November 4, 2018|

The Battle of Jutland – The Wickham Connection

The Battle of Jutland, fought between 31 May and 1 June 1916, was the largest naval engagement of the Great War, involving 151 vessels of the Royal Navy Grand Fleet and 99 vessels of the German Navy’s High Seas Fleet.

The battle started when Admiral Beatty succeeded in luring the German Grand Fleet into the range of the Royal Navy’s guns off Jutland. Although the British had numerical superiority, the outcome was by no means a clear victory, due to the German Navy’s superior gunnery and armour. Several British battleships blew up after receiving minor damage due, it is believed, to the vulnerability of the ammunition transport systems. The total loss of life was 9,823 men, of which the British losses were 6,784 and German losses were 3,039. Although the British suffered greater losses of both ships and men, the German fleet retired to harbour for the remainder of the war.

The following men lost their lives in the Battle of Jutland:

Charles Henry Carpenter – Stoker 1st Class Royal Navy – HMS Black Prince
Charles was born in Wickham 22 April 1886 to William and Jane (Jackson) Carpenter. The family lived at Castle Farm Cottage. On 26 September 1904, Charles enlisted in the Royal Navy at Portsmouth for a twelve year engagement, extended when hostilities broke out in 1914. By all accounts Charles was a rebellious chap, spending several spells in the cells for absenteeism and disobedience.

After 5 months’ initial training in HMS Nelson, he was drafted to his first sea-going ship, HMS Firequeen. Charles served in a number of ships before he was posted to HMS Black Prince on 23 August 1915.

HMS Black Prince, a Duke of Edinburgh-class steam-propelled armoured cruiser, was named for Edward, the Black Prince. Deployed as part of a screening force several miles ahead of the main force of the Grand Fleet, Black Prince had lost contact in the darkness and, just after midnight on 1 June, took a position near what it thought was the British line. The Germans soon identified the new addition to its line and opened fire. Overwhelmed by point-blank gunfire, Black Prince blew up with all hands, 857 officers and men, including the 30-year old Charles.

Charles is memorialised on Panel 17 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Frederick George Harding – Cook’s Mate 2nd Class Royal Navy – HMS Broke
Frederick George Harding was born on 30 April 1898 to George Philip and Beatrice Thurza (Shawyer) Harding. Six months after the death of his father and a few weeks after turning 17, Frederick enlisted in the Royal Navy at Portsmouth on 25 May 1915.

Frederick was transferred to HMS Broke on the 15 May 1916. HMS Broke, along with HMS Tipperary, led the 17 destroyers of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla. During the night of 31 May 1916, the 4th Flotilla was guarding the British Fleet against German attack. At around 23.15, three ships were sighted approaching the flotilla. Unable to determine whether they were British or German ships, Tipperary issued a challenge signal. This was immediately responded to by a barrage of fire from three German light cruisers, supported by two battleships. The leading British ships, including Broke, Tipperary and Sparrowhawk, fired torpedoes at the German ships before turning away. Tipperary was set on fire during the engagement: she was to sink with the loss of 185 hands from her crew of 197 in the early hours of the following morning.

The remaining ships of the flotilla formed up behind Broke. At around 23.40, ships were again sighted and Broke attempted to challenge. Before she could do so, the German battleship SMS Westfalen sent her own recognition signal and then turned on her searchlights. Broke endeavoured to fire torpedoes but not before the German ship opened fire.

The result was devastating: within a couple of minutes many of her men were killed, including the helmsman, or injured. With no one at the helm, out of control and with no time to avoid a collision, Broke rammed Sparrowhawk, leading to her eventual abandonment and sinking. Broke had suffered overwhelming casualties: her complement of 200 had lost 47 hands, close to a quarter of her men, with a further 36 injured.

Frederick George Harding was one of the many to lose his life. He is memorialised on Panel 21 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, not far from his father, George Philip Harding (Panel 3).

HMS Broke was named after Captain Phillip Vere Broke of HMS Shannon, which took as prize the American super-frigate, USS Chesapeake, in the American War of 1812. USS Chesapeake was broken up in 1819 and in 1820 many of her timbers were used to build Chesapeake Mill, Wickham.

William George Kear – Private, Royal Marines Light Infantry – HMS Invincible
William George Kear was born on 25 October 1889 in Turkey Island, Shedfield, to Walter and Eliza (Weeks) Kear. On 23 March 1907, William enlisted as a Private in the Portsmouth Division of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. William embarked in HMS Invincible on 2 August 1914. Invincible was a Royal Naval battle-cruiser, the lead ship of her class of three, and the first battlecruiser to be built by any country in the world.

During the Battle of Jutland, HMS Invincible served as the flagship of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron, acting as a scouting force during the battle. Invincible was destroyed after a shell penetrated the front of ‘Q’ turret, blew off the roof and detonated the mid-ships magazines. The resulting explosion blew the ship into half whereupon she sank. Of her complement, 1026 officers and men were killed, including William Kear. There were only six survivors.

William George Kear was lost at the age of 22. He is memorialised on Panel 22 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

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