When they learnt that the Nazis had embarked on an atomic weapons programme the British were prepared to take considerable risks to disrupt it. The main target was the Vemork Hydroelectric Plant at Rjukan in Norway which was producing ‘heavy water’ essential for the Nazis to progress with their programme.
In Operation Grouse, the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) successfully placed four Norwegian nationals as an advance team in the region of the Hardanger Plateau above the plant in October 1942.
The unsuccessful Operation Freshman was mounted the following month by British paratroopers; they were to rendezvous with the Norwegians of Operation Grouse and proceed to Vemork. This attempt failed when the military gliders crashed short of their destination, as did one of the tugs, a Handley Page Halifax bomber. The other Halifax returned to base, but all the other participants were killed in the crashes or captured, interrogated, and executed by the Gestapo.
During exhumation in 1945, it was discovered that those executed had their hands tied behind their backs with barbed wire.
In the wreckage of a glider, the Germans discovered a map of the Telemark area with Vemork in a red circle. They immediately carried out a defense check of the Norsk hydra. However, they mistakenly thought that the real goal was to be a new dam, which was built near the factory, and therefore did not strengthen the patrols of the Norsk hydra.
The advance team for Operation Freshman, four Norwegians who had parachuted into the country before the gliders, had survived the winter by living off reindeer and moss. It was a notable feat of survival.
First we ate lichens under the snow. If reindeer can feed on them, that will be enough for us. We didn't like it very much, but after about two weeks, around Christmas, we saw the first reindeer and went hunting. After 1-2 days, we killed the first reindeer, and that saved us.
Three months after the first attempt, the Swallow group received word from Britain that six more Norwegians would be sent to Rjukan for Operation Gunnerside. Unlike in Operation Freshman, the special forces group was a small group of Norwegian commandos from Company Linge. The group was supposed to parachute to their target zone rather than use a glider to land and meet up with the Swallow group before raiding the Vemork plant.
Led by Joachim Rønneberg, the group jumped from a plane under the cover of snowfall at around midnight on February 16, 1943. The commandos all dressed in British uniforms underneath their snowsuits; they reasoned that if the British were blamed for the sabotage rather than the Norwegian resistance, the local population would be less likely to face German repercussions. While the group survived the landing and avoided initial German detection, they landed miles from the planned target site. After traveling for about five days, the Gunnerside group connected with the Swallow group.
Late in the evening on February 27, 1943, the Gunnerside group began the raid on the Vemork plant. There were three ways to access the plant: 1) come down from the mountains above the plant, which was an area covered in minefields; 2) cross a heavily-guarded, single-lane suspension bridge; or 3) travel to the bottom of the gorge, cross a half-frozen river, and climb a 500-foot-high cliff. According to Rønneberg, the group voted to take the gorge, which led to a route alongside a railway line that a local contact said was relatively unguarded.
In order to get through the plant’s side gate fence, Knut Haukelid used a pair of heavy-duty metal cutters brought by Rønneberg. Fortuitously, Rønneberg had purchased the metal cutters in Cambridge, England after going to a movie on his day off. He told The New York Times that the handsaw provided by the British military “would have taken too much time, made too much noise and alerted Nazi guards.”
After getting through the fence, the group divided into their four-man explosives group and five-man cover squad. The explosives group planned to enter the plant through a side door. This door, however, was locked. Rønneberg was able to find an access tunnel and entered the plant with Fredirk Kayser.
He recalled to The Times, “Getting inside I was quite certain that the rest of the party would follow me, but only one chap came. The other ones hadn’t found the entrance to the tunnel. Therefore we decided we would have to do it ourselves and started laying out the charges.” After getting separated from their squad mates, the other two men on the explosives team, Kasper Idland and Birger Strømsheim, decided to break in through a window.
Once in the building, Rønneberg and his men placed two strings of explosive charges next to the heavy water production cells. In order to provide enough time to escape but still hear the explosion, he decided to shorten the fuses so that they lasted only thirty seconds rather than the designed two minutes. The explosion apparently was not as loud as expected, but nonetheless, Rønneberg heard it and knew the mission was a success.
