Wednesday 8 November 1916 – We Lost 379
A series of explosions and fires occurred at Bakaritsa, Port of Archangel, in merchant ships and on the wharves. The S S Baron Driesen blows up at 13:00 and part of the S S Ear of Forfar 40 minutes later and fresh explosions are expected every instant. It is thought that all their crews have either escaped or been killed or rescued, but after dark cries of distress are heard from the Earl of Forfar. The ship is a mass of flame at the time, and burning embers from the fire which is raging on shore are continually showering over her. She has a cargo of explosives on board and is abreast of the main conflagration. The flames are blown towards her by the wind, and the remaining portion of the ship is expected to be blown up at any moment. Captain George Parker Bevan DSO (Royal Navy) however, on hearing the cries, proceeds on board, accompanied by Lieutenant Commander Maurice McMahon, and hearing moans from under the smoldering debris of the forecastle, clears away the wreckage and extricates the mate, who has an arm and a leg and his collarbone broken, and pass him into a tug. Captain Bevan displayed the utmost gallantry and disregard of his personal safety.
Lieutenant Edward Henry Richardson (Royal Naval Reserve), Second Engineer Christopher Watson and Able seamen James Dixson Henry and Malcolm Thompson, of the tug, Sutherland volunteered to board the Earl of Forfar, and effect the rescue of a considerable number of wounded and helpless men who would otherwise have perished. They display the utmost gallantry and disregard of their own personal safety in saving of others. Captain Bevan, Lieutenant Commander McMahon, Lieutenant Richardson, Engineer Watson and Seamen Henry and Thompson will all be awarded the Albert Medal for their efforts on this day. Lieutenant Commander McMahon will die on service in October 1919.
The destroyer HMS Zulu (Lieutenant J Brooke) is mined in the English Channel and the forward half is towed into Calais by the French. As a result of the explosion the bottom of the after part of the engine room is blown out, and the whole compartment reduced to a mass of debris and broken steam and water pipes. Immediately after the explosion Engine Room Artificer Michael Joyce and Stoker Petty Officer Walter Kimber proceed to the engine room, the former having just come off watch. The latter had just left the boiler room, after he has seen that the oil-burners are shut off and everything is in order, and has sent his hands on deck. Hearing the sound of moans coming from inside the engine room, they both attempt to enter it by the foremost hatch and ladder. As the heat in the engine room is intense and volumes of steam are coming up forward, they then lift one of the square ventilating hatches further aft on the top of the engine room casing (port side) and climb into the rapidly flooding compartment over the steam pipes, which are extremely hot. Scrambling over the debris, they discover over on the starboard side Stoker Petty Officer Smith, with his head just out of the water. A rope is lowered from the upper deck, and with great difficulty Smith, who is entangled in fractured pipes and other wreckage, is hauled up alive. At the same time Stoker Petty Officer Powell is found floating, in the water on the port side of the engine room. The rope is lowered again and passed around Powell, who, however, is found to be dead on reaching the deck. The water is so high that further efforts to discover the remaining Artificer left in the engine room would have been useless, and the attempt has to be abandoned. Both men are awarded the Albert Medal for their life saving efforts.
The trawler Vineyard also strikes a mine on this day thirteen miles southeast of Aberdeen. Though she does not sink eight are killed including
- skipper William Buthly and his son deckhand James Buthlay who is killed at age 20.
- Also killed is cook Roderick Finlayson who dies at age 50. His son will die of injuries suffered on his ship while his brother was killed in the sinking of the Aboukir in September 1914.
Today’s losses include:
- An Exhibitor at the Royal Academy
- An Author of The Heart of Lakeland
- Multiple families that will lose two sons in the Great War
- A father and son killed together
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Lieutenant Lehmann James Oppenheimer (London Regiment) is killed in action at age 48. He is an artist (Exhibitor at the Royal Academy), Member of the English “Climbers Club” and “Fell and Rock Club of the English Lake District”, and author of “The Heart of Lakeland”.
- Second Lieutenant Eustie Marchetti (Royal Field Artillery) is killed at age 29 less than 8 months after his brother was killed.
- Private Edward Claude Perkins (Australian Infantry) is killed in action at Flers. He is killed at age 16.
- Private James Carmichael (Australian Infantry) is killed at age 45. His brother will be killed in April 1917.