Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833 -1970

Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833 -1970 

“Our greatest need is for a larger sense of responsibility for our church and her welfare on the part of every church member and more workers, more people, who are prepared to give their time and talents to the work of God and the service of their fellows in this place.”

(Refer to: Townsend Street Presbyterian Church 150th Anniversary, History of the Congregation, p60)

(Quote by, Rev. John Worthington Johnston. This man of God was installed in the Townsend Presbyterian Church on 28th March 1935. He was a Chaplain in the Parachute Regiment 1939-45.   When at war Professor J. Wilson took charge of the congregation. The quote above was written in a letter by the Rev. Captain John Worthington Johnston in 1945. The Rev. Worthington Johnston also wrote a book of poetry called, “The poems of a Parachute Padre”, first published in Belfast in 1943).

The door into the Church – Is still open in 2016


General Timeline for the history of the Townsend Presbyterian Church 1833-1970*

*The Church still continues in its work to the present day

 

    • 1833 – October 22nd – The Foundation Stone of the old church building is laid down by the Marquis of Donegall. Rev, George Belis opened the special ceremony, Rev. Dr. Hanna offered up a prayer and Rev. Dr. Henry Cooke delivered an address. Rev. Dr. Morgan concluded with prayer and the benediction. These ministers were all famous figures in 19th Century Belfast.
      “The company had not left the ground when there appeared a very beautiful rainbow – one of the most perfect we ever saw – which seemed suspended, as it was undoubtedly over the spot thus dedicated.”  Newspaper report quoted in, Rev. James McCaw Townsend Street Presbyterian Church Belfast, 1833-1933, p16.

 

    • 1835 – April 26th – The church was opened by Rev. Dr. Mcleod of Glasgow

 

    • 1836 – Rev. Josias Wilson of Drogheda becomes the first Minister

 

    • 1838 – The Church is re-opened by the Rev. Cooke and Rev. Morgan

 

    • 1841 – January 21st – The school buildings are opened

 

    • 1844 – October 28th – Rev. John Weir of Newry becomes the second Minister

 

    • 1847 – September 21st – Rev. William Johnston is installed as the new Minister

 

    • 1866 – January 1st – Henry Louden an elder of the church leaves to the church a generous gift of property for the orphans

 

    • 1876 – December 4th – The Townsend congregation is worshipping in the Working Men’s Institute as a new church is under construction

 

    • 1877 – August 25th – The foundation for the new church is laid and a speech is given by one Mr. John Sinclair from New York

 

    • 1877 – September 21st – Lecture hall and school buildings opened

 

    • 1878 – October 9th – The new church was completed and it cost an estimated sum of £11,210 13s 9d

 

    • 1879 – January – The Church Gate and the railing at the front of the Church were erected to remember Dr. Henry Martyn Johnston

 

    • 1892 – September Rev James McGranahan of Larne becomes the Minister of the Church

 

    • 1902 – June 17th Rev William Corkey from Cullybackey becomes the Minister of the Church

 

    • 1913 – Individual Communion Cups donated as a gift by Mr. R. McDowell

 

    • 1914 – February 8th – Stained Glass windows erected to the memory of Rev. William Johnston and Mrs. Sarah Johnston and to Dr. Henry Martyn Johnston and Mrs Frank Johnston by Mr. R.T. Martin. Further to the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wallace by Mr. M. Luther Wallace. The windows were unveiled by the Rev. James McGranahan

 

    • 1920 – November 1st – Freewill offering system introduced

 

    • 1921 – November 13th Opening of Grand Organ and unveiling of Tablets in memory of the men from the Townsend Congregation who had volunteered to fight in the First World War 1914-18.  This point is noted in the work Townsend Street Presbyterian Church 150th Anniversary History book, p10. “In the Nation’s hour of need Townsend Street Church played a part worthy of its great history. When the tocsin of war sounded in 1914 some 220 members of the congregation volunteered for active service of whom 36 made the supreme sacrifice. The congregation installed a Memorial Organ and Commemorative Tablet at a cost of £4000.”  Quote by Rev. Dr. T.J. Simpson Moderator of the Presbyterian Assembly.

 

    • 1922 – March 15th – Stained glass window is erected by Mrs. R.T. Martin to the memory of her husband, Mr. R.T. Martin and her son Lieut. John S. Martin. This window was dedicated by the Rev. J.R. Prenter.

 

    • 1924 – July 9th – Rev. W.G. Wimperis becomes the Minister of the Church

 

    • 1930 – July – Restoration of the Church buildings. This is noted in the Church history, “The contractors for the stonework were Messrs. Dreyfus London, for the reconstruction, Messrs. Cairns, Belfast for the painting, Messrs Geo. Morrow and Son, Belfast and for the electrical work, Messrs. Graham and Zebedee, Belfast. Mr. W.J. MacGeagh, Ocean Buildings was the architect.”
      (Refer to Townsend Street Presbyterian Street 150th Anniversary History of the Congregation, p46. This was a time in the history of Northern Ireland when there was an economic depression. The church raised in 1930 £5,000. This was quite a feat at the time. “Every organisation in connection with the church did its bit.”)