After fleeing the plant and reconnecting with their cover squad, Rønneberg and the rest of the Gunnerside group began to ski toward Rjukan. Once they reached the mountain plateau, the group split up. In uniform and fully armed, the explosives team traveled more than 200 miles to Sweden on skis. The cover group, on the other hand, spread out throughout the plateau. Despite the Germans’ search and pursuit of the group, none of the members were killed or captured. Upon inspecting the damage to the heavy water facilities, General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst, the head of German forces stationed in Norway, referred to Operation Gunnerside as “the most splendid coup” (Bascomb, p. 213)
The main building was 25 by 100 metres in seven stories. The production started in the top storey and continued in circles until it ended as heavy water down in the bottom. And that was our target: a battery of 18 cells, the last stage in the production.
Two of us managed to get in and we started laying the charges. The order was that if anything happened that could endanger the result, you had to act on your own. The three other chaps in the demolition party, one of them carrying a set of charges, decided to break the window to get inside because they did not know that we were busy inside. When the window broke, both groups were equally surprised.
I helped one of my friends to get in, and we finished laying the charges. They were not big charges. They weighed about 4.5 kilos, and had been chained up by the British before we left. Two-minute fuses, four of them.
There was a Norwegian workman inside the factory reading the instruments and filling out the logbook. He heard us talking Norwegian, discussing whether we should put on a 30-second fuse just to be sure that we heard the bang as soon as possible.
That was when he asked for his glasses. It was difficult to get glasses in Norway, so he wanted to have them before we lit the charges. I remember I threw away what I was doing and searched for the glasses and found the case and handed it to him.
He was very pleased and I started getting the ignition sets ready when he suddenly said that the glasses were not in the case. I said “Where the hell are they then?” And he said “Well, they were there when you came in.” In the end I found them being used as a bookmark in his logbook, and gave them to him.
Then we ordered him to give us the key for the cellar door so that we could go out through the door like other human beings. We opened the door and I remember Major Tronstad saying that in case we needed to lock up the guard, the key for the lavatory was on the left-hand side of the door. I remember just after we had lit these 30-second fuses, I saw the key, but we did not need it.
We said to the man, “You just run around the corner, up the staircase, lie down and keep your mouth open, until you hear the bang. There will be only one bang, so when it is over you can go down and watch the result”. I do not know if he did. But I know that he kept his mouth open, because he could hear when I met him two years later. Otherwise, if he had had his mouth closed he would have blown out his eardrums.
We had planned to meet the covering party down by the river. They expected to be there a while after they heard the bang, not knowing that we had used only 30-second fuses, so we met them just outside the gate.
What astonished us was that the Germans did not understand what had happened at all. The covering party told us that one man came out of the doorway of the guard house with a torch, and made a sort of search around the house and went in again. When we got back across the river, we took a parallel road to the main road leading down to Rjukan centre. At the place where the funicular starts down in the valley, we began climbing a zigzag road leading up to the top. It was a rise of about six or seven hundred metres, and it took us, I would say, three hours from the explosion until we could put on our skis up on the mountainside.
Operation Gunnerside (later evaluated by SOE as the most successful act of sabotage in all of World War II) successfully destroyed the Vemork heavy water production facility and supplies. The raid caused the Germans to lose about 500 kg of heavy water and decommissioned the plant for a few months. The mission’s success, however, was not a final blow to the Germans’ heavy water production. By May 1943, the heavy water production facilities were rebuilt and operating again.
Even though bombing the plant was initially ruled out, the United States decided to bomb the Vemork plant following the Germans’ reconstruction of the heavy water facilities. On November 16, 1943, 140 American bombers flew over Rjukan and bombed the Vemork plant. According to Thomas Gallagher’s Assault in Norway: Sabotaging the Nazi Nuclear Program, the heavy water production facilities experienced minimal damage from the bombing (p. 168). Figuring the attacks would only continue, the Germans decided to stop producing heavy water at Vemork after the bombing. Unfortunately, there twenty-two Norwegian civilian casualties in the bombing raid, the tragedy Tronstad had hoped to avoid (Powers, p. 212).
