Alfred Mahon and HMS Bulwark

Research and text courtesy of The RH7 History Group

Alfred Mahon was born in 1883 in Chelsea, London. In 1911 his father, also called Alfred, was living in Ivy House, The Platt, Dormansland. Alfred (junior) joined the Royal Marines in 1901 at the age of 15 and then re-enlisted in 1904.  He was in the Royal Marines Band.  During 1914 he saw service in the North Sea and along the Belgian coast.  At sea, bandsmen worked in the Transmitting Stations, i.e. the control systems of the ship’s gunnery.  [The details on Alfred’s service record list his trade and service as ‘Musician’.]  The apparatus was in the bowels of the ship, escape was very difficult and casualty numbers were high.  Alfred, however, did not die from enemy action but was a victim of [an explosion].

Winston Churchill spoke in the [House of Commons] on 26 November 1914: ‘ I regret to say I have some bad news…the Bulwark battleship which was lying in Sheerness this morning blew up at 7.35 o’clock’.

A serving sailor at the outbreak of war he was posted to the HMS Bulwark.  He did valuable service in the North Sea and was engaged in the bombardment of enemy positions on the Belgian coats.  He lost his life when the Bulwark was blown up and sank off Sheerness on 26 November 1914, and was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, the General and Victory medals.  These medals were sent to his widow.  His body was not recovered for burial.

The Bulwark was moored in Kethole Reach on the Medway almost opposite Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey.  Most of her crew had been on leave and had returned at about 7am so there was a full complement in board.  Everything was normal, everyone going about their usual duties; some were having breakfast.  Alfred was on deck with the band, which was practising.  Observers later reported that suddenly there was a roar, a rumble, a massive sheet of flame.  The ship rose out of the water and sank back, and it was engulfed in a huge thick cloud of smoke; there were further explosions and when all had cleared the Bulwark had disappeared. Only 14 men survived, and two later died. Boats were sent out from the other ships, including the Formidable with Frederick Gaunt of Vicarage Road, Lingfield, on board.  Just over a month later, Frederick would also lose his life when the Formidable was torpedoed in the Channel on 1 January 1915.

Windlesham schoolmaster who died at Jutland

Frank Vincent Wise served in the Royal Naval Reserve and was killed on 31st May 1916, when his ship, the H.M.S. Invincible was sunk at the Battle of Jutland. The story of his naval service is told in the following entry by Brian O’Connell:

The only child of James Augustus and Katherine Wise, Frank’s parents moved from Henley, where they married, to Virginia Water in Surrey. It appears from census records that James was employed as an under-butler in the household of Constance de Morella and lived in her home whilst his family lived in 4 Christchurch Cottage, Virginia Water. James died in 1912, aged 50.

At the time of the 1911 census, Frank was attending Teacher Training College in London and was living at 26 Kitto Road, St Paul’s, Deptford. In 1915, when he joined up on 20th August, he was living with his mother, Katherine, at Glenisla, Updown Hill and his occupation was schoolmaster. He was described in the records as having brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. Pertinent perhaps for his service, the form noted that he ‘can swim’.

Writing in the Windlesham Roll of Honour, the Rev A.J. Hutton says of him:

‘Frank V. Wise was assistant Master at Windlesham Council School when war broke out. In August 1915, he joined the Royal Naval Defence and went into training at the Chrystal (sic) Palace where he specialized in signalling. 

On finishing his training, he was posted to H.M.S. Lion but was shortly afterwards transferred to H.M.S. Invincible where he combined the duties of Signaller with those of Teacher. He succeeded so well as a Teacher that he was to have been appointed to a Nautical School at Plymouth in July 1916; But on May 31st 1916 he went down with his ship the Invincible in the Battle of Jutland.’ 

The suggestion about his potential transfer is confirmed in his naval records:

held rating of signalman at time of death; question of transfer to schoolmaster to take effect on 15th July- under consideration’.

The records suggest he served on H.M.S. Pembroke rather that H.M.S. Lion.

In 1913 and 1915, Kelly’s Directory confirms Mrs Wise living in Glenisla, Pine Grove, Updown Hill, Windlesham; however there is no entry for her from 1918 onwards suggesting she may have moved away around the time of Frank’s death. CWGC report her address as Birkrigg, Chesterfield Road, Ashford, Middlesex.


