The Battle of Jutland, one hundred years ago, involved a number of North Devon men whose deeds and fates were reported in the local press.
The North Devon Journal reported a surprise for Mrs King in mid-July as her husband Chief Engine Room Artificer Frederick King of HM Nestor, sunk in the Jutland battle, and reported as dead, contacted his wife in July from Wilhelmshaven where he was being kept as a POW (Thursday 13 July 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 7f).
However other news was of a more sombre note.
A joint memorial service was held at Bideford for two Instow men, Captain Hugh Rivers O’Brien RFA, who died at Ypres, and Lieut Robert Chichester RN, son of the late Sir Edward and Lady Chichester, who was lost at Jutland on HMS Black Prince (Thursday 22 June 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 5g). William Beer, pictured with him in this extract from the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, is not mentioned in the North Devon Journal.
Over 500 attended a service at Lynton in memorial of both Lord Kitchener and those who died at Jutland (Thursday 22 June 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 6b).
At Torrington there were similar memorial services at both the Baptist Church and Methodist Chapel, but also, at the Baptist Chapel, a quiet wedding… by special licence… of Stanley Peake of HMS Warsprite, survivor of the Battle, and Fanny Popham (Thursday 15 June 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 8d).
Mr RJ Gumm of Ilfracombe, and HMS Tiger, wrote an account of the battle in a letter to HJ Macey, the headmaster of Holy Trinity Boys’ School. He qualifies Admiral Beatty’s assertion that it was a “brilliant victory” by saying one will have to admit that it was dearly won. With no comment on the British losses he says I cannot see how their losses can be under 10,000 – a terrible death toll, for such a few hours (Thursday 29 June 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 7a).
Another account, from Stoker Eric Kipling of Ilfracombe, describes the scenes and noise of battle and of seeing the Queen Mary go down. It was all over very quickly – one moment a sheet of flame and the next nothing to be seen of her (Thursday 15 June 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 3a).
J Watts, writing home to Braunton, said that he had been serving in the North Sea since the war broke out until lately, and that (he) took part in the Jutland “scrap” (Thursday 30 November 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 8d).
First Class Petty Officer George H Manning of Ilfracombe was awarded the DSM for conspicuous gallantry during the battle of Jutland. He had saved his ship HMS Colossus from sinking from a shell hole beneath the water line by entering the water up to his neck and stopping the water from coming in (Thursday 16 November 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 5c; Thursday 23 November 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 5d).
Also decorated, with the conspicuous gallantry medal, was Petty Officer George Arthur Sayer, son-in-law of Mr and Mrs John Shaddick of Green Lane, themselves having six sons of their own serving. Well known in Barnstaple, where he (had) many friends, his leg had been shot away when his gun turret was disabled and he thereafter set a fine example by remaining at his post and trying to get his gun into action again. A fuller account of his life and of the Jutland incident is given in his obituary in 1940. He had gone to sea at the age of eleven and had joined the Royal Navy at fourteen, and was given a military guard of honour, military band and volley of shots at his funeral in Bath. At Jutland he had been a gun layer when his turret had been hit by a shell. He lost a foot, but without mentioning his injury he tried to work the gun but it was jammed. He closed all the watertight doors, and took other safety measures, and then reported to the officer. As well as the CGM he was also awarded the Croix de Geurre. After this, three operations and an artificial leg, he served as a gunnery instructor and was promoted to Chief Petty Officer before finishing his career as a civil servant (Thursday 21 September 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 5g; Thursday 11 January 1940 North Devon Journal Page/Column 3a).
Lieut Commander LR Palmer, son of Mrs Palmer of Instow, was awarded the DSO for special gallantry when his destroyer was disabled, in proceeding to the assistance of Onslow and taking her in tow under heavy shell fire. He succeeded in towing her in a heavy sea until relieved by tugs when in sight of land (Thursday 21 September 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 5g).
The deaths column notes the death in the naval battle off Jutland of Arthur Henry Routcliffe, HMS Indefatigable, second son of Mrs Cousins of Carlton Terrace Barnstaple and Frank Sidney, ERA of HMS Defence, whose mother was a member of the Darch family from Barnstaple (Thursday 22 June 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 8g).
Pte Percy Coles, youngest son of Mortehoe publicans and formerly of Barnstaple, was killed serving on Admiral Beatty’s flagship, HMS Lion. He was of fine physique, a pleasant companion and a good comrade (Thursday 15 June 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 5a).
The North Devon Journal’s overview of the year records the deaths in the battle of Jutland of three Torrington men – Robert Palmer who was on the Black Prince, RH Tanton of the Indefatigible, and Ernest Ware of the Defence (Thursday 28 December 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 2b). Later that year Ernest’s brother John was to die, after surviving the Somme, from bronchitis after contracting a chill and neuphritis (sic) (Thursday 28 December 1916 North Devon Journal Page/Column 5b).
Also lost on the Defence was Leading Stoker WW Cann of Cardiff, but formerly of Barnstaple (Thursday 31 May 1917 North Devon Journal Page/Column 8f).
British Newspaper Archive – North Devon Journal; Exeter and Plymouth Gazette (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)
findmypast – Prisoners of War 1914-1920 (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)