Germany’s attempt to move their heavy water supplies from Norway to Germany also ended in failure at the hands of Norwegian saboteurs. Led by Knut Haukelid, a group of Norwegian saboteurs was ordered to sink a ferry carrying the Germans’ semi-finished heavy water products to research centers in Germany. On February 20, 1944, the “Hydro” ferry was sunk by an explosion in the boat’s bow, and the Germans lost their last supplies of heavy water from the Vemork plant. There were four German and fourteen Norwegian casualties from the explosion.
On the night of the 23rd February 1944 former Royal Marine Tony Smith earnt the George Cross in a daring rescue.
Anthony Smith (1894-1964) was born in Christchurch, Hampshire on 3rd August 1894, one of six children for Anthony and Emma Cordelia Smith. The family grew up at 8 Bury Street, Chelsea, and Anthony Senior was a ship’s stoker, and Emma was a charwoman. Anthony Junior left school aged 14 and began an apprenticeship with his father, who was now a chimney sweep.
When war broke out in 1914, Smith enlisted in the Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI), Chatham Division. He was posted to the Royal Marine Brigade of the Royal Naval Division and participated in the landing at ANZAC cove in April 1915, during the Gallipoli Campaign.
Smith sustained an injury to his foot requiring evacuation to Chatham. By December, Smith rejoined his old battalion in France where he fought in numerous actions including the Somme offensive of 1916. Smith's service in the Great War came to an end after a serious hand injury requiring amputation of three fingers resulted in him being invalided out of the Corps on the 17th February 1917.
At the outbreak of WWII, Tony became a member of the Heavy Rescue Section of the Civil Defence Rescue Service at Chelsea. On the night of February 23rd /24th 1944 bombs intended for the Lots Road Power Station fell on nearby streets.
The hardest hit was Edith Grove, where a whole terrace of houses was demolished, the water main ruptured and the gas main set alight. It was for his actions during this raid that Tony was awarded the George Cross (GC).
After being demobilised, he became a nightwatchman at the Holborn Viaduct Hotel, but soon gave it up and returned to his pre-war occupation of shoemaker. In 1926, he rejoined the family business of chimney sweeps. He became a familiar figure around Kensington and Chelsea on his bicycle. On the outbreak of World War II, he tried to enlist again in the Royal Marines, but he couldn’t serve due to his injuries to his right hand. He then decided to join the Heavy Rescue Service, and his squad consisted of 11 men, later reduced to 7.
The peak of the “Little Blitz” on London occurred between 18th and 25th February 1944 with the National Fire Service dealing with up to 650 fires per night.
On the night of 23rd February, two days of the GC action of Leslie Fox, during an air raid, bombs demolished a number of houses at the World's End, Chelsea. Only the party wall was still standing, but in a precarious condition. The gas and water mains were fractured and the gas ignited, turning the wreckage into a raging inferno.
Smith burrowed his way through the rubble and managed to reach Sam Mitchell, who was trapped in the basement, but by the time he had freed him the front of the building was a wall of fire, the upper floors were collapsing and his escape was cut off. Smith determinedly burrowed his way through the burning debris and brought the man out safely, just as the remaining wall fell into the basement.
Smith's eyebrows and hair were burnt and he was almost overcome by smoke but, undeterred, he immediately went to the assistance of Albert Littlejohn, who was trying to rescue a woman trapped in the basement of an adjoining building, the walls of which were in a very dangerous condition. Smith worked for up to an hour in waist deep water, and with the walls and floors on the point of collapse, helping to release her. Littlejohn was awarded the BEM.
Smith was awarded the George Cross on 30th May 1944 and he received the medal from King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 10th October 1944 and and made a Freeman of the Borough of Chelsea in June of the same year. Alongside him at the investiture was another GC in Benjamin Gimbert and a VC in William Sidney.
