Cromarty Archive

Crewmen from the HMS Natal

Crewmen from the HMS Natal

Date Added: 14 July 2004 Contributor: Jim Welford Year: 1910 Picture No: 838

Albums: The Sea

Groups: The Natal - Warship destroyed by an explosion off Cromarty during WW1


Hello Jim,

Do you happen to have a list of the names of the crewmen shown in your photo? A distant cousin of mine was Lt. Engineer William Black and he was amongst the crewmen not to survive that fateful day in 1915. It is a possibility that he is amongst the crewmen shown but as I have no photgraphic evidence of him it is impossible to tell one way or the other.
Comment left on 19 November 2005 at 09:53 by Simon Miller
Oh how wonderful is this technology. Thank you Jim for submitting this photo and I too would like to know if you can identify anyone here, my grandfather did not survive this explosion either, his name Denis Coyle Scrimgour, I have just started building my family tree and trying to piece information together.
Robyn (nee Scrimgour)
New Zealand
Comment left on 21 May 2006 at 07:34 by Robyn Young
My father survived the explosion he was pulled from the water by two fisherman after 3 quarters of an hour we think his rank was torpedoman his name is Edward Stupple his age would have beeen between 17/19? he went on to complete his service in the RN pensioning off in 1936 and being recalled in 1939. any news or photographic evidence would be gratefully received. Comment left on 02 December 2006 at 21:29 by Alfred Stupple

By Bert Payne, A.B., one of the Survivors

Thirteen thousand tons she weighed, a cruiser smart and trim,
Yet she did’nt look it in her light grey coat, she seemed so slim;
Eight hundred lads, both staunch and true,
Neatly dressed in their uniforms of blue
She carried where’er she went,
Always willing to take her load without the least comment.

We had learned to love our ship, because we know that she could slip
O’er the oceans far and wide, without her sister ships being by her side.
What happy times we had sometimes in U.S.A.,
Then a pleasure trip to Russia and a cruise to fair Norway.
Or perhaps we’d have a few days of tactics way up North,
And once again we’d have a rest in the Moray Firth.

Always to the fore, the cruiser "Natal" would be top score,
Whether it be coaling, gunnery or sports.
"Twas all the same to the Burial Ship she was one of the good old sorts.
And Kaiser Bill had learned that oft-times she had steamed,
Scooped up his merchant shipping and over her triumph gleamed.
Again a submarine would show itself and try to dip,
But where the "Nats" had to take a hand ‘twas always too late to slip.

A grinding noise, a crash, a bang, and then the pangs of death
Crept o’er those merciless murderers as they drew their last drawn breath;
Then as though some inwards spirit had suddenly appeared,
We always gave vent to our feeling and cheered and cheered,
As we watched the floating blood and oil, or may be a tiny piece of wreck,
Which told us our duty we were doing to hold the Huns in check.

The dying "Blucher" saw her through the foggy mist,
While many a shell from the good old " Natal" tore its way clear and kissed
The floating mass of cemented steel, tearing away her bilges and laying bare her massive keel,
O’er thousands of miles of ocean she travelled for duty’s cause,
And whenever she came into harbour she was met with loud applause;
Then to think that such a ship as she should meet so cruel a doom
Without a fighting chance, draws us all to a state of gloom.

It was just after three p.m. when the terrible shock was felt,
the flames burst forth from aft in a cruel scorching belt,
Flames and fumes that threatened to loosen the staunchest hearts
And bring memories of the dear old faces from whom we had to part,
To fight for our King and Country and to retain our homes and beauty.

But could there in all this world be found a more glorious body of men,
Than those o’er whom the icy waters swirled, and then,
Thanks to the help our gallant comrades gave,
God bless them all ! And keep watch o’er those whom they tried so hard to save,
The lads whose last resting place was an icy cold and watery grave.

Four hundred of Britain’s bravest gave their lives, whilst waiting to crush those "Huns,"
Four hundred of her staunchest sailors lost their lives within reach of our guns.
God bless those widows and orphans! And where’er this tale may be told,
Just take off your hats to those brave lads of the "Nats," who died like Britishers bold.

