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Remembered Today:

Memorial Plaque Mystery solved...


David_Bluestein
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I think I have determined who a fairly 'common named' Memorial Plaque is attributed too...

The plaque in question is named to 'Alexander Bruce'. I have always known that there are many such names recorded by the CWGC as casualties, and also aware that determining ownership of this plaque will be impossible.

Well not so fast! Thanks to TP's (Peter's) many fascinating posting's on Memorial Plaques I was made aware of the 'narrow H', and 'wide H' issue. For those not aware of this fascinating bit of information, here it is: Memorial Plaques awarded to Navy casualties are distinctive for its narrow H. (There are also many cases of certain infantry casualties also having the narrow H; However it seems that ALL Naval casualty plaques do have the distinctive narrow H).

'My' Alexander Bruce has the distinctive narrow H. The CWGC only shows ONE Naval casualty with this name, the rest are other infantry units etc.

So I think I am quite confident in now putting a face to my 'common named' Memorial Plaque, he is:

Clyde Z/4824 Able Seaman Alexander Bruce Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, H.M.S. Indefatigable. Killed on May 31, 1916 (presumably when Indefatigable was sunk at Jutland). He was 39 years of age.

Son of James and Bella Bruce, of 87, Strathmartine Rd., Dundee. His name can be found on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Now for my questions (Excuse my ignorance, I am not very well acquainted with the Navy):

-Is able seaman similar to a Private in the army? What would someone of this rank do on a ship?

-What is the RNVR?

-Any suggested sources for information on Jutland and Indefatigable on the internet?

Thanks as always in advance for your thoughts and comments!

post-23-1089129503.jpg

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Hi David

Able Seaman is the lowest 'qualified' rating in the Royal Navy (before this you could be either a Boy - under 17 - or an Ordinary Seaman - essentially just basic training but not yet fully trained).

The most traditional 'Seaman' branch of the Navy, ABs would do anything not connected to the engine rooms (preserve of stokers and E.R. artificers) or signalling (signallers/telegraphists): ABs did virtually everything else, be it painting or steering the ship through to firing the guns.

It does equate to an army private. Many ratings saw out their entire careers without promotion from this rank (my g-grandfather was the archetypal 'three badge' AB throughout both WWs).

The RNVR was the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, essentially one of the Navy's 'territorial army' reserves.

Unlike the Royal Fleet Reserve - ex-regulars - and the RN Reserve - normally merchant seamen, fishermen and merchant officers - the RNVR was normally filled by men with no career connection to the sea but who wished to join the Navy. Many of these men were sent to fight as infantry in the RN Divisions as there were so many of them in 1914.

Type in the ship's name and/or Jutland into google and you will get loads of information on it.

Richard

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Sorry about the size of the last photo - can't figure how to reduce it.

This (poor) photo is of Indefatigable sinking - taken from H.M.S. New Zealand.

post-23-1089140028.jpg

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And finally (culled from a web site I can't remember);

"Details of events in the Indefatigable and Queen Mary are meagre, but there is little doubt that flash reaching a magazine from cordite charges ignited in a gunhouse, working chamber or trunk, was responsible for their destruction.

Rear Admiral Pakenham in the New Zealand, reported that two or three shells falling together hit the Indefatigable about the outer edge of the upper deck in line with `X' turret. A small explosion followed and she swung out of the line sinking by the stern. She was hit again almost instantly near ‘A’ turret by another salvo, listed heavily to port, turned over and disappeared. Pakenham had seen the Borodino blow up at Tsushima, and was probably the only officer present at Jutland who had seen a large ship blown up by gunfire. He was on the New Zealand’s upper bridge during the battle, but it is not clear how much of the sinking of the Indefatigable was actually observed by him. The Navigating Officer of the New Zealand, Commander Creighton, who was stationed in the conning tower, stated that the Torpedo Officer’s attention was drawn to the Indefatigable by the Admiral’s Secretary, both of whom were also in the conning tower. The Torpedo Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Lovett-Cameron, crossed to the starboard side of the conning tower, and observed her through his glasses. She had been hit aft, apparently by the mainmast, and a good deal of smoke was coming from the superstructure aft, but there were no flames visible, and Lovett-Cameron thought that the smoke came from her boom boats. The New Zealand was turning to port at the time, and the Indefatigable’s steering gear seemed to be damaged, as she did not follow round, but held on until she was about 500yds on the New Zealand’s starboard quarter, and in full view from the conning tower. While Lovett-Cameron still had his glasses on her, the Indefatigable was hit by two shells, one on the forecastle, and the other on ‘A’ turret. Both shells appeared to explode on impact. There was then an appreciable interval, said to be about 30 seconds, during which there was no sign of fire, flame or smoke, except the little amount formed by the shell-bursts. At the end of this interval, the Indefatigable completely blew up, apparently beginning from forward. The main explosion started with sheets of flame, followed immediately by dense, dark smoke, hiding the ship from view, while many objects were blown high in the air.

The Von der Tann’s gunnery report states that four salvos straddled the Indefatigable, and she then began firing 5.9in in addition. After a further seven salvos, several heavy explosions occurred amidships and aft. The Indefatigable was enveloped in dense smoke for some time, and when this had dispersed, she had disappeared. It was observed from the Von der Tann that the great cloud of black smoke was twice the height of the Indefatigable's masts.

