HMS Roxburgh

HMS Roxburgh

Displacement: 10,700 tons. Speed: 22.25 knots. Complement: 655. Length: 450 ft. Beam: 68.5 ft. Draught: 25.5 ft. Armament: four 7.5 in guns, six 6 in guns, two 2 pounder guns, twenty-two 3 pounder guns and two maxims plus two 18-inch submerged torpedo tubes. Coal bunkers 800 tons normal, 1,750 tons maximum. Two screws.

HMS Roxburgh

The HMS Roxburgh, was a Devonshire Class cruiser of the Royal Navy. The Devonshire class was an attempt at an improvement over the Monmouth class with only a modest increase in size, with a heavier main armament and thicker but narrower belt armor. Her other sister ships in the class were:

HMS Hampshire commissioned 4th September 1903 and built at Elswick. She was mined and sunk off the Orkneys 5th June 1916 with the loss of 650 of her crew including Lord Kitchener.

HMS Argyll commissioned 3rd April 1904 and built at Greenock. She wrecked on 28th October 1915 off the Coast of Scotland where she ran aground on Bell Rock.

HMS Carnarvon commissioned 7th October 1903 and built at Beardsmore. She was used as a sea-going training ship for cadets and then sold and broken up 8th November 1921.

HMS Antrim commissioned in 8th October 1903 and built at Clydebank. After WWI she was used for Signal and wireless transmitter experiments. Her fate ended when she was sold and broken up 19th December 1922.

HMS Devonshire commissioned 30th April 1904 and built at Chatham. She was sold and broken up 9th May 1921

HMS Roxburgh was built by London & Glasgow Engine & Iron Shipbuilding Company at Yard No 316. She was laid down June 1902 and launched on 19 January 1904 at a cost of about £850,000 (1901 British Pounds). On December 19, 1907 Captain Morgan Singer took command of the Roxburgh. Until the end of 1908, HMS Roxburgh served with the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Channel Fleet. After a refit at Devonport she joined the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet in August 1909.

A change of command of the Roxburgh was made on January 25, 1910 when Captain Cuthbert E. Hunter took command of the ship. She was then moved to the 5th Cruiser Squadron in June 1912. In December 1912 she was ordered to protect the stranded SS Ludgate off Morocco. HMS Roxburgh then joined the 3rd Cruiser Squadron in February 1913 before joining the Grand Fleet in August of the next year. On 6th August 1914 the Roxburgh along with the HMS Argyll, captured a German merchant ship.

In January of 1915 the Roxburgh commenced a refit and overhaul period. Captain Cunningham R. de C. Foot took command of the Roxburgh on April 27, 1915. Back on sea duty after her recent refit the Roxburgh was hit by torpedoes from German U-boat U-38 on 20th June 1915, and sustained damage to her bow.

On June 20, 1915 Captain Foot aboard the Roxburgh is steaming in the North Sea about 100 miles from the Firth of Forth when he is struck by a torpedo fired from the U-38. Aboard the U-38 Korvettenkapitan Max Valentiner piers through his periscope with his crosshairs on the Roxburgh, the time is 1:45 in the afternoon. Valentiner fires two torpedoes, one aimed to the fore of the ship and one amidships. One hit the Roxburgh but does not sink the British cruiser. During his career Max Valentiner will sink 144 ships, damage another 6 ships, and took another 3 ships as war prizes. The Roxburgh was lucky to be among the 6 damaged ships and not one of Valentiner's 144 ships he sent to the bottom of the sea.

On the bridge of the Roxburgh the watch officer then on duty was right on his job and saw both tracks in the water. He orders a turn to avoid the attack, which caused one of the torpedoes to miss but the other hits just forward of the Sick Bay forward of the armored belt, piercing a hole in the side and the resulting explosion blew a larger hole in the opposite side of the ship. The Roxburgh is lifted out of the water and dropped back down and the crew springs into action. The life boats were ran out ready for use if the Captain were to give the order. But below decks the Engineer force was closing watertight doors and shoring up the damage and was able to keep the flooding localized to the fore parts of the ship.

Up on deck the gunners were keeping the U-boat busy so she could not get into position for a finishing shot. Because the engine room spaces were not flooded the Roxburgh was able to make good speed and soon got away from the sub. But it was not known if the bulkheads would hold due to the strain of such speed. Within a half hour some of the concern of the ship sinking diminished and things calmed down some. Men began to move stores and equipment out of the fore parts of the ship to lighten the bow as much as possible.

Captain Foot's crew had done the job expected of them and for the moment had saved the ship. By 4 o'clock that afternoon the Roxburgh was surrounded by four destroyers to render assistance needed. By 10:30 that evening they were passing under the bridge in the Forth and it was suggested to the Captain that as the Roxburgh passed by their squadron at anchor the ships band should play. The order was given and soon the band struck up "Here we are again" as the Roxburgh passed the battleships and battle cruisers at anchor. As the men of Captain Foot's command lined the rails as they passed through, and the men on the other ships gave them a rousing cheer. Captain Foot gave the order to drop the anchor, the time was 10-minutes to mid-night and by 12:30 every man aboard the Roxburgh went to bed with a well deserved rest. Once again the Roxburgh was repaired and sent back out for sea duty for the remainder of 1915.