18th January 1916
Comment left on 08 September 2008 at 12:02 by Ron Borthwick
Alfred Gunner died on HMS Natal he was my great great cousin. Does anybody have any idea if he is in the picture or have any information on him? His mother was Rose Gunner nee Osborne father Henry Gunner. Comment left on 13 October 2008 at 17:48 by MICHAEL OSBORNE
"Gunner, Alfred. Stoker 1st Class. K21113. Born 27.12.1894 Snodland Kent. Lived Wateringbury Kent. No known grave." Comment left on 13 October 2008 at 21:52 by Estelle Quick
Hi . I have been able to Identify my great uncle on the picture 'crewmen of HMS Natal' added by Jim Wellford. If Jim or someone who knows him could contact me, I would appreciate it. Comment left on 25 October 2008 at 22:58 by Tim Hull
I previously asked a question about my cousin, Alfred Gunner, who died on HMS Natal. Can anybody tell me about the commemorative medal? Did they make reproductions of it as I would love to get one so I can remember him? His service was no: k/21113. Thanks.
Comment left on 27 October 2008 at 20:13 by MICHAEL OSBORNE
I know my grandfather Robert Bonallie served on HMS Natal during WW1. He died just after my late father was born. Robert told his children about an incident with a torpedo, is your HMS Natal the one he would have served on as I believe 2 ships of this name served during WW1? I cannot find a crew list for this ship, if anyone can help me I would be very grateful. Comment left on 13 November 2008 at 18:46 by Julie Nelson
Dear Jim,
Thank you for posting the photo of the crewmen of the Natal. You can add me to the list of people wondering if you have names of any of the crewmen in the photo that you submitted. My mother's uncle, Percy Larman, died when the Natal was destoyed in 1915 and I would be mosted interested to know if he is in that photo. Thank you.
Comment left on 11 April 2010 at 13:45 by June Coxon
My Grandfather Ernest Paxford was one of the lucky few to survive, He was ashore playing football. He was discharged from the navy in 1925 and went to work for the BBC. Comment left on 15 August 2010 at 20:02 by Zana Eaman
My Gr.grandfather Henry Potts was due shore leave that day but gave it to another sailor who wanted to go ashore. My G/G would have survived had he not been so generous. Comment left on 08 November 2010 at 20:53 by Meg
My Great uncle, Claude Russell Allen was also one of the lucky ones that survived, for he was also ashore playing for the Natal's football team, he also boxed for the navy. Between the wars he served on the cruiser Hawkins on the China seas. When he finished his naval career he become a Publican. He died in 1972. Comment left on 11 December 2010 at 15:25 by David Allen
I have just received a silver cigarette box from my grandmother Alice Henderson.Inside is written "combined Home Fleet Regatta, 1909. Officers' Race won by H.M.S. NATAL" with the namas of: "L.B.Wondsborough, J.(or S)F.Wharton, G.B.Riley and ?.F.Pridham. Comment left on 25 December 2010 at 00:23 by M. HENDERSON
Crewmen from HMS Natal no 838 3rd from left, 2nd row is my father Edward Stupple. Comment left on 29 January 2011 at 19:39 by Alfred Stupple
We have just found out that Mark Tippey died on the Natal. We would love to know if he is on that picture. He was brother of my friend Derek Casey's Grandfather, Walter Tippey. Comment left on 03 April 2011 at 13:24 by Maggie Boyd
Jim - Thanks you for posting this photo. Please could you add me too, to the list of people wondering if you have names of any of the crewmen in the photo that you submitted. My mother's uncle, Clifford Bertram Johnson died aboard the HMS Natal. He would have been about 22 and was an Engine room artificer 4th class.
Comment left on 25 February 2012 at 15:41 by Diane Anstey
Sorry everyone, but back in 2008 I was quite excited about seeing the picture of my great uncle that I forgot to point him out. He was Frederick Couchman, and is 2nd left on the back row. He was a telegrapher. Radio operator I suppose. He was 18 when he died. Comment left on 25 February 2012 at 19:25 by Tim Hull
I think my great-grandfather Henry Potts could be the man on the right with beard and moustache. I remember a photo of him, sitting on a capstan, being in my grandmothers room. Comment left on 25 February 2012 at 21:54 by Meg
Could you tell me how I can find the names of the crew who lost their lives on board the HMS Natal? Comment left on 17 July 2012 at 15:33 by Wayne Hunt
A distant relation of Norma Jeanette Denton, wife's maiden name, a Herbert Frederick Denton, was one of those that died. Comment left on 19 October 2013 at 13:56 by Nick Ashby
Does anyone know if the HMS Natal was in the the USA around June of 1914. Looking for my grandfather Henry McKee. Comment left on 19 January 2014 at 14:35 by Linda Langerud
Comment left on 30 May 2014 at 17:58 by Tony Brooks
My name is Mike Osborne I was unlucky enough to have two cousins die on the NATAL. ALFRED GUNNER / AND ALFRED BRIGDEN in the photo above there are three men with beards the one far right is my cousin ALFRED BRIGDEN I still cannot find a good photo of ALFRED GUNNER if anyone can find him on any other natal photos would be great thanks - Mike Osborne. Comment left on 14 June 2014 at 19:55 by Michael Osborne
Mike are you sure the man with the beard is your cousin? I thought he could be my Gt.grandfather,Henry Potts judging by the only other photo we have of him. Comment left on 16 June 2014 at 11:25 by Meg Archbold
Yes meg I only found out about two years ago from his family his name is alfred brigden there are other photos of him his great great sent email address is [email protected] if you want to get in touch so i can send you the other photos mike Comment left on 20 June 2014 at 21:39 by Michael Osborne
I have been told that my great grandfather was Chief Stoker on the Natal, but I don't what period. My mother was told that he was at Jutland. His name was Jonah Hughes, what unfortunate name for a sailor, but I do know that he survived the war and worked in the Staffordshire coal mines, 2 of the guys on the photo look like they could be related to me. Comment left on 29 June 2015 at 21:41 by Jeff Hill
I will post a pic of my great granddad soon, I have a pic marked Natal, he is on the pic with other crew members, when I can sort out the scan mode on the laptop you will have it
Comment left on 12 July 2015 at 19:25 by Jeff Hill
Back in 2010 when this photo was posted I wrote asking if names of the men in the photo.are listed anywhere. One of my relatives, Percy Larman, served and died on that ship. I assume he might be in that photo but since I Can't see to pick him out in the photo. The only photo I have of him is posted on right hand side of this page..if anyone can identify him in the group photo is would be great to have another photo of Percy.

