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Turret Explosion

X Turret Explodes

(Photo shows the damaged X Gun)
26 Jul, 1929
DEv X TurretWhile engaged in firing practice in the Aegean, off the island of Skhiatos, the left gun of “X” turret misfired. The breech operator did not realize it and opened the breech block, causing the charge inside the barrel to explode and also ignite the next one inside the turret; 17 men died in the mishap.
Devonshire returned to England for repairs in August with “the turret swung ’round and the guns awry”. As a result of this incident, a new interlock was fitted, which prevented the operator from opening the breech until it had been tripped by the gun firing or manually reset by another operator inside the turret.

Fatalities –

Royal Marines
Memorial_To_HMS_Devoshire_X_Turret

 

 

Captain John Arthur Bath D.S.C.†     Killed Outright
Sergeant William Ernest Snell¤          Missing, presumed drowned
Corporal Edward Bacon †                    Killed outright

Corporal Joseph E. Barber†                Died on board HMS Maine

Corporal James Levins †                      Killed Outright
Marine James W. Blackman †             Died on board HMS Maine
Marine Joseph S. Brindle †                  Died on board HMS Maine
Marine Samuel Goldsmith †                Died on board HMS Maine
Marine Frank Grindle †                         Died on board HMS Maine
Marine Edward C. Harris †                   Died on board HMS Maine
Marine William Ernest Hellyer‡        Died on board HMS Maine
Marine William George Hole†            Died on board HMS Devonshire
Marine Augustus Alexander MacDonald† Died on board HMS Devonshire
Marine John Tossel Old †                    Died on board HMS Maine
Marine Lionel R. Taylor †                   Died on board HMS Maine
Marine Frank Williams †                     Died on board HMS Maine
¤    Sgt. Snell’s body was never recovered, despite HMS Sussex and HMS Frobisher searching the area for the rest of the day.

HMS Maine was a Royal Naval Hospital Ship. She was launched as SS Panama in 1902. Purchased by the Admiralty in 1920 for use as a Hospital ship to the Mediteranean Fleet, based at Malta. Saw active service during WWII. Whilst at Alexander, more than 13000 casualties were treated. She was sold for scrap in 1947. She might also have had the title as RFA Maine (Royal Field Ambulance Maine)

HMS Maine at Malta

HMS Maine at Malta

 

Fatality -Royal Navy

Ordnance Artificer Arthur C. Edwards  † Died on board HMS Maine

Injuries -Royal Marines

Corporal L.E. Elliott                   Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
Corporal G.C. Pengelly              Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
Acting Corporal Charles Percival Wickenden ± Hospitalised on HMS Maine
Marine T. Agar                             Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
Marine A. Brimblecombe        Hospitalised on HMS Maine
Marine F. Chalice                        Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
Marine W.J. Elliott                     Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
Marine J. Hallam                         Hospitalised on HMS Maine
Marine G.H. Harkcom               Hospitalised on HMS Maine
Marine E.F. Hymen                    Hospitalised on HMS Maine
Marine W. Smith                          Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
Marine Albert Edward Streams°   Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

Injuries -Royal Navy

Chief Petty Officer R.E. Jenns              Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
L/S/A W.G. Eason                                    Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
Able Seaman A.E. Haley                        Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire
Able Seaman [?].J. Smith                      Hospitalised on HMS Maine
O/S O.C. Mason                                         Hospitalised on HMS Devonshire

† Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 27th July, 1929.
¤ Commemorated in the Memorial in the Naval Reservation at Volos.

‡ Buried in the Naval Reservation at Volos, 29th July, 1929.
± Act. Cpl. Wickenden later died of his injuries in Malta, probably at Bighi Royal Naval Hospital. He was buried at Kalkara Naval Cemetery on 4th September, 1929, in Plot D, Grave 586.
° Marine Streams was later awarded the Albert Medal in recognition of his part in rescuing casualties from the turret.

The Burial 1

 

 

The Burial 2

 

 

The Burial 3

 

 

After the burial service

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks to www.roll-of-honour.com for the reproduction of these photo’s

The Bravery

The Captain of HMS Devonshire stated:
The conduct of the whole personnel of the ship, officers, men and boys was, throughout, in accordance with the highest traditions of the service.
The Official Court of Enquiry into the accident concluded with the following note:

Examples of the Gallantry Medals awarded
as a result of the accident.