Smith would never wear his GC and was quoted in 1957 as saying “It was just a job, see. You get in there and do it, same as the other blokes.”
“The KING has been graciously pleased to award the GEORGE CROSS to:- Anthony Smith, Member, Civil Defence Rescue Service, Chelsea.
The London Gazette citation dated 30 May 1944;
On 25th February 1944 a stick of bombs fell on the ‘World’s End’ area of Chelsea destroying a four storey building. Only the shell was left standing and gas and water mains had been fractured with the gas ignited and causing rubble and neighbouring buildings to catch fire. Two floors of the building had pan caked.
Smith went into the rubble and started to tunnel reaching a casualty trapped in the front basement. Having released the victim from the debris the buildings condition had become even more precarious with the front of the building now a solid sheet of flame added with the building still crumbling around him his escape route was now blocked.
Smith carried the casualty to the rear through the smoke and fire of the building where he found a small hole to freedom. Smith again frantically burrowed away to make a whole big enough to escape the inferno. After passing the casualty through the hole, one of the main walls of the building collapsed. Smith escaped but most of his hair and eyebrows had been burned from his head.
Almost overcome by the fumes and smoke Smith went to the next building to help a colleague who was attempting to rescue a woman who was trapped in that building’s basement. The building was in a similar condition to the first one Smith had entered and he worked for up to an hour in waist deep water to help effect the rescue of the women.
Smith carried on working with the rest of his crew throughout the rest of his shift until they were relieved sometime later.
Smith remained a bachelor and returned to being a chimney sweep after the war. He lived in rented accommodation and would eat all of his meals with his sister who lived nearby. He didn’t believe in electricity and only had gas lights. He died at St Luke’s Hospital in Chelsea on 20th October 1964, aged 70, and was buried in an unmarked grave three days in North Sheen Cemetery, Richmond.
In the spring of 1998, his grave was discovered by Doris Miller, who alerted the Royal Marines Museum a new stone was dedicated on 22nd May 1999 by arrangement of the Royal Marines Association (RMA) and supported by The George Cross and Victoria Cross Association, the Military, Royal Marines Historical Society (RMHS) and representatives from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. He is buried in North Sheen Cemetery in Richmond.
Smith’s medals came up for auction in 1988 but were unsold. They were sold again in 2005 to a private buyer, they are now owned by the Ashcroft Collection and displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
British War Medal 1914-18 (CH.18816 A.Smith. Pte. R.M.)
Victory Medal (CH.18816 A.Smith. Pte. R.M.)
Coronation Medal 1953
A plaque commemorating Smith's bravery on 23 February 1944 is located on Dovehouse Green, on the King's Road in Chelsea near the Chelsea Old Town Hall.
Royal Marines Force Protection teams enabled a non-combatant evacuation operation with HMS Cumberland and HMS York as a part of Op Deference.
On the morning of the 24th February, with gunfire ashore audible, the situation in Benghazi appeared to have stabilised.
HMS CUMBERLAND went alongside at Action Stations at 13:41 local time, HMS York was to follow a few days later.
In Malta, elements of HMS YORK’s Command team went ashore to the makeshift Joint Task Force Head Quarters which had been established in the High Commission building, and as a result our mission became clearer; we were to embark Royal Marine security troops and proceed to just outside territorial waters off of Tripoli. The ship was to be prepared for military action, to gather intelligence on the air and maritime picture and to be prepared to undertake an evacuation of Entitled Persons (EPs).
Over the next 2 days, HMS YORK fed intelligence back to the HQ in Malta that provided the Special Forces troops with the information that they needed to deploy C130s 28 into Libya to rescue stranded oil workers in the desert.
HMS YORK was then re-tasked; this time we were to collect Swedish humanitarian medical stores from Malta and to deliver them to Benghazi. We left the Tripoli coastline and went to Sicily for fuel and then Valletta in Malta for the medical stores.
