Sunday, 14 September 2014

HMS Carmania Sinks a German Ship and the Bedfords Cross the Aisne

RMS Carmania

Monday 14th September 1914: We have received a report of a victory at sea from Able Seaman Cheshire of Clifton Road, Shefford. He is a member of the crew of HMS Carmania. She is an ocean liner which has been fitted with eight naval guns of 4.7 inch calibre to help protect herself and other merchant ships against German commerce raiders. AB Cheshire has told me that today Carmania engaged and sunk a German armed merchantman, looking, I am told, suspiciously like Carmania herself, off the Brazilian island of Trinidade.

He says: “We met here off the coast of South America. The scrap started soon after 12 o’clock midday, and in one hour forty minutes  we put her down; a glorious victory as she looked a far superior ship to ours. Our gunnery was splendid, without any boast. I can tell you it was hot stuff whilst it lasted. Of course we did not get off scot free – we had a few shot holes. The worst part of the whole affair was that we caught fire but we got it out with a little hard work. We had nine killed and between twenty and thirty injured, which was a very small casualty list compared with the Germans[1]. We gave her a good rousing British cheer as she disappeared to the bottom. Our captain was splendid – as cool as a cucumber, smoking a cigarette”.

In France the adjutant of the 1st Bedfords writes: “We crossed the River Aisne by pontoon and raft and attacked Missy. We were heavily shelled and had about forty casualties”. Our contact with the battalion, as usual, adds some more revealing information:  “The battalion moved forward and began to cross the river at 2 am … The battalion crossed over in two rafts, being pulled from side to side by ropes and got over about 3.30 am”. The battalion made its attack: “The Norfolks had a pretty bad time on the ridge in front as they had advanced with our battalion and we had succeeded in practically clearing the crest when the British guns mistook them for the enemy and started shelling them. The Germans in the meanwhile put down a barrage behind them. In the confusion the Norfolks lost direction and charged their other half battalion with fixed bayonets in the woods. We all had to clear out of the woods and lost a good many men through it”

“Private Smith had been hit in the stomach on the way down and Drummer Chequer[2] and I looked after him. Poor devil, he was in agony and we had to take turns sitting on him to keep him from throwing himself about; we could do little for him but eventually managed to get him taken across the river and put in a cart and taken to hospital where he died the next day[3]. McCloughin was also hit that day and died in a house in Missy after the most awful agony”.[4]

Source: Bedfordshire Times 9th October 1914; X5502/5; X550/2/7

[1] In fact between 16 and 51 Germans are mentioned by various sources as having been killed. The rest, some 250, were rescued by smaller German vessels.
[2] Drummer Chequer would be killed on 28th September 1914.
[3] As can be seen from the Roll of Honour Private Smith is officially recorded as dying of wounds the same day.
[4] He died on 18th September.

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