misses before both sides ceased firing at 1130 hours. On 29 April 1915 she again was anchored off Gallipoli. Majestic relieved Triumph as flagship of Admiral Nicholson, commanding the squadrons supporting the troops ashore off Cape Helles, on 25 May 1915.


On 27 May 1915, while stationed off W Beach at Cape Helles, Majestic became the third battleship to be torpedoed off the Gallipoli peninsula in two weeks. Around 0645 hours, Commander Otto Hersing of the German submarine U-21 fired a single torpedo through the defensive screen of destroyers and anti-torpedo nets, striking Majestic and causing a huge explosion. The ship began to list to port and in nine minutes had capsized in 54 feet (16 m) of water, killing 49 men. Her masts hit the mud of the sea bottom, and her upturned hull remained visible for many months until it was finally submerged when her foremast collapsed during a storm.

In October 2021, Turkey opened the Gallipoli Historic Underwater Park, an underwater museum off Çanakkale accessible to scuba divers. The park includes a number of wrecks from vessels sunk during the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns, including Majestic and the battleship Triumph. The wreck of Majestic now lies at a depth of 24 m (79 ft), and it is largely intact.

Albert Edward McKenzie

Albert Edward McKenzie
Albert Edward McKenzie

Albert Edward McKenzie VC (23 October 1898 – 3 November 1918) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.


McKenzie was a 19-year-old able seaman in the Royal Navy during the First World War who was taking part in the Zeebrugge Raid when he performed the deed for which he was awarded the VC.

On 22/23 April 1918 at Zeebrugge, Belgium, Able Seaman McKenzie was a member of a storming party on the night of the operation. He landed with his machine-gun in the face of great difficulties, advancing down the Mole with his commanding officer (Arthur Leyland Harrison) who with most of his party was killed. The seaman accounted for several of the enemy running for shelter to a destroyer alongside the Mole, and was severely wounded whilst working his gun in an exposed position.

He was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace. However, having almost recovered from his wounds, he died of influenza during the world flu pandemic at the beginning of November 1918. He is buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery, South London.

Ernest Herbert Pitcher

Ernest Herbert Pitcher
Ernest Herbert Pitcher

Chief Petty Officer Ernest Herbert Pitcher VC, DSM (31 December 1888 − 10 February 1946) (middle name also recorded as James) was a Royal Navy (RN) sailor and an English recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Naval career

During the First World War Pitcher served in Q ships commanded by Commander Gordon Campbell. The first was HMS Farnborough which sank two U-boats but was herself sunk by the second; Captain Campbell was awarded the VC after the second action. Most of the crew, including Pitcher, were rescued and followed Campbell to HMS Pargust.

Pargust sank the U-boat UC-29 but was herself severely damaged. The Admiralty decided that Pargust’s action was worthy of the VC but that all of the crew had acted with equal valour, so article 13 of the VC’s royal warrant was applied and the ship’s company voted for one commissioned officer and one petty officer or seaman to receive the award: these were Pargust’s first lieutenant, Ronald Stuart, and seaman William Williams. Pitcher received the Distinguished Service Medal. Campbell and the crew then transferred to HMS Dunraven, in which the action took place for which Pitcher was awarded the VC.

