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DEVON MEN WHO DIED IN THE SINKING OF HMS LAURENTIC IN 1917

 

By 1915, RMS Laurentic (formerly SS Laurentic) had become an Armed Merchant Cruiser known as HMS Laurentic. On her final, and fatal, voyage, she is said by some sources to have carried a complement of  475 officers and crew - other sources give a far higher figure. The Admiralty's official figure for the number of men lost is 347. Initial reports claimed that everyone had got off the ship safely but within hours, after over 70 bodies had washed up on the shores of north-west Ireland, an "official" report was hurriedly concocted, soon to be contradicted by evidence from the living witnesses who had survived.

The Central News Agency put the number of people on board as 450 and stated that there had been 121 survivors.  They also stated that there had been a massive explosion aboard which had killed many before the vessel had begun to sink. So what was all the secrecy about? And why might she have been carrying men like Rufus Austin of Plymstock who just happened to be a Chief Armourer in the Royal Marines, part of a detachment of Royal Marines topped up by an even larger detachment of retired men from the Mercantile Marine ?

It turned out that some 3,200 gold bars were being carried on the ship to be used for payment to the USA in return for munitions and other essential supplies. This entire consignment, worth some £5 million pounds in 1917, went down with the ship. Navy divers began diving to recover the bars almost immediately, completing their work in 1924, by which time 3186 bars had been brought to the surface. The explosive charges used by the Navy divers to get to the storage areas in the depths of the ship virtually destroyed all that remained of her.

NB Neither of the websites which appeared as references on the original version of this story have survived the passage of time; to read more about Laurentic and her treasure, we suggest you try Google.

 

RMS Laurentic, later HMS Laurentic
RMS Laurentic. later HMS Laurentic

From our post card collection

The message on the back of the card reads "It was a very stormy journey from Douglas (on the Isle of Man). I passed by this boat and several others."

Please note that another  vessel bearing the name SS Laurentic (with two funnels) was launched in 1927.  This earlier ship had one funnel. 

 

Please note that the list below is not thought to be complete.

Names will be added as more information comes to light.

H. ASTBURY

PLY8788 Corporal Herbert Thomas Astbury of the Plymouth Division, the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Enlisted 20 August 1897.  Son of Joseph and Mary Astbury (née Ingley); husband of Florence Astbury (née Calvert) of Stonehouse, Plymouth. Born in Chester in the March Quarter of 1882.Died 25 January 1917 aged 35.

Remembered on the Memorial in Upper Fahan Churchyard, Donegal.

A. ATKINSON

PLY 18693 Private Alfred William Atkinson of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Enlisted 22 January  1915. Son of the late Frederick and Nellie Atkinson of Coundon, County Durham. Born 10 December 1897. Died 25 January 1917 aged 19.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

R. S. M. AUSTIN
Dev/155807 Chief Armourer Rufus Samuel Mardon Austin of the Royal Marines, serving on HMS Laurentic. Husband of Mary Austin of Lilac Cottage, Plymstock. Born in Teignmouth in 1868. Died 25 January 1917 in the sinking of HMS Laurentic by enemy action.
E. BALL

Storekeeper 1st Class Ernest Frederick Ball of the Royal Navy's Dockyard, Devonport. Son of Frederick William and Annie Ball of Plymouth. Born in Stoke in the March Quarter of 1887.Died 25 January 1917 aged 29.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

T. L. BULLEY
4482 Seaman Thomas Lakeman Bulley of HMS Laurentic. Husband of Annie Bulley of Higher Street, Brixham.  Born in Brixham 10 January 1888. Died 25 January 1917  aged  29.
G. COAFFEE

182942 Master at Arms George Edwin Coaffee, Royal Navy. Son of George and Lucy Coaffee; husband of Edith Jane (née Kerslake) of Swilly, Plymouth. Born in Walcot, Somerset, 11 March 1878.Died 25 January 1917 aged 39.

In 1905, George Coaffee was awarded the Royal Humane Society's medal for the following act of bravery:

"On the 26th of June 1905, a stoker named Hughes  accidentally fell overboard from HMS Montagu at Torbay. At great risk, Coaffee jumped in and supported him till they were picked up by a boat."

Remembered on the Memorial in Upper Fahan Churchyard, Donegal.

T. COLLACOTT

142707 Petty Officer1st Class Thomas James Collacott of the Royal Navy. Son of John and Elizabeth Collacott (née Kellaway). Born in Devonport 9 February 1872. Died 25 January 1917 aged 44.

