Tuesday May 15, 1917 – We Lost 715

Isaac Bentham

An Austrian naval force of three light cruisers and two destroyers is directed against the ill-defended Allied anti-submarine trawlers which comprise the Otranto Barrage in the Adriatic.  The three cruisers proceed to sail along the barrage at 03:30 sink fourteen trawlers in the space of two hours, having first given their hopelessly out gunned crews an opportunity to take to their escape craft.  In addition to the trawlers Admirable, Avondale, Corel Haven, Craginoon, Felicitas, Girl Gracie, Girl Rose, Helemora, Quarry Knowe, Selby, Serene, Taits, Transit (Skipper George Ross RNR age 40 killed) and Young Linnett who are sunk many others are severely damaged.

A combined British, French and Italian flotilla is dispatched from Brindisi in an attempt to cut off the enemy as they retire. The Allied force includes two British Town Cruisers, Dartmouth and Bristol, together with four Italian destroyers and the Aquila, the flotilla leader.  Catching up with the Austrians at 07:45 the enemy is still able to escape due to poor Allied tactics. Aquila is disabled by Austrian fire and due to lack of speed Bristol ends her chase. Eventually Dartmouth and her escorting destroyers end their pursuit as they detect smoke approaching to reinforce the Austrians. While returning Dartmouth is severely damaged by a torpedo fired by German U-boat UC-25 (Austrian U-89) and one of its accompanying destroyers is sunk by a mine.

  • Commander Robert Gerald Fane (HMS Dartmouth) is killed at age 35. His brother will be killed in August 1918.

Today’s losses include:

  • Multiple families that will lose two sons in the Great War
  • A Justice of the Peace
  • The son-in-law of a General
  • A six-victory ace
  • The son of the late Vice Chancellor of the University of London
  • A Gold Medal Olympian
  • A Penarth Rugby Club footballer

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Major Francis Robert Gregson (City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders attached Australian Mounted Artillery) dies of nephritis and heart failure at age 62. He was a member of the King’s Body Guard and of the Royal Company of Archers. He was DL and JP for Aberdeen and in 1903 married Helen Slade, daughter of Lieutenant General Marcus Slade. On the outbreak of the War he went to France with the original Expeditionary Force in October 1914.
  • Captain William George Sellar Curphey MC (General List attached Royal Flying Corps) dies of wounds as a prisoner of war received the previous day when he was one of a trio of patrollers who attacked three German observation balloons. They were then attacked themselves and he was shot down. He is a six victory ace.
  • Lieutenant Philip Howson Guy Pye-Smith (Liverpool Regiment) is killed at age 21. He is the son of the late Philip Henry Pye-Smith (Vice Chancellor, University of London).
  • .Second Lieutenant Edwin Alfred Kennedy (Seaforth Highlanders) is killed at age 21. His brother died of wounds last August.
  • Sergeant Isaac Bentham (Royal Field Artillery) is killed in action. He was a member of the 1912 Gold Medal winning Olympic Water Polo team.
  • Private Charles E Bensley (Cambridgeshire Regiment) is killed at age 25. His brother will die in July 1919 as a civilian having been discharged from service.
  • Private Arthur Stuart Monroe (Honorable Artillery Corps) is killed at age 20. His brother was killed less than one month ago and they are both members of the Penarth Rugby Club.
  • Private Eli Maiden (Cheshire Regiment) is killed in Mesopotamia at age 21. He is the middle of three brothers who will be killed this year.