In April of 1916 Roxburgh was sent to Norwegian waters and later in September of that year she served on the North America and West Indies Station until the Armistice. On 24 May 1917 she escorted her first American convoy from Hampton Roads, Virginia.

On February 4, 1918 the German U-boat U-89 departed Wilhelmshaven, but unknown to the crew this would be the last time they would see land again. Kapitanleutnant Wilhelm Bauck's orders were to conduct operations off the St. George's Channel in the Irish Sea. By February 10 Bauck reports he is just off Peterhead. This would be the last time the German High Command would hear of the U-89.

On February 12, 1918, now painted in dazzle camouflage, the Roxburgh is escorting a convoy just north of Malin Head, which is the most northerly point of the Irish mainland. The Roxburgh, which was then about 24-miles north of Malin Head spots a German U-boat on the surface no more than 200-yards distant, and quickly takes the chase. In the ensuing actions she rams the U-boat and cuts it in two. U-89 commanded by Kapitanleutnant Wilhelm Bauck, sinks with all hands lost, 43 German sailors and the U-89 hits the bottom at position 55.38 North, 07.32 West, where they rest today. For this achievement the Roxburgh wore a merit mark in the form of a star painted on her fore-funnel.

For the crew of the Roxburgh things do not calm down, for there is no rest for a cruiser on escort duty. One day after cutting the U-89 in two the Roxburgh, still on escort duty, comes in contact with another ship. Only this time it is not the enemy but another ship from a different convoy from which the Roxburgh was traveling in. Shortly after mid-night on February 13, 1918 the Roxburgh and the SS Corcovado, (Pacific Steam Navigation Company Ltd) collide with minor damage. At 2:45 on the afternoon of the 14th the Roxburgh was anchored at Tail of the Bank to access the damage. The Tail of the Bank is the name given to the anchorage in the upper Firth of Clyde immediately north of Greenock and Gourock, very near the entrance to the estuary of the River Clyde. The convoy in which the Roxburgh was escorting was later reported to have arrived safely at Belfast.

On July 30, 1918 in a pouring rain, the US 71st Artillery Regiment, together with its complete equipment, was loaded on two British ships, the HMS Margha and the HMS Anselm at Pier 3, East Boston, Mass., Colonel Long with nine-hundred and ninety-two troops on the Margha and Major R. C. Harrison with ten hundred and fourteen troops on the Anselm. HMS Anselm and the HMS Margha, formed part of a small convoy, which sailed from Boston Harbor out past Fort Strong on the morning of July 31, 1918. The convoy was just off Halifax Harbor and early Friday morning passed in by the forts and town and she anchored in the inner harbor. Here they lay until Sunday August 4, when they sailed as part of a field of seventeen transports, at 11:30 am under convoy of HMS Roxburgh. As the convoy made its journey across the Atlantic they had an exceedingly pleasant trip, with but few noteworthy incidents. Early in the morning of August 13 the convoy picked up its destroyer escort consisting of the USS Terry DD-25 and the USS Jenkins DD-42. The men greeted the American ships flying the American flag and manned by US bluejackets with prolonged cheers. On Thursday August 15, the convoy sailed into Liverpool, with flags flying and the band playing on the deck for the first time since leaving Halifax.

Back in London on July 28 1919 a British prize court awarded the Roxburgh a bounty of £210 for the sinking of the German U-boat U-89 on February 12, 1918. The bounty was based on the rate of £5 per crewman aboard the German U-boat. German postwar studies confirm that it was the Roxburgh that rammed and sank the U-89. In 1919 Roxburgh went into reserve but then became a wireless trials ship before being sold in 1921 and finally being scrapped in Germany in 1922.

Brian Tricker from Ontario, Canada shared this photo of 3 of the Roxburgh's Marines and one Sailor with his arm in a sling. Brian goes on to say, "Here is a photo of some personnel that apparently were serving on HMS Roxburgh, according to the cap identification on the wounded sailor. I have no idea who they are. They were in a family album of my father's with no notation as to identification. I am presuming that one of them may be a relative but I have no way of determining who it might be."
A post card mailed in April of 1907 from the Roxburgh. In April of 1907 a squadron of British Cruisers visited America. The 4 cruisers shown on this post card are the HMS Good Hope, HMS Hampshire, HMS Roxburgh and HMS Argyll.
Another post card mailed by Roxburgh crewman Jim Mountain during April of 1907. These are the ships of the Channel Fleet under Command of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, Commander-in-Chief with Vice Admiral Castance and Rear Admiral Callaghan. The ships on the post card are; HMS King Edward VII, HMS Hibernia, HMS Hindustan, HMS Ocean, HMS Jupiter, HMS Commonwealth, HMS Dominion, HMS Vengeance, HMS Juno, HMS New Zealand, HMS Africa, HMS Triumph, HMS Topaze, HMS Illustrious, HMS Britannia, HMS Swiftsure and HMS Talbot.

