Wednesday 17 October 1917 We Lost 969
The German mine laying cruisers Bremse and Brummer intercept a westbound convoy sixty-five miles east of Lerwick, consisting of twelve merchantmen (two British, one Belgian, nine neutral Scandinavian) escorted by the destroyers HMS Mary Rose and HMS Strongbow and two armed trawlers. Strongbow is just astern of the convoy, while Mary Rose is six to eight miles ahead of it. Strongbow sights the German cruisers in poor visibility at no more than 4,000 yards and takes them for British light cruisers, which they have been rigged to resemble. She challenged several times before going to action stations. By this time Brummer has closed to within 3,000 yards and opens a devastating fire, immediately knocking out Strongbow’s main steam pipe and wireless; just before this the destroyer had been attempting to transmit a warning, but the German cruisers jammed the signal, as they did all similar efforts by the Allied ships.
The cruisers then turn to the merchantmen and quickly sink nine of them. Mary Rose hears the firing astern and closes and fights the Germans. She is rapidly sunk with the loss of 83 dead and only 5 survivors while Strongbow is finished off losing 47 dead with 37 survivors. Lieutenant Commander Edward Brooke of the Strongbow survives only to die of pneumonia in February 1919.
- Lieutenant Commander Charles Leonard Fox (HMS Mary Rose) is among those killed.
- Another Lieutenant lost on the Mary Rose is Anthony James Bavin who is killed at age 23. His brother was killed in May 1915.
- Engineer Lieutenant Commander William Howie Cleghorn (HMS Mary Rose) becomes the third son of John and Margaret Cleghorn to be killed in the Great War when he loses his life in the sinking. His brothers were killed last year and in September of this year.
- Sub Lieutenant Arthur John Purey Cust (HMS Strongbow) is killed. The son of Admiral ‘Sir’ Herbert Cust dies at age 20.
The trawler Ruby (skipper Harold Walter Jameson killed at age 28) is sunk by a submarine off Ushant.
Today’s losses include:
- Multiple families that will lose two, three and four sons in the Great War
- The son of an Admiral
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- The grandson of the founder of the YMCA
- A 5-victory ace
- A Scout Master
- A man whose brother will be killed in the United States Army
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Lieutenant Henry John Phear (Royal Field Artillery) is killed at age 28. His brother will be killed next month.
- Lieutenant Thomas Elmslie Middlemiss (Royal Field Artillery) is killed at age 26. He is the son of the Reverend John Thomas Middlemiss.
- Second Lieutenant Colin Ernest Williams grandson of ‘Sir’ George Williams, founder of the YMCA.
- Second Lieutenant Thomas Henry Andrew Bell (Yorkshire Regiment) dies of wounds to head received last month at Menin Road at age 25. He is the last of 4 brothers who will be killed in the Great War and he dies with his father at his bedside
- Second Lieutenant John Lamb (Royal Engineers) is killed at age 37. He is the son of the late Reverend John Lamb, Bursar of Caius College Cambridge.
- Sergeant William Joseph Benger MM (Royal Flying Corps) is killed at age 22 when he is shot down over Poelcapelle. He is a five victory ace and his brother was killed in April of this year.
- Lance Corporal Egbert Dredge (Otago Regiment) is killed at age 21. He is the King’s Scout Master and Scout Master of St John’s Anglican Church Troop.
- Lance Corporal William Musson (Sherwood Foresters) is killed. His brother was killed in April.
- Private Gerald Percy Willett (Leicestershire Regiment) is killed at age 26. His brother will be killed next January.
- Private Herbert Martin (Northamptonshire Regiment) dies of wounds at age 33. His brother will die as a prisoner of war in August 1918.
- Private Charles A MacBeath (Seaforth Highlanders) dies of wounds at age 21. One brother was killed last December while a second will be killed next March.
- Private Charles Rowland Johnson (Bedfordshire Regiment) is killed in action. His brother will be killed one day before the end of the Great War.
- Private Reginald King (Army Service Corps attached Royal Garrison Artillery) is killed at age 23. His brother will be killed next September serving in the United States Army.