Amongst our very dedicated research team is Kathy, who will have been volunteering for us for 4 years in December. In her time with us she has specialised in researching the soldiers and Nurses of WW1. As 100 years since the ending of the First World War was approaching I knew that Kathy, with her wealth of WW1 knowlege, would be just the right person to bring to light some of those involved. Thanks Kathy for doing such a brilliant job with this, as with help like this they will never be forgotten.
When it comes to World War One and Remembrance we often think first of the army and those brave soldiers in the trenches before we remember those who also served elsewhere. This year as we approach the commemoration of 100 years since Armistice Day we’re remembering two young men photographed by David Knights-Whittome whose lives were lost at sea:
Kenelm Mitchell Dyott was born in Hadley Wood, Middlesex in 1888. He was the son of George Richard Burnaby Burnaby Dyott and his wife Caroline Mitchell Dyott (née Miller). His unusual forename comes from St Kenelm of Mercia who was an Anglo Saxon saint very popular in medieval times.
The photograph taken in February 1915 shows him in the army uniform of a Royal Fusilier but less than five months later he was given a temporary commission as a surgeon in the Royal Navy.
Kenelm attended Bedford Grammar School and Oxford University and was a medical student when he enlisted with the Royal fusiliers, Public Schools Battalion in September 1914. According to his army pension record he spent 165 Days with the 19th Battalion who were at Woodcote Park, Epsom during this time.
Rather belatedly the government realized that, as well as soldiers, large numbers of medics would be needed to treat the war wounded. Medical students who had enlisted were persuaded to return and complete their studies. That was how Kenelm, having completed his studies at the London Hospital Whitechapel, came to be a Royal Naval Surgeon.
He was posted to the battle cruiser HMS Tiger as assistant surgeon and on 31st May 1916 found himself in the thick of the Battle of Jutland. The battle was fought in the North Sea off the west coast of Denmark. There was great loss of life on both sides as the British and German fleets tried to gain superiority. In the end both sides claimed victory – although the Germans returned to port they had lost fewer lives and ships than the British. There were 6784 British deaths and 3039 German deaths as a result of the battle.
HMS Tiger was hit eighteen times and 24 men were killed and 46 wounded but she suffered relatively little damage. In January 1917 the London Hospital Gazette published a letter and accompanying article written by Kenelm where he gave a graphic account of his experience of treating victims at Jutland. His letter betrays the contradiction felt by many servicemen: that despite the horror of the circumstances he was happy aboard HMS Tiger and excited to be part of such an important naval action.
In the same month he married Fanny Desirée Paget at St Mary’s, Chatham and was posted to The Haslar Royal Naval Hospital at Gosport, Hampshire.
Later that year he was made Naval Surgeon on the auxiliary vessel Stephen Furness. She was an armed boarding steamer. On 13 December 1917 she was on her way from Lerwick to Liverpool for repairs when she was torpedoed by a German U Boat off the west coast of the Isle of Man and started sinking before lifeboats could be lowered. Kenelm and 100 other officers and men lost their lives. He was 29. He is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, The Royal London Hospital Memorial and in the parish church of St Mary, Lichfield, Staffordshire where there is a Dyott family chapel.
Richard Bernard Croft is pictured here in the uniform of a Royal Naval Cadet. Descended from a branch of the Croft baronets, he was born in Thames Ditton on 4 May 1900 to Guy Glendower Croft and his wife Mary E Croft (née Morphy). He attended Banstead Hall School which seems to have been quite the place to send your son if they were to follow a career in the forces.
The photograph was taken on 29 April 1913. It’s a pleasing portrait of a happy young boy. He would have been about to start on his Officer Cadet training which would usually last until his sixteenth birthday.
His short naval record shows that he was made midshipman on 1 January 1916. Only five months later on 31st May 1916 he too was at the Battle of Jutland serving on a battle cruiser. He was part of the crew of HMS Indefatigable; together with the other battle cruisers including HMS Tiger she was part of the ‘Run to the South’ which was the opening phase of the battle. She was shelled by the German battle cruiser Von der Tann in the first few minutes. Unfortunately the Indefatigable suffered catastrophic damage and sank; of the 1018 men on board only three survived. Richard is remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial; he was 16 years and 27 days old.
That may seem a very young age at which to die for your country but he was far from being the only one and research into naval records at the National Archives within the last few years has found that nearly thirty per cent of people serving in the navy during World War One were under the age of eighteen years.
While we may have heard them many times before, there seem to be no more apt words than these:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them
Words from Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’, first published in 1914
K M Dyott – Ancestry: UK Census 1891/1901/1911, British Army Pension Records, Royal Navy Records; CWGC; Google (Note: He was born Kenelm M Burnaby, father changed his surname to Dyott in 1891). http://www.meaningsofservice1914.qmul.ac.uk (London Hospital Gazette) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673601232577 Lancet obituary)
RB Croft – Ancestry UK Census 1901/1911, Surrey, England Church of England Baptisms, Royal Naval Officers Service Records Index 1756-1931; CWGC; Google