Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Leading Signalman Henry Charles Seymour died at sea when the HMS Begonia went down with all hands off Casablanca. He and his crew members (numbering ninety-four) are commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. Henry, from Leytonstone, was 23 years old.
HMS Begonia was one of twelve Azalea* Class sweeping sloops completed for the Royal Navy, and was launched in August of 1915. She had been torpedoed while on patrol off Ireland in the following March with the loss of two ratings, towed into Queenstown and reconstructed to resemble a small coaster before being commissioned in August of 1917 as Q-ship 10. There are varying reports as to her fate, some indicate she was in a collision or torpedoed by U151, but it is believed that the submarine was in collision with HMS Parthian, based on the U-boat’s war diary which describes a collision with a destroyer or small cruiser and not a Q-ship. HMS Begonia is thus considered missing after sailing on the 3rd of September, 1917, in merchantman’s guise. It is not difficult to guess at her fate. The Germans had adopted unrestricted submarine warfare as of February of 1917; U-boats could torpedo merchant ships without warning, which they did. Convoys were therefore introduced, and with fewer ships traveling alone, and increasingly sailing armed, the enemy moved away from surface gunnery actions towards torpedo attacks.
*The “flower class” sloops were designed on merchant ship lines, and were easily adaptable for conversion to Q-ships. They were employed mainly on convoy and anti-submarine work. Nine of the twelve were lost during the Great War.