Hutton A.J., date unknown, Windlesham Roll of Honour SHC Ref: Z_682_1 50A

Kelly’s Directory 1913, 1915, 1918, 1919

National Archive ADM 337/38/91 & ADM 339/1/42226

The Warriner Brothers

Courtesy of the RH7 History Group, as part of their First World War exhibitions from 2014-2018

Written by Janet Bateson and Sue Quelch

Albert and George Warriner were the sons of Emily and Charles Warriner of Old Town, Lingfield.

Sergeant Albert Warriner a married man living at Blindley Heath, enlisted in the 9th Battalion, the Royal Sussex Regiment on 12 September 1914.  He died of wounds at Baileul on 17 June 1916.  He was 35.  The local paper reported that he had been gassed and severely wounded by shrapnel.  It appears that he was greatly respected by his men and his local community.

George Warriner lived at home with his widowed mother in Old Town.  He served in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 1st Class on HMS Lancaster.  This ship was part of the 4th Cruiser Squadron initially protecting convoys in the West Indies before she was sent to join up with the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, in 1915.  Just before the Battle of Jutland, the Lancaster was transferred to the Pacific Ocean in April 1916, patrolling North and South America and the Falklands until 1919.  It would appear that the ship was badly hit by the Spanish ‘Flu epidemic in December 1918, when up to 300 men on board fell ill out of a ship’s complement of 680.  As well as the usual medals awarded to servicemen who served in the war, George was also issued with the Silver War Medal which was issued to men discharged due to sickness or injuries sustained in the conflict.  It is quite possible that George was on of the men affected by the influenza outbreak, although [there is] no record of this.  Unlike his older brother, George survived the war, returning to Lingfield in 1919.


Fred Day

Family story contributed by Brian Gudgeon

Fred Day was born on 10 May 1894, to Alfred John Day and Alice Louisa Day (nee Gaunt), in Nunhead (which is now part of the London Borough of Southwark).  Before the outbreak of war, he worked as a Motor Mechanic’s Assistant, whilst living with his family at 116 Birchanger Road, South Norwood (according to the 1911 Census).

Fred Day’s Royal Navy record, 1917. Courtesy of Brian Gudgeon

In 1915, Fred married Lilian H. White, in Croydon.  His wartime service, unlike his brothers, was spent with the Royal Navy, service number F26490. His first service date was 12 Mar 1917 on HMS President II and his last service date 31 Mar 1918, aboard the same ship. This was not a fighting ship, but the London Accounting Base for numerous naval ships and establishments that were not self-accounting. It is possible he was at the Crystal Palace, which was taken over by the Royal Navy in early September 1914 to be the Royal Naval Division Depot. More importantly, it was the initial training establishment for all the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve recruits and also for officers destined for the Royal Navy Division.

In 1939, Fred and Lilian lived at 75 Keston Road, Croydon; Fred worked as a Fitter Engineer Heavy Worker.  He died in 1953, aged 59, when the couple lived at 90 Harcourt Road, Thornton Heath, leaving Lilian £543 13s. 11d.

Read about his brothers in the First World War:

Arthur Day: 

Alfred Day:

Herbert Day:

Sydney Day:

Walter Day:

William Day:

Signalman Frank Vincent Wise

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Name:                                        Frank Vincent Wise

Occupation:                              Assistant Teacher, Bagshot Council School

Birth Place:                               Virginia Water, Surrey

Residence:                                Virginia Water, Surrey

Date of Death:                         31st May 1916 (DOB 15th September 1891)

Age:                                           24 years

Location:                                   Battle of Jutland

Rank:                                          Signalman

Regiment:                                 Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. Invincible

Regimental Number:              London Z/2954

Frank Wise was born, baptised and raised in Virginia Water, Surrey. By 1901 his mother, Katherine, had been widowed and was living with Frank in Christ Church Cottage, Virginia Water. He was her only child.

By 1911, Frank had moved to New Cross, Deptford, London, where he was attending teacher training college.

There is no information as to when he became an assistant teacher at Bagshot Council School.

Frank enlisted into the Royal Navy on 20th August 1915, appearing to initially be assigned to the Royal Naval Division (R.N.D.).  The R.N.D. was formed in September 1914 to fight on land alongside the Army. It consisted of men brought together from the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Fleet Reserve, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a brigade of Royal Marines, Royal Navy and Army personnel. In Frank’s case, he qualified for the R.N.D. as a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and his posting was probably more administrative than physical.

