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WALTER SNELL OF WASHFIELD

 

The Walter Snell Plaque in Washfield Church

The plaque in Washfield Church in memory of Walter Snell

© Richard J. Brine

 

Walter Ernest Snell  was born in Washfield in the June Quarter of 1894. He was the son of a market gardener, also named Walter Snell, and his wife Elizabeth, and grew up in Washfield in  Courtney Cottage. He joined the Royal Marines and at the time of the disaster on board HMS Devonshire was a 35 year-old Sergeant. His body was  never recovered although a lengthy search took place at the time.

 

To read an account of the accident which includes a photograph of Sergeant Snell, go to

http://www.royalnavymemories.com/articles/27/1/Devonshire-History-1926---1954/Page1.html

 

HMS Devonshire launched 1927
HMS Devonshire

Courtesy of Steve Johnson

A "London" class cruiser, built in Devonport. Laid down 16 March 1926 and launched 22 October 1927. Commissioned for the 1st Cruiser Squadron in March 1929. Before sailing, Lord Mildmay presented the ship with a silver replica of Drake's Drum. There were several accidents on board following the presentation, including the one which killed  Sergeant Snell so eventually the silver drum was returned to shore because the crew thought it was a jinx.

 

From the Devon and Exeter Gazette

27 July 1929:

NAVAL GUN DISASTER

A TURRET ON HMS DEVONSHIRE BLOWN AWAY

TWELVE MARINES DEAD

"By a gun explosion on HMS Devonshire in the Eastern Mediterranean yesterday, an officer and 11 men of the Royal Marines were killed.

The dead, all belonging to the Royal Marines are:

Killed: Captain John A. Bath, Corporal Edward Bacon, Sergeant Walter E. Snell, Corporal James Levene, Corporal Augustus A Macdonald and Corporal William G. Hope.

Died of injuries: Marine Samuel Goldsmith, Marine Samuel John T. Ord, Marine James W. Blackman, Marine Joseph S. Brindle. Marine Edward C. Harris and Marine Lionel Taylor.

In addition, three men were severely injured and ten less severely injured.

Nearly all the victims belonged to the Portsmouth Depot of the Royal Marines.

Reuter's correspondent has learned unofficially that the accident on HMS Devonshire, in which 17 men were injured, was due to the blowing-out of one of the new six-inch guns during exercises. It is stated that the whole gun turret was blown away by the explosion.

HMS Devonshire is a cruiser of the 1925 programme, built at Devonport and launched in October 1927. Strict secrecy as to certain of her features was maintained at the time of her launch."

 

From the Devon and Exeter Gazette

29 July 1929:

NAVAL CALAMITY

DEATH ROLL SEVENTEEN

"The Admiralty yesterday announced the death of Marine William Ernest Hellyer of Plymouth from multiple burns and shock. This makes the 17th death as a result of this explosion in a gun-turret in the cruiser Devonshire in the eastern Mediterranean on Friday.

One of the slightly injured is Marine A. G. Brimblecombe of Lime Street, Moretonhampstead.

Athens, Saturday

HMS Devonshire moored at the Greek port of Volos* this morning when the bodies of those killed in the explosion aboard were landed and the injured conveyed to hospital.

The funeral of the victims took place this afternoon, honours being rendered by British seamen and greek troops. The inhabitants turned out en masse to pay a last tribute."

*The dead were buried in Volos Cemetary and a memorial set up. Shortly before the Olympic Games were held in Greece in 2004, local councillors decided they wanted to change Volos Cemetery into a park in connection with the Games and threatened to dig up the bodies and dispose of them. They claimed their council had tended the graves for years and never received payment for doing so. A hectic round of diplomacy followed before both sides calmed down and agreed to leave the dead in their final resting place in the foothills of Mount  Pilion.

 

From the Devon and Exeter Gazette

31 July 1929:

OVER EAGERNESS

PROBABLE CAUSE OF THE NAVAL DISASTER

 

"An Admiralty communique last night attributes the accident on HMS Devonshire in the Eastern Mediterranean,  to hangfire of a very short duration in one gun of an eight-inch turret. It was probably thought momentarily that the gun fired, and the operation of reloading was commenced. The breech was initially opened, and before the mistake could be rectified, the charge in the gun exploded. The force of the explosion also ignited the cordite charges waiting for the next round."

 

 
 
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