a continuation of type from



In my day, I can well remember a much hated task of aerial party on an aircraft carrier. The carriers of WW2 and those built during the war/very early post war years, Eagle, Ark Royal, Albion, Bulwark, Centaur and Hermes, all commissioned in the 1950's. Then in no order of age but still around in the RN in the 50's were the Ocean, Theseus, Illustrious, Formidable, Victorious, Indomitable, Magnificent, Vengeance, Warrior, Perseus, Pioneer, Triumph, Implacable, Indefatigable, Unicorn, Glory, and these are only listed to show you that it was highly likely that you could or would be drafted to a carrier experiencing that awful aerial party job!

So why were aerials, and an association with them, so terrible: although others might disagree with me of course!

Well there are not too many places on an aircraft carrier to site wireless telegraphy aerials, and by the way, we in the RN call them such and not antennas - see this:-


Specifically that referring to
chunks of naval metal which
are known to emit or receive
radio waves.

Get it right! A device which emits and receives radio waves is an A E R I A L - full stop. If you were a German or a French man you would say ANTENNE:  if a Spaniard,  ANTENA [one letter 'n'] and if an Italian, ANTENNA. Marconi [an Italian] is known as the father of radio communications, but, in the Royal Navy, Admiral of the Fleet H.B. Jackson [then Captain Jackson R.N.,] had as much to do with radio communications as did Marconi, at least in the embryonic days of the late 1890's. Unfortunately for us, our American friends copied the Italians, but we Brits say AERIAL. This little opening paragraph is taken from Chapter XVI of the RN W/T Manual dated 1920.

......and now back to the carrier spaces.

The reason for having a carrier is to use aircraft to attack targets [instead of by using guns, torpedoes etc] so all areas on-deck and below deck in substantial areas [hangars], are sacrosanct for the use by the FAA [Fleet Air Arm]. Putting aerials on deck is a non starter, so despite the sheer size of a flight deck [that's flying off and on and parking airframes either fixed wing, helicopters, and for parking/manoeuvring tractors and ammunition boggies, not to mention crash-on-deck fire-fighting crews.

So that leaves the Island, that great mass taking up virtually half of the starboard side. Believe you me, what is on and in that Island is a work-of-art, and departments have been known to fight other departments for a square foot [whoops, sorry, 0.09290304 square metre] of spare space. It has aerials for a whole set of situations in addition to those used for wireless telegraphy which includes radar, electronic warfare, homing beacons and even domestic television which was pumped around the ship. And as for those wireless aerials on the Island there were dozens of them of many different sizes and shapes. My story however is were there any others? Yes there were, all alongside the port side of the flight deck, raised high in the sky when not at flying-stations, and lowered down to the horizontal position  when carrying out flying operations leaving the flight deck absolutely free of obstacles. The masts were called "hockey-sticks" for they were shaped like one, and on the early carriers were hand cranked up and down, and on later carriers so fitted, were hydraulically moved at the push of a button. These 'hockey sticks' usually in groups of four in two sets, one set for transmitting and one for receiving, 6 to 8 hockey sticks on a large carrier [Eagle and Ark Royal] were strung with wires rather like a cello musical instrument.  The wires up to eight in number, had to be taut when the 'sticks' were raised, lowered and all positions in between and the aerials were continuously in use twenty-four hours a day, unless rendered inoperative for maintenance. My little animated picture depicts the situation for 'flying' v 'non-flying' ops. The animation exaggerates the position of the wing-span of the departing aircraft [shown in yellow] but it does show the safety of flight-deck operations. Wait for the .gif to finish before moving your scroll bar down!


This picture is self explanatory

Aerials of course must never touch an earthing metal part/point and the fixing part which is earthed is connected to the aerial wires via a glass insulator.

The next picture shows a typical aerial of a carrier in those times

Now these hockey sticks carrying their precious aerials without which a carrier could not communicate to receive orders*, rendezvous details and the like, when lowered, got quite near to the sea, or at least sea-spray which deposited large amount of salt onto the wires and the glass insulators.  When a carrier is operating into the wind and the near 50,000 tons hull is speeding along at 30 knots, that spray is all pervading requiring copious amount of fresh water to wash airframes [fixed or rotary] either reigned on deck or airborne for SAR [search and rescue] purposes.

 I started this section by referring to the hated task of aerial party. When in harbour we used to scramble over these aerials wearing knee-pads, brushing each and every wire throughout its length and circumference with a wooden cradle loaded with fine brass wires, as opposed to a conventional wire-brush, the like for stripping away rust on an exposed upper deck, and washing each and every glass insulator to restore the wire aerials to their intended efficiency. Fortunately, being on the port side we were not challenged to get rid of funnel emissions, which could and did burn FFO [furnace fuel oil] where emissions when mixed with soot, turned into black treacle. Superstructure in the vicinity of such a polluting funnel could be cleaned with a steam-hose, but not so delicate aerials however employed fixed or rotating. They were cleaned by hand either by climbing into the superstructure or on safe but nevertheless precarious ladders [is that a paradox?] and safer still, from a scaffold rigged specifically for Island maintenance....but enough of all that!

Way back in the early times of carriers and hockey sticks, Commander Air, when at flying stations also known as "GOD" and his Squadron[s] officers saw another use for hockey sticks when at flying stations, remember, lowered horizontally towards the sea as shown below.  Too many pilots/observers had "ditched" when attempting to 'land on', some crippled by defects/action damage, some mis-judged, but however, ended up on the port side of the carrier in the 'oggin' a naval word for the "sea." At all times without fail, such a ditching brought the SAR chopper into being, and if they missed the hapless aircrew then there was ALWAYS the RESDES [Rescue Destroyer] awaiting orders stationed on the port quarter of the carrier, ready to launch its seaboat to rescue these brave aircrews. But, thought the aircrew, why not add to our chances and use these hockey sticks as a third form of close-in rescue. This was approved by their Lordships, and safety nets were added to the lower parts of the hockey sticks to be used as "a grab as you pass" type life jacket.