The sea-state during these high-speed transits was 5-6 so there were many queasy individuals onboard. Ship’s routine remained 6 hours on and 6 hours off. Everyone was tired, the planning process never stopped as the higher command had to react to new tasks and direction. Additionally, there was no communication allowed off the ship and thus times were stressful for the ship’s company. However, by Wednesday 2 March we were alongside in Benghazi.
Libyan planes were flying overhead and dropping munitions about 30 miles inland. The Royal Marine troop, that we disembarked as soon as we were alongside to clear the area and protect the ship, reported sporadic gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades being used within a mile or so of the ship’s position. The humanitarian aid was landed in good Royal Navy fashion; within the safe cordon created by the Royal Marine and Royal Navy ship’s protection teams, we formed a chain to the waiting lorries.
In return, the local authorities presented the ship with a bouquet of flowers and the local scout group had come to the port to assist with the onward transport of the stores to the local hospital.
At the same time, we were able to embark 43 Entitled Persons including 8 children, from across the globe, including the UK, Sweden, Latvia, the Philippines and Serbia. The medical department’s plan for the “triage”, treatment and onward movement of personnel worked surprisingly well; the planning ahead paid off! The whole ship and her 43 guests were ready to sail within 4 hours. The evacuees were looked after onboard overnight within the mess decks at the rear of the ship. This involved displacing ship’s company to sleep in the dining hall and their places of work.
Despite this, morale was high and there was a positive vibe throughout the ship. The EPs were friendly and grateful to be on board, and the Ship’s Company felt proud that all their hard work had been recognised.
Even before we reached Malta, we had to react again. This time HMS YORK’s Lynx helicopter was dispatched to meet with HMS CUMBERLAND and fly an injured Royal Marine to hospital in Malta.
Finally, twenty hours after leaving Benghazi, the ship arrived in Valletta and our grateful guests were disembarked
J Royal Naval Medical Service 2011, 97.1 28-31 General HMS York - OP Deference - S Schofield [https://jrnms.com/JournalArticle.ashx?ID=12253]
The Island of Lemnos in the northern part of the Aegean Sea was occupied by Royal Marines. During World War I, in early 1915, the Allies used the island to try to capture the Dardanelles Straits, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) away.
This was done chiefly by the British and largely due to the urging of Winston Churchill.
The harbour at Moudros was put under the control of British Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss, who was ordered to prepare the then largely unused harbour for operations against the Dardanelles. The harbour was broad enough for British and French warships, but lacked suitable military facilities, which was recognized early on.
Troops intended for Gallipoli had to train in Egypt, and the port found it difficult to cope with casualties of the ill-starred Gallipoli campaign.
The campaign was called off in evident failure at the close of 1915. Moudros' importance receded, although it remained the Allied base for the blockade of the Dardanelles during the war.
HMS Penelope was an Arethusa-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy. She was launched on 15 October 1935, and commissioned 13 November 1936.
On the 11 Apr 1940 she entered a Norwegian fjord to support an attack of British destroyers against a German destroyer flotilla. On the way into the fjord she ran aground on rocks and was badly damaged.
She was towed clear by HMS Eskimo but sustained 4 near-misses by aerial bombs exacerbating the damage already sustained by hitting the rocks.
On wartime service with Force K formed in October 1941 at Malta, to operate against convoys sailing from Italy to Libya she was holed so many times by bomb fragments that she acquired the nickname "HMS Pepperpot" During this attack the ship's cat gave birth to three kittens, Bomb, Blitz and Blast.
Penelope took part in Operation Shingle, the amphibious assault on Anzio, Italy, providing gunfire support as part of Force "X" with USS Brooklyn on 22 January 1944.
She also assisted in the bombardments in the Formia area during the later operations.
On the 8th Penelope, under the command of Captain G. D. Belben carried out five bombardments in support of military operations at Anzio beachhead she then returned to Naples to re arm.
On 18 February 1944, was leaving Naples to return to the Anzio area when she was torpedoed at 40.55°N 13.25°E by the German submarine U-410 under the command of Horst-Arno Fenski.
