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Extracts From Admiralty Records

Extracts from Admiralty Records ADM 137/3726 - Report of Court of Enquiry
held into the loss of H.M.S. "Opal" and H.M.S. "Narborough" on 12/1/1918.

(Note: the incorrect spelling of "Narbrough" is as in the original report) 



ADM 137 / 3726




"Report of Court of Enquiry held into loss of


on 12/1/1918"


Original Admiralty file contents, selectively photocopied at the Public Record Office

by Michael Brady Snr. and Michael Brady Jnr., April 2001.

Transcribed into Microsoft WORD by Kieran Brady and proof read by Brian Budge, July 2001.


A.C.1 to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 0139. A.

"OPAL" returning from Eastern patrol reported at 2127 to-day, Saturday, that she was ashore but gave no position. No further W/T communication has been obtained with her, nor any communication with "NARBROUGH" which is presumably in company with her. Thick snow prevents vessels going out to search at present. Tugs and destroyers ready to proceed directly weather clears. Flat calm inside Flow. (2342)

A.C.1st B.S. to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 0958. A.

Wind N.W., 5 to 7, snowy, visibility quarter to half mile. Tugs are searching for "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH". (1930)

A.C.1st B.S. to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 1008. A.

PRIORITY. No news of "OPAL" or "NARBROUGH". Snow too thick throughout night for tugs or destroyers to go out, wind inside Flow N.W. 1 up to 0700. Now fresh from N.N.W., weather clearing, vessels going out. (0910)

A.C.1st B.S. to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 1016. A.

PRIORITY. Two destroyers ashore near Pentland Skerries, request salvage vessel be sent.

Addressed to 0, repeated 45 and 51 (1000)

A.C.1st B.S. to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 1249. A.

878. No signs of "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" in vicinity of Pentland Skerries. Four sloops, available trawlers and tugs are searching land to the North and South of Pentland Firth. Commodore (F) will remain at Base in "CASTOR" and use sloops to continue search.

Addressed 45, repeated 0. (1230)

Commodore (F) to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 1525. H.

PRIORITY. "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" missing. Last signal received from "OPAL" at 2121 on Saturday 12th Jan. as follows, begins :- "Have run aground". No further communications from either ship. Search has been made in vicinity of Pentland Skerries, so far without success. Weather conditions very bad, heavy snow all night with Northerly gale.

Sent 0, 45. (1340)

A.C.I to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 1915-2030. Eco.

880. Following additional details in regard to disappearance of "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" are submitted. At 1830 on Saturday 12th January these two destroyers parted company from "BOADICEA" in 58-55 N 1-49 W. to return to northern base owing to bad weather. Wind was SE strong. "OPAL" gave this same position to "VALHALLA" at 1853 adding my course N 88 W 13 knots. At 2127 "OPAL" reported have run aground. Nothing further that is intelligible was received from her. Endeavours are being made to make sense out of fragmentary signals that followed probably from "NARBROUGH". "BOADICEA" reports that she was set 5½ miles 333° between 1628 and 2220 when she made Copinshay. The destroyers must have experienced the same set and probably grounded between Old Head South Ronaldshay and Mull Head Deer Sound. The coast has been searched from Copinshay to Ness Head from the Sea and all coast Watches have been out. No wreckage has been seen on the coasts but dense snow squalls have prevented a close search from seaward and snowdrifts have hindered shore search. Floating wreckage was found this evening Sunday ½ mile to Southward of Pentland Skerries among it an Officers washstand marked Sub-Lieutenant "NARBROUGH".


A search seaward in Northern and Eastern Channel has been carried out by 1st and 2nd F.S.F. "MOUNSEY" and "MUSKETEER" arrived by eastern channel and "PEYTON" from Invergordon today Sunday and saw no wreckage. I fear there is no hope that either vessel is above water and little hope that there are any survivors. Search both afloat and ashore will be continued tomorrow Monday. The sound signals on Pentland Skerries and in Pentland Firth were working correctly from 2000 on Saturday 12th January, that on Copinshay was started at same time. At 2150 R.A. Scapa reported:- "Copinshay reports fog signal sounding but very erratic, stopping at times and has now stopped." It is possible it was stopped when the Destroyers made the coast, this is being enquired into.

Addressed 45, repeated 0. 2010.

A.C.1st B.S. to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 2200. Eco.

882. My 1000 and your 1306 and 1310, services of Commander Malet and "MELITA" are not required as "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" must be presumed to have foundered.