He was temporarily assigned to HMS Pembroke, a shore-based garrison, on 26th of November 1914, before joining HMS Invincible as a signaller on 1st December 1915, on which he remained until his death.

HMS Invincible was a battlecruiser launched in 1907, weighing 17,250 tonnes, mounting eight 12-inch guns.  She had already seen action at the Battle of Heligoland Bight and the Battle of Falklands in 1914, and now led the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron into the fight at Jutland.

Entering into action, she was the lead British ship, coming within 9,000 yards of the enemy fleet before opening fire at around 6:20 p.m. Ahead were the German flagship SMS Lützow and SMS Derfflinger, each with eight 12-inch guns, plus other German ships, including the Koenig. Invincible’s steady fire inflicted heavy punishment on the German ships. Commander von Hase of the Derfflinger said “several shells pierced our ship with a terrific force and exploded with a tremendous roar which shook every seam and rivet”. A senior British officer later said, however, that the Germans were also “pouring hot fire into [HMS Invincible]”.  At 6:33 p.m. the Invincible blew up; the official history describes the moment:

“Flames shot up from the gallant flagship, and there came again the awful spectacle of a fiery burst, followed by a huge column of dark smoke which, mottled with blackened debris, swelled up hundreds of feet in the air, and the mother of all battle cruisers had gone to join the other two that were no more (referring to other ships lost that day).”

One survivor, Marine Bryan Gasson, described the moment the ship was hit:

“Suddenly our starboard midship turret manned by the Royal Marines was struck between the two 12-inch guns and appeared to me to lift off the top of the turret and another from the same salvo followed. The flashes passed down to both midship magazines…The explosion broke the ship in half. I owe my survival to the fact that I was in a separate compartment at the back of the turret.”

Only six crew survived. 1,026 crewmen, including Frank, perished.

Incredibly, one of the survivors, H.E. Dannreuther, wrote a letter to Frank’s family dated 8th June 1916:

‘The Invincible was hotly engaged with the German battle-cruiser Derflinger and was giving her a severe hammering when the end came quite suddenly.

At 6.34 p.m. May 31st there was a tremendous explosion aboard – the ship broke in half and sank in 10 or 15 seconds.

Only seven of us ever came to the surface again after the ship sank, and three of these disappeared shortly afterwards.

Death came quickly to everyone and our brave fellows died the death that I am sure they would have chosen, and one of which you may well think with pride and satisfaction.  Everything was going splendidly at the time – everyone seemed with joy and enthusiasm…

I remember F.V. Wise well – a fine fellow and much respected and like aboard. My only consolation I can offer is that he died as I am sure he wished to die – for no finer could fall to the lot of men – and that his end was sudden and painless.’

After his death, Frank’s mother, Katherine, pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council which had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Frank. She had no other source of income apart from an Admiralty payment that would end in November 1916. In the correspondence around the claim her character was described as ‘excellent’.  She eventually received £88 and 15 shillings, paid out at 5 shillings a week allowance, with the proviso that if she needed more there was money available.

Frank’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent.

He was entitled to the 1914/15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal.


Surrey History Centre File CC7/4/4

National Archives file reference ADM 337/38/91: Frank Vincent WISE, Service Number: Z/2954 RNVR

J.J. Colledge and B. Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy… from the 15th Century to Present (London, Chatham Publishing, 2006).

Sir Julian S Corbett, World War 1 at Sea: Naval Operations, Volume 3, Spring 1915 to June 1916 (London, Longmans Green and Co., 1923).

Battle of Jutland, 30th May to 1st June 1916, Official Despatches with Appendices (London, HMSO, 1920).

England Census

Commonwealth War Graves Commission –

Ancestry website –


Surrey Casualties at the Battle of Coronel, 1 November 1914

The Battle of Coronel was a First World War Imperial German Naval victory over the Royal Navy on 1st November 1914, off the coast of central Chile near the city of Coronel.

On 4 October 1914, the British learned from an intercepted radio message that German Vice-Admiral Graf Maximilian von Spee planned to attack shipping on the trade routes along the west coast of South America. British Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock cabled the Admiralty, on October 22nd, that he was going to round Cape Horn. Cradock’s Squadron consisted of the armoured cruisers HMS Good Hope (flagship) and HMS Monmouth, the modern light cruiser HMS Glasgow, the armed merchantman HMS Otranto. Spee had a superior force of five modern vessels, the armoured cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the light cruisers SMS Dresden, Leipzig and Nürnberg.