Look at these pictures which we had in the Eagle in the 1950's. They are NOT thumbnails.


Thus ends my saga about hockey sticks and their aerials and operating positions. I leave you with a few details. In Eagle, the largest ship we ever had, and that remains vogue until the Queen Elizabeth gets going, passes her ORI [operational readiness inspection] and receives her F35 squadrons [2023?????], we had the ability to provide 15 simultaneous UHF frequencies; in the BWO [Bridge Wireless Office] we had 22 main receivers B40/B41 and in the LRR [Lower Receiving room] a further 25; in the MCO [Main Communications Office] we had another half dozen] all fed from those hockey sticks on what we called, a CAW [Common Aerial Working] system. Thus, the hockey sticks were not "knock about" [sorry for the pun] sticks, but crucial to the operation of this massive carrier. Many departments depended upon them and their functionality, but we poor bloody sparkers had the job of keeping them in tip top condition, even to the point of checking the "arrestor nets" slung low under the sticks. Mind you, a nice job in Malta for example, but not so nice in the Moray Firth or when blowing a s'westerly whilst hiding off Falmouth.

This file taken from RNSO S4/1962 - Organisation of Naval Air Communications and Radio Flying Aids - tells you about some of the circuits necessary for the Fleet Carrier.



Photograph from the "Illustrated London News" of the British WW1 submarine E15 being inspected by German and Turkish authorities before it was torpedoed by British picket boats from our battleships. The damage you see was caused by Turkish guns after it had run aground. Note in particular the large hole in the base of the conning tower which killed the commanding officer en-route to the bridge from the control room.

Other events from that busy year!

The Illustrated London News 1915

Events of this year in the Illustrated London News

  • January 19th - First Zeppelin bombing raids on Britain
  • January - HMS Formidable sunk by a submarine and the Royal Navy sank Blucher Germany's Battle cruiser that was responsible for shelling the North east coast of England
  • February 2nd - Submarine blockade of Britain launched by Germany
  • February 27th A week of the Illustrated london News - O'Leary winning the V.C.
  • March 12th - British Government appealed to women to sign on for war work
  • April - Neuve Chapelle captured by British who lost 13,000 officers and men
  • April 22nd - First British offensive at Ypres, and the first German chlorine gas attacks, 160 tons of gas released
  • April 24th - Allied landings at Gallipoli, Anzac Cove "sons of the Empire" from the Southern Cross
  • April 24th - The Lancashire Fusiliers win 3 VCs at Gallipoli
  • May 7th - Lusitania sunk by German submarine, off the Irish coast;1198 drown including 128 Americans
  • June 7th - First Zeppelin destroyed in the air by British aeroplane Naval pilot Reginald Warneford was awarded the VC
  • September 26th - Allied offensive in Flanders and Champagne started
  • October 12th - Nurse Edith Cavell executed by German firing squad
  • October 23rd - Death of the legendary cricketer WG Grace
  • November 11th - Asquith forms a coalition government, Churchill left the government after exclusion from the war cabinet
  • November - Income tax was raised by 40% to help pay for the war which was costing £3m per day
  • December 20th - Gallipoli campaign abandoned by allies in the face of Turkish resistance
  • The Government launched an anti drinking campaign to improve industrial output "Defence of the realm" Act
  • Rupert Brooke died on his way to the Dardenelles in Belgium "If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign that is forever England"
  • D.W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation produced



A snippet from a war diary {WW1} of a soldier writing home home to his family and the family answers. His normal subject was what his Staffordshire regiment was doing in France, but in this one, they turn their attention to the 34 brave naval air division pilots [British 'Air Birds'] fore-runners of the FAA.

14th FEB.1915. British ‘Air Birds’ Raid Ostend.

 Elizabeth Hibbett Webb Leave a comment

Bertie in UniformPte BERTIE HIBBETT: POSTCARD to Mr. Dodger Hibbett, 95  Foden Rd. Walsall.

Basil Hibbett Age 18. 1916.
Basil Hibbett.  1916. Age 18. 
British Marines marching through Ostend. 1915.
British Marines marching through Ostend.

Feb. 14th 1915.                  

British Seaplane 1915
British Seaplane 1915

 What do you think of our air raid, a fine sight to see those 34 air birds flying over the sea to accomplish their task (1).

This view shows Ostend Station which you know was destroyed for fear of becoming a Naval Base (2).

Thanks for your letter.          Bert.


Pte BERTIE HIBBETT: POSTCARD  to Mrs A. HIBBETT, 95 Foden Rd. Walsall.

Marie Neal Hibbett 53 in 1915
Marie Neal Hibbett 53 in 1915

Feb. 14th 1915.

Saffron Walden Church 1914.
Saffron Walden Church. 1914.

Although the town is what you might call a village it has not, as most villages have, a smallkirkbut a noble edifice which greatly improves the appearance of the village.  Within its walls have worshipped, it can proudly say now, the Staffordshire Brigade & North Midland Division & it possesses the old flags of the Essex Volunteers in the Boer War.




(1) Feb. 12th 1915: British Naval Wing  attacked German-occupied Zeebrugge & Ostend, targetting Railways & Stations. No Allied lives lost in one of the biggest WW1 raids.  (On same day Kaiser ordered bombing of London Docks).   (2) German Base for Submarines).

NEXT POST: 15th Feb. 1915: ‘Crack Sougers’ & ‘ A Sharp Shooter’.

Air Raid on Ostend 1915.  British Marines in Ostend.  Essex Volunteers Boer War.  Postcards WW1.  Saffron Walden Church.

4. The HARWICH PAIR? Enigmatic naval officer!

See the end of this section for newspaper cuttings which support and clarify the following stories.

