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Cromarty Image Library

HMS Natal
The Cromarty Archive
HMS Natal

Picture of HMS Natal which sank in Cromarty Harbour in 1915
Picture added on 01 January 2003
A great image.
Added by Reg Tait on 09 October 2003
My grandfather, Malcolm McBurnie, was a survivor from the Natal. Thank you for this glimpse into his life as a sailor.
Added by Julia on 12 November 2003
My grandfather was also a survivor of the Natal - his name was Thomas Robinson a leading stoker who saved the ship's cat on the night of the explosion. When I remember some of the stories he told me of that night I wonder how he went back to sea. I seem to remember he told me that a party of children were visiting at the time and they lost their lives.
Added by Alan Robinson on 17 November 2003
In the 50's my Granny Annie Watson, 2 Forsyth Place, had a set of teak steps washed ashore from the Natal. They were used to climb out a back window so the washing could be hung out behind Bain's shop! My main memory as a boy of things Natal was how we could find cordite strips, fawn coloured, about pencil size, down below the slaughter house if there was a decent low tide. Then we would dry the strips out before trying to set them alight!! Guidance to youngsters at the time - careful they might explode!!! Bundles of Cordite set off the powder charge that fired the 16" shells during a Battleship broadside of that era.
Added by Dennis Manson on 29 November 2003
My Grandfather, Andrew Douglas Evers, was Chief Ships Cook on the Natal but did not survive its sinking. Nevertheless, seeing an image of the ship provides a tangible link back to 1915, and I was pleased to discover it.
Added by Nigel Evers on 07 February 2004
You might like to know that in today's Guardian newspaper (Thursday, March 18 2004), there was an obituary for Commander Eric Black. He had quite a distinquished naval carrer, and was instrumental in the successful interception of the German heavy cruisers, Hipper and Lützow. His father was killed in the mysterious ammunition explosion on board HMS Natal, when Eric was just three years old.
Added by John Pritchard on 18 March 2004
There is a very interesting book with all the facts about the sinking of the NATAL and two other ships that sunk under the same ciecumctances. The book relates the theories and facts of the sinking. The findings of the Official Enquiries into the sinkings and the Verdicts. The Book title is the verdict. "THEY CALLED IT ACCIDENT" I had it located through Invergordon library more than thirty years ago. I Must try and get it again. Very interesting read.

If my memory serves me well, the book states that there was a hole 25 feet in diameter through the 10 inch armour plating of the ships hull by way of the magazine that blew. She was lying in 60 feet of water on her Port Side.
Added by Pat Swanson on 30 April 2004
What a beautiful photo. Unfortunately my great grandfather John Mcloughlin died on that tragic day. I hope to find any info about his grave if there is one. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Added by Shaun Cook on 09 May 2004
Shaun, I thought it was a beautiful photo too. My great Grandfather also died that day. Arthur George Chillcott. A proud Royal marine.

His name appears on the Chatham Naval memorial as do many others who died that day. It may be that your great Grandfather was also 'lost at sea' and also appears on the memorial. My grandfather was only 3 when his Father died and it affected him profoundly for the rest of his life, until he died in 1991.

Strange how we look back. I felt quite emotional seeing my Great Grandfathers name on the memorial when I visited in 2002 whilst on a trip to the area and again today seeing the ship he died in. Its a cliché, but its always said that blood is thicker than water.
Added by Martin Chillcott on 15 May 2004
My Uncle Jack Sayers 26 yrs old was the Assistant Band Master [Marines] on the HMS Natal and unfortunately stood in for a friend and went down with the ship on the 9th of July 1915. I found the site very interesting. Thank you.
Added by Ron Stewart on 10 June 2004
My grandfather George Robinson served on HMS Natal but not in 1915. He served on it at sometime between 1900 and 1913. Does anyone know how to get a list of sailors who did serve on the ship?
Added by Jane Lyons on 18 June 2004
Jane - a good starting point is the Ministry of Defence Records site. This gives some information on line and also contact details for further information. The link is www.mod.uk/contacts/rn_records.htm.
Happy research!

