As we remember those who gave their lives in service of their country, here we focus on just a few examples of past sacrifices made by those serving in the Royal Navy.
Lt Cdr Gordon ‘Gordy’ Batt DSC, 23rd May 1982
Lost during the Falklands conflict, Gordy Batt was flying from HMS Hermes when his Sea Harrier crashed into sea and exploded shortly after take-off. The cause of the crash has never been explained, although mechanical failure or pilot fatigue is a possibility. He had already led several demanding missions, including the bombing attacks on Stanley airfield, Goose Green, and Argentine shipping assets for which he was awarded a posthumous DSC. He left behind his wife Diana, and their three children.
HMS Gloucester, 22nd May 1941
After a frantic period of action in the Mediterranean, cruiser “The Fighting G” was sent to join the battle of Crete, tasked with intercepting vessels trying to reinforce the German forces on the island. Wholly lacking in air cover and virtually out of ammunition, HMS Gloucester and HMS Fiji were both destroyed on the same day by sustained air attacks. The two cruisers were trying to support a vain effort to rescue sailors from destroyer HMS Greyhound, sunk earlier.
Admiral Cunningham said “Thus went the gallant Gloucester. She had endured all things, and no ship had worked harder or had had more risky tasks. She had been hit by bombs more times than any other vessel, and had always come up smiling.” Of her ship’s company of 807 men, only 85 survived.
HMS Formidable, 1st January 1915
HMS Formidable was the second Royal Navy battleship lost to enemy action during the First World War. After participating in gunnery exercises, she was torpedoed by U-24, 20 miles off Start Point. In darkness and worsening weather men struggled abandon ship, she was torpedoed again and rolled over onto boats in the water. 512 men and 35 officers, including the Captain Arthur Loxley who stayed on the bridge as the ship went down, were lost from a complement of 780.
As a footnote to this tragedy, dead sailors recovered from the sea were laid out in on the cellar of a pub in Lyme Regis. A dog named ‘Lassie’ began to lick the face of one of the victims, Able Seaman John Cowan. She stayed beside him for more than half an hour keeping him warm. Cowan eventually stirred and made a full recovery. The Lassie books and films were inspired by this episode.
- Aircrew (Palace Barracks Memorial Garden)
- HMS Gloucester (WWII Cruisers)
- HMS Formidable (Dreadnought Project)