Whilst in Coronel harbour HMS Glasgow intercepted radio messages between the German supply ship Göttingen and Vice-Admiral Spee which suggested that German warships were close. Spee decided to move his ships to Coronel, to trap HMS Glasgow, while Admiral Cradock hurried north to catch SMS Leipzig.

At 09:15 on 1 November, HMS Glasgow left port to meet Cradock at noon, west of Coronel. At 16:17 SMS Leipzig, accompanied by the other German ships, spotted smoke from the line of British ships. Spee ordered SMS Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Leipzig to full speed to intercept. At 16:20, HMS Glasgow and Otranto saw smoke to the north and then three ships, the British reversed direction, so that both fleets were moving south and a chase began. Cradock was faced with a choice; the three faster cruisers could outrun the Germans but this meant abandoning HMS Otranto, or all the vessels stayed and fought. At 17:10, Cradock decided he must fight.

At around 19.30 HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth were hit and caught fire, making them easier targets for the German gunners. HMS Good Hope was hit repeatedly and around 19.50 her forward section exploded, she broke apart and sank. HMS Monmouth attempted to reach the Chilean coast but was hit and sunk by shells from SMS Nürnberg. There were no survivors from either Good Hope or Monmouth, 1,600 British officers and men were dead, including Admiral Cradock. HMS Glasgow and HMS Otranto both escaped.

A memorial to Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, K.C.V.O.C.B. and the officers and men under his command was placed in Saint John’s Church in Concepción, Chile.

In 1927 British Instructional Films made The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands, a lavish recreation of the two naval engagements of November and December 1914 re-enacted for the cameras by ships of the British Mediterranean Fleet based at Valetta, Malta. The film is fascinating not just for its faithful recreation of the battles, but also for presenting the Germans as honourable and worthy foes who fought gallantly for their country. Such was the impact the film made in Germany, that it was given a premiere at the first convention of European film exhibitors in Berlin in 1928. The film was digitally restored and remastered by the British Film Institute in 2014.

Of the men lost during the Battle of Coronel the following had Surrey connections.

HMS Good Hope

Bashford, Alfred, Able Seaman
BROWN, George Shipton, Lance Corporal
CHEESMAR, Stanley William, Able Seaman
COTTER, Francis John Anson, Sub-Lieutenant
DAVID, Charlie, Stoker 1st Class
ELSON, George Edward, Stoker 1st Class
FISHER, John Maurice Haig, Lieutenant
FLOWERS, George, Joiner
GASKELL, Gerald Bruce, Lt-Commander
GOSLING, John, Able Seaman
HOPTON, Thomas Francis, Mechanician
LARBY, Walter, Stoker 1st Class
ROYAL, Arthur Charles, Able Seaman
SMITH, William Wilton, Able Seaman
TAPLIN, Percy Charles, Stoker 1st Class
TRUSSLER, Frederick James, Private

TUDOR, Douglas Courtenay, Lieutenant
WHICHER, Frederick, Able Boy

HMS Monmouth

BAGOT, Maurice John Hervey, Lieutenant
BRYAN, Norman Ford, Ordinary Seaman
COOPER, John, Fleet Paymaster
COWIE, Charles Gordon, Able Seaman
PASCOE, John Mydhope, Midshipman
SINGLETON, Eli, Able Seaman

Fleet Paymaster John Cooper

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Fleet Paymaster J Cooper, RN
HMS Monmouth
Lost in action, 1.11.1914
Age, 45

John Cooper was a resident of Weybridge according to a list of naval casualties reported in the Surrey Advertiser on Saturday, 14 November 1914. He may have been the John Cooper recorded on Surrey’s Electoral Register for 1914 who lived at Glendower in Oatlands Drive. There is, however, a definite documented link to Surrey: his eldest child James Francis was born at Holmbury St. Mary in 1906.

John was born on 4 July 1869 to James Cooper Cooper (formerly Tuthill, d.1906) and Mary (nee Pickering) of Kilkeedy, Limerick. He was the youngest child of a very large family. His father was described as a Gentleman and his mother was the daughter of Charles Pickering of Roebuck, Co. Dublin. John was educated at Burney’s Royal Academy, Clarence Square, Gosport in Hampshire. This Academy was founded in 1791 as a boarding school for military and naval pupils.