Added by Arthur Bird on 19 June 2004
My uncle LDG/Seaman Richard Lewis survived the sinking of HMS Natal but was hospitalized for many years after with mental problems due to the accident. I have a photo with my uncle and his mates aboard ship and I'll send it to this site.
Added by Jim Welford on 13 July 2004
Thanks Jim - I've added your photo of some of the Natal crew - see picture #838.
Added by Garve Scott-Lodge on 14 July 2004
I work at the Center for Maritime and Regional Studies in Esbjerg, Denmark. I am putting together a data base of warships lost in WWI for whatever reason. I was wondering if anyone could tell me the exact location of the HMS Natal (lat and long would be splendid!).
Added by Lawrence Mott on 20 August 2004
Lawrence, my chart work is nothing to be desired but the Natals lat and long are 57 degrees 41' 244 north by 4 degrees 05' 310 west. Hope you find that OK. It's marked by an isolated danger buoy.
Added by Ronald young on 25 August 2004
Thanks so much Ronald for the help. This will be added to the data base with a description of the tragedy.
Added by Lawrence Mott on 30 August 2004
My grandfather Captain Abson between 1937-1940 salvaged a lot of the armour plate to fund looking for the ships safe which was said to have the payroll for the Grand Fleet onboard. There was a reward for its recovery in those days said to be £50,000. Unfortunately the war broke out and the safe was never recovered. Captain Abson was drowned with the loss of the crew near the Orkney Islands after being ordered to return the salvage ship (a Boom Defence Vessel) to Rosyth.
Anonymous comment added on 27 October 2004
I imagine your grandfather was the captain of the Disperser. picture #105 shows the funeral of some of the Cromarty men who perished.
Added by Garve Scott-Lodge on 27 October 2004
Any idea of the name of the boom boat? I knew several of both the old and new. e.g. Barfield. Barfoot.
Added by Pat Swanson on 04 November 2004
Sorry Garve! Either didn't have the Gregories on or the old mind wasn't quite in gear when I missed your mention of the Disperser. Remember my mother talk of her.
Added by Pat Swanson on 07 November 2004
The ship which Captain Abson was lost at sea with all his crew was Dispenser, a boom defence vessel used in the salvage operation on HMS Natal. The Dispenser was said to have capsized in a great storm due to her top weight being greater than a normal ship.
Added by ? on 08 November 2004
My Great Grand Father survived the explosion. He was called James Woods and from Jarrow on Tyne. I have his medals including a small medal given to the HMS NATAL crew.
Added by Adam on 18 November 2004
My grandfather's brother, Amos Harold Stedman was also on the ship and lost his life. He was a 1st. class stoker and is buried at Rosskeen Parish Churchyard, grave #C365. He was the son of James and Hephzibah Stedman of 9 Nursery Terrace, Bill St. Friendsbury. I wonder if he is in one of the pictures of the seamen?
Added by Tina on 06 December 2004
This may seem like a daft question but was the wreck of the Natal raised or is it still down there?I Left the area in 1960 and[shamefully] I didnt know about the Natal till recently Id be grateful for any info thanks
Added by Mary Mackay now Harrison on 15 February 2005
The remains of HMS Natal were removed prior to/or just after the decision to construct the
oil platforms, thus clearing a more direct channel for related sea traffic. Maybe just as well 'cos now there is a flourishing Cruise Liner market, in Summer, in the Cromarty Firth.
I'm told that the thick steel on the hull was pre radio active material, much sought after at the time.
Hope that precis helps.
Added by Clem Watson on 15 February 2005
Thanks For the information Clem I remember my mother talking about the Natal but I didn't realize that she went down in the harbour. The Cromarty website is great - brings back memories of home. Thanks again.
Added by Mary Mackay now Harrison on 15 February 2005
Mary, Strictly speaking, the NATAL blew-up at anchor 1 mile +- NW of Cromarty, some wreckage still remains, and was indicated on the Chart of the Cromarty FIrth (1981) that I have here at home.
Added by Clem Watson on 16 February 2005
My Father in Law, Walter Murdin was a Stoker who failed to sail to Cromarty due to him being sick ashore and therefore was not onboard when Natal sank. I understand that he was much grieved because he lost so many close shipmates (oppos).
Added by Leslie Pegg on 16 February 2005
Mary, see picture #699. This shows all that is left of the Natal.
Added by Ian Jack on 16 February 2005
Hi, Clem, that was an interesting piece of information about the removal of the remains of HMS Natal. I believed the site was being treated as a war grave? Were any remains recovered?
Added by Joe Gracey on 16 February 2005
Thank you Clem and Ian for the information re the Natal. What caused it to blow up is that known? was it bombed? Mum said there is wreckage halfway between Cromarty and Nigg and a flashing signal pinpoints at nights is that the wreckage of the Natal? Mum isn't with us anymore so I can't ask her Thanks again
Added by Mary Mackay now harrison on 16 February 2005
Officially the explosion on HMS Natal an armoured cruiser was put down to the deterioration of cordite in the magazine, but there was a story going around about sabotage. This apparently was because HMS Vanguard a dreadnought battleship, which also exploded mysteriously after being visited by a particular ordanance chargehand, who also went into the magazine of HMS Natal just before she sank. He then disappeared without trace. My father wrote a story to this affect in the Navy News and some Royal Navy captain vigorously denied this, quoting some court of enquiry. It makes you suspicious does it not? The actual story about sabotage on HMS Natal was written in a Readers Digest book in the 1970s.
Added by Malcolm on 17 February 2005
See also "They Called It Accident" by A. Cecil Hampshire which tells the story of the Natal from when she was launched until when she blew up. There was a consensus that the sinking was not caused by direct enemy action (i.e. torpedo) as the series of explosions clearly originated inside the ship. However, tests failed to show what could possibly have caused the ammunition on board to spontaneously explode so catastrophically, making sabotage apparently the most likely explanation. Just before sailing for Cromarty the Natal had been for a refit at Birkenhead, where some work had been done on the cooling system for the magazines. This work was not completed at the dockyard, hence the presence of three dockyard engineers on board when she sailed north. Two of them were killed in the explosion but the third had left the ship before it occurred. The whole case was dealt with and filed away very quickly by the admiralty.
Added by Estelle Quick on 17 February 2005
Thank you Estelle for that information I find myself back in dear old Cromarty when I access the site. It seems very sad that the Natal had to end the way she did I feel embarrased that I only found out so recently about the Natal. Please continue to supply info as it comes to mind - thanks again.
Added by Mary Mackay now Harrison on 17 February 2005
My Grandfather was John MacKenzie, Fireman, who was on the SY Disperser that foundered off the North of Scotland coast whilst engaged on the salvage of the wreck of H.M.S. Natal. I am doing my family history so the information I have seen on this site is a bonus!
Added by Gloria Watts on 07 April 2005
My Grandad James Vandome Reins (Chief Petty Officer Stoker) died at Cromarty along with almost 600 others. My mother, his daughter, is still alive. She is 97 years old and I believe that she was 6 years old when he died, I went to Chatham Naval Memorial in May 2000, very sad, I do like the pictures of the HMS Natal, If anybody is interested The ship appears in the "A popular history of the great war by Hammerton. Volume 2 "Extension of the great struggle: 1915".Excerpt from page 640 Dec 1915 British Cruiser HMS Natal, sunk in harbour, the victim of internal explosion; 14 officers and 373 men saved. along with a photo.
Added by William E Smyth on 26 June 2005
thank you for all the interesting bits and pieces, my grandad Victor George Hurn was a stoker first class on the natal he died, my mum is still going at 91 years old and is fascinated by any new information we get, more crew shots please. we only have a couple of pictures of grandad so any new ones mean my mum gets to see her dad thank you excellent site.
Added by Yvonne Evans on 18 August 2005
On a recent trip to Belfast I was surprised to find a WW1 Cruiser - HMS Caroline - still afloat and still used by the Navy. She is the local RNVR depot ship, and in a dock deep in the middle of what was the Harland and Wolf yard. Built in 1913, HMS Caroline was a light cruiser whilst the Natal was a few years older and armoured, however lookinbg at her you can get a clear picture of the size and lines of ships of that era. I took a few pictures, if interested look at my Flickr album.
Added by Calum Davidson on 18 August 2005
My great uncle Alfred Ready lost his life on HMS Natal and my mum still has the small medal given by the people of Natal to his family. She knew very little about the history and found this article very informative.
Added by Jayne (Bootle, Liverpool) on 05 October 2005
My Grandfather's brother, William Wightman [stoker1st class], was killed in the explosion. Thanks for the picture and info. Would his name be inscribed on the Chatham War Memorial?
Added by John Noble on 11 November 2005
My distant cousin Lt. Engineer William Black was one of those who perished aboard the H.M.S Natal and I only found out about his fate because he was commemorated on a gravestone back in Kinghorn, Fife where his ancestors hailed from and if it were not for the tireless efforts of volunteers the monumental inscriptions book where I found out about his fate would not have existed and I would still not know about one of my unfortunate relatives.
Added by Simon Miller on 18 November 2005
My uncle HENRY THORNHILL MOON Leading Signalman was on the bridge of HMS Natal when the explosion occurred and lost his life. He had agreed to cover the watch to allow a shipmate to go ashore. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Later a certificate commemorating his death was sent to my Grandfather which stated "May those who follow see that his name is not forgotten". It was interesting to read all the reports andn to see that he, and his shipmates are "Not forgotten".
Jean Forbes, MBE, ex-WRNS.
Added by Jean Forbes on 13 January 2006
i have photographed all of the war graves in the gaelic chapel graveyard, among them some of the natal seamen,
some of the graves are simply marked. "a sailor of the great war. h.m.s. natal." there are soldiers as well as merchant seamen buried there, around about 84. altogether. there are a few from the second war too. As can be seen in the photographs, the plots are very well looked after.
contact me, and if i have the name on my list i will e-mail it on. there is also a photgraph of the memorial .

Added by Ian Jack on 14 January 2006
My Father was a survivor Of the loss of the H.M.S. Natal. His rank was Leading Seaman. Leonard
Kirkby. I still have his papers from both wars and have a small silver medal which was given
to all the crew when the were made freeman of Natal

Added by Collingwood Kirkby on 08 February 2006
I am researching my family tree and have found out that my grand dads brother was on the HMS Natal. His name was Joseph Hart, he was 25 and was a leading stoker. I knew nothing about this ship until a couple of days ago and its quite emotional thinking someone related to me was aboard.
I would love to find out any information I can esp if he has a grave.
Any information was be really grateful.
Added by Vanessa Scott on 16 February 2006
Vanessa, the Natal was destroyed so disastrously and rapidly that very few bodies were ever recovered. Many men were killed below decks by the fire that broke out after the explosions, and many more were drowned or swept away after managing to get off the ship. There are only about 30 or so individual graves, mostly at Cromarty and Rosskeen (on opposite sides of the Cromarty Firth) with one or two elsewhere, and only about half of these are named. Your grandfather's brother is not among them. All of those who died are commemorated on the naval memorial at Chatham (see ww1cemeteries.com/british_cemeteries_memorials/chatham_naval_memorial). Joseph Hart's service number was K.744(CH). His birth date/place are given in the admiralty records as 17/4/1890 at Rainham, Essex.