On the 8th August, 1917, H.M.S. “Dunraven,” under the command of Captain Gordon Campbell, V.C., D.S.O., R.N., sighted an enemy submarine [UC-71] on the horizon. In her role of armed British merchant ship, the “Dunraven” continued her zig-zag course, whereupon the submarine closed, remaining submerged to within 5,000 yards, and then, rising to the surface, opened fire. The “Dunraven” returned the fire with her merchant ship gun, at the same time reducing speed to enable the enemy to overtake her. Wireless signals were also sent out for the benefit of the submarine: “Help! come quickly – submarine chasing and shelling me.” Finally, when the shells began falling close, the “Dunraven” stopped and abandoned ship by the “panic party.” [The “panic party” was a small number of men who were to “abandon ship” during an attack to continue the impersonation of a merchant ship. The ship was then being heavily shelled, and on fire aft. In the meantime the submarine closed to 400 yards distant, partly obscured from view by the dense clouds of smoke issuing1 from the “Dunraven’s” stern. Despite the knowledge that the after magazine must inevitably explode if he waited, and further, that a gun and gun’s crew lay concealed over the magazine, Captain Campbell decided to reserve his fire until the submarine had passed clear of the smoke. A moment later, however, a heavy explosion occurred aft, blowing the gun and gun’s crew into the air, and accidentally starting the fire-gongs at the remaining gun positions; screens were immediately dropped, and the only gun that would bear opened fire, but the submarine, apparently frightened by the explosion, had already commenced to submerge. Realising that a torpedo must inevitably follow, Captain Campbell ordered the surgeon to remove all wounded and conceal them in cabins; hoses were also turned on the poop, which was a mass of flames. A signal was sent out warning men-of-war to divert all traffic below the horizon in order that nothing should interrupt the final phase of the action. Twenty minutes later a torpedo again struck the ship abaft the engine-room. An additional party of men were again sent away as a “panic party,” and left the ship to outward appearances completely abandoned, with the White Ensign flying and guns unmasked. For the succeeding fifty minutes the submarine examined the ship through her periscope. During this period boxes of cordite and shells exploded every few minutes, and the fire on the poop still blazed furiously. Captain Campbell and the handful of officers and men who remained on board lay hidden during this ordeal. The submarine then rose to the surface astern, where no guns could bear and shelled the ship closely for twenty minutes. The enemy then submerged and steamed past the ship 150 yards off, examining her through the periscope. Captain Campbell decided then to fire one of his torpedoes, but missed by a few inches. The submarine crossed the bows and came slowly down the other side, whereupon a second torpedo was fired and missed again. The enemy observed it and immediately submerged. Urgent signals for assistance were immediately sent out, but pending arrival of assistance Captain Campbell arranged for a third “panic party” to jump overboard if necessary and leave one gun’s crew on board for a final attempt to destroy the enemy, should he again attack. Almost immediately afterwards, however, British and American destroyers arrived on the scene, the wounded were transferred, boats were recalled and the fire extinguished. The “Dunraven” although her stern was awash, was taken in tow, but the weather grew worse, and early the following morning she sank with colours flying.

Petty Officer Pitcher was captain of the 4-inch gun crew. When the magazine below them blew up the crew were blown into the air, but Pitcher and another man landed on mock railway trucks made of wood and canvas, which cushioned their falls and saved their lives. His VC was awarded by ballot of the gun crew. Lieutenant Charles George Bonner was also awarded the VC. Pitcher also received the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille Militaire.

Interbellum and later life

In 1920 Pitcher was promoted to chief petty officer. In 1927 he retired from the Royal Navy and lived in Dorset, where he taught woodwork in a boys’ school in Swanage and also ran a pub, the “Royal Oak” in Herston. On the outbreak of the Second World War he rejoined the Navy and served onshore in the south of England. After the war his health deteriorated and he died of tuberculosis on 10 February 1946. His body was brought back to Swanage, where he is buried in Northbrook Cemetery.

Edgar Christopher Cookson

Edgar Christopher Cookson
Edgar Christopher Cookson

Lieutenant-Commander Edgar Christopher Cookson VC DSO (13 December 1883 – 28 September 1915) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Cookson was born on 13 December 1883 to Capt. W. E. Cookson, R.N. He was 31 years old and a Lieutenant-Commander in the command of HMS Comet on the River Tigris when his actions, on 28 September 1915, during the advance on Kut-el-Amara, Mesopotamia earned him the Victoria Cross.


On 28 September 1915, the river gunboat “Comet” had been ordered with other gunboats to examine and, if possible, destroy an obstruction placed across the river by the Turks. When the gunboats were approaching the obstruction a very heavy rifle and machine gun fire was opened on them from both banks. An attempt to sink the centre dhow of the obstruction by gunfire having failed, Lieutenant-Commander Cookson ordered the “Comet” to be placed alongside, and himself jumped onto the dhow with an axe and tried to cut the wire hawsers connecting it with the two other craft forming the obstruction. He was immediately shot in several places and died within a very few minutes.

John Travers Cornwell

John Travers Cornwell
John Travers Cornwell

John Travers Cornwell VC (8 January 1900 – 2 June 1916), commonly known as Jack Cornwell or as Boy Cornwell, is remembered for his gallantry at the Battle of Jutland during World War I. Having died at the age of only 16, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Cornwell is the third-youngest recipient of the VC after Andrew Fitzgibbon and Thomas Flinn.