Lieutenant-Commander (later Captain) Alexander Henry Maxwell-Hyslop, HMS Devonshire’s Gunnery Officer, was awarded the Albert Medal in recognition of his immediate response to the explosion. He entered the turret whilst it was still on fire and directed the evacuation of the wounded, despite the imminant threat of further explosions, the fire, smoke and toxic fumes. London Gazette, 19th November 1929.
King George V decorated him at Buckingham Palace on 26th February 1931. See also: The George Cross Database.
Lt.Cmdr. Maxwell Hyslop went on to serve in the Royal Navy during WWII. He died in 1978.

Marine Albert Edward Streams, one of the crew from HMS Devonshire’s ‘X’ turret, was awarded the Albert Medal in recognition of his response to the explosion. Having survived the initial blast, he recognised that there were wounded men still in the damaged turret, who he helped evacuate, before getting himself to safety. London Gazette, 19th November 1929.
King George V decorated him at Buckingham Palace on 26th February 1931 – he was still serving on HMS Devonshire in the Mediterranean at the time of Lt.Cmdr. Maxwell Hyslop’s decoration.

Marine Streams went on to serve during WWII. Unfortunately he was killed on the first day of the liberation of Sicily, 10/07/1943, whilst serving with 41 Commando, Royal Marines.

Midshipman (later Commander) Anthony John Cobham accompanied Lt-Cmdr Maxwell-Hyslop into the turret, assisting in the evacuation of casualties. He showed “marked initiative, coolness and pluck for an officer of his age”. In recognition, he was awarded the Medal of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire For Gallantry, more popuarly known as the Empire Gallantry Medal: London Gazette, 31st December, 1929. See also: The George Cross Database.

Midshipman Cobham went on to serve in the Royal Navy during WWII. He died in 1993.

Able Seaman George Paterson Niven accompanied Lt-Cmdr Maxwell-Hyslop and Midshipman Cobham into the turret, assisting in the evacuation of casualties. This included descending into the lower decks of the turret, when he heard a casualty calling out for help. In recognition, he was awarded the Medal of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire For Gallantry, London Gazette, 31st December, 1929. See also: The George Cross Database.

Able Seaman Niven went on to serve in the Royal Navy during WWII. He died in 1947.

Orignally published in “The Globe and Laurel”- the journal of The Royal Marines, September 1929.

Captain John Arthur Bath D.S.C. was born on 2nd November, 1893, and joined the R.M.A. in 1912. As soon as he had completed his training he saw war service, proceding to Ostende with R.M. Brigade, August-September, 1914. Served afloat in Emperor of India (Home Waters). 11-10-14 to 23-11-14; in Centurion (Grand Fleet), 17-2-15 to 9-5-17. Was present at Battle of Jutland, 31-5-16. China Station, Suffolk, 17-5-17 to 31-12-18 – landed with guns on Ussuri Front, Siberia, 17-8-18. Transferred to Uya Front, 1-9-18. Transferred to British Naval Mission, Siberia, 23-3-19, and to Liaison Officer to the Ministry of Marine, 23-9-19 to 23-1-20.

Mentioned in Orders of the Day, and awarded Croix de Guerre (French) by General Jamin, for fine conduct during battles in Ussuri district (Siberia) in August, 1918.   In June, 1920, he went with 8th R.M. Battalion on special service in Ireland, returning to the Chatham Division in February, 1922. In September, 1923 he joined the Dunedin, Atlantic and New Zealand Division, where he served for 3½ years, and in March this year was appointed to Devonshire. He had only been in the ship four months when he was killed by an explosion in his Gun Turret, on 26th July.
Medals, &c.
Croix de Guerre (Conferred by the President of the French Republic), London Gazette, 17-1-19; Distinguished Service Cross, London Gazette, 18-4-19; 1914 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal.