There is a permanent exhibition about HMS Natal at Invergordon Museum (open May-October).
Added by Estelle Quick on 16 February 2006
I just wanted to say thank you for the information you gave me about my grand dads brother. My mum doesnt know really know anything about that side of her family so its amazing to find this out about her Uncle Joe. Thanks for letting me know about the exhibition. It would be lovely to take my mum one day.
Thanks again - its really appreciated.
Best wishes
Added by Vanessa Scott on 17 February 2006
Hello Im hoping that some one on this site can help. My great grandfather served on the Natal but im not sure if he was still serving on the ship when it sank. My grandfather is now 94 and his memory is'nt what it used to be, although he remembers that his father survived the sinking of a ship he is not sure if it was the Natal. I have his service medals including one from the Natal. He was a stocker and due to being under age when he joined the navy he may have been using the name J Johnston or J Johnson. His real name was Albert John Pickett. My great grandfather never spoke of the sinking intell just before he died. The horrors that he saw why waiting to be saved we can only imagine. I would be greatfull to any one who can help as I would like to be able to tell my grandad what ship his father sank on and retrieve any service records before he him self passes away. Thank you in advance. Ben
Added by Ben Pickett on 17 February 2006
Ben, your great grandfather was on the Natal when it sank and was listed as a survivor under his real name.
Added by Estelle Quick on 17 February 2006
the names i have for the natal seamen buried at cromarty are as follows.
owens, jervis, sutherland, hartley, connor, kettle, young, baldwin, o.connor,
there is also 7 graves, simply marked a "sailor of the great war royal navy h.m.s. natal. 30th december 1915." all the graves are very well tended and cared for.
Added by Ian Jack on 17 February 2006
There are 12 graves at Rosskeen: Chief Stoker J. Pledger, Mechanician B. Weatherall, Stoker 1st Class A.H. Stedman, Leading Seaman W.C. Brisley, Musician C.T. Hodges, Able Seaman H. Atkins, Able Seaman W.J.R. McQueen, Ordinary Seaman E.J. Smith, Stoker J. Ditchburn, and 3 unnamed.
Added by Estelle Quick on 18 February 2006
I have only today been hearing from my uncle (Andrew Boyle) that my grandfather Michael Boyle was on the Natal. He survived due to having been ashore at the time playing football with some local lads. He was only 17 years old at the time and was deeply saddened by the loss of so many mates. He apparently also spoke of the possiblility of a spy being responsible for this incident and the loss of HMS Vanguard in similar circumstances.
Added by Anne Wright nee Boyle on 20 February 2006
I have a postcard sent from the HMS Natal with the following wording on the front
Just a card to say all's well On active service with the grand fleet in the North Sea 1914-1915. The card was sent by Frank to Miss Mary Shearing (surname not very clear) "Lyndhurst" 29 Brownhill Road Catford.
If anyone has any further information on this couple I would love to hear from them.
Added by Gail Dickson on 26 February 2006
Can anyone tell me how many men survived this happening? And also how many crew were onboard and how it sunk? Thanks
Added by Catriona..... on 11 March 2006
With regard to your query, I have studied the documents at the National Archives and I believe the correct numbers to be:
421 casualties, including 11 'civilians'. The latter include Mr. Dodd or Dodds, the Factor of Novar & his family and a number of canteen workers employed by the Army & Navy Stores;
399 Survivors, including those on the complement who were on shore when the explosion occurred.
A good friend of mine, and a top flight organist and composer, Richard Coulson, has composed a requiem for his Uncle, Albert Rodger, who died when the Natal exploded. It will have its premier next (Palm) Sunday, April 9th 2006 at Christ Church, Esher, Surrey.
Added by Graham on 02 April 2006
An interesting photograph. The Natal was a fine ship. My great uncle, Lieutenant Commander Jack Berkeley Murray was the navigation officer aboard HMS Natal and was killed in the explosion.
Added by Anthony Berkeley Wallis on 07 April 2006
Sorry to be a pain but I am still trying to find out if anyone has crew shots of the Natal, we have only 2 pictures of grandad, thanks.
Added by Yve Evans on 10 April 2006
That's a good idea, Crew shots, that is brilliant, My Grandad James Vendome Reins was among the victims of the explosion. Bill Smyth Australia 12 April 2006
Added by William E Smyth on 12 April 2006
I have a cousin who was the ships doctor and perished in the explosion and sinking he was Douglas Whimster Keiller Moody his obituary in the Scotsman reads:
"SURGEON MOODY, . R.N. Surgeon Douglas Whimster Keiller Moody, M.D., R.N., who was killed on December 30, 1915, in the explosion on H.M.S. Natal, was the son of Mrs Moody, of Park Avenue, formeriy of Montrose, and great grandson of Mr James Keiller, the founder of the firm of Messrs James Keillor & Sons, Dundee and London. Surgeon Moody was appointed Surgeon in the service in August of last year. He was an M.B., CM., Aberdeen University, 1900, and M.D. in 1902. He also held diplomas from London, . Dublin, and Berlin Universities . He was formerly house-surgeon at Peterborough Infirmary, and second house surgeon at Addenbrooke's Hospital Cambridge. Ho was the " author of several works, notably, " A Critical Treatise on Beri-Beri, " and " Beri ' Beri among the Lascar Crews on Board Ship." Only three weeks ago he spent his furlough in Hull. Surgeon Moody's great grandfather, Captain(sic) James Whimster, of the 79th Highlanders, fought in the Peninsular War at Lisbon and Corunna under General Moore."
Added by Hamish Ross on 14 April 2006
My Grandfather Percy Goldsmith was a Petty Officer Blacksmith on HMS Natal and was one of those who survived. He spent some time in the water before being rescued. I have recently purchased a book ' They Called It Accident ' which is being sent from the USA. The book is said to details of the sinking. I visited the commemorative garden at Invergordon and the cemetery at Rosskeen in 1991 which I found very moving.
Added by Keith Garwood on 07 May 2006
In researching my family history, I too had a relative lost on the Natal. He was a younger brother of my Grandmother. His name was Robert Henry Lomas, and had joined the ship thirteen days previously, as a Signal Boy (Aged 16).
Added by Andrew Garton on 07 June 2006
I lived in Dingwall in the 1950's and remember seeing the Home Fleet at anchor off Invergordon. I have kept an interest in the Royal Navy. I knew about the mutiny at Invergordon but did not know about HMS Natal until a visit to the Black Isle a few weeks ago when I came across the plaque. The comments above bring history alive and I shall start looking for "They Called It An Accident".
Added by Jim Spencer on 10 July 2006
Jim, look no further than www.abebooks.com they have several copies available at a range of prices. It's a good read with a compelling hypothesis in support of the sabotage theory. Enjoy.
Added by Arthur Bird on 11 July 2006
I recently visited the site of the wreck whilst on a dolphin boat trip, I was really moved when our guide told us the story of the accident, I had no idea about the Natal and the huge loss of life. Later in the day we found some reference in the archives at Cromarty Courtroom. The site where the remains lie is marked with a buoy and is an official war grave. Although I dont have any relatives who served on the Natal or indeed any connection with Cromarty but still found the whole day very moving.
Added by Norman Rolland on 12 July 2006
The " great war magazine" great northern publishing. Will be running an article on the natal by myself, in the near future. I have been researching medical officer's reports from the fleet during the "great war" since 1998 in haslar hosptial and the naval historical branch in the naval dockyard in portsmouth. I was a naval health inspector and port health officer for 45 years.
Added by Mike Northeast on 20 July 2006
My granfather Ben Weatherall died on H.M.S. Natal I have visited the grave at Invergordon church. He had two sons and two grandchildren.
Added by GUY WEATHERALL on 27 January 2007
I am researching my family history. I have found that my grandfather, Thomas James Douglas Robinson served on HMS Natal between 8 September 1915 and 31 December 1915 according to his Certificate of Service. He was an Engine Room Artificer 4th Class. He was on shore playing football at the time of the explosion according to a football historian that I have had contact with, though I don't have any written proof. Grandfather played for the England Schoolboys in 1908.
Added by Julia Cook on 19 February 2007
I am currently compiling a Virtual War Memorial for Bury Lancashire. One of the men we are commemorating is:
'Stoker GEORGE GORTON (37), Bolton Road West, Ramsbottom, of the armoured cruiser Natal, perished by the explosion on that vessel in harbour on December 30th, 1915. He had been in the Navy nearly 17 years.
Son of Eli and Margaret Gorton, of Liverpool.'
Added by Mark Hone on 13 April 2007
My mum has told me about her uncle Samuel Walter Savage who was killed on board the HMS Natal. He was the only son with 5 sisters. He joined the service on 29th December 1909 and served on the Acherson and Pembroke before joining the Natal 10 May 1910. His records list him as missing. This information I have found from his service record. Naval service records can be found on the web site www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/ for £3.50. I have a photograph of Uncle Samuel in his naval uniform.
Added by Annette Williscroft on 27 April 2007
Re my previous message if you would like the picture of Samuel Walter Savage could you please let me know how to send it. Also he was a leading stoker
Added by Annette Williscroft on 27 April 2007
My father, Robert Richard Borthwick, survived the sinking of HMS Natal. I do not know his rank or position. I gather he was in the water quite awhile. He was a good swimmer. When the ship called at Durban S.A. they were given freedom of the city. At Durban Fort, there is a memorial to the ship. I have a poem writen by a crew to the sinking.
Added by Ron Borthwick on 20 June 2007
My Grandfather, Bertie Fry, was seconded to the dockyard at the time HMS Natal was lost. His body was washed ashore off Invergordon on 07/01/1916, so was possibly a civilian casualty. I have found all the photos very moving. If any kind soul knows of a grave stone or obituary, kindly let me know. His body was not returned to his family in Hampshire for burial so I cannot trace any records for his death in the BMD index. Thankyou. Barbara
Added by Barbara Hill on 22 June 2007
I am researching my family history, and I have just found that my Gt.Uncle George Joseph Savage b.1888 in Kilburn, London was a casualty on HMS Natal. There is a record of him on the CWGC wesbite. He was a Leading Seaman. I have found the story of HMS Natal very moving.
Added by Susan Howard on 30 June 2007
My uncle perished in Natal, John Baylis "Jack" mother's dearest brother. I have photo in uniform officer style, star on right arm. Also saved Sunday Exp:13/5/34 cutting article by AE Pratt torpedoman 'The blowing up of Natal'. Photo also of ships surviving cat. Brian Knibbs, Oxfordshire.
Added by B.Knibbs. on 28 July 2007
Additional info: Re: John Baylis, some information and pictures were given to the Royal Navy museum Portsmouth in 2001 Entry No 3098. Scant details were available on my visit, I felt its demise may have been secret !! Anyone been there ? over Natals Fate. Brian Knibbs.
Added by B.Knibbs. on 28 July 2007
A great picture. Archibald Robert Caskie perished during the sinking of the Natal. He was my wife's Great Uncle and is listed on the Chatham Naval Memorial. He was a Royal Naval Reserve and if anyone knows anything about him, it would be great to hear from them.
Added by Samuel Trevor Stewart on 13 January 2008
Like a lot of people who have visited this site I have been researching my family tree, my Great Uncle, Harold Pickard was one of the unfortunate seamen who died on the Natal. I do not know his position on board but have family members who do and who also have a photo of him in his uniform. I will post these on this page when I get them copied to my computer. I stumbled on this site whilst trying to find any record to his death. I am so glad I did what an excellent memorial to those who lost their lives.
Added by Hazel Trott on 13 February 2008
When we briefly owned 2, Forsyth Place we were told that it had been used, along with the adjoining property, as a make-shift morgue for the bodies recovered and washed-up from the Natal. Does anyone else have memories of being told this?
Added by Ann Hill on 17 February 2008
Yes Ann, I remember being told that Rab's house was also used as a make shift morgue for Natal fatalities.
Added by Ronald Young on 18 February 2008
Does anybody have any histories/facts of 23-year old James William Roffey, Stoker 1st class? He did not survive the explosion/sinking of the H.M.S "Natal". Best Regards to you all; Robert Roffey, Sweden.
Added by Robert Roffey on 24 February 2008
Robert, here are his details from the casualty list: "Roffey, James William. Stoker 1st Class. SS112189(CH). Born 16/2/1892 St Luke's London. Lived New North Road, North London. No known grave."
Added by Estelle Quick on 25 February 2008
Does anyone have any information about Gnr Elam Watson R.M.A/10109. Great site, lots of useful information. Steve
Added by Steve Watson on 02 March 2008
Steve, "Watson, Elam. Gunner R.M.A/10109(PO). Born 28/7/1881 New Clee, Grimsby. Lived New Clee, Greater Grimsby. No known grave." From same source as above.
Added by Estelle Quick on 03 March 2008
I posted a comment on your page last year about my Great Uncle Samuel Walter SAVAGE. I had been told by my mum's cousin that Walter had married and had a child but they did not have any more details. Thanks to your site I have been contacted by Charlotte Karn and we have discovered through a little research that Samuel Walter was her G Grandfather. Her Grandfather had always been told that his parents never married but we were able to discover that Walter had in fact married Charlotte's G Grandmother Alice Lavender a month before the Natal went up. Alice's brother James Alfred LAVENDER was also a stoker on the ship and it must have been through him that the couple met. Thank you and your web site for making this link possible and solving 2 family mysteries.
Added by Annette Williscroft on 19 March 2008
I would like to know about my father Robert Richard Borthwick who survived the sinking of HMS Natal. I have a poem and his medal.
Added by Ron Borthwick on 19 April 2008
Hi Estelle Quick, as you have alist of the survivors, could you let me know about my fathers, rank, age etc, of Robert Richard Borthwick, please. Ron Borthwick
Added by Ron Borthwick on 19 August 2008
Hi Ron. Your father is listed as a survivor but that list has no further details of the survivors except rank - he was a Stoker. There is a file of notes at Invergordon Museum that might have a bit more, such as whereabouts on the ship your father was. There was a very high casualty rate among the stokers as many of them were trapped in the engine room, so perhaps he was off duty at the time. You can download his service record from the National Archives for £3.50 if you don't already have it. I have just checked and found two matches in the Register of Seamen's Services for Robert Borthwick, one born in Lambeth (joined up 1890, number SS114543), the other in Glasgow (joined up 1900, number F53277). Was either of these your father? See www.national-archives.gov.uk.
Added by Estelle Quick on 19 August 2008
Estelle, Do you have a record of my great uncle, William Wightman? Thank you, John Noble
Added by John Noble on 24 August 2008
Hello John. William Wightman is listed among those killed as follows: Stoker 1st Class SS113007(CH). Born 26.2.1891 Wandsworth. Lived Battersea Park Road. No known grave.
Added by Estelle Quick on 24 August 2008
Hi Estelle. John, my grandad VICTOR HURN was a stoker 1st class and lived round the corner from your great uncle in Battersea. I find it really comforting that he may have had a friend from home with him.