A WW1 British admiral who, upon retirement, took the Nazi line of fascism and paid the price of internment into Brixton Prison for much of WW2. Do you remember our King Edward VIII doing the same Nazi fraternisation after his abdication? - and a WW1 Admiral of the Fleet who joined the Home Guard in WW2! In a moment I will concentrate on the admiral only, but first an overview of the admiral of the fleet. Both admirals were experts in operating "light forces" and from early 1916 onwards to the end of WW1 were based on Harwich. During WW1 the Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt GCB DSO served virtually all the war as the "Commodore [RN] of all destroyers in the Home Fleet", being promoted to acting rear admiral in 1918 and promoted to rear admiral on the 2nd December 1919 with an added honour of a baronetcy [first Baronet Tyrwhitt]. Throughout this period he flew his broad pennant and then flag in various cruisers when the Admiral [in this story] then Captain Barry Edward Domvile RN, acted as his flag-captain. What the pair didn't know about "light forces" {the employment of light cruisers and torpedo boat destroyers [TBD]} wasn't worth bothering about and both were acclaimed to be experts by the Admiralty.  There are several stories to quote from, and below, I have touched upon a story relating to the captain, Domvile. What follows is a story about the commodore Tyrwhitt: it relates to the Battle of Jutland.

The German High Seas Fleet put to sea on the 24th April 1916, planning to bombard the coast of East Anglia and so draw British ships out to be defeated in detail. Intercepted radio transmissions revealed the German intentions to the Admiralty and the whole Grand Fleet sailed to meet the Germans. The Harwich Force was ordered to join it, but Tyrwhitt instead headed for Lowestoft, where German battle-cruisers began their bombardment.  He tried without success, to lure them to the south, but then followed them to Yarmouth, where his attack on the accompanying German light cruisers forced the battle-cruisers to break off their bombardment and go to their rescue. They fell back on the High Seas Fleet, followed by Tyrwhitt until the Admiralty ordered him to break contact.  At the Battle of Jutland [31 May - 1 June 1916] Tyrwhitt, with his five light cruisers and nineteen destroyers, sailed from Harwich on his own initiative, only to be recalled by the Admiralty in case a part of the German fleet moved south: thus the Harwich Force did not take part at Jutland. Based on the known cut-and-thrust way of using "light forces", many were heard to comment that had this Harwich Force been let loose at Jutland, things may have turned out differently in Britains favour. Contrary to common belief, after Jutland, the Germans didn't sit in their harbour[s] too scared to face the Grand Fleet, for, two and a half months later, on 19th August 1916, the German's were at it again, during which one of their airships mistakenly reported the Harwich Force as a detached battle squadron.  On discovering that the Grand Fleet was approaching from a different direction, the Germans suspected a trap and headed for home.  Tyrwhitt planned to attack with torpedoes, but broke off contact when the light failed, judging that to continue would amount to suicide.  His critics later argued that he should have pressed on with the attack, but his decision was approved by the C-in-C, Grand Fleet, Sir John Jellicoe who had signalled to Tyrwhitt that the fleet was too far away to come to his support. Tyrwhitt was awarded the DSO in 1916 and the KCB in 1917. Post WW1 he held many flag appointments. In 1925 he became a vice admiral, and admiral in 1929. On the 31st July 1936 he became an admiral of the fleet and by that time he was 66 and considered himself too old to take an active part in WW2. He took it upon himself to do something at least for the war effort and so joined 'Dad's Army' [the Home Guard] as the Commander of the 3rd Kent Battalion. He died aged 81 in 1951. His son, Admiral Sir St John Reginald Joseph Tyrwhitt, 2nd Baronet, KCB DSO DSC inherited the Baronetcy, and had a very active WW2 from beginning to end. He became the second Sea Lord in 1959, and sadly, like several others before and since, died in office at the young age of just 59. The admiral of the fleet' daughter, Dame Mary Tyrwhitt, who had joined the WRACS [Woman's Royal Army Corps Service] became it senior officer in the appointment of the Director of the Service.   

Now before we look at this Admiral [Domvile], WW1 flag-captain of the Harwich Force under Tyrwhitt, we must first go back to the early days of WW1, specifically the period Christmas 1914 to February 1916. During that period there were several high profile skirmishes and battles the first being the battle of Heligoland Bight [August 1914]; the second the Cuxhaven Raid [Christmas 1914] to destroy the Zeppelin base, and the third battle of Dogger Bank [January 1915]. There was a mini-battle again off Dogger Bank in February 1916 but this does not affect or influence the story I am about to tell as it involved British minesweepers only!

Many British warships have been recorded for famous actions and deeds, but the general public have not necessarily taken these ships to heart as the whole nation took Nelson and HMS Victory to their hearts. However, there was one notable exception for the exploits of HMS Powerful [Captain Lambton RN] taking naval cannons [six guns some of 4.7" calibre] on jury-rigged carriages  on a journey of 189 miles from Durban to Ladysmith in the Second Boer War, first conveyed by train and then pulled by oxen until those beasts died, and then by the sailors themselves [a truly Herculean feat, and still unique] with the intention of relieving the besieged garrison with bigger calibre guns than were available to the British Army*

* There is much surviving movie film-takes of the Boer War, with one film showing HMS Terrible with her sailors dragging the naval guns towards a firing position at Ladysmith. There are no films of HMS Powerful doing the same thing!

However, the HMS Powerful crews were besieged themselves, but fortunately the captain of Powerful' sister ship HMS Terrible, also at Durban [Captain Percy Scott RN - not to be confused with Captain Robert Scott RN, he of 'Scott of the Antarctic fame'] had landed a substantial party of blue-jackets and marines, as a precautionary back-up for HMS Powerful' efforts, and the HMS Terrible party were able to relieve the HMS Powerful party leading to the relief of Ladysmith after four months besieged. These two ships became the darlings of the nation and when HMS Powerful arrived back in Portsmouth the dockyard area for a mile or so around was filled with cheering and thankful crowds all wanting to see this wonderful vessel, which in those days, with the Terrible, were the largest ships in the Queens Navy. This text appeared in a newspaper of that time

" A newspaper described the Powerful's return home: "As the great vessel steamed into Portsmouth Harbour at four o'clock this afternoon, she was greeted with thunders of applause .... vessels lying off here were dressed with flags, and their crews, swarming along the yards, swelled the roar of welcome......By three o'clock the jetty was thronged with men, women and children. ... A more eager, joyous gathering I never saw.....We cheered, we waved hats and handkerchiefs and we were half wild with delight." Lambton was awarded the CB, and it was in this year that his caricature was published in Vanity Fair. 