John joined the Royal Navy in 1886 at the age of 17 as an Assistant Clerk, by 1900 he was a Paymaster, by 1904 a Staff Paymaster and in 1908 he became Fleet Paymaster. He served on HM Yacht Osborne between 1899 and 1902. His administrative skills were honed with stints as Secretary to Admiral Custance in the Venerable and to Admiral Sir Charles Briggs in the Lord Nelson and the Dreadnaught. He was also able to utilise his ability as a French interpreter. A string of positive comments followed him from ship to ship: ‘Mr Cooper is a hardworking, painstaking officer’, ‘Zealous, hardworking officer. Regret losing his service.’ and ‘Strongly recommended.’ He joined his final ship, HMS Monmouth on 30 July 1914.

After 19 years in the Navy with his career developing well he married Marguerite Sutherland (b. c. 1875) on 5 June 1905 at St. Peter’s Church, Cranley Gardens in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea. She was the daughter of the late Captain Francis Sutherland of the Royal Scots Greys and his wife, Elizabeth. The couple both recorded London addresses on their marriage certificate. They went on to have two sons and a daughter; James Francis, Christopher John (b. 1906) and Elizabeth Mary (b. 1909). When Elizabeth was two years old the family was based at Warwick Park, Honicknowle, Crownhill, R.S.O., S. Devon (near Plymouth).

HMS Monmouth was part of Admiral Christopher Cradock’s West Indies squadron. The flag ship HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth were ‘older’ armoured cruisers; the rest of the squadron consisted of HMS Glasgow, a modern light cruiser and HMS Otranto, a converted liner. The German opposition was a squadron of five modern ships with elite crews under Admiral von Spee. His objective was to attack and disrupt British and French commercial shipping off the west coast of S. America. The two squadrons clashed off the Chilean port of Coronel on 1 November 1914.

Admiral Cradock ordered the Otranto to escape and then turned to engage the enemy. At action stations 60 exotic parrots bought by the crew of HMS Glasgow were released from their cages in the hope that they would return to the safety of the mainland, ‘They rose in a cloud of brilliant blues and greens and oranges….’ a naval historian later wrote, but alarmed by the rising gale they returned to Glasgow; just 10 survived. The German Admiral opened fire at 7pm when Cradock’s ships were silhouetted against the setting sun. At 7.50pm Good Hope’s magazine exploded, she sank at 7.57pm. There were no survivors. She had been hit at least 30 times. Monmouth was also badly damaged, like Good Hope she had been hit at least 30 times. The third salvo from Gneiseau set her forward turret on fire. Listing to port she was unable to fire, but her White Ensign was still flying. She was finished off by the newly arrived Nurberg with gunfire at point blank range. HMS Glasgow observed 75 gun flashes. Monmouth sank at 9.18pm. There were no survivors.

HMS Glasgow escaped. This was the first British defeat at sea since 1812. Revenge was swift: von Spee’s fleet was destroyed on 8 December 1914 in the Battle of the Falklands by HMS Invincible and HMS Inflexible with help from their Japanese allies. The one German ship to escape, the Dresden, was tracked down and destroyed in March 1915.

John Cooper is commemorated on the Naval Memorial at Plymouth. His three children all reached adulthood and married. There were at least three grand-children; Dan, Roger and Paul Cooper the sons of his eldest child.


British Naval Disaster at Coronel,
HMS Monmouth (D28) (+1914),
Major Warships Sunk in WW1, 1914: Battle of Coronel,
The Battle of the Falklands, The Independent, 17 April 2017
The Monmouth and Good Hope, Surrey Advertiser, 14 November 1914
The Naval Fight off Chile, The Times, 18 November 1914
Royal Navy Officers’ Service Records, 1756-1931, The National Archives, ADM 196/143/860
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962,
UK, De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, 1914-1924,

Lt-Commander Ernest Torre Favell

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Lt-Commander E T Favell, RN
HMS Pathfinder
Killed, 5.9.1914
Age, 29

Ernest Torre Favell enrolled in the Royal Navy as a fifteen year old boy on 15 May 1900. He would become part of naval history, losing his life when HMS Pathfinder was the first ship to be sunk by a submarine fired, self propelled torpedo.