If you havent got it already apply on line for his navy records, the details are a few messages back. It ends so finally with a 'sunk' comment. Please have you any pictures, we have only 2 of grandad.

Thanks, Yve
Added by Yve Evans on 25 August 2008
Estelle thank you for the info on my father Robert Borthwick, he must be stoker f53277 born in Glasgow, do you have any more info? I am looking for the poem he had and I will mail it.
Added by Ron Borthwick on 01 September 2008
My name is Michael Osborne - has anybody got any information about stoker first class Alfred Gunner who died on HMS Natal. He was my great great cousin he was aged 19 service no k/21113. Thank you.
Added by Michael Osborne on 13 October 2008
A great picture, I was always told it was sabotage, reading so much about the Natal is very interesting.I wonder is Mary Mackay now Harrison the person who lived in Jemimaville next door to Laurel Cottage.
Added by Sandra Bell on 08 January 2009
My grandfather William Dane servived the explosion and was awarded a medal, does anyone have any knowledge about how and why this medal was given?
Added by Desmind Dane on 16 February 2009
The medal that Desmind has asked about was a small silver medallion bought from surplus money in the ship's canteen fund and awarded to all the crew. I have two examples, both to stokers, one of whom survived. I also have a small quantity of ephemera relating to the Natal, including a special ship's Christmas card, which must have been among the last such card sent by any of her crew. If you're keen on naval research and linked family research, you might be interested in the Naval Historical Collectors & Research Society, of which I'm secretary. Please contact me for details or go to www.nhcra-online.org.
Added by Richard Taylor on 05 March 2009
I was saddened to read all the info of the HMS Natal. My gr grandfather Reginald Douglas Walker died in the explosion in his early 30's leaving behind his wife and three young children, his body was never recovered. He was a sergeant at the time I believe. I would be very grateful if anyone out there that knew of him and could tell me anything about him, as I never learned of this until my grandfather passed away. Grand Dad never spoke of his family, I think this was because he was so young when his father died. I'm not sure what happened to his Mother after that, but Grand Dad came to New Zealand and settled here.
Added by Joanne Wilkinson on 24 May 2009
Superb picture. My grandfather's brother Charles Davis was killed in the explosion. He was an ERA Class 1, service no. 270117, and his name is on the Chatham War Memorial.
Added by Frank Davis on 19 June 2009
Once again family research has brought up that my Grandmothers uncle was Fleet paymaster Tabuteau and died on the Natal just three weeks after returning from leave.
Added by Ruth Dunning on 16 October 2009
I have a set of medals to a James Monaghan Warrant Engineer RNR and one of the Medals is the small silver Natal medal. I have had them for many years but have never known if he was a survivour of HMS Natal or not - could anybody help me ?
Added by Chris Bailey on 23 October 2009
Having visited the museum at Invergordon I recommend the site to anyone who had a relative who was on HMS Natal that fateful night very friendly and accommodating staff.
Added by Alan Robinson on 23 October 2009
I wonder if anyone could give me more information about William McConkey, a stoker (1C -K20038 Ch) on the HMS Natal who died on 30 December 1915 when the ship was lost? I am a distant relative of William McConkey through my great grandfather, who migrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the early years of the 20th century. Members of my family worked in the ports of Belfast, Liverpool and New York.

Any contact with McConkey family members or descendants of William McConkey would be most welcome.
Added by Thomas Anton Ierubino on 03 November 2009
It's wonderful to find this website with a photo of the Natal, some crew, and all the comments about the explosion and burial/memorial sites. My grandmother's brother died aboard the Natal and since I've been researching my family history he has always been part of my mystery people. I only have two photos of him, one of him in uniform, holding a cat and another on a yellowing and torn newspaper account of his death (with no mention of date or the newspaper, unfortunately). His name was Percy S. Larman. After his name the photo caption has the following after his name "R.M.L.I" Does anyone know what that stands for? If anyone has any information about Percy I would be most grateful. I have never known much about him.

How can I download a copy of the photo of the Natal? I will soon send you a photo of my relative, Percy Larman, who died on that ship - as soon as I scan it.
Added by June Coxon on 12 February 2010
RMLI stands for Royal Marine Light Infantry. Until 1923 the Royal Marines were divided into separate Light Infantry and Artillery wings. You can find further details by putting 'Royal Marines' into a search engine. I tried to post a relevant link but this site doesn't allow it.

