Six from NI were lost on HMS Natal in 1915. An RIR officer who had been blown up twice at the front in WW1 died in a Flying Corps accident. See also an article on this date on NI men in spy ship HMS Felicity. Photo – Happy Birthday+1 to HMS Warrior, Britain’s first seagoing ironclad warship, was launched yesterday in 1860. She lies beside HMS Victory in Portsmouth.
Representing their comrades who died on this day
HMS Natal was a heavy cruiser of the Warrior class and got her name because the funds required to build her came from Natal Province. The ship was completed in 1905 and had a displacement of 13,550 tons. She was re-commissioned at Sheerness on 17/09/1912. HMS Natal capsized follows a series of explosions, on 30/12/1915. The Natal was lying in the Cromarty Firth with her squadron under the command of Captain Eric Back RN. Shortly after 3.20pm, and without warning, a series of violent explosions tore through the ship. Within 5 short minutes she capsized, a blazing wreck. 390 men, more than half of the ship’s company, 11 women and children and two dockyard workers died either from the explosions or in the freezing water of the Cromarty Firth.
It is not known what caused the explosions. Sabotage by German agents was suspected but never proved. With her hull still visible at low water it was Royal Navy practice on entering and leaving Cromarty right up to the second World War for every warship to sound “Still” and for officers and men to come to attention as they passed the wreck. The skeleton of the Natal still lies visible in the Cromarty Firth marked by a radar buoy. Many of those who were killed are buried in the Churchyard at Cromarty. Deterioration of explosives was blamed for the disaster at the time, which happened in the after magazine.
+GOODMAN, Francis Pasteur
RN. 1st Class Boy. J/37781. HMS Natal. Died 30/12/1915. Age 17. Killed by internal explosion of vessel in Cromarty Firth. Born Keady, Co. Armagh 09/04/1898. Son of Thomas and Jane Goodman, Quadrant St., Belfast. ADM 188/722/37781
RN. Stoker 1st. Class. K/20038. HMS Natal. Died 30/12/1915. Age 20. Killed by internal explosion of vessel in Cromarty Firth. Son of Margaret McConkey, Enniskillen St., Belfast. Chatham Naval Memorial, Panel 11
RN. AB. SS/3388. HMS Natal. Died 30/12/1915. Age 25. Internal explosion of vessel in Cromarty Firth. Enrolled 13/09/1910 for 5 and 7 years. War service in Pembroke and Natal (03/04/1914 – 30/12/15). Born Belfast 16/09/1891. Son of John and Elizabeth McKee, Beaumont Lodge, Malone Rd., Belfast. Chatham Naval Memorial. ADM 188/1097/3388
RN. Carpenters Crew. M16047. HMS Natal. Died 30/12/1915. Born Cookstown. 05/05/1892. Youngest son of Samuel McKeown, Burn Road, Cookstown. Chatham Naval Memorial, Panel 12. Cookstown WM. First Presbyterian Cookstown RH PCI – RH. ADM 188/1050/16047
RN. Stoker I. SS114489. HMS Natal. Died 30/12/1915. Age 21. Born Belfast. Son of Thomas and Mary Jane Newell, Lackagh St., Belfast. Brothers – William died in HMS Formidable and Samuel served in RN and survived the war. Chatham Naval Memorial
+STRATTON, John W F
RN. Armourer’s Crew. M4210. HMS Natal. Died 31/12/1915. Age 20. Killed by internal explosion of vessel in Cromarty Firth. Born Belfast 18/10/1891. Son of William and Mary Jane Stratton, Park Road, Portadown. Chatham Naval Memorial, Panel 12. Armagh Road, Portadown – PCI RH. Family memorial Dundonald cemetery. Portadown WM. ADM 188/1026/4210*
*ADM – record number of Admiralty personal record
+AIRD, Archibald Thomas
London Regiment, 1st/18th Bn. (London Irish Rifles). Second Lieutenant. Died 30/11/1917. Age 19. Son of Archibald Small and Frances Aird. He was born about 1898. The family lived at Jasmine Lodge, Charlemont. His father was a retired tea planter. Archibald attended the Royal School Dungannon, entering in 1913. He enlisted with the Irish Fusiliers in Newtownards. He was then sent to an officer’s cadet battalion in Bristol, England, before being gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in August 1917. Second Lieutenant Archibald Aird served with the 1st/18th Battalion of the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles). On 30/11/1917 the regimental diary records heavy shelling and casualties. One of those casualties was Archibald Thomas Aird. Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, Nord, France. Moy WM. RS Dungannon Book
Royal Irish Rifles 11th Battalion, attached Royal Flying Corps. 2nd Lieutenant. Died 31/12/1918. Age 26. He was employed as a motor mechanic when he enlisted, serving under the name Milligan. He had previously been a member of the Queen’s University Training Corps and at the time of enlistment, was living at “Oatlands”, Carnmoney.
He initially served with the Royal Engineers (Inland Water Transport) and the 1st Royal Irish Rifles. He embarked for France on 29/09/1916 and was appointed to a temporary commission with the 20th Royal Irish Rifles on 15/10/1917. A medical report dated 23/06/1918 stated that James had been “blown up twice between March 21st and 31st 1918. He was 9 days in No. 2 Stationary Hospital. He has been through the most heavy fighting.”
He was killed in an aeroplane crash at Turnberry, Scotland and is buried in Ballylinney Old Graveyard, Northern Ireland. James was born on 24/07/1892, the son of Samuel and Hessie G Millikin, Ballyclare and later of “Scouthush”, Carrickfergus. QUB WM
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. 2nd Btn. Fusilier. 6976709. Died 30/12/1939. Aged 26. John Crawford was born on 19th May 1913 in Cookstown. He was the son of Mrs McMahon, Orritor Street, Cookstown. The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were patrolling the front line between Comines and Deulemont in late December 1939. During this time Fusilier John Crawford is thought to have taken ill with hypothermia and was taken to a in a General Hospital in France where he died later. Le Grand-Luce War Cemetery, Sarthe, France. Cookstown WM
See article, this date, on the loss of HMS Fidelity, a special operations ship.
+ORR, John Samuel
RAFVR. Sergeant. 978191. Died 30/12/1942. Aged 21. Son of Samuel and Evelyn May Orr of Armagh. Irvinestown C of I Churchyard, Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh. Dungannon WM
Royal Army Ordnance Corps. 32 Base Ordnance Depot. Private. 1522991. Died 30/12/1943. Son of William Alexander Quigley and Margaret Quigley; husband of Margaret Quigley, of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Massicault War Cemetery, Tunisia. Belmont Presbyterian Church, Belfast, RH
+CONNOR, James Lawrence
RAFVR. Flight Lieutenant. 104184. Died 30/12/1945. MB, BCh, BAO, 1940 QUB. Hereford Cemetery, UK. QUB RH
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