He was born on 20 November 1894 to Colonel Thomas Milnes, a civil and mechanical engineer, and Anna Jane (nee Bainbridge) Favell. His birth was registered in Stoke-on-Trent and he was baptised on 6 January 1895 at Hanley, Staffordshire. Ernest’s parents came from Durham and Northumberland respectively, his father, the son of a landowner and his mother, the daughter of a clergyman. They married in Croydon in 1873. Ernest was the fourth of at least six children. His elder brother, Francis, also served in the Royal Navy and survived the war; he died in his eighties, in South Africa. The family lived at Seabridge Hall in Seabridge, close to Newcastle-under-Lyme until the early 1890s; they then moved to Heatherlea, Wolstanton, also in Staffordshire where they remained until at least 1900. It is likely that ‘Fairwood’, Pine Grove in Weybridge became their home in the early years of the new century.

By 1901 Ernest was a naval cadet on board the training ship ‘Britannia’, stationed at Plymouth. He rose steadily through the ranks: Midshipman (1901), Sub-Lieutenant (1904), Lieutenant (1906) and finally Lieutenant-Commander on 15 March 1914. The ships he served in included, Diadem, Vengeance, Irresistible, Albion and Pathfinder, which he joined on 25 April 1914. His overseas service included time in Mediterranean waters. Ernest’s service reports record that he was ‘zealous’, ‘capable’, ‘hardworking’ and ‘very trustworthy’. Ernest was a keen sportsman: he played regularly for the United Services Rugby team; he was a well-known Service Hockey player and won numerous prizes for sailing and rowing.

HMS Pathfinder, a light cruiser, served with the 8th Destroyer Flotilla based at the major naval base of Rosyth in the Firth of Forth. At the beginning of September 1914, Otto Hersing’s U-21 entered these waters. His presence there may have been due to information provided by the German spy, Carl Hans Lody, who had been monitoring the Firth of Forth. On the morning of 5 September, Hersing spotted the SSE course of HMS Pathfinder and destroyers of the 8th Flotilla. The destroyers turned back towards May Island at midday, but Pathfinder continued her patrol. At 15.43 Hersing launched one torpedo as his target was on her return journey. Look-outs on Pathfinder spotted a torpedo wake heading toward the starboard bow at 15.45. Ernest Favell was the officer of the watch and ordered immediate evasive action. At 15.50 the torpedo detonated beneath the bridge and caused a tremendous explosion as the magazine blew up.

There was not enough time to lower the two boats, the others were left ashore, and five minutes after the explosion the bow section sheared off as the stern heaved up to a sixty degree angle. HMS Pathfinder then slipped below the surface. Aldous Huxley who was staying at St. Abbs witnessed this dramatic end and described it to his father in a letter dated 14 September 1914:

……we actually saw the Pathfinder explosion – a great white cloud with its foot in the sea. The St Abbs’ lifeboat came in with most appalling accounts of the scene. There was not a piece of wood, they said, big enough to float a man – and over acres the sea was covered with fragments – human and otherwise.

Fishing boats, destroyers and steamers also rushed to the scene to be greeted by Pathfinder’s poignant debris: seamen’s clothes, letters, photographs and books including the ship’s Bible. There were just eighteen known survivors, one of whom was the Captain, who with his secretary had been the last to leave the ship. About two hundred and fifty men lost their lives. The authorities tried to cover up the circumstances of Pathfinder’s demise saying that the ship had been blown up by a mine; however, they could not ignore the potent threat of submarine warfare.

The wreck of Pathfinder lies upright two hundred and twenty feet below the surface off St. Abbs Head. Carl Hans Lody was captured and executed by firing squad at the Tower of London on 6 November 1914. Otto Hersing and U-21 survived the war. Hersing died in 1960 and U-21 sank in 1919 while being towed to surrender. Some think Hersing may have caused this.

Lt-Commander Ernest Torre Favell is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial (Panel 1) and by a wrought silver chalice inscribed in his memory and given to the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Princes Road; on the demolition of this church in 1973 it was passed to the Church of the Ascension in Aldershot. The crew of HMS Pathfinder are commemorated on a plaque in St Clements Church, Ipswich. His father served as an Urban District Councillor and both parents remained in their Weybridge home until their deaths in 1936 and 1937 respectively.


