Reuben George Barnard
As far as we know, Reuben George Barnard was the first of the men commemorated on Dartmouth memorials to lose his life. For him, the Great War lasted only fifty days. His story, and its aftermath, is as follows.
Reuben George Barnard was born on 29th September 1881 in South Stoneham, Southampton. He was the eldest son of another Reuben Barnard, also from Southampton, and Eleanor Jessop, born in Brighton, Sussex.
His father, Reuben Barnard senior, had joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in 1865 and had signed on for a 10 year engagement three years later. He had reached the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class in 1877, and while serving on HMS Duke of Wellington, the flagship of Port Admiral Portsmouth, re-engaged for a further ten years, this time as a Ship's Cook 2nd Class. In 1877 he had married his wife Eleanor in South Stoneham, Hampshire. In 1885 he was appointed to HMS Britannia, and the family moved to Dartmouth.
In 1889 his second ten-year engagement ended, entitling him to a naval pension, and he immediately was re-engaged at HMS Britannia, the Royal Naval cadet training ship, as a "Ships Cook Pensioner". He transferred to the new Royal Naval College when it opened in 1905, and remained there until 1910, when he finally left the Navy, aged 60. The family thus lived in Dartmouth for several years - in the 1891 Census their address was recorded as 1 Elvedon Cottages. At that time, Reuben George Barnard was nine and at school. In the 1901 Census, Reuben senior and Eleanor, and their two youngest sons, were living at North Ford Road, Dartmouth. By this stage, however, Reuben junior had followed in his father's footsteps. He joined the Navy age 15, straight from school, in 1896.
Reuben George was appointed to HMS Pembroke, in Chatham, as a Ships Steward Boy. Nearly three years later, on 29th September 1899, his eighteenth birthday, he signed on for a twelve year continuous service engagement. From 1900-1904 he served abroad, on the China Station. In December 1905, while serving on HMS Royal Oak, he was promoted to Ships Steward and at about the same time, married Louise Gertrude Veale, the daughter of Charles Veale, Master Builder, and his wife Harriet. Louise had been born in Dartmouth in 1882 and in the 1901 Census was recorded as a "Pupil Teacher", living with her parents in South Ford Road, Dartmouth. Presumably she and Reuben George met in Dartmouth.
Reuben George then served on various ships in the Home and Channel Fleets, including the ill-fated HMS Bulwark, which was destroyed in November 1914 by a massive internal explosion, with the loss of all but fourteen of her crew, whilst anchored near Sheerness. He and his wife Louise had made their home in Sheerness, and in the 1911 Census, he was recorded as living at 114 Hope Street, Sheerness, with his wife Louise and young son Edward Lewis Barnard, aged one, who had been born there. Only a week before Reuben's death, Louise's younger brother, Charles Henry Veale, had married a girl from Sheerness, Lottie Joyner.
Shortly after joining HMS Blenheim in 1911, Reuben George reached the end of his twelve years and immediately signed on as a Ships Steward for a further ten years. He left Blenheim on 5th December 1913, and after a few months ashore, was appointed to HMS Hogue.
The build-up to war
The summer routine of the Royal Navy for many years had involved an annual exercise, but in 1913, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, and Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg, the First Sea Lord, had agreed that, to save money, the annual exercise would be replaced by a test mobilisation of the British reserve fleet, to be followed by a royal review of the entire Fleet at Spithead.
The ships of the Royal Navy varied considerably in both capability and readiness. Immediately prior to the war, the First Fleet consisted of the most modern ships manned by regular navy crews and was always ready for action. The Second Fleet consisted of older but still powerful ships, crewed with reduced complements (about 60 per cent of the ship's full company), but able to put to sea quickly, with armament and machinery kept ready for use, and regularly deployed for battle practice. Their crews came from training schools and shore establishments. The Third Fleet, which included HMS Hogue and her five sister armoured cruisers of the "Bacchante" class, consisted of the oldest and slowest ships, run during peacetime with a "nucleus crew" - only 10 per cent of the ship's full company. These ships were to be manned by naval reservists and would go to sea only on mobilisation. Many of their crews lived locally to where the ships were moored.
It was coincidence that the Navy's planned test mobilisation took place even as the European crisis of 1914 deepened. Between 16th-20th July, the entire fleet assembled at Spithead, and took six hours to steam past George V in the royal yacht. There followed three days of exercises in the Channel, after which the First and Second Fleets moved to Portland, and the ships of the Third Fleet began to return to their home ports to discharge their crews.