The name "Domvile" [albeit via a convoluted family genealogy] was a powerful name in the late 19th century navy, carried over into the 20th century and specifically into the first world war. It ranks with names like Mountbatten, Fisher, the Pound's, Jellicoe, Beatty, Beresford and many others. For example, Admiral Sir Compton Edward Domvile GCB GCVO (1842–1924) was a very distinguished Royal Navy officer in the Edwardian era. He took over from Admiral Fisher as C-in-C Mediterranean in 1902 and handed on the appointment to Admiral Beresford in 1905.

Domvile, Barry Edward, acting captain, was his son, with a seniority of Commander dating to 31 December 1909. He took the light cruiser Arethusa from the builders, Chatham Dockyard as a confirmed captain. Within a very short space of time he and his ship were national hero's having taken the war to the Germans, more than any other ship, being present at all the battles listed above in Section 4 Second Paragraph. It was said that he was in the mould of Lord Cochrane one of Nelson's dashing naval hero's, a swashbuckler, here there and everywhere, in the thick of the action, the first officer of WW1 to show the spirit of the navy of a hundred years previous. He was a 'new' darling of the masses, and no other naval officer [or ship] in WW1 received or deserved that accolade? After the 1915 Battle of Dogger Bank, things in the North Sea [referred to by many as the "German Sea"] calmed down and there were no more sea battles of consequence until 30 May/1 June 1916, the Battle of Jutland. The Arethusa maintained its presence in the North Sea hoping to goad the German's into action, but Dogger Bank had put paid to their care of further maulings. By the end of 1915, Captain Domvile had made firm plans for a society wedding and having consulted his ship's short-cast [where the ship would or should be at a glance] he applied for leave to marry and honeymoon, always of course on the understanding that he would be subjected to an immediate recall to duty should the "quiet period" become threatening. On the 9th February 1916 Captain Barry Domvile married a Miss Alexandrina Van de Heydt at Tamworth Staffordshire, almost clearing out the House of Lords to fill the pews in the church, such was the resplendent congregation/list of witnesses. Although it is not recorded as an event in naval records, it would appear that the second in command of the Arethusa [the executive commander or the first lieutenant - ship's names and officers appointments are not listed in the Navy List during the war years] took temporary command of the vessel, and shortly after the Captain left probably on the 7th February two days before the wedding, the ship received sailing orders for yet another North Sea patrol. It is believed to have cleared the Nore on the 10th February, and five days later, whilst heading back south running parallel to England's east coast, very  close to gaining the safety of its home port, the ship struck a rogue mine off Felixstowe which caused tremendous damage. Arethusa was taken in tow but the tow parted and she ended up breaking her back on a spit. She was a write-off and lost for ever. Fortunately there were very few casualties. One can only imagine what Captain Domvile said on being told about the loss of his beloved ship, but we do know that the country as a whole mourned the loss of their favourite fighting ship. They feared that they would never again see such a brave ship, and whilst there were certainly others, and many I would think, few stuck in the memories of the British people in WW1, with the possible exception of the sheer and overt bravery of all those who took part in Zeebrugge Raid of April 1918. It was this bravery which marked the occasion rather than the ships/submarines used which were all old and designed to be destroyed. Domvile, on return to duty post wedding, as I alluded to above, was re-appointed as the flag-captain to Commodore Tyrwhitt based on Harwich - as such, he was directly involved in the planning of the Zeebrugge Raid - yet another of his dare-devil acts. One of the problems of seeing and loving ships, was that they were never seen by the general public having bases like Scapa Flow, being either at sea or tucked away from sight up in the Orkney Isles or at Invergordon. Ships that frequented main-land ports and home dockyards were seen, allowing the public a sense of belonging to their navy. There are others like the Arethusa which were seen coming and going, another, the arrival of HMS Exeter ex-Battle of River Plate, much the worse for wear with much battle damage, and the Powerful, previously mentioned. Perhaps the best example of civilians being made to belong to the country's navy, was manifest in 1982 at the time of the Falklands War when crowds in both Portsmouth and Plymouth/Devonport witnessed the sailing of the Task Force, and a piecemeal return of our ships [minus five, discounting the merchantman Atlantic Conveyor]. In ports like Southampton for the arrival home of the QE2 the Canberra and the Uganda [the three best known merchant ships involved], Portsmouth for the arrival home of the two carriers involved Hermes and Invincible, and Plymouth and the Gareloch for the arrival home of the SSN's/SSK's who played such a vital role in the success of the war. There were of course many other smaller vessels mainly spread between Portsmouth and Plymouth, all hero's one and all, all playing their part in the strengthening of the bond between the people and the navy.

Admiral Sir Barry Edward Domvile, KBE (Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire) 1934; CB (Companion, Order of the Bath) 1922; CMG (Commander, Order of St Michael and St George) 1917; RN (retired); born 1878; eldest son of Admiral Sir Compton Domvile, GCB (Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Bath); married 1916, Alexandrina (died 1950), daughter of Mr von der Heydt; one son, one daughter (and one son killed in action, 1941). Education: HMS Britannia. Entered Royal Navy 1892; specially promoted Lieutenant, 1898; Beaufort Testimonial; Ryder Prize; Goodenough Gold Medal; Commander 1909; Captain 1916; Rear-Admiral 1927; Gold Medallist, Royal United Service Institution, 1906; Assistant Secretary, Committee of Imperial Defence, 1912-14; served European War in command of HM Ships, 1914-19 (CMG); Director of Plans Division, Admiralty, 1920-22; Chief of Staff, Mediterranean (Commodore, 2nd Class), 1922-25; Commanded HMS Royal Sovereign, 1925-26; Director of Naval Intelligence Division, 1927-30; Rear-Admiral and Vice-Admiral commanding 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean, 1931-32; President, Royal Naval College Greenwich, and Vice-Admiral Commanding War College 1932-34; Admiral and retired list, 1936. Publications: By and Large, 1936; Look to Your Moat, 1937; From Admiral to Cabin Boy, 1947. Recreation: outdoor sports. Address: Robin's Tree, Roehampton Vale, SW15. Club: Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes). Died 13 August 1971. In WW2 he was a close associate of Oswald Mosley Leader of the British Brown Shirt Facist Party.