[Sorry. External links are blocked simply due to the number of spammers abusing it. Editor]
Added by Mark Hone on 13 February 2010
Hello Mark - Thank you for the information about the meaning of RMLI and your quick response.
Added by June Coxon on 13 February 2010
My great uncle, Wallace Paulson, of Nottinghamshire was a sailor on board ship when it sank. He didn't survive and his body was never recovered. We believe he was in his early 20's.
Added by Lorraine Faverty on 27 March 2010
My grandfather, John Frederick Richard Jeanes was a shipwright on the Natal and died in the explosion. His daughter, my aunt is 98 and has just passed on a Natal medal to me. There are two leaping gazelles on it and the words "from the people of Natal". His name is inscribed around the edge. His name is listed on the Chatham memorial where he lived. Does anybody know if his body was recovered and if so is there a headstone to him at the memorial site at Cromatry?
Added by Dusty Jeanes on 30 April 2010
Thanks to your website information I have found out that my relative, Wallace Paulson, was a gunner on the Natal. I was able to share your website with my mum (Wallace's half sister) who was born during WW1. She was thrilled to read it and it meant so much to her. Thank you all for it.
Added by Lorraine Faverty on 03 May 2010
As far as I am aware, all the recovered bodies (approx 11 I think) are buried at Cromarty. The 300+ crew members bodies who weren't recovered are listed (my great uncle amongst them) on the memorial at Chatham.
Added by Andrew Garton on 03 May 2010
I am a relative of William McConkey, a stoker aboard the HMS Natal. His name is mentioned on the memorial at Chatham, but his age is listed on various documents as 'unknown'. I believe he was born in 1897 in County Down, Northern Ireland, but I am not certain about the date. If this date is correct, he would have been only 18 years old when he died. He may have attended St Stephen's Church (Church of Ireland) in Belfast.
Does anyone know anything more about this man?
I would also like to hear from anyone in Cromarty, or anyone whose surname is McConkey.
Thank you for any information you care to share.
Added by T. Anton Ierubino on 13 May 2010
William's service papers can be downloaded from The National Archives website. The index to these documents says he was born on 2 June 1895, but boys were often less than truthful about their ages when they enlisted. If you key the name MConkey into TNA search, you'll come up with a number hits - perhaps people who were related to William?
Added by Richard Taylor on 14 May 2010
The Natal casualty list also gives William McConkey's dob as 2/6/1895, place of birth Belfast.
Added by Estelle Quick on 14 May 2010
My grandfather William Dane a stoker on the Natal survived the explosion. I have his Natal medal but his name is not on the edge of it, can anyone tell me why his name is not engraved on it?
Added by Desmond Dane. on 15 May 2010
I have just read the comments on William Mc Conkey and his Belfast birthplace, The photograph I added to the Natal collection shows my grandfather William Walsh on the left and a younger looking sailor on the right who I don't know but who may be the young Wm Mc Conkey, given that he was from Belfast, and may have attended St Stephens Cof Ireland, which was in the same district my grandfather came from.
Added by Joe Gracey on 15 May 2010
Dear Estelle and David, Thank you so much for your comments concerning my relative, Wm McConkey. The information was sincerely appreciated. To Joe Gacey: Delighted to receive your message. My relative Wm McConkey did indeed come from the district of St Stephens (Belfast). I am trying to find photographs of him so I can compare to yours. I think, in any case, that he would certainly have known your grandfather. If you would like to write to me and exchange information, you are most welcome to contact me via e-mail: thomasantonierubino@yahoo.in
Thanks again for your replies!
Added by Thomas Anton Ierubino on 17 May 2010
I'm trying to find out when and where my uncle was born: Wallace Paulson, who died on the Natal in the explosion. None of my relatives know and we don't have any information as to when he joined the Navy, or at what age. My Mum is 93 and I know she would love to know more about her brother who died before she was born. If you can help, that would be great. Thanks.
Added by Lorraine Faverty on 18 May 2010
Wallace Paulson's service record can be downloaded from The National Archives website. The index shows he was in the Royal Marine Artillery and that he enlisted on 11 September 1911. He was born on 11 December 1892. The index doesn't say where, although this information would be on his papers. Hope this helps.
Added by Richard Taylor on 20 May 2010
Thanks so much, Richard, for the info regarding my uncle and I'll share it with my mum and other family members, plus I'll check out the National Archives too. Where would his papers be kept to locate his place of birth? I'm hoping to find the village.
Added by Lorraine Faverty on 20 May 2010
Can you explain how you obtained this info, as I have tried downloading my grandfather's service record without any luck, thanks.
Added by Desmond Dane on 20 May 2010
To download seamen's service papers go to the National Archives Documents Online page at www. nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline, click on Advanced Search on the left of the page. This brings up boxes into which you key the person's first name and surname. This brings up the index and it looks as if William Dane is probably the one with the number K14548 (K series were given to the stoker branch). From there you can go on to pay £3.50 online to download the service record which comes in pdf format. Hope this helps you and any other researchers who are struggling with this. Regards, Richard
Added by Richard Taylor on 22 May 2010
Thanks very much Richard, yes my grandfather was a stoker so I will search the records again as you have explained, do you have any idea why his name is not on the Natal medal?
Added by Desmond Dane on 23 May 2010
Hello to all ! I recently visited the War Memorial at Chatham where there is a roll of honour that lists the names of some of the victims of the HMS Natal disaster in 1915.

I was pleased to locate the name of my relative 1st class stoker William McConkey. The grounds of the monument were well kept, but the place seemed lifeless and empty. There are no flowers planted there, although there seems to be stone planters that were originally intended for that purpose.

The Chatham Library told me they have a copy of A Cecil Hampshire's They Called It an Accident in their store. Apparently it can be ordered on request. I thought I would mention this for anyone who would like to do research on the HMS Natal. Also, does anyone know the opening times of the Naval Museum in Invergordon? Thank You.
Added by Thomas Anton Ierubino on 06 June 2010
I have only just found out that my Granddad's older brother, William J R McQueen, died in this horrific explosion, and mean to visit Rosskeen on my next visit to Scotland.
Added by Lynne Harris (nee McQueen) on 03 August 2010
The openining times of the Invergordon Naval Museum opening hours are Mon to Friday office hours. They are not officialy open on a Saturday but there is a contact number at the museum who may open for you out of hours.
Added by Alan Robinson on 08 August 2010
Researching family of Albert Edward Lucas Stoker 1st Class HMS Natal, perished in the explosion aged 27. Appears on the Chatham Naval Memorial. is there any record of him in Invergordon or Cromarty cemeteries, does anyone know?
Added by A Rayfield on 14 August 2010
Just to let you know that in Haberdashers Monmouth School for Girls, Monmouth, Wales, is a war memorial for Women at War. One of the large stone panels depicts Nurse Maude Edwards, who was one of three nurses on board HMS NATAL at the fateful time when she blew up at Invergordon. Maude was a nurse on the hospital ship SS DRINA anchored in the Cromarty Firth. Maude had been a scholar of the girls school at Monmouth, and was also a friend of my grandmother at the same school. The panel shows nurse Maude Edwards sitting reading a book in her nurses uniform. Beyond her lying at anchor is HMS NATAL. This panel was designed and carved by myself, Philip Chatfield, Sculptor. The stone is French from the north east part of France known as Lens stone. ironically quarried near first world war battle sites. I only found out the link with my grandmother after carving the stone. The memorial can be visited with permission from the School during the day.
Added by Philip Chatfield on 30 August 2010
I am trying to find out more about my grandad's brother Albert Biggs who died on the Natal. I was told that someone who was there when he died that he had fell through his burning clothes as they tried to pull him up some steps. My great grand mother had his photo in a locket round her neck till she died.
Added by Mark Biggs on 02 September 2010
Dusty Jeanes my great grandfather was John Frederick Richard Jeanes. My grandmother was your aunt's sister and I have his service medal, given to all those servicemen that died in the war. As John has hung on the wall at home as a large photo in his naval uniform all my life, it was good to hear some more about him as both my parents have died and I have no one to ask. Thanks for the information. I presume you are one of my dad's cousins.
Added by Catherine Grigg Mason on 20 October 2010
I am trying to find out about my uncle, Charles Nugent, (Leading telegraphist J35887) who was posted to the Natal in September 1915. He was subsequently killed on HMS Duke in 1918. I would be interested to know if he was on board and survived the explosion or was perhaps ashore or on leave at the time. Does anyone have or know where I could find a survivors list which gives that sort of detail?
Added by Tony Lee on 18 November 2010
On Saturday, 1 January 1915, The Times carried a list headed 'The Saved'. I'm afraid my photocopy goes only as far as the M's but reference to the microfilm at your local library should help.
Added by Richard Taylor, Secretary, NHCRA on 19 November 2010
Catherine Grigg Mason, your father is David, son of Nancy, daughter of JFR Jeanes who died on Natal. I am Howard. You can contact me on dusty.jeanes@btinternet.com
Added by Dusty Jeanes on 30 November 2010
I have just found out that the only son, Engr Lieut William Black, of my gr gr grandfather's brother, Wm Black, died on the Natal. Researching family trees can bring sadness.
Added by Lynne Black on 14 December 2010
My late Dad, Daldon Ross, witnessed the explosion and sinking when he was nearly six years old. At the time, he was with my grandfather who was working in the field above the Firth beside Rosenburg, and they had a very clear view of the whole event, which my Dad never forgot. He was invited to the opening of the unveiling of the memorial plaque and museum at Invergordon as one of the people who had witnessed the tragedy.