Early life

John “Jack” Travers Cornwell was born as the third child of a working-class family at Clyde Place, Leyton, Essex. His parents were Eli and Lily Cornwell; he had a sister and three brothers, as well as two half-siblings from his father’s previous marriage. The family later moved to Alverstone Road, East Ham. He left Walton Road School at the standard age of 14, but was in the Boy Scouts. At the outbreak of the First World War, ex-soldier Eli Cornwell volunteered for service and was fighting in France under Lord Kitchener. His older brother Arthur also served in an infantry regiment on the Western Front.

In October 1915, Jack Cornwell gave up his job as a delivery boy and enlisted in the Royal Navy without his father’s permission. He had references from his headmaster and employer. He carried out his basic training at HMS Vivid Keyham Naval Barracks in Plymouth, and received further training as a Sight Setter or Gun Layer and became Boy Seaman First Class. On Easter Monday 1916, Cornwell left for Rosyth, Scotland, to join his assignment in the navy. He was assigned to HMS Chester.

Battle of Jutland

On 31 May 1916, Chester was scouting ahead of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron at the Battle of Jutland when the ship turned to investigate gunfire in the distance. At 17:30 hours, Chester soon came under intense fire from four Kaiserliche Marine cruisers each her own size which had suddenly emerged from the haze and increasing funnel smoke of the battlefield. The shielded 5.5-inch gun mounting where Cornwell was serving as a sight-setter was affected by at least four nearby hits. Chester’s gun mountings were open-backed shields and did not reach down to the deck. Splinters were thus able to pass under them or enter the open back when shells exploded nearby or behind. All the gun’s crew were killed or mortally injured except Cornwell, who, although severely wounded, managed to stand up again and remain at his post for more than 15 minutes, until Chester retired from the action with only one main battery gun still working. Chester had received a total of 18 hits, but partial hull armour meant that the interior of the ship suffered little serious damage and the ship itself was never in peril of sinking. Nevertheless, the situation on deck was dire. Many of the gun crews had lost lower limbs due to splinters passing under the gun shields. British ships reported passing the Chester to cheers from limbless wounded gun crew laid out on her deck and smoking cigarettes, only to hear that the same crewmen had died a few hours later from blood loss and shock.

After the action, medics arrived on deck to find Cornwell the sole survivor standing at his gun, shards of steel penetrating his chest, looking at the gun sights and still waiting for orders. Being incapable of further action, Chester was ordered to the port of Immingham. There Cornwell was transferred to Grimsby General Hospital, although he was clearly dying. He died shortly before 8:00am on the morning of 2 June 1916, before his mother could arrive at the hospital.

Victoria Cross

Three months later, Captain Robert Lawson of Chester described the events to the British Admiralty. The recommendation for citation, from Admiral David Beatty, reads:

The instance of devotion to duty by Boy (1st Class) John Travers Cornwell who was mortally wounded early in the action, but nevertheless remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders till the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded around him. He was under 16½ years old. I regret that he has since died, but I recommend his case for special recognition in justice to his memory and as an acknowledgement of the high example set by him.

Jack Cornwell was initially buried in a common grave in Manor Park Cemetery, London, although his body was exhumed on 29 July 1916 at which he was reburied with full military honours in the same cemetery. Cornwell’s father Eli, who died on 25 October 1916 from bronchitis during home service with the Royal Defence Corps, was buried in the same grave on 31 October 1916. The epitaph to Jack Cornwell on his grave monument reads,

“It is not wealth or ancestry 

but honourable conduct and a noble disposition 

that maketh men great.”

In May 2016, the family grave and war memorial, erected in 1920, was given Grade II listed status, legally protecting it from unauthorised modification or removal.

The award of the Victoria Cross appeared in The London Gazette on Friday 15 September 1916. The citation read:

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the grant of the Victoria Cross to Boy, First Class, John Travers Cornwell, O.N.J.42563 (died 2 June 1916), for the conspicuous act of bravery specified below. Mortally wounded early in the action, Boy, First Class, Jack Travers Cornwell remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders, until the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded all round him. His age was under sixteen and a half years.