I have been researching the loss of the pre-Dreadnought battleship HMS Bulwark a century ago on November 26, 2014, when more than 700 men died within seconds of each other as the ship blew up at anchor.
This afternoon I was attending a memorial service at Woodlands Naval Cemetery, Gillingham, Kent, and will publish more names and photographs next Saturday.
I received a phone call from Catherine Currie, of Portchester, who told me of a man who would have been her great uncle had he lived.
Able Seaman Percy Cronshaw married Frances Charlotte Stubbington in 1912 and they lived at 123, Twyford Avenue, Stamshaw. Frances was the sister of Catherine’s grandmother
One daughter, Violet, was born in 1913 and died of tuberculosis in 1950 aged 37. I don’t suppose Percy, who was 29 when Bulwark exploded, saw much of her knowing the length of commissions of that time.
I visited Catherine and she showed me a football medal awarded to Percy. I believe it was for the first naval football association cup ever played.
The association was formed in 1904 at a meeting held in the offices of the Southern Daily Mail – the Portsmouth Evening News. The first cup final was played in 1905 so I am assuming this is where Percy’s medal came from.
It is made of silver with blue enamel. The first game was played at Fratton Park and Portsmouth Command beat Devonport 4-0.
Perhaps the most poignant of all the deaths was of Boy 1st Class Reginald Valentine Dash who lived at 5, The Green, Gosport.
He was the son of a naval pensioner who had returned to sea at the beginning of the First World War. Reginald was 16 and had served perhaps a year into his chosen career.
Worse was to come for the family two years later when Reginald’s father, Armourer Henry David Dash, was one of 50 men who died when the destroyer HMS Broke came under fire from the German battleship Westfalen at the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916. Henry left a wife Mary and four other sons and a daughter.
Thanks to Phillip Dash whose grandfather was one of the four remaining sons.
Another local person with connections to Bulwark is Ann Taw, of Milton. Her grandfather David Moorhead was also lost, aged 26.
Ann’s father George was a month old at the time of the disaster. He had an iconic chunk of teak which was given to him by his mother Alice and now belongs to Ann. As you can see from the brass plate in the picture, it landed on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales anchored some distance away.
They lived at 31, Hertford Street, Buckland. They had a son George, Ann’s father, who also served his country in the army as a gunner in the last conflict.
He was taken prisoner of war and spent some time in a PoW camp.