June 5 – Jutland – Northern Irish true tales

King George and a gunner from Portadown, A Mason’s memento, Portadown survivor died serving in World War II, Naval artist from Belfast

King George and a gunner from Portadown

When HM King George VI accompanied by HM Queen Elizabeth came to Belfast during their Coronation visit in July 1937 there was a small guard of honour representing ex-service personnel outside the City Hall.

They were introduced to their King who responded to one of them, the Chief Health Inspector in Portadown, by saying, “Hello Campbell, I haven’t seen you for a long time”.

His Majesty then promptly halted the proceedings for five minutes in front of a cheering, singing crowd of 150,000 loyal subjects, brass bands and a coterie of Ulster dignitaries, to speak to his old gun crew member about their times together in HMS Collingwood, and share memories of their experiences at Jutland.

King George informed him of the illness of their former captain, James C Ley (later HMS Canada), and recalled the whereabouts of old ship mates in the Collingwood. The King remembered Turret Commander W E C Tait who “made cocoa as usual for me and the gun crew during the battle.”

John Campbell was in A turret, Maintop Division of HMS Collingwood at Jutland and served with Prince Albert (King George VI) in the same gun crew 1913 – 1916. The Prince was known as Mr. Johnston and was second – in – command of the turret. After Jutland the future king was transferred to HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The book ‘Royal Sailors’, by Cecil Hampshire the CPO who looked after Prince Albert on Collingwood, has a chapter on Mr Johnston. It mentions ‘A turret’ and a number of bets being placed by the turret’s crew. It includes times, dates, places and a piece from Prince Albert’s journal about the battle from his position in A turret.

At approximately 1915 hours when The Grand Fleet crashed into the German battle cruiser squadron and battleship fleet for the second ‘turnaround manoeuvre’ by the Germans. HMS Collingwood fired several salvoes at the DMS Derfflinger ripping a hole in her forward port superstructure and setting her on fire. Two German salvoes straddled the Collingwood but registered no hits. Prince Albert was apparently sitting on ‘A’ turret at the time “in order to get a better view of the battle” and jumped down “like a shot rabbit” (his words). Apparently knocking over a fellow seaman as he forced his way back inside the turret through the rear doorway!

The Portadown News carried a front page photograph of the King and his former crew member with the headline, “Ulster Jutland Hero meets the King”. A framed copy hung in the Ulster Museum for over twenty years.

A Mason’s memento

Documents of the Masonic Order testify to a unique memento of the Battle which was presented to Donaghadee Masonic Centre by Thomas Roberts.

It is the Union Jack flown by HM Torpedo Boat Destroyer Orpelia at The Battle of Jutland. Bro Thomas Roberts of Donaghadee Lodge No 675 was the Steersman on the day of the Battle, taking his ship into the midst of the fighting and successfully bringing her back out untouched. When he finally retired from The Royal Navy on the 30/05/1922, his Captain presented him with the ensign flown on the day of the Battle of Jutland as a memento of his excellent service.

Portadown survivor of Jutland died serving in World War II

Henry Kane was a Signalman. He enlisted when he was 15 years old and was 17 when war broke out two years later. He spent the entirety of World War I at sea and participated in the Battle of Jutland on the destroyer HMS Attack. In 1918, Harry was in the destroyer HMS Phoenix when she was torpedoed by the Austrian U-27.

After the war, he sailed on the destroyer HMS Vanoc to support the Baltic States in the Russian Civil War. Upon his discharge from the Royal Navy in 1920, he immediately joined the Royal Fleet Reserve. For the next two decades he led a land-based life but spent one week per year at sea as part of Reserve service.

He was called up in July 1939, and when the war began was serving on the destroyer HMS Eclipse guarding the convoy traffic off the Western Approaches. In 1940, at the special request of his former commander on the Eclipse, he joined the Q ship HMS Cape Howe.

SS Cape Howe was purchased by Lyle Shipping Company on 07/02/1934, being originally built in 1930. On 15/09/1939 she was taken over by the Royal Navy, converted into an anti-submarine “Q” ship and renamed Prunella (pendant X.02). This was his last ship, as he met his end when she was torpedoed and sunk off the South-West Approaches with heavy loss of life on 21/06/1940 by Günter Kuhnke in U-28.

Harry made it to a life raft but succumbed to his injuries. Thirteen men survived on a raft, picked up on 27th June some 150 miles off Ushant (48 47 N, 7 59 w).