However, on Thursday 23rd July, Austria sent to Serbia the note setting out the actions it demanded of Serbia following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand a month earlier. The note stated that, if those demands were not met, war would follow. On Sunday 26th July, rumours reached London that Austria might not accept Serbia's response. Churchill and Admiral Battenberg agreed that the dispersal of the fleet should be stopped and ships should remain in readiness. Finally, on 29th July, the day after Austria rejected Serbia's response and declared war, Churchill ordered the First Fleet to proceed to Scapa Flow, to be safely at its war station before there was any formal declaration of hostilities between Germany and Britain. The Third Fleet meanwhile re-crewed; Reuben George Barnard joined HMS Hogue on 31st July. When war was finally declared by Britain five days later, Britain's fleet was thus already at full war-time readiness.
Because HMS Hogue and her sister ships were old and slow, and their crews only newly formed, they were assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron, part of the Southern Force. The aim of the Southern Force was not to take on the might of the German High Seas Fleet, but to ensure that the southern approaches to the North Sea and the Eastern entrance to the English Channel were kept clear, and to provide early warning of any attempted German naval attack on the transports taking the British Expeditionary Force to Europe. The Force included the 1st and 3rd destroyer flotillas, as well as five of the Bacchante class, including the Bacchante herself, Aboukir, Hogue, Cressy and Euryalus, based at Harwich. Two patrol areas had been established - one off the Dogger Bank, and one in the "Broad Fourteens", an area of the southern North Sea, between the Netherlands and the Dogger Bank.
The situation of the Southern Force area had been causing concern within the Navy. The old and heavy cruisers had to be run slowly to stay on patrol - at the required speed of 15 knots, their engines suffered repeated breakdowns, and used coal heavily, requiring frequent visits to port to recoal. Their crews, as reservists, were new, and had spent little time together. The ships were recognised to be at high risk of loss - so much so that they had become known as the "live bait squadron". On 18th September, following a discussion with Admiral Jellicoe, Commander in Chief of the First Fleet, Winston Churchill had written to Admiral Battenberg:
"The 'Bacchantes' ought not to continue on this beat. The risk to such ships is not justified by any services they can render. The narrow seas, being the nearest point to the enemy, should be kept by a small number of good modern ships.... The first four 'Arethusas' should join the flotillas of the narrow seas".
Admiral Battenberg agreed and told Vice Admiral Sturdee, Chief of Staff at the Admiralty, to give the necessary orders. Sturdee agreed that the Bacchantes should be replaced by the new light cruisers of the Arethusa class. However, of eight Arethusas under construction, only one had so far been delivered; and Sturdee considered that the Bacchantes were better than nothing. So on 19th September, Admiral Battenberg allowed himself to be persuaded, and approved the order that the Bacchantes should remain on patrol for the moment, until all the Arethusas were available.
Regrettably, however, even as these memoranda were winging round the Admiralty, the fears of those concerned about the "live bait squadron" were realised. On the evening of 17th September the weather had turned so bad that both destroyer flotillas had to be ordered into their base, leaving only three cruisers available to maintain the patrol - Euryalus, Hogue and Aboukir. The Cressy had gone into port to recoal, and the Bacchante had docked for repairs. The weather continued very bad for the next two days, so on 19th September the Admiralty ordered the Dogger patrol to be discontinued, and only that in the Broad Fourteens to be maintained.
On 20th September the Cressy rejoined the patrol, but by this time the Euryalus needed coal and also had her wireless disabled by the storm, so she left, taking with her the Force Commander, Admiral Christian. He had intended to transfer to the Aboukir so as to remain in command himself, but the sea was so high that no boat could be lowered. He therefore went into port on the Euryalus and left the squadron in command of Captain Drummond of the Aboukir.
During that day, Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue maintained the patrol, steaming south during darkness and northwards (towards German positions) during daylight. The destroyers remained in port. The risk of submarine attack had been considered, and Admiral Christian had recommended alterations of course to guard against this threat, until the destroyers could come out. But it was also considered that the weather conditions would in themselves prevent submarines from operating successfully. Perhaps for this reason, Captain Drummond did not order the squadron to zig-zag; instead the cruisers patrolled in line abreast. However, a special look-out for submarines was kept, and at least one gun on each side of each ship was kept loaded.
The assessment of the submarine risk, as it turned out, was tragically wrong. On 20th September, the German submarine U-9, under Otto van Weddigen, who had been ordered three days earlier to attack British transports landing troops at Ostend, was finally able to leave harbour in Wilhemshaven. The heavy seas made it impossible for him to navigate and he gave up the attempt to reach the Channel off Ostend. Instead, he turned south towards the coast of Holland, where he spent the night of 21st September submerged at fifty feet, to ride out the weather.
