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Lincolnshire Boy Sailors of the Great War

An Ill-starred ship: the loss of HMS Hawke (15th October 1914)

HMS Hawke was an armoured cruiser built at Chatham Dockyard and launched in 1891. In 1911 the Hawke briefly made headline news when she was involved in a collision with the White Star liner Olympic, the sister ship of the ill-fated Titanic. The damage to the Hawke was so severe that a large section of her forecastle had to be cut away and a new bow fitted.

On 15th October 1914 the Hawke was patrolling in the North Sea with her sister ship, Theseus, when the pair was sighted by a German submarine. The U-boat’s first torpedo was directed at the Theseus, but actually hit the unfortunate Hawke. The torpedo detonated a magazine and the ship was torn apart by a tremendous explosion. The cruiser sank in a few minutes with the loss of her captain, 26 officers and 497 men; only 70 members of her crew were subsequently rescued. The submarine that had carried out the attack was none other than U9, the same vessel that had sunk the Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy in the previous month.

William Henry Straw

William Henry Straw

William Henry Straw

William Henry Straw was the son of George William and Alice Straw of 9 Water Lane, Lincoln. The family was poor and William worked as an errand boy to supplement his father’s wages as a labourer. In September 1913 William joined the Royal Navy and he was just 16 years of age when he lost his life on board HMS Hawke.





Jack Cornwall VC

John (Jack) Cornwall

John (Jack) Cornwall

John (“Jack”) Cornwall was born at Leyton in Essex on 8 January 1900. Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he joined the Royal Navy and was assigned to the light cruiser HMS Chester.

When HMS Chester went into action at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, Jack Cornwall was part of a team operating one of the cruiser’s 5.5 inch guns. The Chester was hit by German shellfire in the early stages of the battle and Jack was the sole survivor from his gun crew. Despite having received severe injuries, he remained standing at his post until the Chester retired from the action.

HMS Chester sailed for the Lincolnshire port of Immingham for repairs and Jack was transferred to Grimsby General Hospital. A message was immediately sent to his mother in Essex, but Jack died of his injuries before she arrived.

Jack Cornwall was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, which was presented to his mother by George V in November 1916. Jack was just 16 years of age at the time of his death and he is one of the youngest recipients of Britain’s highest award for bravery. The gun mounting operated by Jack Cornwall can still be seen today at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Albert Waddingham

A Boy Sailor from Burton-upon-Stather

Albert Waddingham was born on 21st May 1900 at 20 New Row, Burton-upon-Stather, in Lincolnshire. He was the son of Arthur Waddingham, a brickyard worker, and his wife, Alice. Within a year the family had moved to South Ferriby and by 1911 they were living in Hull.

Albert worked as an errand boy to supplement the family income, but in 1915 he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15. He is described in his enlistment papers as being 5’ 2½” tall, with brown hair and grey eyes. He had a “fresh complexion” and the distinguishing feature of a mole on his upper lip.

On 27th May 1916 Albert was posted to the battlecruiser Queen Mary and just four days later the ship was in action at the Battle of Jutland. The Queen Mary was blown apart by a magazine explosion in the opening stages of the engagement and Albert Waddingham was one of 1,266 men who died on board. He had celebrated his 16th birthday ten days before his death. His name is inscribed on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial at Southsea in Hampshire.

Albert Waddingham parish register entry

Entry for the baptism of Albert Waddingham in the parish register for St Andrew’s Church, Burton-upon-Stather.
Document reference: BURTON UPON STATHER PAR 1/6.

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Last updated: 18 January 2016

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