Report By commander Reginald A Norton, RN, Late of HMS Hogue

World War 1 Naval Combat

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September 23, 1914

Sir, I have the honour to report as follows concerning the sinking of HM ships Hogue, Aboukir and Cressy:-

Between 6.15 and 8.30 a.m. HMS Aboukir was struck by a torpedo.  The Hogue closed the Aboukir, and I received orders to hoist out the launch, turn out and prepare all boats, and unlash all timber on the upper deck.  the two lifeboats were sent to the Aboukir, but before the launch could get away the Hogue was struck on the starboard side amidships by torpedoes at intervals of 10 to 20 seconds.  the ship at once began to heel to starboard.  After ordering the men to provide themselves with wood, hammocks etc., and to get into the boats on the booms and take off their clothes, I went, by Captain Nicholson's directions, to ascertain the damage in the engine rooms.  An artificer engineer informed me that the water was over the engine-room gratings.  While endeavouring to return to the bridge the water burst open the standard entry port doors, and the ship heeled rapidly.  I told the men in the port battery to jump overboard, as the launch was close alongside, and soon afterwards the ship lurched heavily to starboard.  I clung to a ringbolt for some time, but eventually dropped on to the deck, and a huge wave washed me away.  I climbed up the ship's side and was again washed off.

Eventually, after swimming about from various overladen pieces of wreckage, I was picked up by a cutter from the Hogue, Coxswain L S Marks, which pulled about for some hours picking up men and discharging them to our picket boat and steam pinnace, and to the Dutch steamers Flora and Titan, and rescued in this way Commander Sells, Engineer-Commander Stokes, with legs broken, Fleet Paymaster Eldred, and about 120 others.  finally, about 11 a.m., when we could find no more men in the water, we were picked up by HMS Lucifer, which proceeded to the Titan and took off from her all our men except about 20 who were t00 ill to be moved.

A Lowestoft trawler and the two Dutch ships Flora and Titan were extraordinarily kind, clothing and feeding our men.  My boat's crew, consisting mainly or RNR men pulled and behaved remarkably well.  I particularly wish to mention Petty Office, 1st Class, Halton, who, by encouraging the men in the water near me, undoubtedly saved many lived.

Lieutenant-Commander Phillips-Wolley, after hoisting out the launch, asked me if he should try to hoist out another boat, and endeavoured to do so; the last I saw of him was on the after bridge doing well.  Lieutenant Tillard was picked up by the launch, got up a cutter's crew and saved many lives, as did Midshipman Cazalet in the Cressy's gig.  lieutenant Chichester turned out the whaler very quickly.

A Dutch sailing trawler sailed close by, but went off without rendering any assistance, though we signalled to her from the Hogue to close after we were struck.

How The Vessels Sank.

The Aboukir appeared to me to take about 35 minutes to sink, floating bottom up for about five minutes.  The Hogue turned turtle very quickly, in about five minutes, and floated bottom up for some minutes.  A dense black smoke was seen in the starboard battery, whether from coal or torpedo cordite I could not say.  the upper deck was not blown up, and only one small other explosion occurred as we heeled over.

The Cressy I watched heel over from the cutter; she heeled over to starboard very slowly, a dense black smoke issuing from her when she attained an angle of about 90 deg., and she took a long time from this angle till she floated bottom up with the starboard screw slightly out of the water.  I consider it was 35 to 45 minutes from the time she was struck till she was bottom up.

All the men in the Hogue behaved extraordinarily well, obeying orders even when in the water swimming for their lives and I witnessed many cases of great self-sacrifice and gallantry.

Farmstone, able seaman, RFR, HMS Hogue, jumped overboard from the launch to make room for others, and would not avail himself of assistance until all men near by were picked up; he was in the water about half an hour.

There was no panic of any sort, the men taking off their clothes as ordered and falling in with hammock or wood.

Captain Nicholson, in our other cutter, as usual, was perfectly cool, and rescued a large number of men.  I last saw him alongside the Flora.

Engineer-Commander Stokes, I believe, was in the engine room to the last, and Engineer Lieutenant-commander Fendick got steam on the boat-hoist and worked it in five minutes.

I have the honour to submit that I may be appointed to another ship as soon as I can get a kit.

I have the honour,

Reginald A Norton, commander, Late of HMS Hogue.

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