Ships Muster

As I find names of men who sailed this ship I will add them here with what I know of each. If you know additional facts about these men or others who were crew of the HMS Roxburgh please e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell

Ship's Surgeon, Lt. Charles Haines Browne

During the First World War, Lt. Charles Haines Browne served aboard the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Roxburgh. Browne was a Surgeon and was the Roxburgh’s Medical Officer. Browne served in the Royal Navy from 1914 throughout 1919.

Charles Haines was born in the village of Blackrock, County Cork, Ireland in 1879. Browne would aspire to become a surgeon, and in October of 1895 was in college studying to become a surgeon at the Queens College of Cork and the Royal College of Surgery in Ireland.

On July 12, 1906 Dr. Charles Haines Browne was initiated as a Freemason in the James Terry Lodge in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, England. At the time Browne, was single and was then a surgeon, living at Waltham Abby in Waltham Cross.

About 1908 Charles Haines Browne wed Elizabeth Pennefather Warren, who was born in 1888 in Grosmont Village, Herefordshire, England. By 1910 Charles and Elizabeth were living in Enfield, Middlesex County, England where Charles had his doctors practice. That same year they had their first of four children born, a son they named James Charles Haines Browne. This was followed by two more sons named Donald, and Maurice, and the youngest was a daughter named Edna. All three boys would follow their father, and become doctors, Donald, like his father, would also serve in the military, serving with the Royal Air Force in the Far East during the Second World War.

When England became involved in the First World War, Charles served his Country in her time of need. Charles Haines Browne served in the Royal Navy throughout the war from 1914-1919. It was known that when his daughter Edna was born on May 13, 1917, that Charles was then serving aboard the Royal Navy Cruiser HMS Roxburgh as the ships Surgeon, at the rank of Lieutenant.

Once the war ended and he was discharged from Active Duty with the Royal Navy, Browne returned to his private practice and was living in Hampshire, Isle of Wight. He also lived and practiced in Enfield and Southsea during his lifetime.

In 1942, Charles and Elizabeth’s home was at 77 Victoria Road in Southsea, England. Charles Haines Browne died on November 2, 1942 in Parkstone, Dorsetshire, England.

Frederic Welsby AB, British Royal Navy

Frederic Welsby,
Able Body Seaman
British Royal Navy

Peter Hall contacted me about his grandfather Frederic Welsby who was an Able Body Seaman on the HMS Roxburgh.

Peter relates about his grandfather; My grandfather "Fred" as everyone knew him was very close to me, and I spent many days with them at their home, as my father was in poor health and died when I was still a boy. Fredrick Welsby was born in 1879 in Burslem, Staffordshire, England. he joined the Royal Navy. He often talked of doing the "Narvic run" into Arctic waters when the ice was so thick on the superstructure that they had to continue a constant round of knocking it off with heavy hammers, as the build-up if left, could capsize the ship. These convoys to Narvic were to carry supplies to soldiers on the eastern front, and later when Russia dropped out of the war they were transferred to Atlantic convoys.

HMS Roxburgh port gun-crew, Frederic Welsby is back row second from the right. A postcard sent from Frederic Welsby on the HMS Roxburgh to his wife in 1917 at Christmas time when they were departing British shores on convoy duty.


"Jack" Knowles

Kevin John Hunkin, contacted me about his grandfather being in the photo from Frederic Welsby’s Port Gun Crew above. His Grandfather is in the back row far right side leaning on the gun. I asked Kevin if he could share a story of his grandfather and this is what Kevin told of him.

“My grandfather was born in St. Austell, Cornwall, England as Thomas John Knowles (but was always Known as 'Jack Knowles') in 1898. He apprenticed at 14 as a cooper, but lied to join the navy at the age of 15 on the 28th February 1916. Doing his basic training at HMS Vivid (now HMS Drake at Plymouth) and then onto Submarine school at HMS Defiance at Plymouth, England. But he was found to be claustrophobic and was transferred on 19th august 1916 to HMS Roxburgh; during this time he visited New York and Jamaica. In Jamaica he was hospitalized due to Illness for a long time, not likening his medicine he poured it out the window (the doctors were puzzled why he wasn't responding to treatment) but one day he didn't look and poured it over a doctor! He was supervised after that. During this time in hospital a clerical error sent a telegram to his parents to state that he had died. When he was better he came home on leave, his mother saw him walking down the road and rushed indoors and said 'my Jacks walking down the road.’ Every body thought it was the ranting of a grieving mother but she persuaded them to go out side to the shock of their lives. He was demobilized from the Navy on the 20th February 1919. During the Second World War he was in the 'Home Guard.’ We have photos of him meeting General Montgomery. After that he became a coal merchant and died in 1971 when I was 6.”