He was a member of Edenderry LOL 322. He was a son of William Henry and Margaret Kane, Portadown, and husband to Sarah Kane, Railway St., Portadown. He is remembered on Plymouth Naval Memorial, Panel 39, St Mark’s Parish Church, Portadown WM and Portadown WM.

His grandson wrote a biography, “In peril on the sea – the naval career of Signalman Kane” in 1994 which was published by The Ulster Society, Brownlow House, Lurgan. The author covers in brief the careers of the other British World War II Q ships, and presents a well-reasoned analysis of their relative lack of success compared to their counterparts in World War I. Kuhnke’s subsequent missions are also detailed.

One aspect that makes the book especially rewarding is its reliance mainly on primary sources, including numerous personal interviews as well as research in the U-boat Archive in Cuxhaven, the Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv in Freiburg, the Public Records Office in London, and other British and European archives. The war diary entries for U-27 on 14 May, 1918 and for U-28 on 21 June, 1940 appear as appendices.

Naval artist from Belfast

Thanks to the diligence of The Imperial War Museum, the life and some art work of a Belfast born seaman artist has been recorded and preserved. James Finlayson Feteridge was born in Belfast in 1889/90 and died aged 70 at Plymouth in the summer of 1960. He was an Able Seaman in HMS ‘Sprightly’ at Devonport in April 1911. He was quartermaster in HMS Maenad when commanded by Commander John Pelham Champion, including Jutland.

The Imperial War Museum, which records him as ‘J. F. Feteridge’, has a painting by him dated 1917 called ‘The FX Six-Inch Gun of HMS ‘Chester’ ‘ showing Boy Jack Cornwall sticking to his post there at Jutland (for which he won a posthumous VC).

How much more he did is unknown but a picture held by the IWM at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London is of a night action in the early hours of 1 June 1916 showing HMS Maenad. Signed in red by the artist, lower right, ‘J. Feteridge’ and inscribed ‘MAENAD’ on the stern of the ship lower left. This (unframed) oil painting is executed on the fabric-reinforced back of part of a printed navigational chart.

The Maenad was an M-class destroyer completed in 1915 and eventually scrapped in 1921. At Jutland she was commanded by Champion, who headed the 2nd Division of the 12th Destroyer Flotilla, which was at the rear of the Grand Fleet and attacked what were believed to be German ‘Kaiser’-class battleships with torpedoes towards the end of the engagement, at about 02.00 on the morning of 1 June.

An eyewitness account from ‘Maenad’ by Sub-Lieutenant the Hon. A. Stuart relates that: ‘At about 2.15 a.m., we turned, and everyone was at a pretty high tension waiting to sight the Germans as they appeared out of the haze. At 2.20 we sighted them and attacked. As soon as the attack started, one lost all sense of excitement, because things were happening. The Germans opened a fairly heavy fire on all of us, and right at the beginning hit the ‘Onslaught’, which was quite close to us. We fired one torpedo at a German battleship of the ‘Konig’ class about 4,000 yards off, but I do not know whether we hit. One torpedo from the Flotilla certainly found a mark. The whole attack lasted about five minutes, by which time we had passed this division of German ships and lost sight of them.

‘After the attack our Captain [Champion], having only had time to fire one torpedo, decided to attack again, so he turned and left the Flotilla, increased to full speed and off we went after the Germans. It did not take long to find them and at 2.28 – only eight minutes after the first attack – we sighted them again and fired two torpedoes.

‘During this and the previous attack there had been nothing for the guns’ crews to do, and, as they were very keen, I opened fire with the after gun at a German battleship; rather a ridiculous thing to fire against their armour with 4-inch shells, but it gave us a lot of satisfaction, particularly as the gun-layer swore he saw some shells explode on their superstructure.

‘I’m afraid, however, that this firing rather disconcerted the captain, as he thought it was our ship being hit aft instead of our firing. Just before we turned away and lost sight of the Germans we had the satisfaction of seeing one of our torpedoes take effect on one of the Germans, and a most splendid explosion resulted, sending a flame well up her masthead. At the time we, of course, thought she would sink, but unfortunately we found out later that they got back to harbour’ (see ‘The Fighting at Jutland’).’

Stuart’s 4-inch gun is visible firing here on ‘Meanad’s stern as she turns to port, away from the German line. The silhouette in the background is a German ‘Kaiser’-class battleship. Champion (later Captain, 1883-1955) was awarded the DSO for his part at Jutland. He retired from the Navy in 1922 but was recalled in 1939 for shore-based service in the Second World War, for which he was awarded the CBE in 1944.

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