A NAVAL officer from Portsmouth is urging descendents of sailors who fought in a decisive First World War battle to join the centenary events marking the conflict.
Lieutenant Commander Rob Whitworth has issued the appeal in an effort to drum up as much support for commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland in May and June this year.
It comes after the officer discovered the history of his great-grandfather William Henry Swan, of Portsmouth, who fought during the campaign.
Lt Cmdr Whitworth was compelled to find out more about his relative and set out on a five-year voyage through the history books to learn about his great-grandfather’s naval career.
The 51-year-old said: ‘When you read the history books and hear all the stories, it is moving. But when you are then able to put this into context with your own family history, it just puts a human face on the history and on all of those stories you have read about.’
William Swan served as Chief Engineering Artificer – a boilermaker – on HMS Warrior at the Battle of Jutland.
He was one of those fortunate to have survived the sinking of Warrior.
Originally from Sunderland, he joined the Royal Navy in 1897 and retired as a Warrant Engineer in July 1922, six years after Jutland, before living in North End until his death in 1946.
Speaking of his great-grandfather’s time during the First World War, Lt Cmdr Whitworth said: ‘With all the noise and the heat it must have been very frightening experience.’
The Battle of Jutland was the most significant naval engagement of the First World War with more than 100,000 sailors involved on 250 ships.
Some 6,000 Royal Navy and 2,500 German sailors lost their lives between May 31 and June 1, 1916.
Remembrance events are set to be staged in cities across the country, including Portsmouth, later this year.
Lt Cmdr Whitworth said: ‘The navy is second fiddle to those trench battlefields.
‘But I think it’s right we should remember those who fought at sea. They gave their lives in just as hard a conditions as those on the battlefields.’
He added: ‘I’m proud to be able to share my great-grandfather’s story.
‘It helps to preserve the memory of all those men who died during the battle.’
Those keen to join the commemorations can do so by visiting the government’s website and downloading a ‘descendent application form’. Log on to gov.uk/government/news/descendants-invited-to-jutland-centenary-commemorations
The closing date for applications is January 22.