Added by Campbell Ross on 22 December 2010
Three ships suffered catastrophic explosions during WW1,the Bulwark, Natal and the Vanguard. I served on the aircraft carrier HMS Bulwark 1972-74 where I learned of all three incidents. Later I married a girl who's uncle died during the explosion aboard HMS Vanguard at Scapa, her mum has recently said she thought the uncle had also served aboard the HMS Natal earlier in his naval career. Is there any way we can access crew records online? We often travel to Scotland and have visited Scapa Flow cemetery and paid respects to the crew and my wife's uncle. We also always visit Cromarty when we go to Scotland so it was a surprise to learn from the Cromarty archive that the Natal lay in Cromarty Bay on whose beach we have spent many hours enjoying the tremendous views.
Added by Geoff Thorne on 12 March 2011
Service records of those who served in WW1 can be downloaded as .pdf files from The National Archives website using its Documents Online facility. They cost only £3.50 each.
I have an entry here dated 2007, re my uncle "Jack Baylis" Further entries refer to the explosion being accidental (old cordite). Jack's loving mother - my grandmother - often recalled his name and told on his last visit home only a few days before the tragedy he said there was a strange woman on board and thought to be a "friend" of the captain - she had a foreign accent. He left home late December 1915 sad, and his sister (my mother) often said "Jack new he wouldn't see his beloved family again", how true. As I have said before, we believe there was a cover up. I have placed uncle's Medals at the Naval Museum Portsmouth, where there's a lack of information and a very small cabinet displaying artefacts. Why was the hull desecrated, surely it is a war grave? Money was made, who received it? The hull was of a specially fine steel I understand, salvaged steel was used in the manufacture of razor blades!
Added by Brian Knibbs on 15 March 2011
Not being a regular browser of forums I have only just found your site and am most interested in the posts concerning the loss of HMS Natal.

As it happens I have an anecdote from a cousin who survived the explosion, which may be of interest. I also have a memorial plaque to a man who was killed and additionally two groups of medals to men who were members of the ship’s company on 30 December 1915. One group is to a man who survived and another, sadly, to a casualty. Both groups include the Natal Medal – one being named to the recipient and the other not. I also have copies of all their service records. I seem to recollect reading somewhere that all survivors were interviewed by the Board of Enquiry, which makes the following even stranger – if true!

My relation on board at the time of the explosion was, Able Seaman (Diver) James McDade. He went to the aft powder room [cordite magazine] and noticed a friend of his smoking. As this was strictly prohibited, and he did not wish to be caught with the culprit, Jim went immediately up on deck. A few seconds later he was blown overboard by the explosion, which destroyed the ship. He recounted this story to the family years after the War. They did not consider it particularly important, but knowing my special interest in the Great War, passed the information on to me.
On being questioned as to why he did not report the incident to the Board of Enquiry Jim simply replied, “[as a rating] I was never asked. And anyway, he was a friend!”

Prior to his service in the Royal Navy, which commenced on 9 August 1907, Jim had been a ‘cordite paste worker’ and his father was foreman in an explosives factory. It seems highly likely, in view of his experience, that AB James McDade, more than most, would have realised the grave risk his friend was taking. Unlike the high explosive used in shell fillings, the cordite used to propel those shells is highly inflammable. Pieces of cordite may spill onto the floor of the powder room and a dropped cigarette or match would easily ignite it. Cordite in any quantity beyond a single stick or two, or few grains, does not just burn serenely - it violently erupts in a mass of intensely hot flame. It becomes in effect a progressive, low-order explosion. The protection of the silk-bagged bundles of cordite by only semi fireproof containers was inadequate. Unless isolated and vented, a cordite fire can result in a chain reaction with adjacent larger stocks of cordite, which, being confined in a steel magazine would explode rather like a bomb. Under the right conditions that can even result in the contents of an adjacent main shell magazine detonating. Although cordite has a considerably slower velocity of detonation than the high-explosive shells that fact is rather academic under the circumstances. No wonder Jim McDade wanted to be as far away from his ‘friend’ as possible!
Added by Geoff Bridger on 07 August 2011
Seems then from your comment Geoff, James Mc Dade was out of order. I cant beleive after so long this story has never been aired before, is this the wonders of electronic mail? Its sadly too late for all those lost, the families left to fend alone, no councilling from a mamby state in those days. I/We witnessing the sadness of Grandparents, sisters etc: from this tragedy never having been helped in any way by the then "state operatives"of the early 1900s. We are now on our way out, these memories lost forever !
Added by Brian Knibbs on 08 August 2011
That was quite an interesting piece of information which helps keep me researching my grandfathers death on board. Thank you so much for the information.
Added by Joe Gracey on 09 August 2011
Hello Brian,
The bond between chums/mates in the services has always been stronger than any loyalty to the system. In fact I published this account in a Great War history journal around 20 years ago and received absolutely no response. The information had been with the family who had no idea of its significance and only passed it to me when I first started asking them questions about family history in general. I found it fascinating but also had no idea what to do about it so many years after the event. Even today to whom does one address a letter raising doubts on an event that has been closed for 95 years? I did not know the full ‘official’ sequence of events concerning the loss of HMS Natal and only recently discovered this site. The account is as I was told; incidentally separately, by the long estranged two children of Jim McDade who died in 1972. I cannot vouch for its accuracy but have no reason to doubt the honesty of the families who told me.

Added by Geoff Bridger on 10 August 2011
Hello Geoff, my grandfather Leading Stoker W Dane survived the explosion and I have his Natal medal, but his name is not etched around the rim, do you know why this is so, and I would be extremely interested to read what he said at the Board of Enquiry if you have the transcipt. Thanks, D.R.Dane.
Added by Desmond Dane on 10 August 2011
Joe, do you refer to my reply or the info: posted by Geoff. Any info you have images also please post in. Like your G/F name and rank would be interesting.
Added by Brian Knibbs on 10 August 2011
Thanks Geoff, I found this site several years ago my early comments referring to my uncle Jack Baylis who perished on board aged 22, he had told his mother how he had met a strange female on board having a foreign accent, and a friend of the captain, so the whole affair is steeped in stories, no enquiry was ever published to my knowledge. o.
Added by Brian Knibbs on 10 August 2011
Thank you once again for the additional information. I have noticed that the photo that I sent some time ago of my grandfather William Walsh is no longer displayed on the site or can it be viewed elsewhere.

[See picture #955. Editor]
Added by Joe Gracey on 11 August 2011
Like a lot of people who have visited this site I have been researching my family tree, my Great granddad Thomas Mizen age 19 was one off the unfortunate seamen who died on the Natal. if anyone could help me with any info i would be grateful.
Added by Joe Figgett on 29 November 2011
Hello Geoff, I left you a message in August regarding my grandfather, Leading Stoker W.Dane. I wonder if you have any news for me. Thank you very much, Desmond Dane.
Anonymous comment added on 29 November 2011
Hello Desmond. I am sorry not to have replied to you before. Unfortunately I do not have a copy of the Board of Enquiry report. I see that The National Archives has several files that may be relevant:

ADM 1/8445/9, ADM 137/3608, ADM 156/162, ADM 178/122 & 123 refer to the incident and may be worth a look.

As for the medals I have two groups each with a Natal medal. - One is unnamed to a private in the RMLI who was killed and the other (named) to a signaller who survived. Am not sure why some were named and others not. I think the naming was done prior to the sinking - but am not sure. My cousin's medals are believed to be somewhere in the family but I do not have them - alas.