Admiral Sir Barry Domvile visited Germany in 1935. He was impressed by many aspects of the Nazi government and was invited to attend the Nuremberg Rally of September 1936 as a guest of the German Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop.

He became a council member of the Anglo-German Fellowship and founded The Link, an 'independent non-party organisation to promote Anglo-German friendship.' The Link generally operated as a cultural organisation, but its journal, the Anglo-German Review, reflected the pro-Nazi views of Admiral Sir Barry Domvile. At its height, membership of The Link numbered around 4,300. The organisation was investigated by Maxwell Knight, head of counter-subversion in MI5, and was closed soon after the start of the Second World War in 1939.

Because of his pro-Nazi views and because he might 'endanger the safety of the realm', Admiral Sir Barry Domvile was interned in Brixton Prison in the Second World War, from 7 July 1940 to 29 July 1943. While he was interned, his anti-semitism increased and he developed a conspiracy theory about a Jewish-Masonic organisation.

His diaries are kept in the National Maritime Museum. His book 'Look to Your Moat' is a history of British naval and merchant seamen. The cabin referred to in the title of his book 'From Admiral to Cabin Boy' was the cell he occupied in Brixton Prison during his internment. In addition to the books listed in the 'Who Was Who' entry, he wrote three other books which reflected his extreme right-wing views.

from the opening pages of 'From Admiral to Cabin Boy'

"No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail with the chance of being drowned ... a man in jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company."

Dr. Samuel Johnson.



This book was finished in 1943, but publication was delayed for several reasons, some obvious. B.D.


Barry Edward Domvile, son of the late Admiral Sir Compton Edward Domvile, G.C.B., G.C.V.0., started a brilliant career brilliantly. Born in 1878, in 1892 he passed first into H.M.S. Britannia, and, two years later emerged in the same coveted position. From 1894 to 1897 he served as a Midshipman under sail and steam. Sub-Lieutenant in 1898, he became, by special promotion, Lieutenant in the same year. Lieutenant and Gunnery-Lieutenant from 1898 to 1909, in 1906 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal United Service Institution.

During 1910 and 1911, Domvile was in command of destroyers, and, when the first World War loomed on the horizon, was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence during war preparation. Throughout hostilities he commanded successively "Miranda," "Tipperary," "Lightfoot," "Arethusa," " Carysfort," "Centaur" and "Curacoa" - destroyers, flotilla leaders and cruisers of the Harwich Force. For the three years preceding 1919, he served as Flag Captain to Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt.

My Note. It must have been distressing for Admiral Domvile sitting in Brixton Prison to hear of the disastrous end of one of his former commands the crusier Curacoa, when in 1942 she was cut clean in half by the Queen Mary bringing 20,000 US troops to Greenock with a terrible loss of life. Curacoa commissioned in February 1918

For the following three years he was employed as Assistant Director and Director of the Plans (Policy) Division of the Admiralty Naval Staff, attending a number of conferences, including those at Paris, Brussels, Spa and San Remo, winding up with the Washington Naval Conference. From 1922 to 1925, he was Chief of Staff to Admiral Sir Osmond Brock, of the Mediterranean Fleet, and during 1925 and 1926 commanded the "Royal Sovereign," which has now been handed to the Soviet Union.

In 1927 he was promoted Rear-Admiral and up to 1930 held the important position of Director of Naval Intelligence. During 1930 and 1931, first as Rear-Admiral and then as Vice-Admiral, he commanded the Third Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet. From 1932 to 1934 he was President of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and Vice-Admiral Commanding the War College. In 1936 he retired with the rank of Admiral.

In 1917, Captain Domvile was created a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, and in 1922, as Commodore, a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. Finally, in 1934, His Majesty King George V was pleased to honour him further by creating him a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

This was the record our misguided rulers saw fit to impugn. In 1940 the Home Secretary, Sir John Anderson, vainly attempted to abort this magnificent career by appointing the Admiral cabin boy at Brixton Prison: Anderson was succeeded shortly afterwards by Morrison, who at one time could be classed as a conscientious objector, and was author of an article taunting British soldiers and urging them not to fight for their country, but the Admiral held his position for three years, acquitting himself in his customary exemplary manner, save for a little lapse which took the form of manufacturing a stove, contrary to regulations, of an old tobacco tin, a lump of margarine and a piece of string .

Nothing could excuse delaying the reader from embarking upon this exciting and extraordinary story. He will find himself buffeted exhilaratingly upon the high seas of every human emotion before he reaches the port of his own judgment. Sir Barry Domvile is fortunate in one sense: he will not have to wait, as so many men who have suffered injustice have had to do, for the verdict of history to complete his vindication. Each successive year, like the one that has just passed, will provide fresh proof of his wisdom and foresight. Yet, since this must inevitably bring suffering to his fellow-countrymen, the Admiral, in his patriotism and the greatness of his heart, will be the first to deplore the fact.

In appraising him, the words of Horace rise readily to the mind: "The just man, firm to his purpose, is not to be shaken from his fixed resolve by the fury of a mob laying upon him their impious behests, nor by the frown of a threatening tyrant, nor by the dangers of the restless Adriatic, when the stormy winds do blow, nor by the loud peals of thunder as they rend the sky; even if the universe were to fall in pieces around, the ruins would strike him undismayed."