Comment left on 13 July 2015 at 18:09 by June Coxon

I have looked at the pictures, Percy has a dimple in his chin, and his ears are quite low down on his head with the lobes almost level with the corners of his mouth, (no offence) compared to other crew members. He has a longish nose and his right eye is very slightly lower than the left. His left eyebrow is also a little heavier than the right. If you are convinced he is in the group picture, I would suggest he is the one on the left of the group of three with beards, Second row from the top and in front of my great uncle Fred who is back row second in from the left. The Sailor I am looking at has a darker beard in the middle of his chin (as you would expect in a dimpled area), his ears are lower than the others and his eyebrows and nose look similar to the pic of Percy on the right.

What do you think?


Tim Hull
Comment left on 13 July 2015 at 22:48 by Tim Hull
Hello It's June Coxon Again, My proof-reading skills along with poor typing are on full display in that short note I wrote earlier today. I didn't mean to imply that I couldn't "see" the photo. What I meant to type is that I can't "seem" to find my relative, Percy Larman, in the photo. Comment left on 14 July 2015 at 00:02 by June Coxon
Thanks for your comments and observations Tim. I hadn't gone nearly that far with things, perhaps because I don't know if he is in the photo. I have a newspaper report on his death (unfortunately there is no date on the article or even the name of the newspaper). It did say he visited his father not long before his death. So if only the photo was more precise I might be able to. Determine if he is in the photo. But the features you noted about him are quite helpful and have set me thinking in a different direction. Thank you. Comment left on 14 July 2015 at 23:34 by June Coxon
Anyone interested in the Natal disaster should visit the excellent museum at Invergordon. It has lots of interesting exhibits and accounts of the event. There's also a memorial garden in the town. We also visited the graves of ( mostly unknown ) sailors buried there and at Cromarty on the Black Isle. Comment left on 16 July 2015 at 00:10 by Maggie Boyd
Cromarty Courthouse Museum have an exhibition on the Natal disaster - open until the second week of October - open 7 days a week from 12 noon until 4 pm . Comment left on 28 July 2015 at 17:40 by Sue Florence
Hi, my great Uncle was Engineer Lieutenant George Barlow. He was 28 years old when he died in the explosion. Does anyone perhaps have a photo of him? Comment left on 27 November 2020 by
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