This is the same photo as shown above from Frederic Welsby. Kevin Hunkin saw it and reconized his grandfather Jack Knowles. Frederic Welsby is back row second from right and Jack Knowles is next to him with his arm on the gun. The tarp behind the men has a image of the Roxburgh and below is the words "No. 21 Paradise Cottage" Jack is in the back row third from the left.
Jack is not in this photo but it is of the ships soccer team. The small sign in the lower left reads: "Signalmen and Daymen AFC Winners of Inter Part Ship Competition 1918 HMS Roxburgh" Group shot of Coal Scoffers on the Roxburgh. Jack Knowles is third from the right standing just at the right side of the pencil mark, he has on a white hat.
Jack is back row second from right. Some of the men have HMS Defiance hat bnds and some have HMS Roxburgh, Jack's says Roxburgh. Group shot of a recreation party, Jack is in the back row first on the left.

A Tiger Shark caught by one of the Roxburgh's crew. Written on the back is "winner of the fishing competition." The officer dressed in whites on the left side has a pistol in his right hand, no doubt to make sure the shark is really dead.

Stoker Second-Class Ernest Ashbridge Service No. K50708

Ernest Ashbridge was born on December 31, 1899 in Hensingham, which is located along the northwest coast of England along the Irish Sea. Hensingham is nestled along Whitehaven the port city along the coast and in the County of Cumberland. Ernest’s parents were Mary Ann Martin and John Watson Ashbridge.

The Ashbridge family lived in this area during Ernest’s formative years. John worked as a coal miner to support his wife and family. In 1911 the family consisted of John and Mary Ann and three sons, Ernest, Thomas and Joseph.

Growing up along the coast Ernest would have been accustomed with ships and life of the sea going mariner. This may have been one fact that caused Ernest to join the British Royal Navy during WWI. About three months after his 18th birthday, Ernest on March 4, 1918 enlisted into the Royal Navy. He was first assigned to the HMS Vivid II, which was the Navy Barracks at Devonport, England for training March through July of 1918. The Vivid II was the training school for Stokers and Engine Room Artificers.

Then he was assigned to his first ship the HMS Roxburgh from July through August and then went back to the Vivid II for more training through October 1918. The Roxburgh was then on convoy escort duty in the Atlantic protecting convoys coming from the United States and Canada to England. Stoker Ashbridge then was assigned to the sea-going training ship HMS Carnarvon, for a short time and then was back at the Vivid II Barracks by October 20, 1918. It was on December 2, 1918 that Stoker Ashbridge was assigned to the HMS New Zealand, which was a battle-cruiser. Stoker Ashbridge served aboard the New Zealand from December 2, 1918 through March 23, 1919. He had been advanced to Stoker First-Class during this time. The New Zealand was then being re-fitted at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney Australia prior to Admiral Jellicoe’s tour of the British Dominions in early 1919.

In the spring of 1919 Ernest Ashbridge was now out of the navy and was back in civilian life.  He went back home to the Whitehaven area and took work in the coalmines with his father. By the summer of 1923 Ernest was seeking a better life and that better life, at least for Ernest, was going to be in North America.

So, Ernest booked passage as a Third-Class passenger aboard the RMS Ragina bound for Canada. On June 22, 1923 the Regina was in Liverpool and Ernest went aboard and sailed that day bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The Regina was then working the Liverpool-Halifax route for the White Star-Dominion Line passenger service. At the time Ernest went aboard he had exactly $250 in cash and states on his declaration form that he was going to Canada for work.

For the next year in Canada, Ernest was in search of work, and he may have found that there was little to be found. By March of 1924 Ernest wanted to try his luck in the United States and so, at the time he was in Coutts, Alberta, Canada and made his entry into the United States at the Sweet Grass, Montana entry point. His intended destination was Butte, Montana, no doubt looking for work as a miner. Ernest Ashbridge may have tried to make a go of it in the Butte, Montana area, but this did not workout well and by 1926 he had moved to Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.

The reasons why he chose Luzerne County, Pennsylvania are not totally known but on November 27, 1926 Ernest Ashbridge married Mary Jane Knowles in Luzerne County. This is purely conjecture but while serving aboard the HMS Roxburgh during WWI, Ernest would have served with a sailor named Jack Knowles, and Mary Jane Knowles may have been related to Jack Knowles in someway. It is possible that during the writing of letters to Jack Knowles that Ernest went to Pennsylvania and found Mary Jane, who was also English and had arrived in America in 1925, and the rest as they say is history.

Ernest was then working in a local coalmine in or near Hanover Green, which is located in Luzerne County along the Susquehanna River. Ernest and Mary Jane were living along River Road in a rented home. About 1928 Mary Jane gave birth to a girl they named Mary M. By 1930 Ernest had been naturalized but Mary Jane had not gained her citizenship yet. About 1931 a son was born whom they named Ernest Jr.

During the middle 1930’s Ernest and the family moved to near East Berwick, which was still in Luzerne County and Ernest was still working as a coal miner. In 1940 the Ashbridge family was still living near East Berwick and right next door or very near the Ashbridge home lived a Joseph and Helen Knowles family, Joseph was English by birth. This may have been family relations to Mary Jane, Ernest’s wife, and possibly relation to Jack Knowles from the HMS Roxburgh.

