ONS: A Jutland Connection

As the country commemorates the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, FindMyPast announced a searchable compilation of records relating to the servicemen involved.

The collection is called ‘British Royal Navy and Royal Marines, Battle of Jutland 1916 Servicemen’. It includes many of those serving with the British Grand Fleet between 31 May and 1 June 2016.  As with so many collections, it is not necessarily comprehensive, but it is fairly large; a blank search form returns nearly 37,000 results.

The collection brings together records from several series at the National Archives. Namely: 

ADM 159: Royal Marines, service records

ADM 188: Royal Navy Seamen, service records

ADM 196: Royal Navy officers, service records

ADM 240: Royal Naval Reserve officers, service records

ADM 377: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, ratings’ service records

It also includes some transcripts created by Navy and Military Press (see here for more details). 

On a personal note, the collection includes a particularly well-travelled member of my One Name Study, Archibald Frederick David Walne (ADM 188/421/237382).  

Archibald’s father was William Henry Walne, born in the East Anglian heartland of the Walne family: Pulham, Norfolk. His parents left Norfolk when William was still small, heading for Kent and later Surrey and Sussex.

William joined the Royal Navy straight from school, and the years 1872-1885 took him far from home.

Then, from 27 January 1887, he volunteered for five years service at Spectacle Island, Sydney. The island was used for a gunpowder store from 1865 but the area was converted to store naval munitions in 1893 - William would have been there during a period of construction and reorganisation.

This is how he came to marry Archibald’s mother, Annie Naomi Comber, in New South Wales in 1889 and have two children on Spectacle Island. Archibald, their second son, came along in 1891. Perhaps naturally, both he and his elder brother (William Sydney James Walne, born 1889) went on to be seafarers.

And so we find Archibald in the Jutland collection. At the age of 18 he was 5’4” with brown hair and eyes, a fair complexion and a scar over his left eye. He had grown 3 ¾” since his record was opened.  Starting as a boy second class in 1906 he worked his way up to leading signalman by 1918.

The Imperial War Musuem has a useful guide to the ships involved in the battle here

The 151 British warships included 28 battleships, as well as nine battlecruisers, 34 cruisers, 79 destroyers and a seaplane carrier, the HMS Engadine. 

More than half of the British fatalities at Jutland came from the sinking of three battlecruisers, while three cruisers and eight destroyers were also sunk. A total of 6094 lives were lost on the British side, and 2551 on the German side (11 ships sunk).

Over the two days of Jutland, Archibald was aboard the HMS Shannon. She was a Minataur-class armoured cruiser, laid down at Chatham Dockyard in 1905. According to Archibald’s ADM 188 record he served onboard from 8 April 1914 to 14 January 1918 – most of the war. It seems that the Shannon didn’t fire during the battle of Jutland, but the crew were involved in searching for survivors for several days afterwards. Shannon had also been involved in the search for survivors from Natal in 1915.

Meanwhile, his brother William was aboard HMS Vindictive serving in the White Sea. His record does not appear in the FMP collection but can also be found in ADM 188 (ADM 188/416/234650) – you just need to search for it within the British Royal Navy Seamen 1899-1924 collection instead (after all, he wasn’t in fact, at Jutland). The records are also available online at Ancestry and downloadable from the National Archives’ Discovery.

Archibald remained with the Royal Navy until 1921. Afterwards, he went back to Australia. Just three years after leaving the Navy he was accidentally drowned in the Beardy River near Glen Innes while visiting his uncle (see Registers of Coroners’ Inquests and Magisterial Inquiries on Ancestry). 

Local newspapers reported the death and describe him swimming across the river at Stone Dam, Bullock Mountain to set a fixed fishing line. Suddenly, he sank and was drowned. According to the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate of 19 January 1924, ‘Walne was a native of Parramatta, 32 years old, and was a leading signalman at Flinders Naval Depot, Victoria’. [With thanks to the wonderful source that is Trove] 

FindAGrave includes an image of his memorial at Glen Innes General Cemetery: thanks to all those volunteers on the other side of the world.

Until embarking on my ONS most of my relatives were Army. Through Archibald I have found a distant connection to Jutland.

Have you found yours?