 

    • 1930 – October 30th – The reconstructed buildings are re-opened and used

 

    • 1932 – September 29th – Rev J.T. Hall is installed as the new Minister

 

    • 1935 – March 5th – Rev. John Worthington Johnston is called to Townsend Street to become the new Minister

 

    • 1939 – September 3rd – The Second World War begins. The Rev. J.W. Johnston volunteers for service as a Chaplain in the British Army

 

    • 1941 – The air raids over Belfast – The Belfast Blitz impacts upon the City of Belfast with deadly results.

      Blue plaque remembering Wilhelmina Geddes

 

    • 1943 – Rev. J.W. Johnston injured on war service

 

    • 1944 – April – The War Memorial Hall Fund is inaugurated

 

    • 1951- November 11th – Two War Memorial Tablets unveiled in memory of those who lost their lives by enemy action and to those who served in the War, whose names are inscribed thereon

 

    • 1952 – September – Rev. W.D.F. Marshall becomes the Minister of the Church

 

    • 1954 – June 6th – A Stained glass window is erected by the congregation to the memory of Rev. J.W. Johnston and is dedicated by the Rev. Principal J. E. Davey

 

    • 1965 – January 12th – The Rev. S.J. McCollum is installed as the new minister

 

    • 1970 – June 9th – Rev. W.M. Jackson becomes the new Minister

 

As we have read since, 1833 this Church has worked for God in the area.

By David N.K. Murphy, History Hub Ulster Member

 

Belfast Somme 100 Autumn Programme launch!

Belfast Somme 100

At the launch of the September – November Belfast Somme 100 programme, pictured from left: Karen O’Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster, and Antoinette Morelli, who stars in ‘Medal in a Drawer’ which runs in venues across Belfast from 27th – 30th September.

History Hub Ulster today launches it’s Belfast Somme 100 September – November 2016 programme of commemorative events marking the centenary of the battles of the Somme, and the place of the Somme campaign within the First World War.

Karen O’Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster and Belfast Somme 100 said

‘The impact of the Somme on Belfast is remembered in this, our final programme of events. The people of our small city heaved with tears of grief as their young men were killed and maimed, no matter what their background.  Belfast Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Quaker – all served and died together at the Somme.

The close links between people can be seen in our programme of events. Follow Rifleman Willie Kerr, a young Catholic man who enlisted in the YCV in MEDAL IN THE DRAWER. See his friend, young Protestant Rifleman George Kirkwood on the big screen at City Hall as part of the CASTLETON LANTERNS Project.  DR JOHANNE DEVLIN TREWE will give a lecture on the service of local nurses, like George Kirkwoods sisters Charlotte and Mary Ellen.

The Kirkwoods and Kerrs were just two Belfast families who received telegrams announcing the deaths of their sons. NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS takes us back to a village waiting, with dread and hope, for any news from the front. 

A SOMME CONFERENCE, HEDGE SCHOOL and LECTURE SERIES as well as COMMEMORATIVE events draw together all the perspectives of this centennial year and aim to enhance our understanding of the impact of the Slaughter At the Somme’

The project focuses on the personalities and stories associated with the campaign and mark its place in the social and political history of Northern Ireland and pre-partition Ireland. The Belfast Somme 100 project aims to raise awareness of previously overlooked or submerged stories and personal connections that both the Somme and the events of 1916 have had with the broader history and development of Northern Ireland.

The programme runs for 141 days across Belfast, the exact duration of the Somme campaign in 1916, and this Autumn it features a range of commemorative events including concerts, film, lectures, walks, exhibitions, poetry, debates, theatre, children and family activities.

Highlights include:

Medal in the Drawer, a play by Brenda Winter Palmer which follows four volunteers from Belfast on their war-journey; The Year of the Somme: 1916 in Perspective conference in partnership with the Western Front Association which features a ranges of local and international speakers;  Artists at the Somme with the visual artists, poets and musicians at the Ulster Museum; a series of talks at the Linen Hall Library;  No News is Good News a new play Philip Orr, will form a Kabosh promenade production at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum and take you back 100 years  to meet the villagers who were desperate for news and awaiting telegrams from the front; a season of films at the Queen’s Film Theatre; Castleton Lanterns, refound images of servicemen after 95 years will be shown on the Big Screen at City Hall;  The 1916 Centenaries, An Opportune Time for Reflection?, Hedge School in partnership with the Fellowship of the Messines Association, Battle of the Somme Centenary Concert at the Ulster Hall; and the programme culminates with a Keith Jeffery Memorial Lecture by Margaret MacMillan, Professor of International History at the University of Oxford.

Local events throughout Belfast will continue through till the end of November. Activities will include the opening of a new memorial and lighting of a beacon at Skegoneill Avenue in November, a Somme Day Community Festival to launch Tree Tank in South Belfast, the ‘Row on Row’ remembrance event at Pitt Park on 18th November and a new activity and learning book on the Somme to be circulated free to schools and community centres and interactive workshops aimed at educating children and young people.

The objectives of the Somme 100 project are to dispel myths and stereotypes, to promote and encourage dialogue within communities and with other communities and to create a space which allows the development of mutual understanding.

Belfast Somme 100 is run by History Hub Ulster with an Advisory Panel made up of experts in the period and community leaders. It is funded by Belfast City Council.

Full information, updates and ticketing is available at www.belfastsomme100.com, on Facebook and on twitter @belfastsomme100.