At least by 1935 Ernest Ashbridge was working for the American Car and Foundry Company’s Berwick plant. In 1942, Ernest Ashbridge registered for the Draft during WWII, and listed that he was employed by ACF, Berwick Plant. ACF was a manufacturer of railroad cars and during 1939 ACF's Berwick plant switched over production to building the Stuart Light Tanks for the United States Army and Marines and the Lend-Lease Program for the Allies. Stuart Light Tanks were being produced by ACF at a rate of 40 per day. This was in addition to the millions of artillery shells, hundreds of rail cars and other miscellaneous items produced at the plant. By April 17, 1944, ACF had produced 15,224 tanks for the military, of which Ernest Ashbridge helped to build.

Ernest would live the rest of his life in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. He would pass away on December 15 of 1970 in the Nesbit Hospital in Kingston, Pennsylvania, and was buried in the Hanover Cemetery, Hanover, Pennsylvania. His wife Mary Jane lived on until her death in 2001. She is buried next to Ernest.

Stoker Second-Class Ernest Ashbridge,
HMS Roxburgh, 1918

On the left is the World War One Victory Medal and on the right is the British War Medal, both belonging to Ernest Ashbridge.

Ashbridge Gravestone, Mary Jane 1906-2001, Ernest 1899-1970

Michael Armstrong


Linda Friel shared this photo of her grandmothers younger brother. His name is Michael Armstrong and he would have been born about 1901 in Dublin, Ireland give or take a year. He would have served on the HMS Roxburgh about 1917-1919 during WWI. Linda's grandmother only received a few letters from him then they stopped coming. Linda relates; "She tried for many years to trace him but could not . We dont really know what happened to him." On Michael's hat band it says "HMS Roxburgh"

Alexander Burnett

Alexander Burnett was born in Scotland, and was in the British Royal Navy, serving on the HMS Roxburgh, which, is known from the pictures he sent to his son and wife in 1907 and 1910 from the Roxburgh. Tamara Armitage is the great-granddaughter of Alexander Burnett and has a postcard (shown on the right) of the Roxburgh with his writing on the back, sent to her grandfather and great-grandmother in Peterhead, Scotland. When the family immigrated to Canada from Scotland, Alexander and his son (Tamara's grandfather) both enlisted in the Canadian Infantry out of Winnipeg, Canada. Alexander indicated on his registration papers, in 1916 that he had 10-years in the British Naval Reserve, and he was currently with the Cameron Highlanders of Canada. Alexander was killed in Tilloy, France on October 1, 1918. Tamara's grandfather, James Burnett, was with him, but was not injured.

HMS Roxburgh

William "Bill" Wilson

William “Bill” Wilson was born in Burnley, England in 1891, and lived almost his entire live at 5 Hyde Street in Burnley. Wilson joined the British Royal Navy and served on the British Cruiser HMS Roxburgh during WWI. Wilson’s niece, Sheila (Wilson) Whiteley, shared this about her uncle, “He told me he used to help load the guns but like many of his generation he spoke very little about his war efforts. Two of his younger brothers served in the army and both died shortly after the war of poisoning so I suppose looking back on the war made him very sad.”

After the war and Bill Wilson left the Royal Navy he returned to his home in Burnley where he took a job working as a bus conductor. His niece recalls that this was “...a job more suited I think to his kind and cheerful nature.” Wilson met and married a woman named Cilla who was his sweetheart and they never had children of their own but seemed to be friends with every child in the neighborhood.

Samuel Wilkinson

Samuel Wilkinson


Samuel Wilkinson served aboard the Roxburgh during WWI and previous to that he had served on several ships while in the Royal Merchant Marines and had even served on the HMS Lusitania. Samuel Wilkinson was born in 1888.

Photo submitted by Samuel Wilkinson's Great-grandson Dave Foster who lives in England.

Commissioned Gunner, Matthew Thomas

Norma Thomas, while doing family research, discovered that her grandfather, Matthew Thomas was a Commissioned Gunner in the Royal Navy and served on the "Flimsies" which was British slang for the ships such as the Roxburgh. Matthew Thomas was born in Pembroke, Wales in 1878 and served as Commissioned Gunner aboard the Roxburgh from August 9, 1909 to Jan. 24, 1910, Jan. 25, 1910 to Apr. 3, 1911, and from May 16, 1911 to Aug. 3, 1911.

Signalman Walter George John Fry


Walter Goerge John Fry was a Signalman serving aboard the HMS Roxburgh during WWI when the Roxburgh was serving on convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic.

Photo submitted by his son Peter

Leading Stoker Michael Kennedy

The Following is a transcript of Leading Stoker Kennedy’s Service Certificate provided by his daughter Patricia (Kennedy) Low.