At dawn on 22nd September he surfaced. The weather had improved. He saw three warships, steaming slowly northwards in parallel, about two miles apart. He aimed for the middle ship, and at 6.20am fired his first torpedo. Then he dived.
Shortly after, there was a violent explosion under the Aboukir's starboard side. No submarine had been seen and Captain Drummond thought he had hit a line of mines. He signalled the other two ships to close, but keep ahead, so he could transfer his wounded. But very quickly the Aboukir started to list badly and "abandon ship" was ordered. Only a single cutter was available as the other had been broken up in the explosion, and the boom boats could not be launched as there was no steam power for the winches. Twenty five minutes after she had been hit, the Aboukir turned over, and five minutes later, she sank.
The Captain of the Hogue, Wilmot Nicholson, had realised that this was in all likelihood a submarine attack and warned the Cressy to look out for a periscope. In the meantime, on Hogue, one watch manned the guns, and the other two hoisted out the Hogue's boats and threw overboard anything they could find that would float, to provide support to the men in the water. While Captain Nicholson was waiting for the boats to clear away, U-9 surfaced, saw the Hogue stationary only 300 yards away, and fired two torpedoes. This affected the submarine's balance and he broke the surface. Hogue's gunners opened fire, but both torpedoes struck the ship, and in a very short time she began to sink. The Hogue continued to fire until she was almost on her beam-ends and the order was given to abandon ship. She sank ten minutes after she was struck.
The Hogue's boats were just beginning to return with the Aboukir's survivors. In the meantime, Cressy had also stopped to launch her boats and pick up survivors, and at 7.17am she signalled the Admiralty of the disaster and called for help. U-9 came back up to periscope depth and saw her. At 7.20am he fired two torpedoes. One hit, the other did not. He then fired the last of his six torpedoes. On Cressy, Captain Johnson saw the first torpedo track and ordered full speed ahead, but it was too late. Cressy was hit before she could get underway, and then hit again. She listed, then turned turtle, remained thus for twenty minutes, and sank at 7.55am. Otto von Weddigen reported that even as the Cressy listed far over, the men stayed at the guns: "They were brave and true to their country's sea traditions" he said.
The men of the Cressy had nowhere to go but the sea as all the Cressy's boats were full of the survivors of the other two ships. Dutch fishing trawlers nearby hesitated to approach, fearing mines. At 8.30am a Dutch steamship, the SS Flora, travelling from Rotterdam to Leith, arrived, and regardless of the apparent danger, began a rescue operation, picking up 287 survivors. She was assisted by another Dutch steamer, the SS Titan, which belonged to the same owners, which picked up 114 people. Then two British trawlers arrived from Lowestoft, Coriander and J.G.C; and finally the destroyer flotilla arrived from Harwich at around 10.45. Four destroyers took aboard survivors and the other four began to hunt for the submarine.
Otto von Weddingen steered U-9 for the Dutch coast, to disguise its silhouette against the shore outline. He was fortunate, and the destroyers failed to find him. The following day, he arrived back in Wilhelmshaven to a hero's welcome, rumours of his achievement having already reached Germany from Holland. The Kaiser awarded him the Iron Cross, First Class, and every member of his crew the Iron Cross, Second Class.
The loss of life was huge: 62 officers and 1397 men. 837 were rescued. Many of them were taken to neutral Holland, where they were warmly welcomed and given medical care, and soon repatriated. Some died there from their injuries, and were buried in Holland.
The Impact in Dartmouth
In Britain there was extreme shock, and to begin with no-one could believe that a single submarine had sunk nearly 36,000 tons of warship, killed nearly 1400 men, and survived to tell the story. It was assumed that there had been at least five or six submarines, and that if one had returned, the others had been sunk.
In the Dartmouth Chronicle of 25th September, it was reported that "a profound sensation" was caused in the town by the news of the sinking of the three ships. The article was headed:
Dartmouth Naval Cadets Aboard Ill-fated Cruisers
Dartmothian on HMS Hogue
As this indicates, the principal focus was on what had happened to the cadets from the Royal Naval College who had joined the ships, although it was also reported that: "Chief Steward Reuben Barnard, of Dartmouth, was aboard the Hogue at the time of the disaster, and up to this morning his relatives had not received any information respecting him". Casualty lists had been produced for officers, but not yet for the men, by the time of the Chronicle's publication three days after the disaster (the Chronicle came out weekly).
After publishing the Admiralty's statement about the loss of the three ships, the article continued:
Some eight weeks ago over four hundred cadets of the Royal Naval College were joyfully anticipating their summer vacations... there still remained a faint hope that [war] might be averted, and so on a beautiful Saturday afternoon the cadets made their customary appearance on the College playing fields. Games of cricket and tennis were actually in full swing, when the order came to mobilise. It was obeyed with wonderful rapidity. Within a few short minutes every officer and cadet had re-assembled in the College, and within a few hours every cadet had entrained en route for a naval depot for the purpose of joining his Majesty's fleet.