 

The Somme: 1st July 1916: Ulstermen and the Ulster Division

An analysis of the official fatality records to determine the number of Ulstermen and men from the Ulster Division who died during the Battle of Albert, which lasted from 1st July to 13th July 1916, by History Hub Ulster researcher Nigel Henderson.

Summary statistics:

  • Over the period of the Battle of Albert, 2129 men who were born or lived in Ulster died.
  • Over the period of the Battle of Albert the Ulster Division lost 2051 men.

The following are some summary statistics drawn from the dataset for the first day of the 1916 Battles of the Somme:

  • 1721 men who were born in Ulster died on 1st July 1916.
  • 1517 of these men were from the Ulster Division and the remainder were from 14 other British Divisions.
  • On 1st July 1916, 1778 men died whilst serving with the Ulster Division.
  • The Ulster Division lost 1935 men during the two days that it was in the frontline.

Things To Note:

  • Anyone born in the nine counties of Ulster has been defined as being an Ulsterman and has been classified by County of Birth (with Belfast being treated as a County).
  • Anyone born outside Ulster but had a residential association with Ulster, has been classified as “Ulster – Residence”.
  • In determining the analysis, it was borne in mind that Ulstermen served with units attached to British Divisions other than the Ulster Division and that not all men who served in the Ulster Division were Ulstermen by birth or residence.
  • Although the dataset is based on the CWGC fatalities, the inclusion of additional information from other primary sources enhances this record of fatalities and facilitates the analysis of the data by a range of different criteria. For example, the records of Ulstermen fatalities can be broken down into regiments or divisions as well as by county and, for Ulster Division fatalities, the non-Ulstermen can be easily identified.
  • Whilst it cannot be claimed that this fatality list is 100% accurate or complete, it does represent a verifiable list of the men that died in that battle and is more accurate than many of the figures that have appeared in newspapers in recent months.

In More Detail:
Over the period of the Battle of Albert, 2129 men who were born or lived in Ulster died and the Ulster Division lost 2051 men. 

1721 men who were born in Ulster died on 1st July 1916:
• 375 from Belfast
• 320 from County Down
• 312 from County Antrim
• 192 from County Armagh
• 182 from County Londonderry
• 144 from County Tyrone
• 77 from County Donegal
• 69 from County Fermanagh
• 31 from County Monaghan
• 19 from County Cavan
1517 of these men were from the Ulster Division and the remainder were from 20 other British Divisions.

On 1st July 1916, 1778 men died whilst serving with the Ulster Division:
• 314 from Belfast
• 292 from County Down
• 298 from County Antrim
• 183 from County Armagh
• 154 from County Londonderry
• 116 from County Tyrone
• 61 from County Donegal
• 54 from County Fermanagh
• 29 from County Monaghan
• 16 from County Cavan
• 261 men were born outside Ulster

The Ulster Division lost 1935 men during the two days that it was in the frontline:
• 438 with the 107th Infantry Brigade
• 767 with the 108th Infantry Brigade
• 706 with the 109th Infantry Brigade
• 24 with Divisional Support Units

The full spreadsheet is available here: http://historyhubulster.co.uk/ulster-albert

Methodology:

  1. A search of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) database was executed using the following criteria: Ulster DivisionThe records returned were downloaded and imported to Excel and columns were added to facilitate the recording of additional information, such as Division, Type of Death, Place of Birth and associated County/Country.
  2.  The spreadsheet was filtered by Regiment and Units to identify and mark those fatalities associated with units belonging to the 36th (Ulster) Division. If there was no unit reference on the CWGC database records, the unit reference was identified from other primary sources (for example, Soldier Died in the Great War, medal rolls).
  3. The “additional information” section in the CWGC data was analysed to identify counties, towns, etc. within Ulster and the relevant records were marked to indicate Ulster connection.
  4. For men identified in Step 3 as having an Ulster connection, the regiments/units were examined to identify whether they had played a role in the Battle of Albert and, where appropriate, the Division number was recorded. Note: the Long Long Trail website was used to determine the Division associated with a Regiment/Unit and whether that Division participated in the Battle of Albert.
  5. The Soldiers Died in the Great War (SDGW) online database was interrogated to identify fatalities in July 1916 in France where the birth location held on SDGW satisfied a number of Ulster-based criteria: Birth Location set to “Northern Ireland”, “Ulster”, specific cities (i.e. Belfast, Londonderry, Armagh) and each of the nine counties in turn. The results were used to update the master spreadsheet with Birth Location, County/Country of Origin, Type of Death and additional information (e.g. former regiment details, mainly for Machine Gun Corps fatalities). Where there was a Death Date discrepancy between SDGW and CWGC, other sources were checked to determine the most commonly held date – the details/sources of discrepancies were noted. Variations on Surname/Forename spellings and Regimental Numbers were also noted.
  6. For fatalities where no next-of-kin information was held on CWGC, the National Archives of Ireland Soldiers’ Wills (SW) online database was searched to identify, where a will is present, the next-of-kin name, relationship and address. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects (RSE) and Ireland Census returns were also searched to identify the name(s) and relationship(s) of the beneficiaries and the addresses of widows/parents. In checking the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, priority was given to cases where there was no Birth Location recorded on the SDGW database – there are over 950 fatality records where a next-of-kin has not yet been identified.
  7. The In Memoriam notices placed in the Belfast Evening Telegraph in late June and early July 1917 were trawled to identify next of kin details.
  8. The family memorials in the War Graves Ulster archive that specified deaths during the period of the Battle of Albert were examined to identify next of kin details.

