Major Francis John William Harvey VC, British Royal Marine Light Infantry
Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Major Francis John William Harvey VC, British Royal Marine Light Infantry, was killed in action at the battle of Jutland.
Although mortally wounded by German shellfire, his actions aboard the battlecruiser Lion on the day of his death prevented the tons of cordite stored there from catastrophically detonating in an explosion that would have destroyed the vessel and all aboard her. Although he succumbed to his injuries immediately afterwards, his dying act may have saved over a thousand lives and prompted Winston Churchill to later comment: "In the long, rough, glorious history of the Royal Marines there is no name and no deed which in its character and consequences ranks above this".
A long-serving Royal Marine officer descended from a military family, during his career he became a specialist in naval artillery, serving on many large warships as gunnery training officer and gun commander. Specially requested for HMS Lion, the flagship of the British battlecruiser fleet, he fought at the battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland. Major Harvey was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the height of the Battle of Jutland. The citation reads in part: “Whilst mortally wounded and almost the only survivor after the explosion of an enemy shell in "Q" gunhouse, with great presence of mind and devotion to duty ordered the magazine to be flooded, thereby saving the ship. He died shortly afterwards.” His body was recovered and he was buried at sea with full honours.
Francis, from Upper Sydenham in Kent, was 43 years old and married with a son.