  No. Ply 21349 Sgt. Walter Ernest Snell – Enlisted at Southampton on 23rd June, 1913 and served in the following ships during the War; Indomitable, 20th Jan. 1915 to 21st July, 19 [sic – should be 1917?], Warspite, 27th Nov. 17, to 11 Nov. 18.
He was promoted Cpl. on 16th March 18 and served in the following ships in that Rank:- Warspite, Crescent, Resolution and also served with the 10th R.M. Battalion. He was promoted Sgt. on 9th Aug. 1924 and served in Vivid and Emperor of India. He qualified for G.I. on 4th May, 1925 and embarked in Devonshire 19th March 1929 in that capacity. He was in posession of the 1914-15 Star, B.W. and Victory Medals and L.S. and G.C. Medal.
Formerly No. R.M.A. 13511. Transferred to Plymouth Divn. on 2nd May, 1923 on Amalgamation.

No. Po. 19230 Cpl. Edward Bacon – Enlisted at Gosport 22nd Feb., 1916 and served in the following ships:- Dolphin, Comus, Caroline, Royalist, Barham, Centurion and Curacoa. He was promoted Cpl. in January 1926 and served in Centaur and Furious as such. Qualified as G.L. II. 12/9/23. Embarked in Devonshire 10/5/29. Was in possession of B.W. Medal.

No. Ply. a/19038 Cpl. James Levens – Enlisted at Dublin on 12th July, 1916. His service afloat during the War includes Berwick from 26th July 1917 to 22nd Feb. 1918 and Glorious from 9th March, 1918 to 11th Nov. 1918, his subsequent service afloat as Marine includes:- Dartmouth, Woolwich and Hood. He was promoted Cpl. on July, 12th, 1926 and served in the following ships in that Rating Eagle and Defiance. He as passed for the non-substantive rating as Capt. of Gun 2nd Class on 7th Dec. 1928 and embarked in Devonshire on 19th March, 1929 in that capacity. He was in possession of the B.W. and Victory Medals.

No. Ply. 15639 Cpl. J.E. Barber – Enlisted at Liverpool on 18th March, 1912. Promoted Cpl. 29th Nov. ’23 Passed for Capt. of Gun II, 7Dec 1928. During the War he served in the following Ships Defence and Cassandra. Went with the 11th R.M. Bn. to Turkey in 1921. Other ships: Aurura, Colossus, Dauntless, Empress of India, Impregnable. Embarked Devonshire 19th March, 1929.

No. Ply. 22306 Mne. J.W.R.T. Blackman – Enlisted at Plymouth on 2nd July, 1924. Served in Ramillies and Rodney. Embarked Devonshire, 19th March, 1929.

No. Ply. X 315, Mne. E.C. Harris – Enlisted at Bristol 4th Nov. 1926. Embarked Devonshire, 19th March, 1929. No previous service afloat.

No. Ply. X 310, Mne. William George Hole – Enlisted at Bristol on 26th Oct. 1926. Embarked in Devonshire, 19th March, 1929. No previous service afloat.

No. Ply. 16170, Mne. Frank Williams.- Enlisted at Bristol on 16th April, 1913 at the age of 17 years 1 month. Served in Benbow, 7th Oct. 1914 to 12 June 1916, Hercules, 13th June, 1916 to 29th Jan. 1919. Subsequent service afloat in Centurion, Warspite, Alecto and Erebus, embarking in Devonshire 19th March, 1929.

No. Ply. 14735, Mne. John Tossel Old.- Enlisted 30th Oct. 1909 at London at the age of 14 years, served as Bugler until Aug. 1913, in Hannibal and Bellerophon. As private in Exmouth, 30th July, 1914 to 24th June 1917. Attentive and Terror, 23rd Sept. 1917 to 31st Jan 1919. Subsequent ships, Hercules, Impregnable, Revenge and Devonshire 19th March, 1929. 8th R.M. Bn. Nov. 1921 to Feb. 22. 11th R.M. Bn. Sept. 1922 to Sept. 1923.

No. Ply. 11763, Mne. Frank Grindle, formerly No. Po. 22179. – Enlisted at Manchester 14th Oct. 1924, transferred to Plymouth Div. 19th June, 1927. Served in Warspite April 26 to Nov. 1928. Embarked Devonshire, 19th March, 1929.

No. Ply. 22343, Mne. L.R. Taylor.- Enlisted at Plymouth 6th August, 1924. Served in Valiant and Egmont. Embarked Devonshire, 19th March, 1929.

No. Ply. 22157, Mne. J.S. Brindle.- Enlisted at Manchester, 3rd June, 1924. Served in Carodoc and Curlew. Embarked Devonshire, 19th March, 1929.