A newspaper cutting from 1899 from the Boer War - 116 years ago



NAVAL PAY AT THE TIME OF JUTLAND.htm - "A bloody disgrace"





Hospital Ships!

From the beginning of the use of ships earmarked to transport the sick and injured from battlefield field-hospitals to hospitals fully equipped with staff and equipment to deal with such horrific wounds, and as important as any other consideration, hospital far removed from the theatre of war, there has been atrocities and mis-use of the conveyance.  Forces on each side of the war have always been deeply suspicious of what the 'real' use of the vessel is for, suspecting armaments, ammunition and war-stores being carried either as THE cargo, or in the belly of the vessel, well below the decks accommodating the operating theatres, the wards, and even the morgue, as contraband goods. Despite the proverbial 'markings' of a hospital ship as per the Geneva Convention, designed in honour-bound to be just that, a mercy-ship, a salvation for the badly wounded, and a centre of humanitarianism, open to ALL wounded personnel and the doctors of the enemy as well as the allies. Whilst some of the crew would be pre-occupied with safety and the rule-of-the-road navigation, making sure that in all respects their vessel would be seen as a mercantile ship {hospital ships were to be "light-loaded" ergo, not carrying cargo's and thus with a clear Plimsoll  Line [introduced in 1876] showing, often one to two feet above sea level}, no zig-zagging, no guns overt or covert, fully lit upper decks and decks with port holes, willing to heave to if challenged and to assist boarding parties in their searches, whilst below, the rule-of-the-Hippocratic Oath was the modus operandi and the sole reason why the vessel was on the high seas going about its business. The Germans in particular were the main abusers of this Geneva Convention [one of the original Conventions back in the 19th century and used successfully in the American Civil War] in both world wars, with outlandish behaviour from some UBoat Ultra-Nazi commanders.

The allies, chiefly Britain and France often retaliated as this newspaper clip c.1917 shows, and the nearby German university town [to the French border and front-line] was clobbered more than once.



The German's were also prone to operate bogus hospital ships unashamedly, whilst accusing the British [in particular] of doing the same. Naivety apart, there was too much human orthodoxy in Great Britain to even let the authorities to consider such an evil thought, never mind to allow such a perverse thought to come to fruition. This story covers just one of their bogus ships:-


The case of the Ophelia in the Admiralty court went on and on for many days. I don't intend to show you the reports of these further days, but I can tell you that the Germans were found guilty on breaking the Geneva No10 Convention.

Given the medical advances made during the Crimean War [1853-56] and the legend created by dear Florence Nightingale, one would think that at a war nearly 50 years later, the thought of the wounded would have been solved once and for all. It wasn't the case, for in 1899, naval personnel were not taught first aid, nor was the ability to swim even considered. Moreover at the Boer War [1899-1901] there was no hospital ships which by this time other countries had already built or modified suitable existing merchant ships. Warships were built with sick-bays in an entirely unsuitable position in the ship and the doctors were pre-occupied with not being able to cope during modern naval battles. This newspaper cutting of 1899 tells the story:-



By 1903, the British Navy had no plans of any sort to deal with the wounded during and after naval battles at sea. This story, given its relative nearness to the start of WW1,is an eye opener!

Click on this title. The wounded in naval warfare

Come the end of the first decade of the 20th century, training had been established in first aid for all those holding the rate of able seaman and above and all wardroom and gun room officers except for cadets but including midshipmen. Come the very beginning of WW1, the tragedy which struck the Royal Navy brought home two things. One, the need for self help particularly in ships with no in-depth medical appointments to the complement, and the other, that damaged ships and their desperate crews should not be rescued by other ships in company if there is any further danger to the would-be rescue ships. Better by far to leave these hapless sailors to their own destiny than to risk losing other ships coming to their rescue. We have seen this manifest itself on two quite well defined occasions, the first in the film "Cruel Sea" involving our own men in 'killed' and 'to be killed' situations [almost friendly fire] and the second, the sacrifice of the enemy in the real life drama of the final moments of the German battleship Bismarck. Here, the heavy cruiser HMS Dorsetshire which delivered the 'coup de grace' by firing four torpedoes into her prostrate hull and other units had the opportunity to save the lives of the German crew members, but left them in the water to drown because of the fear of prowling UBoats. A wise decision, but how must it have played out in the mind and conscience of the commanding officer of Doresetshire? In September 1914, barely had the war started, when three British cruisers were patrolling the North Sea. The Aboukir was attacked by a submarine sinking soon afterwards, when the other two, the Hogue and the Cressy went to her rescue and they too were torpedoed with a terrible loss of life - 60 officers and 1400 men. The lesson was not lost on the Royal Navy, and over night it changed the mind-set of former decent civilised naval officers making them realise than to shoot first in war without a care for the enemy, is the way to win a war and virtually all faced up to this duty/responsibility simply for the sake of our beloved country, defeating this beast, this uncouth and callous adversary at all costs. The many survivors, wounded and otherwise, were taken to RNSS [Royal Naval Sick Quarters] Shotley for treatment and assessment. This involved using boys' messes for the over-spill of personnel from these three cruisers.

Of much greater importance was that Britain had developed a sizable fleet of hospital-ships as this little piece shows:-


The evil Germans had a sizable "guilt fund" which they had purloined and which they were willing to spend. Just about every evil act they carried out which they were well aware of, there was compensation on offer, that is, as long as those offered it were deemed to be of a civilised disposition, which ruled out four fifths of the world, but included northwest Europe, Scandinavia and the North Americans. For example, if they sank a hospital-ship there was on offer a per-head compensation for each loss of the medical complement but not the wounded combatants. £500 to £1000 was usually offered, but of course rarely if ever accepted.

In the following file entitled Nov 1915 "General War News" I want to highlight just a few sections of a rather long text, so bear with it and ignore all that is not relevant. Only bother with the items I have shown in RED.  Note in particular the compensation offered to the USA for the Americans who died in the torpedoing of the liner Lusitania which was refused and never offered again, although Germany made it known to the world that they were kind-hearted people.