Whilst it cannot be claimed that this fatality list is 100% accurate or complete, it does represent a verifiable list of the men that died in that battle and is more accurate than many of the figures that have appeared in newspapers in recent months.  We would welcome suggestions of names that are not present in the attached spreadsheet. Click here to email.

Nigel Henderson – History Hub Ulster

Commander of the Belfast Regiment Irish National Volunteers lost on HMS Hampshire

Today marks the Centenary of the sinking of HMS Hampshire with Lord Kitchener on aboard.

On 5 June 1916, HMS Hampshire left the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow, Orkney, bound for Russia. The Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, was on board as part of a diplomatic and military mission aimed at boosting Russia’s efforts on the Eastern Front.

At about quarter to nine in the evening, in stormy conditions and within two miles of Orkney’s northwest shore, she struck a mine laid by German submarine U-75.

There were at least 28 Irish sailors lost on HMS Hampshire.

One of them was the ship’s surgeon, Dr Hugh Francis McNally from Belfast, son of the principal of Raglan Street Boy’s School on the Falls Road.  McNally, an ex St Malachy’s pupil had studied Medicine at Queen’s University and was a member of the Queen’s Officer Training Corps.

He joined the Irish National Volunteers at its formation and was immediately appointed company officer.  On the retirement of Captain Berkeley he was appointed Commander of the Belfast Regiment of with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

At the start of the First World War, he joined the National Volunteers. He was a magnificent organiser, and was responsible for the 1915 parade in Dublin.  Newspaper reports at the time note that he ‘his name will always be remembered by the Belfast National Volunteers with the kindliest feelings’.  On receiving his degree from Queen’s University, he joined the Royal Navy, giving his service ‘in the cause of humanity’.

His obituary notes ‘By his death a bright future has been cut short, while his loss to the Volunteer movement will be widely regretted.’

The sinking of HMS Hampshire was a grievous blow to the Allied war effort. The British Empire lost Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, whose organisational ability ensured that Britain had an army, of sufficient size, to be able to stand alongside her Allies in a major European conflict. Kitchener was a personality who was instantly familiar to all British people, both young and old, whose death was mourned as if he had been a close relative.

In addition to the crew, who numbered around 650, was Kitchener’s delegation, consisting of military officers, politicians and their staffs, who also went down with the Hampshire.

Only 12 men, all from the Ship’s company, survived the disaster.

Lord Kitchener, left, is seen aboard the HMS Iron Duke on June 5, 1916, the day before his ill-fated voyage on the HMS Hampshire. (National Army Museum archives)

Lord Kitchener, left, is seen aboard the HMS Iron Duke on June 5, 1916, the day before his ill-fated voyage on the HMS Hampshire. (National Army Museum archives)

Descendants of Irish sailors descending on Belfast for an All-Island Commemoration to the Irish Sailor event on Tuesday May 31st 2016.

Descendants of Irish sailors are flying in to Belfast from Australia, America, Canada, Spain, GB and all four corners of Ireland for the Commemoration of the Irish Sailor during the First World War on Tuesday 31st May.  The date was especially chosen as the Centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the most important naval battle of the First World War.

James Nelson Hunter and Jennie Brecke

James Nelson Hunter and Jennie Brecke

Descendants of sailors both of the Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine will be in attendance at the Commemoration at Alexandra Dock with HMS Caroline as the backdrop for the event. During the proceedings HMS Caroline will be officially opened.

The Royal Navy and Irish Naval Service will stand side by side to mark all from the Island of Ireland who served at sea and wreaths will be laid on behalf of both.  Senior political and military representatives from the UK and Ireland will be attendance alongside a German Naval Admiral.  The ports of Ireland, Irish Lights and maritime emergency services will also gather with families of those who served, and Belfast City Council will host all attendees for a civic lunch on completion of the ceremony.  Irish naval ship LÉ CIARA and British Naval Ship HMS RAMSEY will be in port for the preceding weekend and open to the public as part of Belfast’s Maritime Festival.

The Battle of Jutland involved 100,000 men over the course of 36 hours in which time Britain lost 14 ships and 6000 sailors and Germany lost 11 ships and 2500 sailors.  Over 350 of the men lost were from Ireland.  The most significant loss of Irish life happened very early in the battle when HMS Indefatigable suffered from a catastrophic explosion of her cordite. From over 1000 crew members at least 120 were Irish.   Stoker John Moriarty who hailed from Bere Island, died aged 23 years old, alongside 50 other Cork men.  Gunner Lawrence Browne from Malahide was killed at Jutland on Armoured Cruiser HMS Defence, who under heavy fire from 5 German ships, violently exploded killing all of her 904 crew with no survivors – at least 98 of the men killed were Irish.   Battlecruiser HMS Invincible was blown in half and sank in 90 seconds, killing all but 6 of its crew of over 1000 men.  At least 34 were Irish, including 2 seventeen year old Belfast boys John McCullough and John Cleland Carlisle.