Patricia recalls about her father, “I was quite young when my father died, between 8 and 9 years old, and never knew much about his naval career until I was much older.  Even then there were no photographs from his naval days.  My mother met him some years after he was invalided out of the navy. He had sustained a very bad accident aboard and eventually, during the war years in London, when they were bringing up a family, he succumbed to his injury, which had turned into bone T.B. and died. It would be very interesting to know more about his naval career. I don't know quite what a stoker did, but I presume it was a very hard job, and carried out in the depths of the ship. It seems the Roxburgh had a very courageous Captain and crew. I hope the above is of interest.”

Michael Kennedy
DOB: August 19, 1893
Place of Birth: County Cork, Ireland.
Volunteered March 2, 1912
Aged at enlistment: 18yrs 7months
Served on 3 ships as below. Invalided out December of 1919.
Served 7 years of his 12 year term.

Ship Name Rating Start Date End Date
HMS Vivid Stoker 2nd Class March 9, 1912 August 13, 1912
HMS Roxburgh Stoker 2nd Class August 14, 1912 February 11, 1913
HMS Roxburgh Stoker 2nd Class February 14, 1912 March 22, 1913
HMS Roxburgh Stoker 1st Class March 23, 1913 November 7, 1913
HMS Roxburgh Acting Leading Stoker November 8, 1913 October 15, 1917
HMS Roxburgh Leading Stoker October 16, 1917 March 3, 1918
HMS Vivid Leading Stoker March 10, 1918 June 16, 1918
HMS Talbot Leading Stoker June 17, 1918 May 13, 1919
HMS Vivid Leading Stoker May 14, 1919 December 17, 1919

Stoker Cecil James Phillips

Stoker 1st Class Cecil James Phillips,
HMS Roxburgh

Pat Miller of Somerset, England shared this photo and information about her uncle Cecil James Phillips who was a Stoker aboard the HMS Roxburgh.

Pat relates about her uncle who was her mother’s oldest brother, "I am afraid that I have very little information on Cecil Phillips, I was not born until 1941 so I never knew him, but this is what I do know."
Cecil James Phillips was born in the early part of 1899 in Chedzoy, Somerset, England. He was brought up in The Prince of Wales Inn in Woolavington, also in Somerset. He served during the First World War on HMS Roxburgh as a Stoker.  Although he survived the war he was sadly killed in a motor bike accident in the 1930s.  He was survived by a young wife and two daughters.
Pat commented, "In our local church there is a board of the names of the survivors from the first world war and his name is amongst them with the HMS Roxburgh's name. His home address during the time of the war would have been The Prince of Wales in Woolavington. I thought he seemed rather young for the war but I knew he was involved as his name is on a board in our local church as having returned home safely. I found your history on the ship extremely interesting. What a near miss they all had!"

Sidney Unsworth, Stoker 1st Class

Unsworth served aboard the HMS Roxburgh from January 12, 1918 through April 4, 1919. Unsworth was born on January 10, 1900 in Bethnal Green, which is a district in East London, England. According to his grandson, John Unsworth Sidney used to tell about how they escorted American troops across the Atlantic during WWI. Sidney Unsworth passed away in 1983.

Chief Petty Officer John Thomas Fiddick

According to Chris Woods of Norfolk, England who has seen a photo of CPO Fiddick, he has information that states Fiddick died of pheumonia on H.M.S. Roxburgh in 1907. Woods described the photo which shows Fiddick wearing a peaked cap, cap badge with a Royal Navy crown over anchor, tightly surrounded by a single roll of oakleaves on each side of the anchor. His jacket has two vertical rows of 5 buttons each, and on each cuff are three buttons visible. He is wearing a sword.

Woods relates, "All I know is that he died of pheumonia on H.M.S. Roxburgh in 1907, and I understand there is a photo of his burial at Portalns naval cemetry, with many of the ship's company present. I do not have these photos."

Stoker John Ivor Jones

Stoker John Ivor Jones shown wearing a HMS Vivid hat band.

James Rees who lives in England relates about his great-grandfather, John Ivor Jones.

"This particular ship is of interest to me as my great-grandfather John Ivor Jones, served on the ship as a stoker approximatelly during 1916 to 1919. I've been looking at the information with my grandad - also named Ivor Jones, and we were interested particularly in the picture of the coal scoffers as it may contain our relative. My grandfather has photographs of his father wearing a Roxburgh uniform with another friend and sailor from Taibach, South Wales namely Wyndham Wellington. He believes the photograph was taken in Devonport. My grandpa has lots of anecdotes told to him by his father including a story of him and garoup of the crew jumping ship in Jamaica, then being caught and having to pay thier fare back to Nova Scotia where the ship had sailed on to."

Stoker 2nd Class Francis Brown

Stoker 2nd Class Francis Brown

F. D. "Dennis" Brown, the son of Francis Brown related the following information and photo of his father.

Francis Brown was born in Preston Lancs, in England and volunteered on February 26, 1918 when he reached the age of 18. He enlisted at Devonport, England and his service number was K49691. Brown was first assigned to the HMS Vivid on February 26, 1918 and served aboard until May 19, 1918. He was then assigned to the HMS Roxburgh on May 20 and served aboard until February 11, 1919. While aboard the Roxburgh his rating was Stoker 2nd Class.