Remembered on the Memorial in Upper Fahan Churchyard, Donegal.

A. COVE

874979 Chief Writer Awdrey Laurence Cove of the Mercantile Marine Reserve. Son of Philip Chadder and Edith Cove (née May) of Crossways, Herbert Road, Salcombe. Born in Salcombe in the June Quarter of 1898. Died 25 January 1917 aged 18.

Remembered on the Memorial in Upper Fahan Churchyard, Donegal.

H. DYER

3945B Seaman Harry Dyer of the Royal Naval Reserve. Son of William and Sarah Dyer of Brixham; husband of Mina Dyer (née Brewer). Born in Brixham in the September Quarter of 1884. Died 25 January 1917 aged 31.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

R. HILL

2107C Seaman Robert Harrad Hill of the Royal Naval Reserve. Son of Mrs Lavinia Dyer (father seems to have been away at sea); husband of Florence. Born in Plymouth in the December Quarter of 1880. Died 25 January 1917 aged 36.

Remembered on the Memorial in Upper Fahan Churchyard, Donegal.

W. HOYLE

Stoker William James Cleverton Hoyle of the Royal Mercantile Reserve. Son of Mrs Catherine Hoyle (father seems to have been away at sea) and brother of Mrs Mary Jane McKeer of 39 Exeter Street, Plymouth. Born in Plymouth in the June Quarter of 1881. Died 25 January 1917 aged 35.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

W. JAGO

160954 Chief PO William Harry Jago of the Royal Navy. Son of Samuel and Maria Jago. Born in Egg Buckland 1 January 1876. Died 25 January 1917 aged 41.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

S. JORDAIN

2296C Seaman Samuel Jordain of the Royal Naval Reserve. Son of Samuel and Alice Jordain of Brixham; husband of Ethel Jordain (née Miller) of 5 Higher Terrace, Brixham. Born in Brixham in the December Quarter of 1880. Died 25 January 1917 aged 36.

Remembered on the Memorial in Upper Fahan Churchyard, Donegal.

B. KEELY

PLY 4488 (RMA A/1039) Bernard Keely of the Plymouth Division, the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Enlisted 7 January 1889. Son of Stephen and Hannah Keely of Plymouth; husband of Maud Mary Keely (née White). Born in Plymouth 24 May 1874. Died 25 January 1917 aged 35. Died 25 January 1917 aged 42..

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

S. LODDEY

293282 PO Sidney William Loddey of the Royal Navy. Son of the late William and Kate Loddey of Torquay; husband of Mabel Jane. Born in Paignton 31 December 1882. Died 25 January 1917 aged 34.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

A. LUSCOMBE

214377 PO Andrew Deacon Luscombe of the Royal Navy. Son of George and Emma Luscombe of South Milton, nr. Kingsbridge. His records state that he was born in South Milton 10 November 1884 but his birth was registered in the December Quarter of 1883. Died 25 January 1917 aged 32.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

G. NEWMAN

227626 Leading Seaman George Henry Newman of the Royal Navy. Son of the late Henry William and Hannah Newman. Born in Plymouth 19 January 1886. Died 25 January 1917 aged 30.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

E. OLDREY

861905 Fireman Egbert Henry Oldrey of the Mercantile Marine Reserve (130079 Royal Navy). Son of William John and Elizabeth Ann Oldrey. Born in Modbury 21 October 1865. Died 25 January 1917 aged 35. Died 25 January 1917 aged 51.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

T. PIKE

149384 Chief PO (Pensioner) Thomas Pike of the Royal Navy. Husband of Agatha Bertha Pike (née Mason) of 4 Yeoman Terrace, Kingsteignton. Born in Kingsteignton 15 December 1873.  Died 25 January 1917 aged 43.

Held the Long Service and Good Conduct medals. Served in the South African War.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. Commemorated on the Kingsteignton War Memorial 1914 - 1918.

J. RICHARDS

M/3867 Armourer's Mate John Charles Richards of the Royal Navy. Son of John and Annie Richards of Blackadon, Ivybridge. Said to be a native of Ugborough but his naval record states he was born in Bristol 17 June 1889. Died 25 January 1917 aged 27.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

H. SOUTHCOTT

350685 Sick Berth Steward Henry ("Harry") James Southcott of the Royal Navy. Son of the late John and Mary Southcott of Exeter, St. Thomas; husband of Helena (née Brooks). Born in Exeter 11 November 1877. Died 25 January 1917 aged 39.

Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

 

 
 
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