A torpedo struck her in the after engine room and was followed sixteen minutes later by another torpedo that hit in the after boiler room, which caused a major explosion. 417 of the crew, including the captain, went down with the ship and 206 survived, rescued by landing craft.
A memorial plaque commemorating those lost is in St Ann's Church, HM Dockyard, Portsmouth.
The 1st Royal Marine Light Infantry (1RMLI) had suffered grievous casualties at the Battle of Ancre in November 1916 and had to be withdrawn from the front line to be completely rebuilt as a fighting unit. Only Lt Col Cartwright and Maj Ozanne had survived unscathed.
In February 1917 having been brought back up to strength with new officers and men, 1RMLI moved back into the trenches at Pusieux, just north of the Ancre river.
The winter of 1916 had been the worst in living memory and the weather was still very bad. The ground was the frozen but in the areas where it had begun to thaw, it had become very muddy. The whole area was covered in shell holes and all the trenches had been blown away. This meant there were no landmarks and navigation was very difficult.
A few weeks early other units of the 63rd Royal Naval Division (RND) had attacked and captured the ground surrounding Baillescourt Farm. This had pushed the British front line a little further up the Ancre Valley, but at huge cost in killed and wounded.
About 100m of the sunken lane running north from Baillescourt Farm was now held by Anson Battalion, but the higher ground further up the lane was still held by the Germans.
On the evening of 16th February 1RMLI lined up for the attack with the objective of taking the sunken road and establishing strong points 50m on the other side.
But at 0500am on 17th February the Germans opened up with an artillery barrage directly on the 1RMLI assembly area. As a result the battalion suffered more than 50% casualties before the attack had even begun.
At 0545am the surviving Marines began their advance, under the cover of a British artillery barrage.
In the confusion of battle and with the difficultly in navigating, the two left hand companies veered towards the right. By pure chance this meant they avoided the intact barbed wire, and the sector of the sunken lane they actually attacked had no wire at all.
A situation report was received at 0640am stating that both 1RMLI and Howe had secured their part of the sunken lane, and had advanced 20m beyond the lane to establish strong points.
Because they had veered off course 1RMLI then had to move north and eliminate one final German strong point. This strong point was assaulted and captured and this ended the Battle of Miraumont.
The starting strength of 1RMLI was quoted as being around 500. At the end of the day’s fighting only 100 were fit for duty. Most of these casualties were as a result of the initial German artillery bombardment. Very few men were killed in the assault itself.
Maj Harold Ozanne was wounded in this attack and sent back to the Brigade Field Ambulance station on 19th February returning to the battalion from 45th Casualty Clearing Station on 22nd February.
On 26th and 27th February 1RMLI organised burial parties at the sunken road for those in the attack. Those buried included 2Lt Robinson, O’Kell, and Fielding and 32 men.
On 11th March it was announced that Maj Harold Ozanne had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his action at the Battle of Miraumont.
The Citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He directed the consolidation of the position with marked ability, and was largely responsible for holding the position against subsequent enemy counter-attacks. He displayed great courage and determination throughout the operations.” London Gazette 17th April 1917.
The 63rd Division lost 549 casualties and the three attacking divisions took 599 prisoners.
Enemy retiring hastily sir, helped by our fire
Maj H Ozanne DSO
The Battle of San Domingo was a naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars fought on 6 February 1806 between squadrons of French and British ships of the line off the southern coast of the French-occupied Spanish colonial Captaincy General of Santo Domingo in the Caribbean.
All five of the French ships of the line commanded by Vice-Admiral Corentin-Urbain Leissègues were captured or destroyed. The Royal Navy led by Vice-Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth lost no ships and suffered fewer than a hundred killed while the French lost approximately 1,500 men.
Only a small number of the French squadron were able to escape.
In the course of the fighting, in which Royal Marines played an important role, Captain James Malcolm (Lieutenant-Colonel Sir James Malcolm, KCB) for his valour in that action was brevetted a Major on the Army List with seniority in that grade dating 6 February 1806.