In February 1885 the British decided that a hospital was necessary to be built near the extremely busy Suez Canal at Port Said.



Now, Japan had a major naval war with Russia in 1905. But in 1904 they were thinking about hospital-ships.


In 1901, to relieve the pressure on the less than adequate British system of evacuating the wounded from South Africa mainly to Netley Hospital on Southampton Water, the Americans very kindly offered a ship suitable for conversion into a hospital-ships called the Maine. Unfortunately, in her previous life she had been a cattle transporter vessel.


Cognisant of the need to define the various classes of ships correctly, be they mercantile or naval e.g., battleships, destroyers etc and cargo vessels, cruise ships etc, opens the way to a very good quiz question which is 'What is the name of the largest vessel built as a  passenger liner, now lying on the sea-bed' ?

But first, this article.


This is a picture of her, His Majesty's Hospital Ship [HMHS] Britannic

Note her "light loaded" status, a pre-requisite for all hospital-ships, indicating that she was virtually cargo free, with a good showing of boot-topping [the bottom black line you see] which, had it been "heavily loaded" would probably not have been seen at all. In Plimsoll-Line terms, she is "high out of the water".

After the sinking in 1912 of the passenger liner Titanic, the Whitestar Line completed a third ship in that class namely the Britannic - the other one being the Olympic. Many modifications were made to the plans used to build the Titantic in the light of her tragic misfortune and sinking,  making Britannic appreciably heavier and overall larger  than Titanic. Although always designed and built to replace the Titanic, her launching coincided with the start of WW1 in 1914 and she was put on hold and never fitted-out as a commercial ocean liner. In 1915 she was completed but as a hospital-ship, given the name HMHS Britannic, although again, in such a manner, that when the 'thought to be short war' ended, she would return to her builders to be completed as the world's biggest and most opulent passenger liner. She never made that appointment.

In the period 1915-1916, almost all the British hospital-ships [in excess of 25]  were deployed in the Mediterranean ferrying the wounded from the Gallipoli campaign back to Southampton and Netley [mainly], meaning that come Jutland 30th May/1st June 1916] , although not factored into the Grand Fleet supporters fleet, there were no hospital-ships available for the home waters. HMHS Britannic, a massive ship for those days having a GRT [Gross Registered Tonnage of nearly 53,000 tons] - not to be confused with naval displacements where a fully loaded ship of her size and girth, would have been in the region of 70,000 tons, although less as fitted out . GRT is the volume of space within the hull and enclosed space above the deck of a merchant ship which are available for cargo, stores, fuel, passengers and crew and that each Gross Ton = 100 cubic feet.  Add the weight of the machinery, engines, boilers, boats, etc etc, and you can imagine how much more than her GRT she would have displaced. In a simple term, as a warships uses up fuel [coal or FFO in those days] her displacement is reduced accordingly, but the GRT of a merchant ship remains the same notwithstanding. In a passenger liner/cruise ship, a large per cent of the GRT is sold to paying passengers so the bigger the GRT the bigger the gross earning ability of the vessel. In Britannic's case 53000 tons x 100 cubic feet = 5,300,000 cubic feet =150,078 cubic metres. Imagine entering into a warehouse say of 150,078 cubic metres storage capacity, the building would be 115 meters tall x 115 meters wide x 115 meters long approximately, and for people of my age that would be a cube shaped box of 377 feet in each direction of the three sides H x D x W. Looking for a near perfect comparison, I came up with this. To fill a space of 377 feet in what ever direction, take one London double decker bus and to its front place a Nelson's Column  complete  [bottom of plinth to top of Nelson's hat] laying in the horizontal plane  and then add another Nelson's Column in the same plane  to the back of the bus. That overall length, column - bus - column,  give or take a matter of inches is 377 feet long from one end to the other. Now re-jig the whole thing and put it upright in the vertical plane. I am sure that will agree that's a pretty big place, but by modern standards it is tiny! For example, Wembley Stadium has an area trapped by its closed roof and inside all its walls of 4 million cubic feet. That means that our warehouse would fit into Wembley twenty five and a half times, or more succinct, so too would HMHS Britannic's GRT. MV Queen Mary II has a GRT of 150,000 tons [so a perceived displacement of 200,000 tons or getting on that way], and her cubic metre measurement is 150000 tons x 100 cubic feet = 15,000,000 cubic feet = 424753 cubic metres. Thus, the GRT of MV Queen Mary II would fit into Wembley nine and a half times.


HMHS Britannic hadcompleted several trips from the eastern Mediterranean to the UK and back [five in all is recorded] and was returning to Asian Minor empty of wounded servicemen with just crew, doctors and nurses of the RAMC [Royal Army Medical Corps] enroute to pick up more wounded souls.  On the 21st November 1916 whilst at full speed, a mighty explosion occurred and fifty five minutes later she sank. She was carrying 1065 people of whom 1035 survived and were rescued, leaving 30 dead, five of who were buried in earth and the others left in their watery graves. As the newspaper cutting above shows, it was believed to be the evil act of the Hun, a submarine torpedoing against the Geneva Convention and as such, murder upon the high seas. The German UBoat U73 which under its first commander [Gustav Sieb] had sunk nineteen allied vessels [it sank a further five under two different and subsequent commanders] claimed the 'kill', but riddled with guilt [is that a possibility for a Kraut?] and realising the implication of such a foul deed, prevaricated although he didn't take any steps to delete the 'kill' from his claims. For ninety years, the death of the Britannic was blamed on a German submarine commander. However, in 2006 a dive on the wreck found the anchors and wires/cables  of tethered mines in the immediate vicinity of the sinking position,  and it became obvious to all the experts that the Britannic had hit a mine whilst at full speed. The German's had certainly destroyed the Britannic but not by submarine warfare, but by laying a mine-field. Incidentally, the twenty four 'kills' of U73, whilst a large number, was an insignificance when compared to U35 which sank well in excess of two hundred vessels under four different commanders, and survived the war surrendering to the Harwich Forces under Commodore First Class Tyrwhitt RN.

