Sunday 30 December 1917 We Lost 1,139
The hired transport S. S. Aragon is torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine UC-34 while entering the port of Alexandria, Egypt. The master and eighteen of the crew lose their lives, the total killed including from the 2,700 troops on board total 610 and the bodies of no fewer than three hundred eighty soldiers (including one Canadian flying officer) will not be recovered. The destroyers Attack and Points Castle come to the aid of Aragon.
- Battery Sergeant Major Ernest George Horlock VC (General Base Depot Royal Field Artillery attached Egyptian Expeditionary Force) drowns at age 32 after being rescued by HMS Attack (Lieutenant Harry A D Keate) when it is sunk by a torpedo from the same submarine. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous gallantry on 15th September 1914. His brother died during the Siege of Kut in January of last year.
- Sapper Frederick William Fairclough (98th Light Railway Train Crew, Royal Engineers) is killed when his ship is sunk by a torpedo. His brother was killed early in the year and this is the second time Frederick has been torpedoed as he worked on RMS Lusitania when it was sunk in 1915.
- Sapper Henry Wyatt of the same Royal Engineer battalion is killed at age 32. His brother was killed in September 1915.
- Sapper William Harris (96th Light Railway Operating Company) is killed at age 22. His brother was killed in November 1916.
- Private Oswald Pitchford (Devonshire Regiment) drowns. His brother was killed in October. Private Charles Hole (London Regiment) is killed. His brother was killed last September. Ten crew members of the Attack are also killed.
Lieutenant Harold Thorner (Machine Gun Corps) is examining some Mills and grenades in a small concrete dugout at Ypres prior to taking them to his machine-gun position during an expected enemy raid. One of the hand grenades begins to fizz when taken out of the box. There are twelve men in the dugout at the moment and there is no possible means of disposing of the bomb. Realizing what has happened Lieutenant Thorner shouts to his men to clear out while he himself holds the bomb in his hand close to his body until it explodes, killing him. By his magnificent act of courage, Lieutenant Thorner deliberately sacrificed his own life for others. Of the twelve men who were in the dugout all but two escaped without injury – the other two were slightly injured. For his actions he is awarded posthumously the Albert Medal in Gold.
Today’s losses include:
- A Victoria Cross winner
- An Albert Medal winner
- A Lusitania sinking survivor
- Multiple families that will lose two and three sons in the Great War
- Brothers killed together
- Multiple sons of members of the clergy
- The son of a General
- A Great War Poet
- The son of a Baronet
- An Assistant Scout Master
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Commander Charles Skeffington West DSO (Howe Royal Naval Division) is killed at age 31. He is the son of the Reverend Henry Matthew West.
- Captain William Walter Morrice (Wiltshire Regiment) is killed at age 36. He is the son of the Reverend John David Morrice Rector of St Edmund’s Salisbury.
- Lieutenant Commander Patrick Houston Shaw-Stewart (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) called the financier is killed in action at Welsh Ridge. He is the son of Major General John Heron Shaw-Stewart, is a Great War poet, attended Eton and Bailliol with Julian Grenfell and was at the burial of Rupert Brooke. He is killed at age 29. He was the winner of the Hertford and Ireland Scholarships; a Double First.
- Lieutenant William A St Aubyn Clarke (Royal Naval Division) who dies at age 20. His brother will die on service in exactly seven months.
- Second Lieutenant William Rupert Compton Ffolkes (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) is killed at age 19. He is the only son of ‘Sir’ William Everard Brown Ffolkes the 4th
- Second Lieutenant Harold Walter Barnett (South Lancashire Regiment) is killed at age 22. He is the Assistant Scout Master for St John’s Troop of the Baden Powell Scouts.
- Brothers Sergeant James and Corporal Charles Freeman (Shropshire Light Infantry) are killed together during the fight for Welsh Ridge.
- Lance Corporal Sidney Measday (Royal Dublin Fusiliers) is killed as a result of enemy action at sea at age 24. His brother was killed on the 1 July 1917.
- Private Frederick George Barringer (Machine Gun Corps) dies of wounds at age 19. His brother was killed in August 1916.
- Private William Edward Norris (Northamptonshire Regiment) is killed at age 33. His brother died of wounds in April of this year.
- Private Charles Edward Wickham (Royal Fusiliers) is killed at age 29. He is the final of three brothers who will be killed in 1917.
- Private Stanley Jump (London Regiment) is killed at age 29. He is the son of the Reverend John Edward Jump Vicar of Laughlin en le Morthen.
- Private John William Ley (London Regiment) is killed at age 19. He is the son of the Reverend Gerald Lewis Henry Ley Rector of Chagford.