The battle of San Domingo was the last fleet engagement of the war between French and British capital ships in open water.
Force 'Viper' 106 volunteers from the 1st RM Coast Regt/ MNBDO 1 joined some Burma Naval Volunteer Reserves and civilian engineers in Rangoon in February 1942 and formed Force 'Viper', named after the only British snake to have a nasty bite.
Their first job was to patrol Rangoon port, using Irrawaddy Flotilla Company boats. General William Slim's Burma Corps left Rangoon on 6 March on the long retreat to India.
The left flank along the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers was protected by Force 'Viper', who soon became adept at demolition, improvising the building of booms, and ambushing Japanese river patrols.
Reinforced by Burma Commando II, the force attacked Japanese positions at Henzada on 17 March but on 26 March was ambushed at Padaung, losing several men; replacements were drafted from the Army's Inland Water Companies.
HMS Clan MacNaughton was a converted 4,985 ton cargo passenger ship built in 1911 for the Clan Line Steamers, Glasgow. The vessel was hired by the Admiralty in November 1914 and fitted out in London with eight 4.7" guns and was in service at Liverpool by 4 December 1914.
She operated as part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron and was most likely sunk during a severe gale off the NW coast of Ireland with the loss of all hands - 20 Officers and 261 ratings, 36 Royal Marines were lost.
The true cause of her sinking has never been fully established. However, there has been some speculation that a combination of a bad Atlantic storm, coupled with a top heavy ship (due to the fitting of naval guns) and an inexperienced and ill balanced crew may have contributed to her loss rather than a loose mine out in the Atlantic.
The crew was made up of a mix of reservists (many from Newfoundland), a RMLI detachment, mercantile sailors, some RN regulars and a large number of boys (50) straight out of training school.
In the month following the loss a Question were raised in the House of Commons on the subject of the ship's stability with regard to the fitting of the guns. The Admiralty reported that they had been satisfied as to the stability of the vessel.
The following 36 Royal Marines were lost.
ALLEN, William, Private, RMLI, 10096 (Ch):
ARTHY, Charles J, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1405), 8514 (Ch):
BANKS, William, Private, RMLI, 18934 (Ch):
BENSTEAD, Thomas R, Private, RMLI, 14324 (Ch):
BINGHAM, Charles E, Private, RMLI, 13192 (Ch):
DOUGLAS, Frank, Private, RMLI (RFR B 850), 11044 (Ch):
FULLER, Walter R, Bugler, RMLI, 18174 (Ch):
HOLLANDS, James H, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1385), 10016 (Ch):
HOLMES, Frederick, Private, RMLI, 10637 (Ch):
GALTRESS, Arthur, Corporal, RMLI, 16717 (Ch):
HOWITT, Joseph V, Private, RMLI, 18312 (Ch):
HUNT, William H, Private, RMLI, 4538 (Ch):
JOYCE, Benjamin G, Colour Sergeant, RMLI, 8920 (Ch):
MACEY, George J B, Private, RMLI, 12392 (Ch):
PAVEY, Henry F, Private, RMLI (RFR B 1214), 11585 (Ch):
POTTER, Herbert, Private, RMLI (RFR B 828), 9034 (Ch):
PRATT, Percy, Private, RMLI, 18185 (Ch):
PRICKETT, Richard, Private, RMLI, 18318 (Ch):
RICHARDSON, Albert E J, Private, RMLI, 5514 (Ch):
ROBBSHAW, Edward W G, Lance Corporal, RMLI, 17320 (Ch):
SPENCER, William D, Private, RMLI, 12558 (Ch):
STREET, William, Private, RMLI, 18322 (Ch):
STUART, William, Private, RMLI, 8958 (Ply):
TICKNER, Henry A, Private, RMLI (RFR B 764), 8392 (Ch):
WELLS, Arthur F, Private, RMLI, 15654 (Ch):
YOUNG, William E, Private, RMLI (RFR A 625), 13984 (Ch)