On this day in 1944, the battleship HMS Barham sank in the Mediterranean whilst taking part in an operation against an Italian convoy to Lybia. U-331 eluded the destroyer screen and fired three torpedoes at Barham. All were hits. One of the ship’s magazines exploded. Barham sunk almost immediately. Of the crew of 1,312, there were only 452 survivors. 4 men from Belfast, Larne, Lisburn, and Portadown were lost.
Representing their comrades who died on this day
Fireman. HMS Atlanta. Died 25/11/1914. Aged 28. Drowning accident in Glasgow Harbour. Son of James and Annie McCrank, Tervillin, Fair Head, Ballycastle. Ballycastle WM
Royal Irish Rifles, 11th Bn. Lance Corporal. 2250. Died 25/11/1916. Aged 20. Son of James and Margaret McFadden, of Moylena Banks, Muckamore, Co. Antrim. Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France. LOL 1422 WM, Muckamore Orange Hall
RMLI. 14462. Plymouth Division. Died 25/11/1918 of disease. Enrolled 24/05/1891. War service in Plymouth Division, Gloucester and Leviathan. Born Comber 05/01/1891. Son of John Allen, Carlton St., Belfast. Ford Park Cemetery, Plymouth. Megain Memorial – PCI RH. ADM 159/155/14462
Middlesex Regiment, (Duke of Cambridge), formerly Labour Corps, 144th Company. Private. 1784. Died 25/11/1919. Aged 36. Son of Henry and Sarah Woods of Derryganard, Lissan, Cookstown. aged 36. Les Baracques Military Cemetery, Calais, Pas-de-Calais, France
+McSTAY, John Dominic
Royal Army Ordnance Corps, 4 Base Ordnance Depot. Lance Serjeant. 7010863. Died 25/10/1941. Aged 31. Son of Peter McStay, and of Elizabeth McStay, of Lisburn. Alamein Memorial, Egypt.
HMS Barham was a Queen Elizabeth–class battleship of the Royal Navy built on Clydebank, Scotland, and launched in 1914. It was one of the great Dreadnoughts built just prior to World War One. In World War II she operated in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. At the end of 1940, Barham joined the Mediterranean Fleet, taking part in the Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941 and receiving bomb damage off Crete in May. On 25/11/1941, while steaming to cover an attack on Italian convoys, HMS Barham was hit by three torpedoes from the German submarine U–331, commanded by Lieutenant Hans–Dietrich von Tiesenhausen. As she rolled over to port, her magazines exploded and the ship quickly sank with the loss of over two–thirds of her crew. In order to protect morale at home the Admiralty did not immediately notify the families. The Admiralty censored all news of Barham’s sinking and the loss of 841 British seamen.
After a delay of several weeks, the War Office decided to notify the next of kin of Barham’s dead, but they added a special request for secrecy. A notification letter was received by James and Sarah Smylie of Magheragall, Lisburn, and as with all the letters it included a warning not to discuss the loss of the ship with anyone but close relatives, stating it was essential that information of the event which led to the loss of life should not find its way to the enemy until such time as it is announced officially. The Admiralty informed the press on 27/01/1942.
RM. Marine. PO/X 4370. Died 25/11/1941. Age 22. HMS Barham. Joseph Berry was among the survivors who later died. He had taken part in the battles of Darar and Matapan. Son of Mr. and Mrs. George Berry, Lawrencetown, Tullylish. Portadown. Grandson of Mrs. John Curran, Bannview Terrace, Gilford. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 02/01/1942). Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 58. Gilford WM. Lurgan WM
+DICKSON, William David
RN. P/SSX 15737. Died 25/11/1941. Age 27. HMS Barham. He had nine years of service. In a commendation shortly before his death, his commanding officer referred to, “his work on board ship throughout three months of strenuous battle at sea and under heavy gun fire”. Son of John and Margaret Dickson, Belfast. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 06/02/1942). Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 47, Column 3
+JOYCELYN, John Charlton
RN. Midshipman. Died 25/11/1941. Age 17. HMS Barham. The Hon John Charlton Jocelyn, Son of Captain Robert Soame Jocelyn, 8th Earl of Roden, and the Countess of Roden, Merchiston, Larne. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 45
+SMYLIE, John Finlay
RM. Marine. PO/X 4563. Died 25/11/1941. Age: 19. HMS Barham. Born 8/4/1922 at North Street, Ballinderry, John was the eldest of the six children of James and Sarah Smylie. There was John, William, Yvonne, Josephine, Andrew, Francis and Lawrence, the family was raised on the Causeway End Road, Lisburn and Moneybroom Road Magheragall. John took his first job on Springfield Farm, the farm situated just behind Magheragall Parish Church. When war broke out John joined up, and on October 31, 1939, John left home to join the Royal Marines aged 17 years and after basic training, he served on the HMS Barham. Not long after receiving the official notification of John’s death his father James was taken ill and he died in February 1942. Son of James and Sarah A. Smylie, Lisburn. (Belfast Weekly Telegraph 26/12/1941). Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 59. Lisburn WM, Magheragall Parish Church WM
CRAWFORD, James Eric
RN. (Special Entry), 1936. 1939 – 46. B 25/11/1918. Son of James F. Crawford, Wandsworth Road, Belfast. Campbell College 2445
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