Friday 15 February 1918 We Lost 268

by greatwarliveslost

Vernon Castle

A swift raid is made by a flotilla of large German torpedo boat destroyers at about 01:00 on patrol forces in the Dover Straits.  The following craft, which are occupied in hunting a submarine, which has been sighted in the patrol area are sunk; trawler: James Pond, sunk while serving as a searchlight vessel and drifters: Jeannie Murray (Skipper Charles H Rivett killed), Clover Bank (Skipper John James Colby killed at age 30), W Elliott, Cosmos (Skipper George Daniel Thacker killed), Silver Queen (Skipper Leonard Brown killed at age 33), Veracity and Christiana Craig (Skipper William Collin killed at age 28).  The trawlers Newbury, Golden Rule and Violet May (Skipper Alexander Ty Buchan RNR killed at age 28) are damaged.  After having sunk these vessels the enemy destroyers return rapidly to the north before any British forces can engage them. The Violet May is brought into port the following day by two engine room ratings.  A total of 76 men lost their lives in this engagement, 22 killed along with 54 drowned.   Among those killed is

  • Lieutenant David Livingstone (HM Drifter Cosmos). He is the son of the late Reverend John Livingstone.
  • Trimmer Cook Paul Hendry Gerrie RNR (HM Drifter Violet May Skipper Alexander Buchan killed at age 28) is killed at age 18. His brother died on service in April 1916.
  • Trimmer John Farquharson (HM Paddle Minesweeper Newbury) who is the last of four brothers who are killed in the war.

Captain Vernon William Blythe Castle (Royal Flying Corps) is killed in a training accident in Fort Worth, Texas.  With his wife Irene he helped form the famous dancing team.  Fred Astaire played the part of Vernon in “The Irene and Vernon Castle Story” with Ginger Rogers, about the famous dancing couple. Upon the outbreak of war Castle returned to England to become a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. Flying over the Western Front he shot down two aircraft and was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1917. He was posted to Canada to train new pilots, and then promoted to Captain and posted to the United States to train American pilots. While flying at Benbrook Field, near Fort Worth, Texas, he takes emergency action shortly after takeoff to avoid another aircraft. His plane stalls, and he is unable to recover control in time before the plane hits the ground. Vernon is the only casualty and fatally injured he dies soon after the crash at age 30. Irene paid tribute to Vernon in her memoir My Husband in 1919. There is a street in Benbrook named in his honor. Also placed on the street is a monument dedicated to him. Castle will be buried in New York. The Castles’ greatest success was on Broadway, in Irving Berlin’s debut musical Watch Your Step (1914). In this extravaganza, the couple refined and popularized the Foxtrot. After its New York run, Watch Your Step toured through 1916. The Castles appeared in a newsreel called Social and Theatrical Dancing in 1914 and wrote a bestselling instructional book, Modern Dancing, later the same year. The pair also starred in a feature film called The Whirl of Life (1915), which was well-received by critics and public alike. The whisper-thin, elegant Castles were trendsetters in many ways: they traveled with a black orchestra, had an openly lesbian manager, and were animal-rights advocate decades before it became a public issue.

Today’s losses include:

  • A Broadway dancer and the dancer played by Fred Astaire The Irene and Vernon Castle Story
  • The son of a member of the clergy
  • Families that will lose two and three sons in the Great War

Today’s highlighted casualties include:

  • Second Lieutenant James Athol Gordon Duncan (Royal Flying Corps) is accidentally killed at age 19. He is the son of the Reverend James P Duncan.
  • Private Sidney Joseph Hart (Worcestershire Regiment) is killed at age 30 on Salonika. He has two brothers who will also lose their lives in the Great War.