When the boys from the black squad came up for a smoke

Rough, tough stokers from HMS Good Hope. PPP-140318-173605001
Rough, tough stokers from HMS Good Hope. PPP-140318-173605001
The smashed glass in the door at Johnny Black Photography in Southsea

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If you saw the modern equivalent of a Royal Navy stoker he, or even she, would be smart, clean and a credit to the Senior Service.

When I first saw this photograph I thought it was the crew from some elderly coal-burning freighter, but they are in fact some of the stokers from the cruiser HMS Good Hope.

I had to enlarge the cap tally of the sailor in the front on the left and can just make out the words ‘Good Hope’.

They look the roughest, toughest bunch of sailors I have seen for a long time.

I think they might have just come up from below for stand-easy and a smoke.

As I have mentioned before, Good Hope went down with all hands at the Battle of Coronel on November 1, 1914.

In all, 919 officers and enlisted men were lost including three midshipmen from the newly formed Royal Canadian Navy.

It is said she took 35 direct hits from the German armoured-cruiser Scharnhorst.

Barbara Horn, from Titchfield, sent me the photograph and tells me her grandfather, Alfred Edward Beames, was one of the stokers who perished on that awful day.

Aged 30, Alfred was married to Mabel and lived at Park Gate.

That was not the only sadness to befall the family.

On January 1, 1918, Alfred’s brother George, 37, and a petty officer stoker was lost when HMS Narborough ran aground on the Pentland Skerries off the north-east coast of Scotland.

One hundred and eighty-eight men died with only one surviving. Most of the dead were never found.

George was married to Florence and lived at 30, Stanstead Road, Southsea. Both men are remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.