The Battle of Jutland was the largest and most fierce sea battle fought in the First World War. It took place on the Jutland bank about fifty miles off the coast of Denmark. It was fought between the British Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet and the German Navy’s High Sea’s Fleet. Most of the battle took place over a four hour period on the 31st May 1916. Over 100,000 sailors in 250 ships fought the battle. The final casualty list was 6,097 British sailors dead, 510 injured. 2,551 German sailors dead, 507 injured. At least 93 of the British navy sailors were from Cork. Six of those men were from Barryroe parish.
The first of the Barryroe men to die in the battle was Arthur Kidney from ‘Inglenook’, Courtmacsherry. He was an ordinary signalman on the H.M.S. Queen Mary which sank at 4.25pm. The Queen Mary took a full broadside from the German battle cruiser S.M.S. Derfflinger. She was hit with two or three twelve inch shells on her deck. There was an instant thunderous explosion followed by a fire and a second fatal explosion when her magazines exploded. An eyewitness on H.M.S. Dublin later described seeing her after she had been hit. He described her as still speeding along at twenty knots listing first to port, then to starboard and ploughing deeper into the sea with her guns raised, still red hot from firing and hissing as they met with the cold water of the North Sea. He described seeing several survivors on board and described the powerlessness of being unable to help. Her propellers were still turning as she sank below the surface. 1,266 sailors were lost on Queen Mary. There were only 20 survivors.
Arthur’s registered number was J24695. He was born on 8 December 1897 in Sussex. His next of kin were his parents William and Norah. He signed up for twelve years’ service in the navy on the 8 December 1915 on leaving school. His navy record shows that he was only 4 feet 11½ inches in height; he had black hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion.
The next four Barryroe sailors to die in the battle were brother’s David and James Brickley from Lehina, John Falvey, Lehina and Thomas Henry Reynolds from Courtmacsherry. They were all crew on the 525 foot long cruiser H.M.S. Defence which sank at 6.20pm taking 903 sailors with her. The Defence had been involved in an intense engagement with the German battle cruisers, Wiesbaden, Pillau and Frankfurt. The German Wiesbaden had sustained severe damage and the British ships led by Defence moved in for the kill. Wiesbaden gallantly kept fighting. Suddenly out of the mist at a distance of 8,000 meters, appeared the massive outline of several German dreadnoughts, who rained a sustained salvo of shells down on Defence which suddenly exploded in an inferno and was gone in minutes.
We have an eye witness account of the sinking from a Captain Poland on H.M.S. Warspite
“I saw the Defence coming down our starboard bow (engaged side) heading straight at the enemy, with a cloud of white smoke amidships and aft. She was banging away and going at full speed, mast-head colours and all the rest of it and made a very gallant show. I saw three salvos fall across her in quick succession, beauties. A flicker of flame ran aft along her forecastle head and up her fore turret, which seemed to melt. Then – whoof, up she went, a single huge sheet of flame, 500 feet high, mixed up with smoke and fragments. As it died down I saw her crumpled bow, red hot, at an angle of sixty degrees, and then she sank. I nearly vomited – God it was an awful sight. I couldn’t get to sleep that night for thinking of it.”
The Brickley brothers were in the Royal Navy Reserve as distinct from being regular navy sailors. The Brickleys’ parents were William and Ellen. Both brothers were described as being labourers and fishermen before the war. David’s registered number was A4213 and James was 5125A. David was born in April 1889 and he joined the navy reserve on 1 March 1912. James was born in September 1893 and joined the reserve on 11 September 1913. David was 5 feet 6 inches in height, fair complexion and had brown eyes according to his navy record. James was 5 feet 7 inches in height, fair complexion with blue eyes. The navy records show that the brothers and John Falvey were mobilised on the 5 August 1914. The war had started on the previous day.
John Falvey was born on the 5 August 1891. His parents were William and Kate. His registered number was 4944A. He joined the navy reserve on the 18 February 1913. He was an agricultural labourer and fisherman before joining the navy. John lived within 200 yards of the Brickley brothers in Lehina. John’s navy record describes him as being 5 feet 6½ inches tall, fair complexion, blue eyes. Two of his brothers, Laurence and Denis, were also in the navy reserve. The records show that Denis was demobbed on the 18 March 1919 and that he died in Lehina on the 26 January from T.B. The record for Laurence shows that he continued in the navy reserve after the war and was fishing out of Kinsale until Christmas 1923 when he emigrated to 125 Duke St, Liverpool. He is believed to have emigrated to Australia from there.
Thomas Henry Reynolds was born on the 19 June 1881 in Ardglass, Co Down. Thomas joined the navy on the 1 May 1900. His registered number was 343419 and he was a Chief Writer on board Defence. The 1911 Census shows that his father William C., who had served in the Royal Navy, was then serving as a Coastguard in Courtmacsherry.
The sixth Barryroe man to die at Jutland was David Courtney on board H.M.S. Warrior. The Warrior was fighting alongside Defence during the battle. She was severely damaged at about 6.15pm but managed to stay afloat until the following morning when she sank. She lost 71 of her crew of 704 in the battle. David was born in Courtmacsherry on the 18 February 1892. His parents were John and Julia. He joined the Royal Navy on the 15 February 1913. His registered number was K17817. He was a first class stoker on H.M.S. Warrior. His record describes him as being 5 feet 3½ inches tall, dark brown hair, blue eyes with a sallow complexion.
The memorial to the Barryroe & Courtmacsherry service men lost in the First World War was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of the deaths of these six young local men.
This article was taken from the Courtmacsherry and Barryroe History Group.