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H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Sun Apr 24, 2011 8:35 pm
by E28
The night of Tuesday 28th March 1916 should have been a comparatively easy boat trip for those from Conquest returning onboard, whilst at Harwich.

Spring had sprung, and amidst the uncertainty of war, a run ashore was always cause to celebrate and down a pint or two.

The Harwich based 5th Light Cruiser Squadron were ships that played hard, and fought harder.
If action was what you wanted, this was your first port of call.

However, this was anything other than a balmy Spring evening.
The weather was filthy, and a blizzard was unseasonably sweeping the coast. Those ashore from a number of the warships still had to return to their familiar steel homes scattered about the harbour, having enjoyed these comparatively infrequent but joyful opportunities to spend some of your hard earned pay in the local hostelries, or, with more time, venture further afield.
A good day out.

39 men got in one of the ships available cutters that dismal, freezing dark night.

Not a single one was to see the next dawn alive.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:16 pm
by E28
The 39 men lost in this accident makes this the worst single incident to involve loss of life to members of one Royal Naval ships company, excepting actions in war or onboard accidents of any description since before 1899.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:58 pm
by E28
During the 27th and 28th much of East Anglia was affected by a severe northerly gale and blizzard, extending to severe storm force in the south east.
Attended by high winds in eastern areas to beaufort force 9 to 10. Deep snow, depths difficult to establish due to drifting, affected much of this region, the midlands and to the west country.
High winds caused extensive damage to trees and communications with wet or sticky snow adding to the weight of the falls. Road and rail transport came to a halt.
As the low pressure moved down the north sea, the pressure dropped to 968mbar in Lyme Bay at 0100 on 28th.

This was not an opportune time to be in a small boat, even in the comparative safety of Harwich harbour.
There were a few others out at the time, and lady luck was smiling down on them.

In fact even Jellicoe remarked how appalling the weather was during this period, with much of the Grand Fleet remaining in their harbours.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Sun May 01, 2011 2:01 pm
by E28
Conquest was 1 of the 6 turbine driven Caroline class light cruisers, and was ordered in August 1913.

Her builder was Chatham Dockyard, no yard no as these are not used in the Royal yards, with her machinery, as with all Dockyard ships, being contracted to civilian engineers, with that for Conquest from Scotts.

Laid down on 3 Mar 1914 in dry dock, she was floated out on 30 Jan 1915 and completed that June 1st.

She had 4 Parsons I.R direct drive turbines producing as standard 30.000 shp with 4 shafts, at 580 rpm able to attain 27 knots, with 8 Yarrow boilers at a deep displacement of 4,890 tons.

These 6 cruisers followed on from the previous 8 Arethusa class, but were not repeats of those ships.
However, visually as completed both classes appeared similar with their 3 distinctive funnels, and all would go on to perform the same functions during the Great war. They were all rather short legged, spending this time predominantly in the North sea working with destroyer flotillas out of Harwich, and the Grand fleet as it transited the region from its assorted bases on the east coast and North, Scapa.

Caroline remains afloat to this day, in Belfast, where she has resided since 1924 and used as the RNVR drill ship.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Sat May 07, 2011 11:10 am
by E28

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Sat May 14, 2011 2:51 pm
by E28
There were a few others out at the time, and lady luck was smiling down on them.

In the blizzard that raged in the harbour on this night of 28 March was another boat, a whaler from the destroyer Melpomene, with a crew of 6 men and it was driven on to the mud a mile up river from Parkstone jetty.
Lt Robert Arthur Startin, hearing of the missing boat, set out alone in a search, eventually finding it, half full of water with the men helpless in the bottom, after wading through deep mud, often up to his arm pits for 300 yards. After beating them to arouse their insensibilities, Startin and the coxswain finally managed to get all those crew out of the boat and with the aid of another search party and rope was able to secure their rescue across the deep mud in the most trying of conditions. However, 2 succumbed to their ordeal the next day.

For this Lt R. A. Startin was awarded the Albert Medal, gazetted 9 May 1916.

Fortunate indeed for these men but hopefully helps illustrate the conditions prevailing for those 39 less fortunate Conquest crew men.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:40 pm
by E28
The fate of these 39 lost men from the Conquest can be put into context from some of the losses on British light cruisers during the battle of Jutland, 2 months later, where this accident led to greater loss of life than those on either the Chester or the Southampton.

During the 20th century there was 1 other similar incident, involving men returning to the carrier Illustrious in Portland harbour.
29 of her crew were lost on the 17 Oct 1948.
A new memorial to their memory was unveiled 62 years to the day at Portland.

No such memorial exists to those of the Conquest.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:26 pm
by E28
Commodore 2nd class Reginald Tyrwhitt ensured that his ships and men were kept amply busy, based out of Harwich, Suffolk.
In the grey navy there are 2 different Commodores. It is not a rank, but a position of command, between Captain and the next rank, Rear Admiral.
A Commodore 1st class has with him his normal flag staff and the ship in which he flies his Commodores flag is his flagship, that ship in turn is commanded by her own Captain.
The Commodore 2nd class has the same duties as that, however he flies his broad pendant in his flagship of which he is also the commanding officer.
A seriously demanding and exacting duty, not borne lightly, but allowing him huge flexibility regards all decisions and orders he may authorise.
At the outbreak of the Great war, there were 2 Commodores 2nd class, who between them had written all the rule books concerning the operations, dispositions and tasks to be performed by the then newly formed light cruiser squadrons, henceforth referred to as LCS, and fully endorsed by Jellicoe himself with the blessing of the Admiralty.
Reginald Tyrwhitt was one of the pair, the second was Bill Goodenough with his broad pendant in the Southampton, 1LCS.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:38 pm
by Angus Mac Kinnon
Fascinating historical review, Sean, very poignant all that loss of life. Bad enough through enemy action, all the worse when for non-military reasons. Thanks for the postings.


Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:34 pm
by E28
Conquest was a 5LCS ship for her entire war service, a familiar sight operating out of Harwich. Variously comprising 4 or more of the latest light cruisers as they entered the fray from 1915, the attached destroyer flotillas of the L and M classes worked in cohesion with them but were in their turn under either a light cruiser of flotilla leader, varying as the war progressed.
Tyrwhitt took the Arethusa from Chatham on completion, a love affair which was extinguished on 11 Feb 1916 so close to home when east of Felixstowe returning from a sweep, struck a mine laid by UC7. Her back broken, she lays to this day off the Cutler shoal consumed by the shifting banks for which this area is notorious.
Her planned replacement in build, Centaur, was behind schedule. As a temporary measure Tyrwhitt transferred his flag to Cleopatra, as a commodore 1st class, which with Conquest and Penelope constituted the depleted 5LCS, Undaunted and Aurora leading the 9 and 10DF.
Good fortune turned to disaster on 26 Mar when 55 miles west of the Horns reef light Cleopatra rammed the inattentive G194, sinking the 660 ton German destroyer with 93 crew instantly. Undaunted, in the dark and confusion promptly struck the stationery flagship, Captain Loder Symonds, and only through strenuous efforts was Undaunted bought home with much assistance and good fortune to be docked for her injuries to be sorted. Cleopatra was scarceley damaged despite her double night time encounters.
A new flag was again of the utmost urgency.
A good proven ship with an eager professional crew.
Conquest, sister to Cleopatra, was the obvious and wisest choice.
As the new flag of the 5LCS she would soon be centre stage of an astonishing story involving a threat not from the expected direction. But from within.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:12 pm
by E28
Tyrwhitt was intoxicated by the luxury of the independence he had at Harwich, Jellicoe with the grand fleet had no jurisdiction over his movements. His orders came from the admiralty in London, every signal taking his charges to all locations in the Southern North sea, a sea with which he had become so familiar.
The enemy, the weather, the unexpected and the unexplained. Night sweeps with numerous fast moving ships took skill and determination, the rewards far outweighed the tedium accepted elsewhere.
Fishing vessels still undertook their vital duties, merchants needed to trade. Many were stopped, searched and some detained and all with the known and increasing threat from submarines, mines and lighter than air craft.
The high seas fleet was a distraction. It was improbable the Harwich ships would ever encounter even a portion of their not inconsiderable tonnage and firepower.

By the 22nd April, despite the distractions, a multitude of events would conspire to put Conquest centre stage.
Under the command of her commodore, Reginald Tyrwhitt.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2011 4:01 pm
by E28
23rd April 1916 was Easter Sunday.
The British admiralty had been advised through room 40 of naval intelligence that German support for the Irish republicans to divide the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland through the use of force and disruption at a time where the focus of attention was elsewhere was a serious distraction with unforeseeable results and outcome.
With this imminent threat from the emerald isle to our west, the manner any aid could be afforded could only be guessed. In extremis, it was possible, but improbable that the HSF and its attendant SG battlecruisers could hit the English East coast at best, cruise up the Thames and deliver London a blow or range further West to the straits of Dover and force the English channel wreaking havock amongst the shipping upon which all the supplies for the army fighting on the Continent were dependent.
That would be a challenge for the Harwich ships, should it come to pass.
Already on the 20th Jellicoe had taken the Grand fleet into the North Sea for another sweep supported by the battlecruisers and their attendant entourages, with bad results. On the 22nd the New Zealand and Australia collided, not once, but twice, resulting in damage sufficient for the latter to need extensive repairs, which left her absent at the big clash on May 31st.
There was so much going on in the waters around the UK including damage to 2 destroyers, Neptune was hit by a merchant ship on the 23rd.

Monday 24th April.
On the German side of the North sea, was Scheer about to make a sortie, when the Grand fleet was back at Scapa with Beatty and BCS at Rosyth. Not convenient.
Things had kicked off in Ireland with the start of the Irish rising.
At Harwich, Conquest was readied for sea with the 5LCS, the 9 and 10 DF were all available and the subs comprising the 8 SF were allocated their patrol areas and escorted out.
German u boats had been allocated their mining areas.
Scheer was given his instructions. When would he leave and where may he venture.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:57 am
by pi2348
Hi - I was just reading this facinating story having recently brought a set of WWI medals and death plaque to AB Charles Offord. It turns out that his was one of the tragic lives losts on 28 March 1916. This is a terrible story, and will make me look at his medals in a whole new light. Thanks for this posting.

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Thu Jul 09, 2015 8:54 pm
by Slingerwood
My great uncle, Petty Officer Frederick Henry Howe was one of the 39 drowned. Does anyone know if there was a court of inquiry after the incident? He had only very recently been rated up PO, I found his SCs etc on line but nothing other than discharged dead on 28th March. One of his grandsons living in Oz approached the MOD but they were less than helpful, saying he would have to pay a fortune for paperwork with no guarantee there would be anything of value!! He has sadly passed away without knowing exactly what happened.
Slinger Wood

Re: H.M.S. CONQUEST, a tragic cruiser.

Posted: Mon Mar 28, 2016 10:21 am
by E28

28th March 1916 H.M.S. Conquest
It is 100 years to the day of this tragedy and the 39 men who died from this cruiser.
Also the 2 from H.M.S. Melpomene

Let us remember them all.