Best wishes, Geoff
Added by Geoff Bridger on 29 November 2011
Hello Geoff, thank you so much for your reply, I will check out the leads you kindly gave me. Best regards, Desmond.
Anonymous comment added on 30 November 2011
Is there any possibility a gathering of "their remaining family members" could be arranged during the year 2012? And of course those so helpful in relevent info: on this page. Well done and thanks, Brian Knibbs, served R.E.M.E. Nat Serv: 58/05. Nephew of J.Baylis-lost on board Natal. G.R.h.S.
Added by Brian Knibbs on 01 December 2011
After the Natal blew up many pieces of wreckage came ashore and were claimed by the Cromarty residents. A team of Naval and Police personnel went round the houses to make sure they found no dangerous ammunition. When they entered the house of a local character named Mary Hoochtie they found her in front of a blazing fire sitting on a box of cordite. My grandmother had the masthead light of the Natal in the front hall which was used for propping the door open and it is still in our possession.
Added by Douglas Matheson on 02 December 2011
Thank you once again for the very interesting information on the destruction of HMS Natal, the ship my grandfather William Walsh was killed.
Added by Joe Gracey on 05 December 2011
My grandfather's elder brother, Leading Stoker Frederick Koppe, died on the Natal, aged 27. The interesting fact is that his father was German, though all his children were born in this country. My father, unfortunately, never knew about his uncle, as his father died when he was 10, so he was unaware of the significance of Cromarty when he was at RAF gunnery school at Evanton during WW2. I only chanced upon this piece of family history on the CWGC website.
Added by Mike Koppe on 23 January 2012
The mail from Geoff Bridger August 2012. Refers to the possible cause of the explosion from my previous mail dated...! Geoff if you still attend this Forum your reply appreciated. More please, if possible. Brian K.
Added by Brian Knibbs on 24 January 2012
Hello Brian.
Sorry, I am a little confused - not sure what more I can add. Have I missed something?
Added by Geoff Bridger on 24 January 2012
Geoff. unexpected so soon. No all's fine sorry to be confusing, badly worded just wondering about "more info" on this secretive sad disaster. Submarine on news today dodgy reason for the loss ? nothing changes with the M O D. regards Brian K.
Added by Brian Knibbs on 24 January 2012
i was part of the team that removed the remanants of the natal in the seventies as it was deemed to be a hazard to the manufacture and movement of rigs at nig bay which is close to the mouth of cromarty firth.
Added by Russ Conran on 08 March 2012
My Husband's, (Richard Hooper) grandfather, Dr. Alfred Oswald Hooper was one of the ships surgeons who died when the HMS NATAL sank on 30th Dec. 1915. Dr. Hooper's father was also a doctor and was awarded an OBE. My maiden name was DODD and I see from the casualties there was a Mr & Mrs Dodd plus 3 children who also died on that day. I see Mr. Dodd was the Factor of Novar Estate. What does being the Factor of Novar Estate mean?
Added by Enid Hooper (Nee Dodd) on 28 April 2012
Essentially, he was an Estates Manager responsible for running an estate in the absence of the owner (who perhaps could not be bothered).
Added by Andrew Garton on 01 May 2012
Thank you Andrew for the explantion to what the Factor of Novar Estate meant. I thought it was a person who ran the estate in those days but was not sure.
Added by Enid Hooper (Nee Dodd) on 02 May 2012
I have viewd this site a number of times since visiting Cromarty in 2007, in search of more information on my grandfather who died on Natal in 1915. He was Leading Stoker, Alfred William Brigden, who came from Southfleet, Kent, and was aged 32. My father was then 3 years of age; he never spoke of my grandfather, and I now aim, on his behalf to secure his memory.

I recommend that anyone interested in researching the Natal disaster should visit the Public Records Office in Kew, Surrey; where the Admiralty file on the loss can be inspected. Letters from affected relatives are included, and the whole is a sad and sobering experience.

I have yet to trace my grandfather's Natal medal, but have the original letter received by my grandmother, advising her of his loss. It is difficult to imagine the impact of these letters reaching relatives.
I am aware of the Esher Natal Requiem performance of 2006, and wonder if anyone has any knowledge of plans to mark the 100th anniversary of the tragedy in 2015.

I am now 70, but god willing, plan to visit Cromarty/Invergordon on December 30th 2015, and would be very pleased to assist others in making suitable arrangements. Would be delighted to hear from anyone in this respect.
Added by Tony W. Brigden on 07 June 2012
Hi tony this is very strange, it seems we are related and we both have someone who died on the Natal. I have Alfred Gunner he also was a stoker. George Brigden married my mums sister Olive Lennard. George was from Southfleet as well - it was a cert George knew Alfred Gunner - he was his boss on the ship. Please get in touch.
Added by Michael Osborne on 08 June 2012
Sorry, a mistake from me I should have said alfred william brigden must have known alfred gunner he was his boss I said george brigden.
Added by Michael Osborne on 11 June 2012
can you tell me how I can get in touch with
Added by Michael Osborne on 13 June 2012
Most interesting and seems certain the Alfreds would have known each other. Alfred William had a brother, George Stone Brigden, who married in 1911; whereas my Ancestry research shows your aunt marrying George Brigden in 1933. I have more info I would be happy to send you, so please send your email details to: tonywbrigden@btinternet.com.
Added by Tony W. Brigden on 13 June 2012
Many thanks for your information,it,s nice to know that there is still a lot of interest in the destruction of Natal.
Added by Joe Gracey on 18 June 2012
i have asked this question before but did not get a definite answer, my grandfather, William Dane, who was a Leading Stoker on the Natal, and luckily survived the explosion was given the Natal medal, but his name was not etched around the edge, can anyone tell me why some medals had the name of the person, and some didn't?
Added by Desmond Dane on 23 June 2012
My Father was a sick berth attendant on board HMHS Plassy and they picked up survivors from HMS Natal. He was lowered in the ship's boat to search for bodies and bits in the water. I have a photograph of some of the survivors leaving the hospital ship.
Added by Leslie M Atkinson on 05 November 2012
Dear Estelle Quick. We are putting together our family history and we were wondering if you are related to my mother Edith Florence Watson née Quick born 1909. Married to Ernest Watson of Cromarty. We Emigrated to South Africa in 1948. Any help would be appreciated as we know very little of the Quick family.
Added by Ernestine Lydia Watson daughter of Edith Florence Quick on 08 February 2013
Hi Ernestine. I don't think there is a connection as my family is not from this area, but I'm interested to hear that there have been other Quicks here. As you probably know it's a southwest England name - in my case Devon a few generations back. Do you have any connections there?
Added by Estelle Quick on 16 February 2013
I don't have any comments about a picture. But do have a question. Are there any photos of the Natal medal? My great uncle - Percy S. Larman(his photo is near the top of this page on the right hand side) apparently received a couple of medals shortly before he died aboard the Natal. He showed them to his father when they met, in England just before Christmas. I don't know what medals they were but assume one would be the Natal medal, so I'm wondering what it looks like. I would also appreciate any iformation about him that anyone can provide, since I know so little about him.

Added by June Coxon on 16 February 2013
Hello Ernestine Seeing your name on the website was certainly a "blast from the past". Can't help very much with the family history on your Mother's side, but thought you might be interested to know that I have in my possession a baptismal card in respect of your sister Shirley. Shirley was baptised at All Saints, Cromarty (St Regulus) on 12th July 1946. My Mother was her Godparent. Best Wishes.
Added by Alex Grant on 17 February 2013
Hello Alex and Estelle, Thanks for this information . I believe that my mother Edith Quick was originally from Devon and moved to Cromarty when she was a teenager? I was only 9 months old when we left Cromarty for South Africa so I do not remember very much . I have been back to the UK several times on holiday with my family. Regards Ernestine.
Added by Ernestine.watson@icloud.co.za on 24 March 2013
Lost my great uncle Mark Tippey on HMS Natal. You can see his photo here on site. Just learnt today a member of my Casey associated family was lost on HMS Natal - William Bean. Stoker 3384s. Wonder if i could be lucky again and find a photo of William Bean.
Added by Derek Casey on 26 March 2013
Hi June , My late father was one of the salvage crew that dived on HMS NATAL and he found a couple of these medals, they are the size of the old 10p coin. I was brought up with a lot of the artifacts that my late father was aloud to keep after they finished the salvage dive. Sadly my father has just passed away and has donated all of the artifacts from the Natal to the Invgordon Musuem. I have been brought up with stories about the sinking and my fathers own views on what he thought had happened. I hope this has hepded.
Added by Alison Mackenzie on 11 July 2013
Hi Alison, It's great that you've donated the artefacts to the museum My Gt grandfather Henry Potts was killed on the Natal. I have a photo of him.

He gave up his leave that afternoon to allow a man to go ashore,allegedly to play football.
Added by Meg Archbold on 24 February 2014
Anyone got any information about a `Natal` book coming out around Christmas?
Added by Dorothy Ewen (robertson) on 07 November 2014
Is it strange to have two relatives on one ship?