England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915,
HMS Pathfinder, The First Ship to be Sunk by a Torpedo from a Submarine,
Kelly’s Directories, 1892, 1896 & 1900, Staffordshire, UK, City & County Directories, 1766-1946,
Lieutenant Commander Ernest Torre Favell – Royal Navy, HMS Pathfinder,
Milmo, Cahal The First Execution at the Tower of London for 167 years, The Independent, 15 April 2014
Royal Navy Officers’ Service Records, 1756-1931, The National Archives, ADM 196/143/860
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962,

Lt-Commander Gerald Bruce Gaskell

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Lt-Commander G B Gaskell, RN
HMS Good Hope
Lost in action, 1.11.1914
Age, 32

The Reverend Thomas Kynaston Gaskell and his wife Horatia Octavia (nee Hugo) had four sons: Hugh Selwyn, Gerald Bruce, John Charles Temple and Christopher. They all served in the First World War. The eldest, Hugh, a doctor, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, he survived the war; Gerald, a naval officer and John, an army officer were both lost in action; the youngest, Christopher, who joined the Canadian Infantry, was badly injured at Bethune and died of his wounds in 1938. The Gaskells’ son-in-law was also killed (see Bulteel).

Gerald Bruce Gaskell was born on 29 November 1881 and was baptised at St. Helen’s Church, Folksworth, Peterborough on 13 January 1882. In addition to his three brothers he had two younger sisters, Horatia Margaret and Dorothea Grace. As a nine year old, Gerald was a boarder at school in Shrewsbury and ten years later he was a Midshipman aboard HMS Furious at Sheerness, Kent. He had become a naval cadet on the training ship Britannia in January 1896. Gerald became a Midshipman in 1897, an acting Sub-Lieutenant in 1901, a Sub-Lieutenant in 1902, a Lieutenant in 1903 and finally a Lieutenant-Commander on 30 September 1914 whilst serving on his last ship, HMS Good Hope. He saw service in the Atlantic, off N. America and the West Indies on HMS Pallas which he joined in 1902 and in the Mediterranean on HMS Suffolk which he joined in 1904. Whilst serving on Suffolk he became very ill with enteric fever and had to be hospitalised in Malta. Gerald qualified as a Physical Training Instructor in May 1906. By 1908 he was responsible for all Physical Training for the Home Fleet. Before he joined HMS Good Hope in August 1914 he was land based on HMS Victory at Portsmouth.

When war broke out in 1914 Gerald had been married for almost eleven years to Jane Meriel Atkinson. Their wedding took place at Brentford Registry Office on 16 November 1903. The couple had three daughters: Geraldine Faith (b.c.1904), Grace Meriel Hope (b.c.1906) and Helen Dulcie Charity (b.1908). In 1911, whilst Gerald was on HMS Indomitable, based at Chatham, his family lived in Southsea, where they still resided in 1914. It must have been a wrench to leave his young family so far behind when he joined HMS Good Hope which became the flag ship of Admiral Christopher Cradock’s West Indies squadron.

The rest of the squadron consisted of HMS Monmouth, like Good Hope, an ‘older’ armoured cruiser, HMS Glasgow, a modern light cruiser and HMS Otranto, a converted liner. Their German opponents were a squadron of five modern ships with elite crews under Admiral von Spee. His objective was to attack British and French shipping off the west coast of S. America. The two squadrons met off the Chilean port of Coronel on 1 November 1914. Admiral Cradock ordered the Otranto to escape and then turned to engage the Germans amid a rising, cold and stormy sea. The German Admiral opened fire at 7pm when the British ships were silhouetted against the setting sun. The third salvo from Scharnhorst hit Good Hope knocking out her 9.2” gun. Cradock, endeavouring to bring his 6” guns into play, tried to close the range, only for von Spee to interpret this as an attempt to launch a torpedo and in response to increase the range. At 7.50pm Good Hope’s magazine exploded; the severely damaged ship drifted out of sight, sinking soon afterwards. At 9.18pm HMS Monmouth sank. Both ships had been hit at least thirty times. In just ninety minutes 1,600 British sailors lost their lives. HMS Glasgow escaped. A few bodies were washed ashore, most unidentifiable except as men of the Royal Navy. Some were buried in a specific corner of Coronel’s cemetery.