Ten joined the Aboukir; eight joined the Cressy; and ten joined the Hogue - 28 in all. Fifteen survived. Many of those who died were under sixteen years of age.
By the time the Chronicle was published the following week, 2nd October, the full extent of the disaster was known. A tiny piece appeared right at the bottom of the second page of the newspaper in the column headed "Local Intelligence":
"The Loss of HMS Hogue
The name of Mr Reuben Barnard, of Dartmouth, chief steward on the ill-fated HMS Hogue, does not appear in the Admiralty list of survivors".
In what appears to be an attempt to wring some positive news out of such an awful event, higher up on the same page were two stories, both about Dartmouth cadets who had survived: "Dartmouth Cadet's Thrilling Experience" and "Dartmouth Cadet Saves Many Lives".
The first story related to cadet Wenham H Wykeham-Musgrave, aged 15, who had joined HMS Aboukir at the start of the war. He was from Barford, Warwickshire. He was asleep at the time the ship was hit
... and was awakened by a terrific crash ... [he] had not had time to dress, slid down one side of the Aboukir as she was foundering ... was able ... to get clear ... swam to the Hogue ... and had just been taken on board ... when the Hogue was struck twice. She sank in a very few minutes and so he was once more forced to slide into the sea and swim for his life. Keeping his presence of mind in a wonderful way, this lad of 15 swam on till he reached the Cressy, on to the deck of which he was pulled by a rope. He had not been five minutes on her deck, and had hardly recovered from his exhausting swim, when the Cressy received the first of the two torpedoes that struck her. The midshipman thinks that if the Cressy had not beens truck a second time she might not have foundered at all, but after the second attack she went down in 25 minutes... Seeing that he would have to take to the sea for a third time, the young cadet secured a short plank, and ... clung to it with desperate determination ... when he was pulled out of the water by the sailors of the Titan ... he was unconscious, and ... not wearing a single garment.
He was provided with clothes and eventually put on a British destroyer which landed him at Harwich, little the worse for his terrible experience.
Whether little the worse for this experience or not, Wenham Wykeham Musgrave survived the war and indeed rejoined the Royal Navy in 1939, reaching the rank of Commander.
The second story described how cadet W S Cazalet, from Alton, Hampshire, had saved 88 lives. In the Cressy's whaler, he picked up twenty-five survivors, and landed them in the picket-boat of the Hogue. He then went back for others, and landed them in the Dutch trawler Flora. These survivors included the Captain of the Cressy, Commander Wilmot Nicholson. He went back for two more boatloads, working until no more survivors could be seen. He then himself was taken on board the Titan, and was on the way to Holland when a British destroyer took him and other survivors off the ship and landed them at Harwich. William Cazalet too survived the war, reaching the rank of Lieutenant.
On 9th October, the following notices appeared in the Dartmouth Chronicle:
Barnard, 22nd September 1914, Reuben George, beloved husband of Gertrude Barnard, of Horsa Terrace, Dartmouth, who lost his life on HMS Hogue, aged 32.
Mrs Barnard, Horsa Terrace, Dartmouth, desires to thank her numerous friends for letters of sympathy sent her during her recent sad and sudden bereavement.
Evidently Reuben's wife had returned to Dartmouth to stay with her parents, perhaps when he was appointed to the Hogue just before the war began. Her husband had died just a week short of his 33rd birthday. His naval record states: "drowned in North Sea when HMS Hogue was sunk by German submarine".
The Wider Impact
The loss of three of the Navy's oldest ships had little impact on the Navy's superiority as a fighting force, and the number of casualties was small relative to what the Army was at the same time suffering in France. But what hit hard was of course the suddenness as well as the simultaneity of the loss, coupled with the loss overnight of naval prestige.
A Naval court of inquiry was held, which criticised the Admiralty orders for the position of the patrol so close to an enemy submarine base, and criticised Captain Drummond for not zigzagging and for not ordering out the destroyer flotilla sooner once the weather had begun to moderate. However, he was also praised for his conduct once his ship had been hit. He was not court-martialled but did not command again at sea. Admiral Christian was also removed from command.
