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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior* ( 1905) at anchor - one of four cruisers of the Warrior class. Her four funnels are hidden from view due to the angle of photography.

Courtesy of Steve Johnson

*Not to be confused with the HMS Warrior (1860) which is preserved at Portsmouth. In 1904, that vessel was renamed HMS Vernon and did not see active service in the Great War..


A verbal account of the last hours of Warrior was given by the Engineer Lieutenant to his Commanding Officer who made a permanent record of the interview:


"The shell which drove the Senior Engineer Officer and his crew out of the starboard engine-room came through both engine rooms and burst at mid-line, leaving most of its gas in the port engine-room where I was. I was knocked down by the  concussion, but got up and tried to see what could be  done. I found it impossible to escape by any of the ladders, and as we were getting choked by the fumes and the steam we attempted to open the mid-line door to the starboard engine room. There we discovered that water was comming over the floor plates, that the crank pits were full up and the cranks were swishing round in the middle of it. Initially, I hadn't realised we were making water fast until a cold feeling around the ankles woke me up to the true state of affairs.


I tried to put the pumps on, not realising the full extent of the damage at first. I soon found it hopeless. My next thought was to ease the engines and shut off the steam, as I feared further accidents, but by this time, the water was breast high over the floor plates, and I decided the only thing to do was to clear out. But by this time, the ladders were inaccessible as the floor plates were dislodged, and there was every chance of being drawn into the swirl of the racing cranks. We climbed up over pipes and condensers, holding hands to prevent the swirling water carrying us away. Unfortunately, on two occasions the chain of men was broken, with the result that several men were somehow jammed and drowned. The remainder climbed from one vantage point to another as the water rose till they reached the upper gratings, but by this time it was quite dark, and having no purchase anywhere, they could not dislodge the gratings overhead, and found themselves doomed to certain death. Not only were they expecting to be drowned, but escaping steam almost suffocated them, and they kept splashing the oily water over their faces to keep them from being peeled. Some men had wrapped scarves round their heads to protect themselves, and all kept as much of their bodies as they could in the water. The surprising thing was that the engines went on working till the water was half-way up the cylinders, and only stopped then because the boilers were shut off.


And this agony of terror went on for nearly two and a half hours in pitch darkness and apparent hopelessness before some of us were rescued. There was one man, a petty officer, who absolutely refused to recognise the horror of the situation and kept talking and cheering us up to the very end. At the start there were about eight of us, but one by one, men kept dropping off and getting lost and drowned in the water, till at the last, there were only three of us left., I owe my life to that petty officer; I lost my hold on him and found myself being drawn down into the machinery, but he never lost his grip on me and somehow kept me up.


It began to occur to me that the ship had been abandoned, until we heard the click of a valve. Then a noticeably cold stream of water came in, which we stirred up as much as possible and from this, we got the idea that the ship must be under weigh in tow and that began to encourage us. At long last, we heard some order being piped round the ship, and we began to shout together - shouts which someone thankfully heard and we were rescued.*


*HMS Engadine took Warrior in tow at about 9.0 pm. However, she was a much smaller ship and in very rough seas, as the night wore on  it became apparent that Warrior was taking in so much water  that her pitching and rolling was in danger of capsizing  the Engadine. Reluctantly, as dawn broke, Warrior's Commanding Officer made the decision to abandon ship. The wounded, and the surviving members of the crew, together with their rations, were decanted on to the deck of Engadine where both crews gave three cheers for the Warrior, by now almost out of sight under the water.


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