Remembering the local heroes who went down with the Hawke

Stoker Charles Upritchard

Stoker Charles Upritchard

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Lurgan and Waringstown were dealt a double fatal blow 100 years ago after two sailors from the locality died on HMS Hawke on October 15, 1914.

The bodies of Lieutenant Commander Ruric Henry Waring and Stoker (1st Class) Charles Edward Uprichard were never recovered after the ship sank having been hit by a German U Boat in the North Sea.

HMS Hawke

HMS Hawke

Charles Edward Uprichard was born on June 26, 1891 in Lurgan, the son of John and Elizabeth Uprichard. He had three brothers William James, John and Joseph.

He had been an iron turner when he enlisted in 1909 and served on HMS Black Prince in Gibraltar in 1911. He was transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR) in 1914.

His records show he was a member of the Church of Ireland, and is named on the Chatham Naval Memorial. He died aged just 23.

Ruric Henry Waring was born on August 16, 1879 and was educated at Stubbington House. He joined the Royal Navy in 1893 and became a midshipman in 1895, drafted to HMS Britannia. He was raised to a sub-lieutenancy in 1899 and was promoted lieutenant after 18 months’ service for meritorious examinations. In 1910, after 17 years service, he retired on half-pay owing to ill health, with the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was placed on the naval reserve list.

In 1914, on the recommendation of the Admiralty, Ruric was about to accept an appointment in the Chinese Navy when war was declared. In the intervening years, he helped in the military drilling of the local men of the Ulster Volunteer Force and was a Company commander in the 2nd Battalion West Down Regiment. He was also Vice-President of Waringstown Cricket Club.

In August 1914, with the outbreak of war, Ruric regained his former rank of Lieutenant Commander and joined HMS Hawke at Queenstown, where he awaited further orders to set sail. The ‘Hawke’, on September 20, 1911, had collided with the White Star Liner ‘Olympic’, the sister ship of the Titanic. In the Admiralty trial which followed, HMS Hawke and its crew were declared free from blame, owing to the theory proposed that the large water displacement caused by the Olympic had drawn HMS Hawke from her course.

By August 1914, the Hawke was ready for action and was to take part in various British naval operations in the North Sea, patrolling the coast against the attrition of the German navy. On October 15, 1914, the British cruiser HMS Hawke was torpedoed by the German submarine U-9 in the northern waters of the North Sea and sank in a few minutes. HMS Theseus, accompanying the Hawke, was not harmed in the attack. Captain Hugh PET Williams, commanding the Hawke, 26 officers and five hundred men were lost with the ship. Only four officers and around 60 men were saved.

It was hoped for a time that, owing to his previous malady, Ruric had gone on sick leave, but this proved groundless when the official telegram expressing sympathy arrived from the King.

Further intimation from the Admiralty announced that it was feared Lt Waring was amongst those who had lost their lives; this was received by his brother Holt in October 1914

Ruric Waring is commemorated on Panel 1 of the Chatham Naval Memorial. It is one of three naval memorials alongside the naval ports of Plymouth and Portsmouth, to commemorate those members of the Royal Navy who have no known grave. Ruric Waring died, aged just 37.

A surviving Stoker explained: “Those on deck for an instant immediately after the explosion saw the periscope of a submarine which showed above the water like a broomstick.

“The Hawke was holed above the engine room and commenced to cant over to starboard with alarming rapidity. Her plates were twisted and torn and a huge gap was rent in her side. An attempt to man the guns was made but owing to the extra acute list of the vessel it was found impossible to train them on the submerged craft.

“The horror of the situation was added to when a tank of oil fuel caught fire and the flames advanced with fatal rapidity.

“Seeing there was not the ghost of a chance of doing any good by remaining in what was obviously a death trap I determined to make a dash for it. I scrambled precipitately up the iron ladder to the main deck. All this had happened in less time than it takes to tell.”

One survivor pointed out that: “The crew for the most part were Irishmen, the reason being that at the outbreak of war the Hawke which was one of the oldest ships of the Navy, was stationed at Queenstown... there were only around 24 active servicemen on board, the remainder being fleet reservists.” None of these men’s bodies was recovered for burial.

The centenary of the sinking of HMS Hawke and the tragic loss of so many men of Ulster will be remembered at the Royal Navy’s annual Trafalgar Day Service in Belfast on October 19.