The B98, which was some distance on the Von der Tann’s port quarter, observed a hit at 1602, and immediately afterwards a second hit. There was a high column of flame, two heavy explosion clouds far above the masts and also jets of flame. The B97 reported three heavy explosions following one another, while the V30, ahead of the Lutzow, noted a serious fire at 1602, and 2 minutes later a high column of fire.

The two survivors, Able Seaman Elliott and Leading Signalman Falmer, picked up by the S16 at 1950, were both stationed in the top, and thought that the Indefatigable had been torpedoed and sunk within 4 minutes. They tried to support Captain Sowerby in the water, but he was too badly wounded to survive.

Creighton’s account, given in ‘The Fighting at Jutland’, is detailed, but it is not supported by a photograph taken by Captain W. P. Carne who was then a midshipman in the New Zealand's after torpedo control station. This was taken just before the final explosion in the Indefatigable, and shows her sinking by the stern to port with the whole after part of the ship to near the middle funnel already under water. Whatever the cause of the final explosion in her, the loss of the Indefatigable was due to an initial explosion in ‘X’ magazines, probably from a shell striking ‘X’ barbette below the upper deck, and this could not have been seen from the New Zealand’s conning tower as the view astern was very restricted.

It is impossible to determine the number of hits on the Indefatigable with certainty, but it seems most likely that the Von der Tann obtained one hit previously, and two from each of her last two salvos to give a total of 5-11 in."

On the Imperial War Museum web site (Jutland page) there is an extract from an interview recorded with the Seaman Falmer mentioned above. There also contemporary photographs from the battle etc.

Best wishes,

Andy.

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DAVID you and PETER really MUST get together.Please can I be there when you do.The saga of the memorial plaques rolls on and on and,unlike most sagas,it gets better and better.Well done keep them coming.

CHEERS.

JOHN. :D

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You are probably correct in your assumption there is also a plaque on e bay to Herbert Hill narrow H. of 300 H Hills' killed there is a Herbert Hill RN it can narrow thig down.

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David wrote:

Memorial Plaques awarded to Navy casualties are distinctive for its narrow H. (There are also many cases of certain infantry casualties also having the narrow H; However it seems that ALL Naval casualty plaques do have the distinctive narrow H).

David: I am confused by your statement above and the conclusion you draw from that statement in your initial message. You state that all Navy casualties have the narrow H and that so do many infantry casualties and that only one Navy naval death is listed along with many infantry deaths and from this you draw the conclusion that the plaque that you have must be the naval man. It seems to me that based on your statements the proper conclusion is that the narrow H is consistent with the Naval casualty but it is also possible that it could have belonged to one of the "many cases of certain infantry casualties also having the narrow H." Or am I missing something? Regards. Dick

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Guest Pete Wood

Dick/David, I confess I didn't understand how it was assumed that the casualty was a Naval one.

Just to confirm that most Naval casualties I have seen, have a narrow H plaque. But there are army casualties, also, with narrow H plaques.

Paul, what I have said, in the past, and I still stand by this, is that I have yet to see a plaque for a Navy casualty with a wide H and which was made at Acton (number outside the lion's leg). Please let me know if you have seen such an example.... ;)

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David wrote:
Memorial Plaques awarded to Navy casualties are distinctive for its narrow H. (There are also many cases of certain infantry casualties also having the narrow H; However it seems that ALL Naval casualty plaques do have the distinctive narrow H).

David: I am confused by your statement above and the conclusion you draw from that statement in your initial message. You state that all Navy casualties have the narrow H and that so do many infantry casualties and that only one Navy naval death is listed along with many infantry deaths and from this you draw the conclusion that the plaque that you have must be the naval man. It seems to me that based on your statements the proper conclusion is that the narrow H is consistent with the Naval casualty but it is also possible that it could have belonged to one of the "many cases of certain infantry casualties also having the narrow H." Or am I missing something? Regards. Dick

Sorry Let me try and clear the muddied waters...

A/ All (or most?) Navy Memorial Plaques have the distinctive narrow H.

B/ All (or most?) Army and other Memorial Plaques have the distinctive wide H.

C/ My conclusion is the odds are in my favour, in this plaque being a Navy man.

Obviously there is no bullet-proof answer here?

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Guest Pete Wood

David, the confusion is obviously my fault - sorry - so let me see if I can clear things up.

99+ per cent of Naval casulaties have a plaque with a narrow H.

Around 33 per cent of army casualties also have a narrow H.

Of the one per cent of Naval casualties with a Wide H, I have yet to find one plaque that was made at Acton.

With so many more army casualties than Navy casualties, I think(!!) the odds are, statistically, in favour of the plaque being an army one.

Nothing is bullet-proof in this game....

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  • 3 years later...

Would the Lusitania be classed as the Navy and have a narrow H?

Regards.

Tom.

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Tom, I think it is fair to say the old story of the wide and narrow H being diagnostic of navy or wide army just does not hold water. There are lots of plaques out there which simply do not fit in. I think it can be regarded as probable rather than a deffinite indication thats all. gareth

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I am current researching the subject of a plaque that a friend of mine found in a skip some years ago. There are two possible recipients on the CWGC database, one Army, one Navy. The plaque has a narrow H, and inside the cardboard cover there is a fragment, about 1cm long, of the ribbon to a Naval General Service Medal – so I'm working on a strong presumption in favour of the Navy man.

Also found in the same skip, incidentally, were a 14/15 Star and an MSM (both named to the same man) and the ribbons to a BWM and VM. Shocking to think that someone threw away two men's medals, and also that if my friend had known there was more to look for, he might have found the GSM, two BWMs and two VMs as well.

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