While serving aboard the Roxburgh, Stoker Brown did visit Canada at least once. Family stories relate how they sailed up the St. Lawrence River. Other family stories told about Stoker Brown tell of how they were torpedoed once and this is written on the back of the below photo. Additionally the family did have a photo showing part of a rammed German U-boat on the deck of the Roxburgh. Still in the family possessions are Stoker Brown's Certificate of Service, Brown's identity certificate, his conduct sheet and a ditty box containing two medals.

Leonard Trayton Geall

There is a plaque that hangs on a wall in one of the churches in Ripe, England. The civil parish of Chalvington with Ripe, is in the Wealden District of East Sussex, England, which is made up of the two villages, Chalvington and Ripe. They are located in the upper Rivers Cuckmere and Ouse joint valley north of the South Downs, Ripe is the larger of the two ecclesiastical parishes.

On this plaque it ststes the following: "Sacred to the memory of Leonard Trayton Geall, HMS Roxborough, drowned at sea July 6, 1911 aged 19"

Obvously the ships name was spelled incorectly and there has never been a British ship with this spelling 'Roxborough'

Stoker James Barrett

The granddaughter of James Barrett, Kay King shared the following information about him.

"My grandfather served on the Roxburgh between May of 1914 and August of 1915 and was one of those injured on June 20, 1915 when the ship was torpedoed by the German U-boat. His name was James Barrett, and he was born in Preston, England in 1885 (according to his service record), but I believe he was actually born the following year and joined a year before he should have."

Kay continues, "I have his original waxed service sheet which is quite grubby but quite legible. In the injury section, it states that he received back and leg injuries from a shell explosion on June 20, 1915 and is signed by the captain, J. W. Palmer. He was then invalided out of the Navy in October that year. I have recollection of my father getting excited at Greenwich one day over 30 years ago when he saw some reference to this in the Maritime Museum and said something about his father. Sadly, at the time, I showed little interest. I know very little about him and have no photos of him in uniform and only one little photo of him taken in 1920's, because my father's house was bombed in Plymouth during WWII and all this type of thing was lost. He appears to have been a stoker and his number is 305104."

Leading Seaman John Birt

Mary Birt who lives in England tells about her father-in-Law John Birt who served aboard the Roxburgh.

John Birt was born on November 7, 1885 in Quarhouse Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. He was the 9th child in a family of at least 11 children. His mother died in 1893 when he was only 8 years old. He was a very quiet man, and never talked about either his family or World War One. I learned about his roots through many years of research. Apparently, he left home at the age of twelve, as this is when his naval record begins. His occupation at this time was given as 'farm boy'. On the 1901 census he was in HMS Devonport. During World War One he served on HMS Roxburgh and in 1916 while this ship was being repaired at Palmers dry dock in Jarrow, which on the North East coast of England along the river Tyne, he met his future wife who was a local Jarrow girl. They were married within days of meeting by special licence in St Marks Church Jarrow. On his wedding day he wore his naval uniform and his marriage certificate names his ship as HMS Roxburgh. On leaving the navy in 1921 after 24 years service he settled down in Jarrow with his wife where they had 9 children, of which 7 survived to adulthood. John Birt died there of a heart attack in March of 1955, aged 69 years.

Stoker Jim Fitch

David Germond shared the following about his grandfather Jim Fitch.

"I recently came across my Grandfather, Jim Fitch's war diary and service records, and discovered that he served on HMS Roxburgh from July of 1917 through October of 1918. His diary describes the ramming and sinking of U-boat U-89, and the collision with another convoy ship the Corcovada. My grandfather was a stoker aboard the Roxburgh. Incidently he joined the Roxburgh after convalescing from being shot through the leg in the Gallipoli landings, and then went on to join the submarine service and was on the submarine HMS G11 which ran aground in fog and sank off Howick with two men lost."

The HMS G11 was a G-class submarine of the Royal Navy in service during the First World War. One of six of her class built by Vickers at Barrow in Furness, she was launched on 22 February 1916, and commissioned on 13 May 1916.

On 22 November 1918, while under the temporary command of Lieutenant Commander George Fagan Bradshaw, DSO, G11 was returning to her base at Blyth, Northumberland, from a Dogger Bank patrol following the Armistice. Sailing through dense fog, she overshot Blyth and ran aground on the rocks below the cliffs near Howick, some 30 miles to the north. The boat's log had been disabled earlier and Bradshaw, unfamiliar with the larger G class boats, underestimating her speed in the inclement weather, which resulted in the boat traveling substantially further than he had reckoned. The impact tore the keel off and the boat was abandoned, with two of her crew drowning during the evacuation. The body of Telegraphist George Philip Back was recovered and buried in the churchyard of St. Peter & St. Paul, Longhoughton; the body of Stoker Pliny Foster was never found.

G11's regular captain Lieutenant Richard Douglas Sandford, VC had not sailed on her last mission, having succumbed to typhoid fever. He died at Eston hospital the day after learning his ship had been lost. The remains of G11 can still be seen at low tide.

