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Petty Oficer William Henry Kirkham, Royal Navy

May 31, 2019

 

Remembering the Fallen:  on this day in 1916, H.M.S. Lion survived the Battle of Jutland but with the loss of ninety-nine lives, including the surgeon, chaplain and Petty Officer & Lead Stoker William Henry Kirkham.  

In the afternoon of the 31st of May, H.M.S. Lion was hit by a shell from a German flotilla to which they had given chase.  The following is an extract from the Official History, "Naval Operations" by Sir Julian S. Corbett in 1923:  “With main and secondary armament in action the German salvoes were being delivered about every twenty seconds, and our ships too were in a forest of waterspouts. It was one of the hottest moments of the action, when every nerve had to be strained to the utmost, and Admiral Beatty, having the enemy well abaft his beam, signalled to the 13th Flotilla that it seemed a good opportunity to attack. Five minutes later, while the fight still raged at its hottest, the Lion received a nearly fatal blow. A heavy shell struck Q-turret, entered the gun-house, burst over the left gun, and killed nearly the whole of the guns' crews, and it was only the presence of mind and devotion of the officer of the turret, Major F. J. W. Harvey, R.M.L.I., when almost incapacitated with a mortal wound, that saved the flagship from sudden destruction.” 

(Major Harvey, already featured in these daily posts, lost both his legs and died shortly afterwards, but not before ordering the closing of the magazine doors and the flooding of the magazines.  The fire therefore did not reach the ammunition and the ship was saved.  He was awarded the posthumous Victoria Cross).

Petty Officer Kirkham was from Dingle in County Kerry, Ireland, and was scheduled to return home on leave after the Battle of Jutland.  He was married with six children.

 

 

 

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