In Port look back at HMS Falmouth's war service
7:00am Friday 25th January 2013 in News
The race for naval supremacy at sea between Britain and Germany took on a new dimension in the first decade of the 20th Century with both countries embarking on a warship building programme that eventually lead to a bloody sea battle between the British Grand Fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, and the German High Seas Fleet at Jutland in 1916.
Taking part in the action was HMS Falmouth, a Weymouth Class cruiser in Admiral Sir David Beatty’s battle cruiser fleet which took part in the battle screening of Beatty’s flagship HMS Lion.
Falmouth was the flagship of Vice Admiral Sir Trevylyan Napier, the fourth son of Admiral Gerard John Napier. He entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1880 and went on to command the Royal Britannia Naval College, at Dartmouth, from 1907-1910.
Things went well for the Germans at first. Their force of battlecruisers found Admiral Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Fleet and tried to lead it back to the German battleships.
In the running battle that followed, dangerous handling practices in the British battle cruisers led to HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary blowing up. Beatty made the famous remark: “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.”
He was lucky to have in company four Queen Elizabeth class battleships whose devastating shooting helped to save the battle cruisers from further loss.
When the German fleet came into sight Beatty turned to lead the Germans to what should have been their doom at the hands of Admiral Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet of battleships.
When the fleets met another battle cruiser, temporarily operating with the Grand Fleet, HMS Invincible, also blew up but not before she had inflicted eventually fatal damage on the German battlecruiser flagship Lutzow. The Germans turned away twice from the British line but eventually succeeded in breaking back to Germany.
Some 6,000 British sailors lost their lives in what was one of the greatest and bloodiest naval battles.
Later that year, the Germans set a submarine trap off Flamborough Head on August 19 which the British 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron ran into.
U-66, commanded by Von Bothner, hit HMS Falmouth with two torpedoes. Despite suffering damage, Falmouth managed to limp away making a speed of six knots heavily escorted by destroyers.
The following day, U-63, commanded by Otto Schutz, penetrated the screen to fire off torpedoes that finally sank the warship eight hours later south of Bridlington.
The commanding officer of HMS Falmouth had previously written to the Falmouth Corporation stating that the Battle Ensign flown by the ship at the Battle of Jutland should be displayed by the town.
A mahogany casket to house the ensign was made by the ship’s joiner. Unfortunately, the ship sank before the flag could be sent to the town.
HMS Falmouth War Service n Fifth Cruiser Squadron Mid Atlantic.
August 1914 Sank four German merchant ships.
August 1914 1st Light Cruiser Squadron Grand Fleet.
28 August 1914 Took part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight.
24 January 1915 took part in Battle of Dogger Bank.
31 May-1 June 1916 Battle of Jutland.
19 August 1916 Sunk by German submarine U 63