There was widespread criticism of Churchill, who was thought to have interfered with naval operations (though in this case he had not). He himself did not hesitate to criticise those he saw as responsible: "One would expect senior officers in command of cruiser squadrons to judge for themselves the danger of their task ... they should have spoken up rather than going on day after day and week after week, until superior authority intervened or something lamentable happened... Moreover, although the impulse which promoted the Hogue and the Cressy to go to the rescue of their comrades in the sinking of the Aboukir was one of generous humanity, they could hardly have done anything more unwise ... They should at once have steamed away in opposite directions, lowering boats at the first opportunity".
The disaster produced immediate operational changes. The two surviving members of the Bacchante class, Euryalus and Bacchante, were sent to duty at Gibraltar, beyond enemy submarine range. Zigzagging at 13 knots was made mandatory for all large warships in waters where submarines might operate. The practice of large warships going to the aid of their fellow ships in such waters was banned, with any rescue to be carried out by calling up smaller ships.
More fundamentally, as the official naval history of the war put it: "nothing had so emphatically proclaimed the change that had come over naval warfare, and never perhaps had so great a result been obtained by means relatively so small ... never since the invention of the torpedo had it achieved so sweeping a success as on September 22; still less had the submarine achieved anything like such an exploit to its credit, and it was useless to shut our eyes to the fact that the old methods would no longer serve". On September 30th 1914, eight days after the loss of the three cruisers, Admiral Jellicoe had written to Churchill: "It is suicidal to forgo our advantageous position in the big ships by risking them in waters infested with submarines. The result might quite easily be such a weakening of our battle fleet and battle cruiser strength as seriously to jeopardise the future of the country by giving over to the Germans the command of the open seas". This attitude determined Admiral Jellicoe's handling of the Grand Fleet whilst he was Commander in Chief. In the foreword to a book published in 1931, called "The German Submarine War 1914-1918", by R H Gibson and Maurice Prendergast, the then Earl Jellicoe wrote: "The possibilities of the submarine as an offensive weapon came as somewhat of a surprise to both sides after the commencement of the war in 1914. The existence of these vessels influenced naval strategy and tactics to a considerable degree".
Reuben Barnard's name appears on the St Saviour's Memorial Board in Dartmouth, which was unveiled in February 1920. His name had also been included in the "provisional Roll of Honour" of names to go on the Town War Memorial, which was published in the Dartmouth Chronicle in September 1919. However, it did not appear on the list of names appearing in February 1921, three months before the Memorial was erected. Evidently at some point after February 1920, someone connected with Reuben George had decided to withdraw his name from the list of those to be commemorated on the Town War Memorial.
Louisa's parents had both died before the end of the war. Reuben's father, Reuben Barnard senior, had died in Southampton early in 1914, before his son, and at the time of Reuben George's death his mother Eleanor was living in Southampton, so evidently by the beginning of the war his parents had left Dartmouth. Louise herself appears to have married again, to Thomas G Furner, in 1918, in the district of Milton, Kent. Perhaps by 1920 she felt less connection with Dartmouth. Reuben Barnard is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, along with 364 others of his shipmates on HMS Hogue.
Naval records for Reuben Barnard and Reuben George Barnard are available for download from the National Archives:
The above account of the action and its implications is drawn from: History of the Great War - Naval Operations, Vol 1, To the Battle of the Falklands December 1914, by Sir Julian Corbett, available online at www.naval-history.net That website also includes a list of Royal and Dominion Navy Casualties 1914-1918, by Don Kindell.
Castles of Steel by Robert K Massie, Vintage 2007. Please see the references in this book for the quotations from Otto von Weddigen, Winston Churchill, and Admiral Jellicoe. A History of the Royal Navy, World War 1, by Mike Farquarharson-Roberts, I B Tauris & Co Ltd London 2014, published in association with The National Museum of the Royal Navy.
The sinking of the Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue is also covered on a website entitled "The Live Bait Squadron" at www.livebaitsqn-soc.info. This includes personal memories of some of the men involved and of their experiences of the disaster.
Websites quoted above acessed 20th September 2014.
Information Held on Database
|Rank:||Ship's Steward RN|
|Military Unit:||HMS Hogue|
|Date of Death:||22 Sep 1914|
|Age at Death:||32|
|Cause of Death:||Killed in action|
|Action Resulting in Death:||Action with submarine in North Sea|
|Place of Death:|
|Place of Burial:||Commemorated Chatham Naval Memorial|
|Born or Lived in Dartmouth?||Yes|
|On Dartmouth War Memorial?||No|
|On St Saviour's Memorials?||Yes|
|On St Petrox Memorials?||No|
|On Flavel Church Memorials?||No|
|In Longcross Cemetery?||No|
|In St Clement's Churchyard?||No|
|On a Private Memorial?||No|
|On Another Memorial?||Yes|
|Name of Other Memorial:||Dartmouth Chronicle Obituary|