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Remembered Today:

Possible survivor of HMS Defence?


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In looking for details on HMS Defence in The Times (the recent thread on Surgeon Clemens), I happened to notice references to two possible survivors of that ship, which officially was lost with all hands in the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916.

The first was a "C. McCreath":

The Times, 17 Jun 1916


Further casualties in the recent action in the North

Sea, and corrections to lists already published.





Previously reported Missing, now reported Saved.

McCreath, C., Clyde Z/4451.

However, I downloaded his RND and RNVR service records (Charles) and he was on the Defence (from 23 Dec 1915) but he was marked as "run" 15 May 1916, so lucky man. He also later did a runner at Rosyth whilst on HMS Constance.

The other reference I came across was this one:

The Times, 02 Dec 1916



At Westminster Police Court yesterday, before


wore the uniform of stoker in the Navy, was charged

on remand as an absentee. He appeared to be

dazed, and there was a medical certificate from Dr.

Dyer, of Brixton Prison, to the effect that he was

suffering from shock.

Inspector Emptage said that the defendant had

declared he was a survivor from H.M.S. Defence,

which was sunk at the Battle of Jutland Bank.

The official report was that there were no survivors,

but the defendant asserted that after the ship was

blown up he was in the water for hours, supported

by an air-belt, and was picked up unconscious by a

collier, which subsequently landed him near New-

castle. Since then he had wandered about the

country living on money - some £20 - which he had

on him in his belt.

Mr. Horace Smith directed Inspector Emptage to

take the defendant to the Admiralty for his story to

be investigated.

The inspector returned with the sailor and gave

the Court further particulars. He said that the

man's memory seemed to be defective, but he had

given some corroborative details. He stated that

he had only just been transferred to the Defence

before the naval action, and that when in the sea

after the explosion a midshipman with an arm blown

off gave his name and his last message, "If you get

through, Jack, tell father we are winning." The

authorities ascertained that there was a midshipman

on board of the name given by the defendant. They

were so far satisfied that they desired the defendant

to be detained and sent to Portmouth.

Mr. Horace Smith made an order to that effect.

There's an Alfred George Winterbourne in the RN index but I downloaded his service record and he served well before the war. Can anyone find any records anywhere of George Winterbourne, Stoker?



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He does not appear in the Kew RN and RNVR listings so he could well have been RNR. Indexes for RNR at Kew and the FAAM but not on-line.

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Thanks very much, Horatio. I've sent an email to the FAAM to see if there's any matches in the RNR.

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You missed out the bit about him being picked up by a collier and dropped off near Newcastle. I know, the story's probably unlikely and there could be a touch of propaganda injected by Admiralty (esp. the midshipman's last words) but you never know, there could be some truth in the story.



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The file below probably established which men were aboard:

ADM 116/1534 Loss of H.M.S. DEFENCE - Sunk 31st May - Casualties (only)

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Quite possibly, Clio.

I received a reply from the FAAM - no entry for a George Winterbourne/Winterburn or any similar name on the RNR ratings index, so perhaps he was an impostor. It did sound a little strange that, after 6 months, he was still wandering around in his uniform. I guess he could have run from another ship, heard that the Defence was lost with all hands and, knowing that Winterbourne was on it, assumed his name. But not sure how he was able to provide the detail that a certain midshipman had had an arm blown off and the article made it sound like the Admiralty were satisfied after their investigation.

Probably one for the "we'll never know" pile.


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