No. Ply. a/21215, Mne. William Ernest Hellyer.- Enlisted at Plymouth on 12th Feb. 1923 and served in the following ships: Chatham and Durban.

No. Ply. e/19389, Mne. A.A. McDonald – Enlisted at Great Yarmouth on 13 Feb. 1917. He served in Collingwood during the War and subsequently served in the following ships: Lucia, Colleen, Ajax, Emperor of India and Impregnable. He was in possession of the B.W. and Victory Medals.

Ch. 23034 Mne. Samuel Goldsmith. – Date of Birth 24th May, 1899. Date of Enlistment, 11th Semptember, 1916. Date of Discharge. 26th July, 1929. War Service, H.M.S. “Iron Duke” 7/8/17 to 11/11/18. In possession of British War and Victory Medals.
O.N. M/6589 Ordnance Artificer 2nd Class, Arthur Cecil Edwards. – Entered the Royal Navy on 18th September, 1913 and served, inter alia, in Bellona and Hollyhock during the late War. – He joined Devonshire on the 15th March 1929.

Thanks to the Royal Marnes Association & Globe and Laurel for the above information.

More on Volos Cemetary

George Harkham a survivor recalls the event

Further article by Paul Berger

8 Responses to Turret Explosion

  1. Ann Laing

    August 9, 2012 at 13:19

    This is extremely interesting and meaningful as Acting Corporal Charles Percival Wickenden is my grandfather (my mother’s dad). He married Caroline Maud Thorning and they gave birth to my mother August 1 3, 1925. Therefore my mom was only 4 years old when she lost her dad. My mother married a french canadian officer in 1945. Came to Canada in 1946 with other war brides on the Aquatania. We settled in the province of Quebec, Canada. Now I am residing in Ottawa (capital of Canada) and married with one son. Would love to obtain more info on my grandfather. Hope to hear from you, Regards, Ann Laing

  2. K J Oakes

    April 21, 2014 at 11:33

    I knew your Grandma and your mother Betsy very well. We are very distantly related. I heard the story about your grandfather when I was a kid from your Grandma Carrie (who was my mom’s best friend when they were kids and also in later life). Your mom was two years older than me and we were young together in Slapton Devon in 1941. In 1944 I joined the Royal Navy and was based in Malta – where your grandfather died. (kind of coinciental eh ?).
    I saw your “Turret Explosion” response when I was searching Google to explain about HMS Devonshire to my brother.

  3. Ann Laing

    April 22, 2014 at 17:54

    Wonderful hearing about my dearest grandmother (Carrie) and my mother (Betsy). I do recall my grandmother talking about your mom. Is your first name “Ken” as I also recall my mom talking about Ken.
    Kindest regards,
    Ann

  4. Ann Laing

    April 22, 2014 at 23:58

    Would love to contact K.J. Oakes via email.
    Thank you
    Regards,
    Ann Laing

  5. K J Oakes

    April 26, 2014 at 13:54

    I had an email from Robby G .. Admin, asking for my permission to give you my email address … I saud OK

  6. Ann Laing

    November 1, 2015 at 14:30

    Please contact via email

  7. Chris White

    December 8, 2015 at 09:30

    RFA Maine – the RFA means Royal Fleet Auxiliary not Royal Field Ambulance. She was not a commissioned ship and thus would never been known as HMS.

  8. Chris White

    December 14, 2015 at 07:27

    I was just looking at the image of the Hospital Ship Maine (above) – that is the wrong Hospital Ship Maine – In all there have been four Hospital Ships name Maine in the Royal Navy. The one which went to the assistance of those killed or injured on HMS Devonshire was RFA Maine (3) – the image above is of RFA Maine (4) which didn’t become a Royal Naval Hospital Ship until 1947 and was scapped just after the Korean War.

    To see much more details of each of the four RN hospital ships name Maine please go to – http://historicalrfa.org/rfa-maine-ships-details#

    When looking at images of the Hospital Ship Maine – Maine (1) had 3 masts, Maine (2) can be ignored as she never put to sea as a Hospital Ship, Maine (3) had two masts and a very high bridge deck level and Maine (4) had two funnels

    I hope this helps

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