I had two on the Natal Alfred William Brigden and Alfred Gunner and both died. Two on the Titanic, Lucy Violet Snape and Edwin Best both died or is it just very unlucky?
Added by Michael Osborne on 07 November 2014
Drowning must be an awful way to depart this world as many have. The Natal and its boys faced an explosion too---never really explained. Cover Up ?? Who Knows, long gone. Jack Baylis rest his soul.
Added by Brian Knibbs ( Mother-Annie Baylis ) on 08 November 2014
Some time ago i found a great uncle Mark Tippey died on HMS Natal, his photo can be seen on this site, imagine my surprise to find another relative died on the same ship, William Bean RNR 3384S, he married my 2x great grandparents grandaughter Margaret Thompson, both lads born in Stockton on Tees.
Added by Derek Casey on 08 November 2014
My father, Alexander Nicholas Thomas was born in Fortrose, moved away as his father was master of his own coaster supplying the Royal Navy at Cromarty. While living in Dalmuir in Clydebank in the 30's he fell into the Firth and Forth Clyde Canal and nearly drowned. Was then sent back to stay with his aunt in Cromarty. While there as a secondary school boy he remembers finding pennies washing up on the shore which were attributed to the wreck of HMS Natal. Took awhile but I got to the connection with the Natal in the end.

Added by Alan Thomas on 09 November 2014
My great-uncle Francis Brinyon Hewett died on the Natal and this 30th December I visited both Invergordon and Cromarty to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the event. It was very moving and we also enjoyed a wonderful Scottish Hogmanay.
Added by David Hewett on 04 January 2015
Hello Alison, Thank you for the information about the medals awarded crew of the Natal. It's nice that your father donated the salvaged artifacts from the ship to a museum. I wonder if someone could post a photo of one of the medals?
Added by June Coxon on 05 January 2015
Is there to be a special memorial event this coming December 2015 for the 100th anniversary?
There is a small stone memorial plaque to Maude Evans, who, apparently was one of the nurses invited to visit the Natal on that fateful day, and she too perished. It is in Monmouth, at her old school.
Added by Tina Harris on 25 January 2015
How can we learn IF a meeting is proposed. I will second the suggestion, a lot of old folk will be there ? e-mail + web page---curator ? nice one Tina.
Added by Brian Knibbs. midlands u.k. on 25 January 2015
Tina, my grandfather, Alfred William Brigden perished on Natal that day, and God willing I will be there on December 30th this year to lay a wreath on Cromarty Firth.

Added by Tony Brigden on 26 January 2015
I believe members want to see what the Natal medal looks like. If I can figure out how to post pictures I may be able to help for I have two along with their other medals. The details are:
1.Robert Jackaman. Private. CH.11386. Royal Marine Light Infantry. HMS Natal. He was killed 30/12/15 and his Natal medal is NOT named on its edge.
2. Harold G. Cole. Signaller. J.18655 HMS Natal. He survived the explosion and his Natal medal is named to him. He was given the Silver War Badge which means that at some time he was discharged as unfit for service due to sickness or injury.
I do not know why some medals are named and others not. Perhaps the naming was done privately.
PS. I am trying to send 5 pictures but not sure how. Advice please. I will not copy all this again but will simply call the pictures 'Natal medal 1' 'Natal medal 2 etc' when I figure out how to do it! (Not used to posting items. Sorry)
Added by Geoff Bridger on 28 January 2015
Geoff ...at the top of this page is a section titled 'Insert a picture' so if you've uploaded them to your PC hopefully it should work? Good luck, I look forward to seeing them, my gt grandfather died on the Natal. Meg
Added by Meg Archbold on 30 January 2015
Thanks Meg. Have just posted (I hope!) 5 pictures. Three of the Natal Medal (front, back & edge) plus the groups to Harold Cole & Robert Jackaman. I referred to on 28th Jan. Hope this is useful.
Added by Geoff Bridger on 31 January 2015
Thanks for posting photos of the medals, Geoff. I was particularly interested in seeing the Natal medal since that was named as a medal my great uncle, Percy Larman, had received before he died when the ship blew up.
Added by June Coxon on 03 February 2015
Thanks Geoff, very interesting. I have no idea what happened to my gt grandfather's medals but I remember seeing his widow (my gt.gran)wearing mourning black, including a small hat, for the rest of her life.
Added by Meg Archbold on 04 February 2015
Invergordon Museum has a large display of artefacts salvaged from the 'Natal' which were donated to us. This includes brass nameplates from some of the sailors' lockers, large and small personal items and naval instruments. Come and visit us at the top of the High Street or email me and if I can help, I will.
Added by Carolyn Samsin on 08 March 2018
My uncle Charles Henry Axten died inn this explosion. He was 17 years old. Before he left home for the last time he gave my mother, his younger sister, his Natal medallion and she gave him her watch with a luminous dial with the promise they would swap them back when he returned. He never did. The medallion is now in my possession. I was very moved when we visited the permanent exhibition in Invergordon Museum last year.
Added by Yvonne Suckling on 04 July 2018
My father John Douglas Matheson was brought up in Cromarty and retired there. By the front door of our house was a brass Verey pistol from the Natal and a brass light from a mast. There were also two 3 pounder shells one of which was used to keep the front door open. These items, which are now in my possession, were purchased from a Navy diver who salvaged them and sold them on the harbour to my grandfather Roderick who had the Army and Navy shop in Cromarty which he founded in 1909. My father acquired some armour plating from , possibly a later salvage effort, which he used to build a bomb shelter prior to the Second World War.
Added by DOUGLAS MATHESON on 21 August 2018
I have a shell casing from HMS Natal mounted on a base with engraved plaque. It reads HMS Natal, Sunk Dec 31 1915, Salvaged June 9 1937

My grandad Ernest Newton, was in the RN Submarine service but I am not sure if he got this shell from being involved in the salvage or where he got it. The shell is badly distorted and the brass shows signs of intense heat. It is marked Vickers II, 1910. Anyone with any info on the savage operation then do let me know. Andy
Added by Andy French on 19 October 2018
I have a Natal medal, in good condition, with the name Joseph Mott engraved on the lower edge.
I find all this fascinating, and it is quite an eerie feeling holding the medal.
Added by Dennis on 08 December 2019
Can you tell me if any parts of the ship would have landed on Jemimaville shore ? There are rusted metal parts which look like they are from a boat , thank you
Added by Doreen Urquhart on 14 August 2020
This is a fascinating read! Thank you!
There is a 'story' in our family, that a Munro relative (from 'The Blue House', Evanton) was a chauffeur for Mr Dodds and his family who all perished aboard. Apparently the car got a puncture as they arrived, and our relative stayed onshore to fix the puncture, whilst the Dodds family went onto the Natal. Our relative was meant to go aboard too!
I have been trawling the internet trying to find some sort of proof to this story, as i too am researching our Family History, and would love to document this accurately.
Does this 'story' sound familiar to anyone?
Does anyone have any further information that could assist me?
I would love to hear from anyone on juls333@hotmail.co.uk
Added by Julie Robert on 03 March 2021
Thank you for the email service. Is there a photo of the Natal "In dock" just prior to the explosion,this may help Julie in her search, may show the car dockside.realising photo were a rare commodity in those austere times. I often wonder how it was allowed that " Natal " war grave, was allowed to be scrapped for razor blades, I led to believe. Publicity of this awful tragedy is minimal, a T.V documentary would be a good earner for the wonderful museum. My uncle perished here, ( J. Baylis ) Brian Knibbs.
Added by Brian Knibbs on 26 March 2021
My great uncle, Clifford Bertram Johnson served on the HMS Natal as an Engine Room Artificer (ERA) 4th class, service number M7825. He also did not survive the explosion. I would be very keen to know if anyone has any photos of the ERAs they can share. Thank you
I also have a copy of They Called it an Accident and agree, it is a very interesting read.
Added by Diane Anstey on 30 October 2021
Whilst "googling" I have come across a website which includes some photos not on this website: www.hmsnatal.co.uk/lifeonboardhmsnatal.asp
Hope its of use!
Added by Diane Anstey on 30 October 2021
Just a comment on why the Natal was scrapped. As I understand it the wreck was a navigational hazard which became unacceptable when the HIFAB construction yard was built at Nigg and the oil terminal. The large tankers and oil rigs needed the uninterrupted depth of water. Perhaps others will remember the explosions as the remains were finally disposed of.

Added by Douglas Matheson on 12 November 2021
Diane, what an inspired find the website is.
Thanks very much for sharing.
Added by DAVID HEWETT on 12 November 2021
It’s a shame there are no contact details on that site Diane, non I could find anyway. Very interesting though.
Added by Andy French on 16 January 2022
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The Natal - Warship destroyed by an explosion off Cromarty during WW1

New PictureNew PicturePostcard from HMS NatalPostcard from HMS NatalMark Tippey, HMS NatalPercy Larman who died on the NatalLetter from Arthur TaylorAlfred Gunner - 1st Class Stoker, HMS NatalJohn Fitzgerald b.17/09/1888 Bromley, London.Some of the Crew of the Natal