Although the numbers of dead were few compared to other sinking especially those at Jutland just a few months before, the wreck is treated as a war grave, and although now privately owned, permission is required from both the British and the Greek authorities as well as from the owner. We have to be grateful that all on board at the time of the mining were able bodied men and women and not wounded and bed/bunk ridden soldiers. The rapid sinking of the vessel was due to the inability to close watertight doors due to buckling door frames, but also from the lack of understanding of the need for watertight integrity by the RAMC staff. For example, nurses had opened all the scuttles [port holes] on the hospital ward-decks for fresh air reasons, which were never shut, and which invited in thousands of tons of sea water causing a massive lurch and a severe list. Today, the Britannic is the largest built passenger liner laying on the sea bed.

By mid WW1, Whitestar had lost two of its three large luxury passenger liners, so it might be of interest to have a quick look on how the oldest and smallest  of the three, the Olympic fared. Well to put your mind at rest, unlike her younger sister ships, the Olympic enjoyed a long and illustrious career, spanning 24 years from 1911 to 1935 - however, just having the simple ability to read will tell you that that statement is wrong, and it should read from 1918 to 1935: the period before WW1 was anything but illustrious!  Good, but did she have any near misses? She spent the WW1 years as a troop ship and was much acclaimed. Before WW1, the Master of the Olympic was Captain Edward Smith and by September 1911 had completed many journeys across to New York and back. At this time he found himself in the Solent on a return voyage with the cruiser Hawke in the vicinity. There, he made a disastrous mistake which caused a collision between the two ships, incurring heavy and very expensive repair bills and much hand-wringing to the Whitestar executives. On return to her builders in Belfast, parts manufactured and designed for the Titanic had to be diverted to repair the Olympic putting Titanic's programme into a spin. Once back at sea, the seemingly ill-fated liner lost [threw] one of its giant propellers, once again bringing her back to Belfast, delaying Titanic's maiden voyage plans. Hawke was repaired with a brand new bow/fore section, but was an early loss in WW1 sunk by a German UBoat. Fortunately, there were no deaths or injuries in the collision. There was a major costly court case and the judgement went against the Whitestar Line and rather unfairly some said, against Captain Smith, for at that instance, Olympic was under the guidance of the Southampton pilot. The cost impact on Whitestar was enormous and bookings  for Olympic faltered as an added punishment: she was out of revenue-earning  during her two months repairs in Belfast.  Moreover, it is just possible that had the Titanic's maiden voyage not been delayed by three weeks or so, she might not have come into contact with the iceberg. The greatest irony was that Captain Smith of the Olympic became the Captain of the Titanic and lost his life in that dreadful and freak accident. Weird and eerie when one thinks about it?

Hawke with a total crushed and purposely designed ramming bow. The navy and Hawke's captain were completely exonerated from any blame.

and for the very last time sadly, a picture of the Olympic arriving in Belfast for repairs on left using spare parts from the Titanic on right  at that point being fitted out.


When the Olympic arrived in Southampton from New York having crossed when Titanic was heading for New York which she didn't make, she was inundated by inspectors wanting details about this and that, she being a clone of the Titanic, and if under test, the Olympic could now do it, then questions were asked as to why Captain Smith in Titanic didn't do it - like taking avoiding action when the berg was sighted  and how long it would take to turn two or three points to miss the obstacle at such and such a speed with known sea and wind conditions. Horror of horror, it was ascertained that the Olympic had identical life boats and life saving equipment, so before her next rapid turn-around voyage back to New York, there was a mad dash to procure collapsible life boats for all in the ship. This episode and much else, led to a mutiny in the ship. The mutineers were tried at Portsmouth's Crown Court and found guilty. However, the presiding judge said that none would be imprisoned or punished in any other way given the circumstances of the loss of Titanic and the likenesses of the Olympics inadequacies. Whitestar refused to take the mutineers back, but then feared that the general public would side with them which would have been disastrous for trade and so re-employed them. The vessel resumed its programme, and it took a while for relationship between crew and officers/owners of the Olympic  to regain formed ties.

In October 1912 Whitestar withdrew the Olympic and sent her to Belfast to be remodelled to incorporate the lessons learned from the Titanic tragedy.

Come the Spring of 1913, gone were the advertisement for the Olympic and in came those for the "New Olympic" extolling the virtues of all that had gone into the six month refit, for example, the twenty original lifeboats were now sixty four lifeboats and all with their own davits.

At the start of WW1 the Olympic once again met the Royal Navy close to, to rescue men from the sinking  battleship Audacious off  Northern Ireland. She took onboard many of the survivors but paid the price for helping out. At all costs the sinking had to be kept secret from the British public by order of Jellicoe, and so Olympic was "shut down" with all radio communications stopped and all passengers stopped from leaving the ship except for the crew of the Audacious. Eventually, Jellicoe allowed Olympus to dock in Belfast where the passengers disembarked.

In May 1915 she was requisitioned as a Troop Ship. Her first trip as such was on the 24th September 1915. Her service was nothing other than exemplary even including the sinking of a UBoat  U-103. At the end of the war her captain was knighted for war service.

In the 1930's while entering New York harbour back as a swish passenger liner,  she ran over a light ship mapping the navigation route into New York,  killing seven of the eleven crew.  A sad end to such a fine career.

Finally, a sad but inevitable picture,  the likes  of which we mariners have seen many times. It shows Olympic [left] and Mauretania [right] at Southampton awaiting their destruction in 1935. She had travelled 1.8 million miles. In Olympics case, a millionaire MP bought the ship for approximately £97,000. He felt sorry for a group of dockyard workers in the north, and gave it to them to wreck so that they would have a paid job funded by the scrap value they released. When it came to the big stuff, the salvaging of the main upper deck downwards, the superstructure-less vessel was passed to a yard geared up for such heavy industry, and no doubt the kind rich MP got some of his money back through salvage revenue.


See you all in Snippet. 7.