Jane Gaskell remained a widow until her death in July 1952. Her and Gerald’s three daughters all married; there were two granddaughters and four great-grandchildren. His father died at Cobham in 1915. Horatia Gaskell lived at Oakley, Windsor Walk in Weybridge in the 1920s; when she died in 1930 she was buried with her husband. Gerald, his father and his brother Major John Charles Temple Gaskell are all remembered in St. Botolph’s Church, Longthorpe, Northamptonshire (now Peterborough), Reverend Gaskell’s last parish. Gerald is also commemorated with the others who died on 1 November 1914 on Portsmouth’s Naval Memorial. There is a poignant Memorial Plaque to the 1,600 casualties of the Battle of Coronel just inside the main entrance to St. John’s Church in Concepción, Chile:

God forbid that I should do this thing, and flee away from them; if our time be come, let us die manfully for our brethren, and let us not stain our honour.
1 Maccabees ix


British Naval Disaster at Coronel,
The Children of Reverend Thomas Kynaston Gaskell and Horatia Octavia Hugo,
Major Warships Sunk in WW1, 1914: Battle of Coronel,
The Naval Fight off Chile, The Times, 18 November 1914
Robertson, Joan Veronica, ‘A World War One Naval Battle – The Battle of Coronel’,
Royal Navy Officers’ Service Records, The National Archives, ADM 196/143/860

Able Seaman John William Buss

Researched and written by Anne Wright

Able Seaman J W Buss, RN
HMS ‘Fandango’
J 2144
Killed, 3.7.1919
Age, 27

John William Buss was born on 5 May 1892 in Paddington, London to Frederick Arthur Buss (b.c.1868), a native of Weybridge, and his first wife Jane. At the time of his son’s birth Frederick was a coachman, resident at Leinster Stables. John was baptised on 3 July 1892 at Christ Church, Paddington. The family moved to Weybridge between 1892 and 1899, where in due course he became a pupil of St James’ School (Baker Street); a Jane Buss died in the Chertsey registration area in 1897 aged 29 and may well have been John’s mother. His father remarried in 1899 to Alice Lucas, a widow. The marriage took place at Oatlands. John’s family expanded with the addition of three Lucas step siblings and his father and Alice went on to have at least six children. In 1901 the family lived in Grove Road behind the Jolly Farmer public house and by 1911 their address was 2, Fir Grove Cottages in New Road.

John was not at the family home in 1911. He was lodging at 21, Fair Row, Chatham in Kent because on his 18th birthday in 1910 he had joined the Royal Navy for a period of twelve years. He was five feet five inches tall had brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. John described his occupation as a shop boy. He served on many ships including HMS Berwick (1909), two stints on HMS Formidable (1911 & 1912) and HMS Cornwallis (1914). John’s ship when he married Alice Mott on 12 June 1915 at St. Peter’s Church, Hersham was HMS Actaeon. Alice was the same age as John and had been born in Hersham. Her family home was at 8, Green Lane. At the time of their marriage the couple’s fathers, Charles Mott and Frederick Buss were, respectively, a labourer and a decorator.

John joined his final ship, HMS Fandango, a minesweeper, on 15 April 1919. Fandango was one of 20 Royal Navy ships that formed part of the North Russian Expedition in the final months and of the First World War until October 1919 because of the ramifications of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia in October 1917. The Expedition’s objectives were to protect Allied supplies in Archangel and Murmansk and to rescue the Czech Legion, trapped in Russia after fighting on the Eastern Front. Fandango’s role was to provide transportation on and mine clearing of the River Dvina. At 8.50am on 21 June 1919 she dropped anchor close to HMS Pegasus. The following day Fandango set off up river towing other craft. On 3 July she struck a mine laid upstream of a rock. Besides John, at least five others of the crew of about twenty-five were killed; Fandango sank. Her sister ship, Sword Dance, had perished a few days earlier.

The North Russian Expedition was not able to link-up with anti-Bolshevik forces and the supplies in Archangel and Murmansk had already been moved up the River Dvina by the Bolsheviks. So the retreat to the coast began in April 1919 and the Expedition had returned home by October. John William Buss is commemorated on Chatham Naval Memorial (32) with over eight thousand other naval casualties of the First World War. In total over forty thousand naval personnel died in the conflict.

John’s widow Alice remarried, to Henry Sutton, in the Chertsey registration district, in 1923. Her first husband was one of the last fatalities from the men of Weybridge who went to war and are remembered on the town’s Memorial.


London, England, Church of England Births & Baptisms, 1813-1917,
Memorial to the Masters and Old Boys of St James’ School, Weybridge, Who Fell in the Great War of 1914-1918, St James’ Church
RN Gunboats, Minelayers and Monitors in North Russia, 1919,
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937,
The London Gazette (Second Supplement), 18 May 1920
UK. RN Registers of Seamen’s Services, 1853-1928,
North Russian Expeditionary Force 1919, Scrapbook Diary, Photographs, Mementos,