Larry Brown

Gunner Larry Brown HMS Defence

Karen O’Rawe, Chair History Hub Ulster said:

“The Commemoration to the Irish Sailor is a significant all-island event, the contemporary relevance of which should not be underestimated.  The event is a timely reminder that 1916 is not all about the Easter Rising and the Battles of the Somme. The sacrifice of so many men from these shores who fought at sea, the maritime war and the impact of it on our island tends to be overlooked.  The Centenary of the Battle of Jutland and the launch of HMS Caroline is the perfect context to be officially recognising the contribution of all those in maritime roles on the island of Ireland in the 1914-18 period.”

Irish sailors were lost on many ships across the course of the First World War including over 350 at the Battle of Jutland itself, 91 at the Battle of Coronel and 62 on HMS HAWKE. As well as Royal Navy ships, Irish men were lost on merchant ships such as MFA WHITE HEAD, a Harland and Wolff built steamship torpedoed in 1917; on HMS SUBMARINE K17 lost in an accidental collision in 1918; and on converted merchant ship HMS BAYANO, torpedoed off Ireland causing bodies to wash up along the Ards Peninsula.

In 1918 at least three Irishmen were lost on HMS ASCOT, the last warship lost to enemy action in the First World War, and at least fourteen were lost on the first in 1914, HMS AMPHION. Over 1,500 Irishmen were killed in action serving at sea in the years between.

Examples of local men lost at sea include:

Stoker Peter Kennedy, Royal Naval Reserve, from Ballymena lost on HMS QUEEN MARY at the Battle of Jutland.  Peter, a member of Cavehill Orange Lodge lived at Ritchie Street in Belfast and left behind his wife and 4 children under 11 years old.

Moses Alexander Reid SS Bray Head

Moses Alexander Reid SS Bray Head

15 year old Midshipman Gervase Ronald Bruce from Downhill, Derry, one of ten cadets lost on HMS MONMOUTH. Five more Ulster teenagers were lost; Belfast boys Stoker (2nd) John McAteer, Boy (1st) William Connell, Able Seaman William A. J. Wilson and Ordinary Seaman Herbert Kelly as well as Ordinary Seaman Henry McNally who was from Draperstown.

Leading Stoker Joyce Power left young twins and a pregnant wife in Ballymena after the sinking of HMS HAWKE. His daughter Margaret Hawke Power named after the ship he was killed on.  Also drowned was Able Seaman Albert Patterson Wilson whose first daughter Frances was born only 4 weeks later on 14 November. Mariette Isabella Donald was born at the end of 1914, her father Martie Donald not returning to Carrickfergus to meet his newborn daughter.

The Gorman siblings from Clifton Park in Belfast lost one brother, Charles on HMS PATHFINDER in September only to hear of the death of another brother, Able Seaman James Toland Gorman, only one month later on HMS HAWKE.

Sullatober Flute band from Carrickfergus who lost one of their players Henry McMurran on HMS CRESSY, 3 weeks later suffered yet another tragedy with the loss of another member, Stoker (1st class) Andrew McAllister on HMS HAWKE.

Notes

HMS RAMSEY is a single role Minehunter with a crew of 40 personnel.  More information can be seen here http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/ramsey

LÉ CIARA is a Coastal Patrol Vessel of the Irish Naval Service with a crew of 42. More information can be seen here http://www.military.ie/naval-service/fleet/coastal-patrol-vessel/le-ciara-p-42/

Never mind the trenches! Experiences of British sailors during the First World War by Simon Smith

The ongoing commemoration of the Great War reveals just how much this episode of our history continues to interest and influence our understanding of the past. However, the Great War continues to be studied primarily as a land-based conflict despite the Royal Navy’s crucial role. Ask someone about Jutland and they will probably look perplexed. Much remains to be done to put the navy back into the public memory of the war, and my own research is working towards this. It considers the personal experience of British sailors during the war as expressed in their diaries, particularly the collection held by the National Museum Royal Navy Portsmouth.[1]

This blog will give a brief insight into my findings so far.

The poignant image of the Great War is of young men rushing to the colours full of patriotic fervour. Surprisingly, little research has been done on sailors’ displays of war enthusiasm. This is especially interesting as many sailors were not volunteers: the navy was a career in those days where men joined at a young age.[2] Yet sailors’ diaries reveal excitement and celebrations amongst seamen when war was declared. Ships left port cheered by other vessels, and men proudly recorded their first encounters with German ships.[3] Further, diaries repeatedly refer to the “long awaited scrap” with the enemy.[4] When they did meet, British sailors boasted of the Germans’ poor gunnery in comparison to their own and clearly there was a distinct belief in the Royal Navy’s superiority, which reflects the latent imperialistic sentiment in British society at the time.[5] Yet, not all were caught up with war fever; Walter Dennis recorded that he knew of a number of sailors who were relieved to get posted overseas away from any real action.[6]

