The Battle of Jutland, which took place on the 31 May 1916, off the west coast of Denmark, between British and German naval forces, is well known to many southern Africans with an interest in Military history. What may not be known is that at least seven South Africans took part in that epic, although indecisive, melee-at-sea . Although merely a handful, their tale is intriguing - at least three South Africans paying the ultimate sacrifice, while Captain (later Vice-Admiral V.B. Molteno) commanded the ill-fated H.M.S. Warrior, and Alfred Englefield Evans (later Vice-Admiral A.E. Evans) also distinguished himself, being mentioned-in-despatches.
Captain Vincent Barkley Molteno was born in Cape Town in 1872, and was the son of the first Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, Sir John Molteno. He was the brother of Sir James Molteno, one-time speaker of the Union of South Africa's House of Assembly, and P.A. Molteno, also active in politics. Molteno joined the Royal Navy, and in August 1893, took part in the landings at Vitu, Zanzibar, landing as a Lieutenant with the Naval Brigade from the Blanche, Swallow, and Sparrow, under Commander Lindley, together with 70 "native troops", to punish a robber chief named Fuma Omari, who had apparently indulged in various acts of treachery. Omari's fortified strongholds at Pumwani and Jongeni, were stormed and captured with "great gallantry". Molteno was mentioned in despatches and awarded the General Africa Medal, Gambia, 1894, with Clasp.
Molteno later specialized in gunnery and served in the Controller's Department at the Admiralty, supervising gunnery fittings for contract-built ships, a post he held from 1907-1910. Promoted captain, Molteno was appointed flag captain of the Third Cruiser Squadron, on the 19 December 1913. The armoured cruiser, H.M.S. Antrim, served as the flagship of the Third Cruiser Squadron, under command of Admiral W.C. Pakenham. Molteno commanded the Antrim during the first year of the war, before taking command of the Battleship, H.M.S. Redoubtable, which subsequently carried out a bombardment of the Belgian coast. It was then that Molteno was appointed Captain of the Cruiser, H.M.S. Warrior, the latter having been built at Pembroke dockyard and launched in 1905, being complete the next year. Molteno commanded the Warrior during the battle, the Warrior forming part of the First Cruiser Squadron, under Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot.
"The Warrior went through terrible experiences. At one time the concentrated fire of the German Dreadnoughts fell upon her; the Defence and Black Prince were blown up beside her. Captain Molteno's ship suffered about 100 casualties. The wounded and the rest of the crew were all saved when she was in a sinking condition after being in tow for several hours. The gallant captain was cheered by the ship's company when they were all safely landed."
The Warrior was so badly damaged that she was taken in tow by H.M.S. Engadine but foundered and sank on the 1 June 1916. Molteno's war was not over, commanding H.M.S. Shannon, on the 17 December 1917, during a Royal Naval attack on German forces covering axis convoys off the Norwegian Coast. Molteno was promoted Rear-Admiral in 1921, and Vice-Admiral in 1926 while on the retired list, having served as Aide-de-Camp to King George V in 1920.
Alfred Englefield Evans, was another South African-born officer who had made the Royal Navy his career. Born in South Africa in 1884, he was the second son of Dr E.W. Evans, his brothers also South African-born. It would seem he spent his very early years in South Africa, but was educated at Horris Hill School, and at H.M.S. Britannia, being appointed a Midshipman in 1900. Evans was present during the battle and received a mention-in-despatches, and was promoted Commander the following year. Evans also represented the Royal Navy and Hampshire at cricket. Also destined for senior rank, he was promoted Vice-Admiral in 1939.
Additional South Africans involved in the epic battle include thirty-seven year old, Lieutenant Johannes Marais Scholtz, Royal Navy Reserve (RNR), of the H.M.S. Queen Mary, who was killed during the battle. Scholtz was the son of Jacobus and Elizabeth Scholtz, of "Scholtzenhof", Cape Province, South Africa. His application for a position in the Union Castle service in 1904, had been supported by none other than the Hon. J.H. Hofmeyer, who was an old friend of the family. Before the war, Scholtz had served as an officer with the Union Castle Line for approximately ten years, and was Second Officer of the Edinburgh Castle before joining the navy upon commencement of hostilities.
Lieutenant Esme J.R. Wingfield-Stratford, R.N., born in Pietermaritzburg, Natal, served aboard H.M.S. Vanguard during the battle, the Vanguard being under the command of Captain J.D. Dick. Wingfield-Stratford had entered the R.N. College Osborne in 1910, and later the R.N. College, Dartmouth, and by the time of the war, was serving aboard H.M.S. Cornwall. Wingfield-Stratford was subsequently to serve aboard H.M.S. Cornwall, Talbot, Vanguard, Pansy, Dolphin, Titanic, and Platypus, sadly losing his life at sea on the 15 March, 1918, being only 21 years of age.
