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HMS Natal in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- HMS Natal during the Great War -


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HMS Natal



30th Dec 1915   HMS Natal was an armoured cruiser of the ‘Warrior’ Class. She had an official complement of 704 officers and men. She escorted the royal yacht in 1911–1912 for the newly crowned King George V's trip to India to attend the Delhi Durbar.

On Thursday December 30th 1915 she was lying in Cromarty harbour near Invergordon, to the North of Inverness. At 3.20 p.m. fire broke out on board. Within about five minutes the ship was torn apart by the explosion of her after magazines and sank almost immediately.

Natal’s crew were all pre-war regulars, reservists or wartime volunteers – conscription wasn’t introduced until two days after she exploded. About half the crew were under 25. Amongst the dead were 33 Royal Naval Reserve Stokers, nearly all from the North East, 14 members of the Royal Naval Volunteer 12 Reserve, 63 Royal Marines, including 15 bandsmen, three nursing sisters of Queen Alexander’s Royal Naval Nursing Service, three canteen staff who worked for the Army & Navy Stores and two Admiralty employed civilian craftsmen.

On 30 December 1915, Natal was lying in the Cromarty Firth with her squadron, under the command of Captain Eric Back. The captain was hosting a film party aboard and had invited the wives and children of his officers, one civilian friend and his family, and nurses from the nearby hospital ship Drina to attend. A total of seven women, one civilian male, and three children were in attendance that afternoon.

Shortly after 1525, and without warning, a series of violent explosions tore through the rear part of the ship. She capsized five minutes later. Some thought that she'd been torpedoed by a German U-boat or detonated a submarine-laid mine, but examination of the wreckage revealed that the explosions were internal. The divers sent to investigate the ship reported that the explosions began in either the rear 9.2-inch shellroom or the 3-pounder and small arms magazine. The Admiralty court-martial in the causes of her loss concluded that it was caused by an internal ammunition explosion, possibly due to faulty cordite. The Admiralty issued a revised list of the dead and missing that totaled 390 in January 1916, but did not list the women and children on board that day.

With her hull still visible at low water, it was Royal Navy practice on entering and leaving Cromarty right up to the Second World War for every warship to sound “Still”, and for officers and men to come to attention as they passed the wreck. After numerous attempts, much of the ship was salvaged. The remainder was blown up in the 1970s to level the wreck so that it would not be a hazard to navigation.

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There are:1 articles tagged HMS Natal available in our Library

  These include information on officers service records, letters, diaries, personal accounts and information about actions during the Great War.


Those known to have served in

HMS Natal

during the Great War 1914-1918.

  • Bigley Daniel. Able Sea. (d.30th Dec 1915)
  • Huntley William Thomas. Stoker 1st Class. (d.30th Dec 1916)

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List


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June 2017

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Want to know more about HMS Natal?


There are:1 articles tagged HMS Natal available in our Library





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