X Turret Explodes
(Photo shows the damaged X Gun)
26 Jul, 1929
While 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.
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)
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.
Many thanks to www.roll-of-honour.com for the reproduction of these photo’s
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.
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.