However, prolonged warfare, understandably, had a noticeable effect upon sailors. Despite the distancing effect of technology, sailors remained part of the killing machine which some enthusiastically embraced, becoming numb to the brutalities of war. [7] Interestingly few historians have considered this. One sailor – known as Wood – recorded shelling Turkish forts at Gallipoli as “amusing”.[8] This is further demonstrated by the practice of collecting war souvenirs. Seamen often served in support of the army which allowed them ready access to items such as helmets, rifles and bullets.[9] The impact of curios has been widely considered amongst soldiers but, again, sailors have so far been overlooked.[10] Their obvious engagement in this practice suggests a desire for immediacy, which was not an option for soldiers. It would be interesting to compare the diaries of artillerymen serving at the front, and see whether they encountered similar experiences.[11]

Yet, despite sailors’ interaction with killing, not all became numb to the brutalities. Witnessing the sinking of ships or even hearing about losses was traumatic. For example Walter Dennis recorded being ‘rather concerned’ as to the fate of one of his friends lost at sea.[12] Sailors were acutely aware that if their ships were sunk then death was likely, which made moments such as these particularly sobering. It is not surprising that some succumbed to psychological stresses, or in their words had ‘a tile loose’.[13] Sailors had to develop their own coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of everyday life; these were similar to those developed by soldiers, such as humour. Reflecting on battles many became flippant about the dangers experienced. One diarist, Henry Welch, recalled: ‘One shell burst on the water’s edge… Ye gods! it was lovely – only a trifle further and there would have been a few gaps among us.’[14] Coping with pressure was essential.

It is clear that personal histories of the Great War continue to find a receptive audience as more people become interested in their own history. The opportunity is there for the navy to make up lost ground. The NMRNP’s on-going project, Hear My Story, is a step in the right direction and forms a new twentieth century exhibition collating personal memories and public interaction. [15] Another interesting project is the AHRC funded Gateways project which provides centres to encourage public interest through organised lectures and study days.[16] These projects show that there was much more to the Great War than mud, blood and the trenches. It is time to put the navy back in the picture and, as the diaries of Dennis, Fletcher, Welch and Wood show, each diary tells its own unique story, and there are many more to be uncovered.

Simon Smith read History at the University of Portsmouth followed by an MA in The History of War, Culture and Society. He is currently doing a PhD on Sailors and the Royal Navy c.1870-1939 as part of the University of Portsmouth’s Port Towns and Urban Cultures project.

Originally published for the NACBS here:  http://www.nacbs.org/blog/never-mind-the-trenches-experiences-of-british-sailors-during-the-first-world-war-by-simon-smith/

[1]The NMRNP holds approximately 200 diaries in its collection. Other comprehensive diary collections include the Imperial War Museum which has just re-opened with a new WW1 exhibition.
[2]For more information see Christopher McKee, Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900-1945, (London: Harvard University Press, 2002) and Brian Lavery, Able Seamen: the lower deck of the Royal Navy, 1850-1939, (London: Conway, 2011).
[3]RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[4]RNM 1980/115: Diary of Edwin Fletcher; RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood; RNM 1980/82: Diary of W Dawson; Diary of Walter Dennis.
[5]RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[6]Diary of Walter Dennis. Diary digitized by McMaster University, Ontario Canada and available at http://pw20c.mcmaster.ca.
[7]See Edgar Jones, “The Psychology of Killing: The Combat Experience of British Soldiers during the First World War”, Journal of Contemporary History, 41, 2, (2006), 233; Joanna Bourke, An intimate history of killing: face to face killing in twentieth-century warfare, (London: Granta Books, 1999), 7.
[8]RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[9]Diary of Walter Dennis; RNM 1984/467: Diary of Wood.
[10]See Jones, “Psychology”, and Bourke, An intimate history, for further information of the study of soldiers.
[11]The Imperial War Museum does hold artillerymen’s diaries but these have not yet been considered.
[12]Diary of Walter Dennis.
[13]Diary of Walter Dennis.
[14]DOC: Diary of Henry Welch.
[15]See http://www.nmrn.org.uk/explore/hms-hear-my-story for further information on this project.
[16]The Arts and Humanities Research Council – see www.kent.ac.uk/ww1 for further information on this project.

Interception of German gunrunning ship during the Easter Rising – 23 April 1916

sms libau

SMS Libau

SS Aud was a temporary name given to SMS Libau as part of her attempt to carry arms to Ireland.  The vessel was built in Hull, England in 1907 and named SS Castro but had been captured by the Imperial German Navy in the Kiel Canal in August 1914 and renamed SMS Libau.  She had a similar appearance to a Norwegian vessel, SS Aud, so was repainted as such to disguise herself.  She sailed from Germany on 09 April 1916 with a crew of 23 volunteers dressed as ‘Norwegians’ carrying an estimated 10 machine guns, 20,000 Mosin-Nagant rifles (captured from the Russians), around 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition and a quantity of explosives.  Her disguise enabled her to avoid contact with the Royal Navy as she traveled up the coast of Norway, passing close to the Arctic Circle then down the West Coast of Ireland.

hms bluebell

HMS Bluebell

Radio intelligence had alerted the British that a landing of arms was soon to be attempted, placing the Royal Navy based at Queenstown Co Cork on high alert.  SS Aud arrived off Fenit Harbour in Tralee Bay on 20 April 1916 where she was due to meet Roger Casement, a British Diplomat of Irish origins who had obtained German support for the rebellion.  Casement had arrived on board U-19, landing to the North at Banna Strand and was soon captured.  He was later executed for treason.

