Wednesday 6 August 2014

Actions at Sea

The light cruiser HMS Amphion

Thursday 6th August 1914: We hear that detachments of B Squadron, Bedfordshire Yeomanry were drafted to Cheltenham, Warwick and elsewhere last week. As many of you will know the Yeomanry are cavalry, mounted equivalents of the Territorials. Today the remainder of the squadron paraded at noon and were billeted in Bedford until Saturday morning. By the 9.04, 11.31 and 12.05 trains, detachments left for Huntingdon, Dunstable and other places. It was stated that the squadron would shortly be sent elsewhere. Large crowds assembled at the railway station, despite the weather, as each detachment left rousing cheers were given for the men.

Although we are an inland county we must not forget that a large part of this war will be fought at sea. We have heard today that Frank Vidler of Arlesey, chauffeur to Mrs. Waterton has suffered a heavy loss. His brother William was a Royal Marine aboard HMS Amphion and was generally an officer's servant whilst aboard and was a man of very smart appearance. Amphion was a scout cruiser, launched in 1911. Yesterday she helped to sink the German minelayer Konigin Luise but that vessel had the last laugh because this morning Amphion hit one of the mines she had laid and sank with the loss of 150 men including William Vidler. Eighteen Germans rescued from the Konigin Luise also drowned.

Another of those among the missing after the sinking is Percy James Pinnock, a Lutonian. He was a stoker aboard the Amphion, which he joined last Easter. A month ago he was in Luton for the weekend, when he stayed with his step-father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Chambers of 29 Boyle Street. That was the first time he had been home for eighteen months. He was born in Old Bedford Road twenty years ago last June, and after having finished his training, he took to the sea four years ago. Prior to his taking up his position as a stoker, he was a signalman on board the “Berwick”. Other ships on which he served were “Irresistible”, “Ganges” and “Pembroke”. Mr. and Mrs. Chambers were greatly distressed by the news, and they were hoping, almost against hope, that their son would still be found. He was their only son*.

Another naval action also took place today. We have been contacted by an electrician aboard the light cruiser HMS Bristol**, F. C. Dawson. He tells us: "You must not mind the mistakes as I am dead beat and still another two hours to do before my watch is finished. Since the declaration of war I have had six hours sleep in three days so you can tell how I feel. During that time we have steamed 2,000 miles, fought an action and are now on our way to Saint Lucia".

“I suppose you are anxious to know what it feels like to be under fire. Well to tell you the truth I think we all looked upon it as a skylark with the great object of sinking the enemy. We were on our way to Halifax [Nova Scotia] and suddenly had news from the “Suffolk*** telling us she had come in touch with the “Karlsrühe” a German cruiser of 27½ knots+. So we steamed south once more, expecting to come into touch with her about 8 pm. Everything was in readiness to give her a warm reception. At last the signalman in the fighting top sang out: “Sail Ho!” What a scene of excitement prevailed! “Where away?” “Starboard bow sir”. “Clear ship for action, every man to his station”. Down dived the ammunition supply party, or as you used to read in Henty’s yarns “the powder monkeys””.

“At last we were within range. We let drive with our six inch. “Hurrah!” a hit first time, and then she replied. A whole broadside but not within 2,000 yards of us. We fired again with our foremost six inch, slewed round and gave her another with our aft six inch and then a broadside from our 4 inch. “Hullo, what’s that? She’s off!” and there she was going for all she was worth. We followed but she served us the same as she served the “Suffolk” earlier in the day. She was too fast and we lost her about 2 am. Fancy, she was a faster boat and better than us, but there, you know the old saying “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day”. We had nailed our colours to the mast and it was sink or swim. There is no drawing back in the British Navy. We have a name to think of and traditions to uphold. The boys went into action singing “Boys of the Bulldog Breed”. Well, she got away and now we are hoping to meet her soon again. It was reported that she was seen with part of her bridge torn away, a big hole in the bows and her stern badly damaged.”++

The light cruiser HMS Bristol

Sources: Bedfordshire Times 7th August 1914; 14th August 1914; 21st August 1914 and 4th September 1914 and Luton News 13th August 1914

*He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
** Weighing 4,800 tons and armed with two 6 inch and ten 4 inch guns.
*** An armoured cruiser weighing 9,800 tons and armed with twelve 6 inch guns
A light cruiser weighing 4,900 tons and armed with twelve 105mm guns
++ The Karlsrühe did not have long left. She blew up on 4th November at sea in mysterious circumstances after destroying or damaging sixteen merchant vessels since her encounter with the Bristol. More than half her crew were lost. The Bristol survived the war and was scrapped in 1921. 

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