The Reverend Cecil Wykeham Lydall, Chaplain of H.M.S. Lion, was also lost with the Queen Mary. He was the son of Wykeham Hawthorn Lydall, who had resided at Haslemere, Hatfield Street, Cape Town, predeceasing his son. The Reverend Lydall was to have been married a few days later.
Twenty-eight year old Lieutenant Douglas Burn Buchan Brown, a gunnery lieutenant, and the son of Mr B. Buchan Brown, of South Africa, was lost in H.M.S. Indefatigable. Brown had entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1904, and had attained the rank of Lieutenant in December 1909.
Apart from their contribution to the battle of Jutland, South Africans during the first world war also served with distinction in the Royal Navy, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (S.A. Division), Royal Naval Reserve (RNR), and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). They included Vice-Admiral John Bridges Eustace, R.N., who served with the Ministry of Munitions during the war, being promoted Vice-Admiral in 1918; Lieutenant-Commander Neville Syfret, R.N., who served as a gunnery-officer aboard H.M.S. Cruisers Aurora, Centaur, and Curacoa and was awarded the Croix de Guerre; Lieutenant-Commander Cecil Arthur Ward, who was the son of the Reverend Ward, of Richmond, Natal, and was awarded the C.M.G. (1919), retiring with the rank of Rear-Admiral in 1936; Harry P. Currey and W. St. Leger Searle, who would both also attain Flag rank in the Royal Navy; Lieutenant Hugh Fortescue Currey, R.N., born in Durban, who was awarded the D.S.C. in 1915, for his services in command of the stern-wheel steamer Muzaffri on the 24 July, 1915, when he landed a supply of ammunition for allied troops on the right bank of the Euphrates River under heavy fire from the Turkish guns; and Leonard Horatio Slatter, Leslie Oswald Brown, and Samuel Kinkead, who all served with distinction in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). In addition Royal Naval ships christened with South African names also served during the war, namely H.M.S. Good Hope, unfortunately sunk off the Chilean coast during the Battle of the Falklands in 1914; the armoured cruiser H.M.S. Natal, launched at Barrow-in-Furness in September 1905, which was also destroyed, blowing-up in early 1916, with the loss of 380 officers and men; H.M.S. Botha (Destroyer-Leader), H.M.S. Springbok (Destroyer), H.M.S. Cape Town, and H.M.S. Durban (the last two both light cruisers).
1 Although, there may well have been more who served during the battle.
2 Molteno's other commands during the war include that of H.M.S. King George V, Minotaur, Shannon, and Bellerophon.
3 H.M.S. Warrior was a Warrior-class cruiser of 13,550 tons, and her armament consisted of Six 9.2 inch (230mm) guns, plus four 7.5 inch (190 mm) guns. The Warrior was built at Pembroke Dockyard, being launched on the 25 November 1905, and was completed over a year later, on the 12 December 1906. In August 1914, upon commencement of the war, the Warrior was ordered to the Adriatic where she helped prevent the break-out of the German battle cruiser, Goeben. The Warrior thereafter helped defend the Suez Canal, joining the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet, in December 1914.
4 South Africa Magazine, June 10, 1916, p 456.
5 Part of the Royal Navy's Second Cruiser Squadron.
6 The 27 000 Ton, H.M.S. Queen Mary, was a Lion-class battlecruiser, which formed part of the First Battlecruiser Squadron, and was commanded by Captain Cecil Irby Prowse, who also succumbed with his ship. The Queen Mary was commissioned in 1913, her armament consisting of eight 13.5 inch (343 mm) guns.
7 Name appears on Portsmouth Naval Memorial, memorial reference: 22 (CGWC)
8 The Vanguard was a Belerophon-class battleship and formed part of the fourth Battle Squadron under the redoubtable Admiral Sir John Jellicoe.
9 The Reverend C.W. Lydall's name appears on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. (CGWC)
10 His Mother resided in London.
11 H.M.S. Indefatigable was a Indefatigable-class battlecruiser under the command of Captain C.F. Sowerby, and formed part of the Second Battlecruiser Squadron.
12 Name appears on Plymouth Naval Memorial, memorial reference:10 (CGWC)
13 Approximately 24 officers and 388 men served with the R.N.V.R. (S.A. Division) during the war.
14 Vice-Admiral John Bridges Eustace was the son of J.T. Eustace, of Wynberg, Cape Town, and was born at the cape of Good Hope in 1861. He subsequently joined the Royal Navy, and was promoted Rear-Admiral in 1913, and Vice-Admiral in 1918.
15 Cape Town-born Syfret would be promoted to Flag rank during the Second World War, being appointed Commander-in-Chief of the home fleet (1946-1948).
16 Slatter and Brown (both born in Durban, Natal) were to attain Air-Rank in the Royal Air Force, while Kinkead (Johannesburg-born) ended the war as the second highest scoring South African air ace with 33 victories, and would add to his tally during the British Expeditionary Force's ill-fated venture to Russia in 1919-1920.
(c) Ross Dix-Peek 2007
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