Having failed to make contact with Casement or his men, SS Aud made for Germany but was intercepted by HMS Bluebell on 23 April 1916.  She was ordered to proceed to Queenstown however the crew scuttled the ship at the entrance to the harbour.  Having changed into their Kriegsmarine Uniforms to avoid being treated as spies, they were interned for the remainder of the war.

Artefacts from SS Aud are on display at Cork Public Museum.  The ship’s two anchors were recovered in 2012 and were due to go on display in Fenit and Cork in time for the centenary.

JUTLAND SQUARE New Wall Art Installation Commemorates Lost Jutland Sailors From These Shores

A new wall art installation in North Belfast will commemorate sailors from all over Ireland who lost their lives at the Battle of Jutland, the centenary of which falls on 31st May 2016.

The Jutland Square project, funded by the NIHE Community Cohesion Unit, takes as its canvas a former graffiti black spot on Tennent Street and re-images it into a seven panel art installation created by the Shared History Workshop, using research by Karen O’Rawe.

Included in the project, which has been commissioned by the Spectrum Centre-based City Of Belfast ABF (Army Benevolent Fund) group, will be an exhibition on HMS Caroline, the sole surviving warship from the Battle of Jutland, and a series of community films and lectures about the Battle by Sea Cadet officer Lt Cdr Leslie King.

Exploring the theme of Youth at War, the project will also involve young people from the Greater Shankill area.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister, DUP MLA Arlene Foster – who oversaw the restoration of HMS Caroline as DETI minister – will launch the Jutland Square project at the Spectrum Centre, 331 Shankill Road, Belfast at 2pm on Friday 15th April 2016.

Commenting on the project, Pete Bleakley from the Shared History Workshop said, “Having run the Friends Of HMS Caroline campaign back in 2012 it gives me considerable satisfaction to be able to bring the story of the ship and the Battle Of Jutland to a wider audience through this exciting NIHE-funded project. Excellent research from History Hub Ulster means that for the first time we have a memorial to all the men from these shores who lost their lives in World War One’s biggest sea battle.”

Karen O’Rawe from History Hub Ulster commented, “The Jutland Square Project is a timely reminder of the sacrifice of so many men from these shores who fought at sea. The maritime war and the impact of it on our island tends to be overlooked, but as an island nation, keeping the seas safe and the supplies flowing to feed the people of Britain and Ireland was vital.  Belfast will mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland with a Commemoration to the Irish Sailor which will officially recognise the contribution of all those in maritime roles on the island of Ireland during the First World War period.”

1932 – Belfast’s forgotten year?

 

1932 – Belfast’s forgotten year?

As part of a major new Shared History project including a play by Gary Mitchell & Martin Lynch: 1932: The People Of Gallagher St, Green Shoot Productions is holding a series of PUBLIC TALKS at the Linen Hall Library in April, May and June. Involving three panels of leading researchers, commentators, and artists and chaired by Dawn Purvis, the TALKS highlight the events of 1932 that brought Northern Ireland to the brink of revolution and create opportunities for an exploration of the themes and responses and relevance for today.

Belfast 1932 Talks

 

First sinking of a U-boat by a Q-ship around the Irish Coast on 22 March 1916

First sinking of a U-boat by a Q-ship around the Irish Coast on 22 March 1916

100 years ago today on 22 March 1916 the commander of the German U-boat U-68 (pictured below) spotted a Merchant Navy vessel off the coast of SW Ireland near Dunmore Head and decided to attack.  He fired a torpedo which missed its target but, seeing the panic on board the merchantman, decided to surface in order to sink her with his gun.  Little did he realise he was attacking the 3200 tonne Q-Ship HMS Farnborough.

CaptureQ-Ship’s were merchantmen armed with concealed weaponry.  They were intended to lure submarines to the surface before exposing the weaponry, typically a deck gun, and opening fire upon the submarine.  The name ‘Q-ship’ is derived from the name of their WW1 base i.e. Queenstown, Co Cork.  One such Q-ship, HMS Result (built in Carrickfergus), is on display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

The term ‘Panic Stations’ originates with Q-ships.  Once a Q-ship was attacked, the order ‘Hands to Panic Stations’ would be given.  This would result in the crew acting panicked, possibly launching lifeboats to give the impression of abandoning ship, in order to draw attention away from the remaining crew who would be preparing to fire the weaponry.

On board HMS Farnborough, Lieutenant Commander Gordon Campbell ordered ‘Panic Stations’ upon seeing the torpedo.  The panic party got away in a lifeboat and the remaining crew readied the deck gun.  U-68 surfaced and closed in on Farnborough from astern which duly raised its White Ensign and opened fire hitting U-68 which quickly dived.  Farnborough manoeuvred into position and dropped a depth charge which lifted the bow of U-68 to the surface.  This allowed Farnborough to open fire gaining further hits on the submarine’s conning tower which soon disappeared beneath the surface.  Farnborough dropped two further depth charges which sealed the fate of the already sinking U-68 with the loss of all hands.

As a result of his actions, Lieutenant Commander Campbell was promoted to Commander and awarded a DSO.  HMS Farnborough was later torpedoed by U-83, beached and subsequently scrapped (see picture below).