H. J. West

Anne Downing shares about her father, H. J. West.

"My father served on HMS Roxburgh, and was on board when she was twice torpedoed in the North Atlantic. I have a a number of postcards but not of or from the ship. One is addressed to him "H. J. West, No. 20 Mess, HMS Roxburgh, Devenport" and I think it is dated August of 1913. The picture is of  a 'Group of Submarines in Torquay Harbour'. My father was 23 years older than my mother ended his career as Chief Petty Officer and served in the engine room."

Sergeant William George Chard, Royal Marines

David Chandler of Brighouse, England tells of his grandfather, William George Chard.

"I was interested to find your photograph of three marines and one sailor from HMS Roxburgh on the internet. My grandfather, William George Chard was a Marine Sergeant on the Roxburgh from 5 September 1905 until 15 August 1907. The sergeant in the photograph resembles his son, my uncle who I knew well. William George Chard was killed during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915."

It is likely that this is William George Chard in this photo at the left, and so this would date the photo between 1905 and 1907.

Leading Stoker Joseph Henry Naylor, service number SS110791

Joseph Henry Naylor was born sometime in 1890 in the small English town of Newton-le-Willows. Newton is a small market town within the Metropolitan Borough of St Helens, in Merseyside, England, historically a part of Lancashire. Newton's history since the early 1800's has been very closely linked with the railway industry. The Vulcan Foundry was opened in 1831 and later developed into one of the world's foremost locomotive manufacturers.

Joseph Naylor joined the crew of the Roxburgh on June 4, 1912 as a Stoker First Class. He would serve aboard the Roxburgh until May 22, 1918 then at the present rank of Leading Stoker. In 1915 while the Roxburgh was in Devonport, England Stoker Naylor got married as the marriage document stated his residence as HMS Roxburgh, Devonport, England. Stoker Naylor also served aboard the HMS Prince George and the HMS Venerable.

Seaman Eugene Sandells

Juliet Stanton of New Zealand shared this photo of an uncle who served on the HMS Roxburgh. She remarked that this was his first "real ship” in January of 1916, aged 17 and a half.  His name was Eugene Sandells.

Ordinary Seamen Alexander Downe

Alexander Downe served aboard the HMS Roxburgh during 1918. This is known from a postal envelope that is in the possession of Michael Reid from Crieff in Scotland. Michael is the Grandson of Alexander Downe. Alexander’s mother had sent him a letter and mailed it on December 19, 1918 from Perth, Scotland. It seems that Alexander was only 16-years old at the time and had lied about his age to get into the navy.

The postal envelope addressed to A. Downe, O. S. aboard the HMS Roxburgh dated
19 December 1918

Stoker 1st Class Daniel McNally, and Ships Barber

During WWI aboard the HMS Roxburgh the ship’s barber was Stoker 1st Class Daniel McNally. He had been a barber is civilian life before the First World War, and so when he came aboard the Roxburgh and the crew learned of this he was made the unofficial ship’s barber.

McNally was born on August 4, 1886 in Blackburn, Lancashire, England. During WWI, he had joined the Royal Navy on May 23, 1917. He first served aboard the HMS Vivid as a Stoker 2nd Class until July 28, 1917. On July 29, 1917, he was transferred to the HMS Roxburgh as a Stoker 1st Class.

On McNally’s service certificate, which today is in the possession of his grandson, Peter Jackson, it states he was aboard when the German U-boat U-89 was sunk as on the back is stamped the prize money the crew members received for the sinking of the U-boat. His grandson Pete is also a Royal Navy veteran.

McNally would serve aboard the Roxburgh for the remainder of the war, and was discharged from service on February 20, 1919.

In civilian life Daniel McNally was married, and had one daughter. His wife was Maria, who was two years younger than Daniel. In 1911, they lived at No. 10 Church Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire, England. Daniel worked as a barber and Maria worked in the local cotton mill. Their daughter was named Ester who was born in late 1910.

On August 1, 1945 Daniel McNally passed away in the Victoria Hospital in Burnley, Lancashire, England.

Walter Sydney Pearson

Walter Sydney Pearson was a crewmember serving aboard the HMS Roxburgh during the First World War. Little today is known of him but one fragment of a story has survived the years and is told by family members today. It was remembered that Walter or “Syd” as he was known to his family, told about how when the Roxburgh was torpedoed on June 20, 1915, by the U-38. “Syd” recalled that everyone aboard the Roxburgh at the time were moving everything they could towards the back of the ship.

Some of Walter’s background is known and he was born on November 30, 1895, to Harriet and John Pearson. Walter was baptized in the St. Mark Church in Noel Park, Haringey, England. Walter grew up and lived in Bristol, England. During the war he met his future wife who was from Cornwall but was then working in the war effort in Bristol. After the war they settled in the Cornwall area. Walter’s date of death or his burial location are not known.

Seamam Walter Sydney Pearson, British Royal Navy

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This page was created on 22 May 2005 and last modified on: November 12, 2019

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