Capture 2GRATEFUL, hired drifter, 25 March 1916, North Channel – 107grt, built 1907, Inverness-reg INS322, hired 2/15 as net drifter, 1-3pdr, Admiralty No.2399, 9 crew, Skipper W Ralph (He – Skipper John Reaich RNR), sailing in WNW force 8 gale and snow storm. Driven ashore 100yds from Lloyd’s Signal Station, Torr Head, Co Antrim (wi – in 55.11.50N, 06.03.45W); Coastguard called Portrush RNLI, but coxswain “reluctant to leave the harbour in such heavy seas”, later launched with another coxswain and volunteers from Portstewart as well as Portrush, reached the scene at 0900, but all crew already rescued by breeches buoy three hours before. Salvaged, served in WW2 (H/C/D/He/dk/wi)

BEGONIA, fleet sweeping sloop, 29 March 1916, Atlantic off S Ireland – Azalea-class, 1,200t, on patrol. Torpedoed by U.44 (Paul Wagenführ), towed into Queenstown; 2 ratings lost. Reconstructed at Haulbowline to resemble small coaster 1916-17, commissioned 8/17 as Q-ship Q.10 (Cn/D/qs/un)

ZYLPHA, Q-ship/special service ship, 12 April 1916, Atlantic off SW Ireland – ex-collier, 2,917grt, built 1894, in service from 9/15 as Q.6, 3-12pdr, Lt-Cdr John Macleod. Submerged U-boat attempted torpedo attack, but failed. Zylpha proceeded to Bantry Bay to alter her appearance (Cn/D/qs/sk)

BLUEBELL, fleet sweeping sloop, 23 April 1916, Irish waters – during the Irish Easter Rebellion, Bluebell intercepted German auxiliary Libau, disguised as Norwegian tramp SS Aud carrying arms in support of the Irish rebellion. Aud scuttled off Queenstown

GERMAN RAID ON LOWESTOFT AND YARMOUTH, 25 April 1916, North Sea – The German High Seas Fleet was expected to make a demonstration in the North Sea, possibly in support of the Irish Easter Rising which broke out on the 24th. Grand Fleet was ordered out, together with Harwich Force which included 5th LCS Conquest (broad pendant, Cdre Tyrwhitt), Cleopatra and Penelope, leader Lightfoot with 7 destroyers, followed by leader Nimrod with 8 more, then by two divisions of L-class destroyers operating with Dover Patrol. Sailing on the night of 24th/25th, Harwich Force ran up the East coast while destroyer Melampus with six Yarmouth-based submarines positioned them first between Southwold and the Hook of Holland, then in a more northerly position. The German 1st SG, less Seydlitz which struck a mine that morning, was sailing to bombard Lowestoft and Yarmouth. Harwich Force sighted the Germans about 0350 and tried to induce them to chase south, but instead Lowestoft was badly shelled around 0410. The 1st SG then headed north for Yarmouth, Harwich Force followed and probably helped save Yarmouth from a full half hour battlecruiser bombardment. Tyrwhitt opened fire on the German light cruisers at 0430, the battlecruisers stopped bombarding to support their cruisers, and were sighted at 0445, following which Tyrwhitt turned south and came under heavy, accurate fire. Cruiser Conquest, now at the rear of 5th LCS line was severely punished and destroyer Laertes damaged. The Germans now headed back home, their retirement covered by Flanders-based U-boats including UB.18 and UB.29 off Lowestoft/Yarmouth. Adm Beatty’s battlecruisers, Harwich Force and the submarines continued to search and seek action, then as Harwich Force returned home after recall, Penelope was torpedoed just before 1000 and patrolling submarine E.22 sunk around 1145:

BRADFORD, hired trawler, 28 October 1916, Atlantic off S Ireland – 163grt, built 1896, Grimsby-reg GY132, Consolidated Steam Fishing & Ice, hired 1915 (D – 11/14) as patrol vessel, 1-6pdr, Admiralty No.829, 12 crew, Skipper William Bruce RNR, believed Queenstown-based, took part in rescuing Lusitania survivors in 1915, on patrol. (dk – casualties dated lost 26th) – last seen at 1640 on the 26th, disappeared and believed foundered in gale off Old Head of Kinsale, Co Cork, presumed on the 28th (wi – in 51.30N, 08.30W); Skipper and 11 ratings lost, no survivors (H/Lr/C/D/He/ap/dk/wi; ADM.137/455)

FILEY, Admiralty trawler, 2 October 1916, Atlantic off N Ireland – 226grt, built 1914, Hull-reg H8, Hull Steam Fishing, purchased 1915, in service from 3/15, 1-12pdr, Admiralty No.1363, Skipper Daniel Stather RNR, serving as patrol vessel. Driven ashore in high winds and seas in Camusmore Bay, Tory Is, off Co Donegal, wrecked and abandoned; no lives lost. Salved 1917 (D/He – salved in 1917 and re-acquired July 1918), believed assigned new Admiralty No.3826, sold 1920 (H/Lr/C/D/He/dk/hw; ADM.137/282)

DAFFODIL, fleet sweeping sloop, 15 December 1916, believed southern Ireland – serving with 1st Sloop flotilla, Queenstown. Damaged in collision, one man DOI next day (dk/pl)

Mark McCrea