Addressed 0, repeated 45, 56, 46, 51. (2140).

A.C.O & S to C-in-C. 13/1/18. 2240. H.

Priority. Your 414 and 415. Pentland Skerries South and East side South Ronaldshay, Duncansby Hd. East side Stroma have been searched by A.P. Vessels and tugs. No sign of destroyers found. Search continuing south of Duncansby Head and East side of Orkneys, all lookouts and coastwatchers have been warned. Owing to heavy snow drifts little can be done from shore side.

Addressed 0, repeated 124 45. (1500).

Admiral Rosyth to C-in-C. 14/1/18. 0234. H.

"Melita" has been recalled. Lieut. Gibney has been directed to proceed to Aberdeen in connection with "Muskerry". Admiralty has been informed.
Sent to 53 54 46 45 47. (0145).

A.C.I to C-in-C. 14/1/18. 1103. Eco.

884. Wreckage of two destroyers reported in Windwick Bay 58 degrees 46 seconds N. 2° -0’-56" W.

Addressed 45. Repeated 0 46. 1046.

A.C.I to C-in-C. 14/1/18. 1200. H.

Propose to assemble Court of enquiry into loss of "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH". Rear Admiral William Nicholson President. Do you approve. 1142.

C-in-C to A.C.I. 14/1/18. 1252. EC.

Your 1142. Concur. 1252.

A.C.I to C-in-C. 14/1/18. 1157. Eco.

Trawler has received one survivor from "OPAL". Addressed 45. Repeated 0.

1407. S.N.O.A.S. to Com. F., & A.C.O & S. for information
Search party cannot be sent overland. Land parties from the destroyers if sea permits. 1210.

1418. S.N.O.A. to A.C.O & S.
Following from Com.F. Consider that only men with local knowledge would be of any use for search parties. Men ashore were told where to search. Dogs would probably be more useful than anything. Ends.
What do you propose. 1415.

A.C.O & S. to S.N.O.A.
Your 1415. Suggest that parties landed from ships endeavour to obtain local inhabitants as guides for searching operations. The ground is very rough and deep snow drifts make movements very difficult. 1506.

1640. R.A. Cyclops to S.N.O.A.
Following from A.P.O. Both destroyers total wrecks awash at high water two 12pdr guns and two pom-poms and torpedo tubes of both wreck could be salved weather permitting. Search for survivors or bodies. None found. Nothing possible today owing to swell, returning to base 1400 ends. 1615.
Michael Maloney to R.A. Scapa. 1615.

1700. S.N.O.A.S. to Com. F.
Following received from R.A. Scapa. It is proposed to ask procurator Fiscal to hold enquiries tomorrow Tuesday, at 1230 into the death of the two bodies brought to the base by H.M. Trawler Michael Maloney. Both bodies are being taken to China. Submit that if this proposal is approved necessary warnings be given for attendance of witnesses. 1525 ends.
Request you will communicate with R.A. Cyclops and arrange for necessary witnesses to attend. 1700.

1650. S.N.O.A. to A.C.4.
Request you will arrange
direct R.A. Douglas Nicholson, together with two Captains of 4th B.S. to hold Court of enquiry into loss of Destroyers Opal and Narbrough and will inform S.N.O.A.S. names of Captains detailed. Papers will be forwarded as soon as possible probably tomorrow. 1630.

1720. S.N.O.A.S. to Com. F.
A. Court of Enquiry will be held by R.A. Douglas Nicholson and two Captains of 4th B.S. on a date to be notified later into the loss of Destroyers Opal and Narbrough. A report giving all information as to the duty on which these Destroyers were employed with a copy of all signals bearing on the case and any remarks you may have to offer is to be sent to R.A. Colossus as early as practicable and copies forwarded to C. in. C. and A.C.1.B.S. 1715.

1750. S.N.O.A. to A.C.4.
Request that Captain of Boadicea may be directed to report to R.A.Colossus with copy to and A.C.1.B.S. all communications with which he is acquainted leading up to the loss of Destroyers Opal and Narbrough. A copy of all signals bearing on the case should accompany the report. Also a chart showing track of Boadicea when on D.N.P. on 12th and 13th January and any remarks that the Captain of Boadicea has to offer. Com.F. has been directed to forward a report on the loss to R.A.Colossus. 1715.

H.F.2. 298




From…………. The Commander-in-chief, Grand Fleet.

To……………. The Admiralty.

Date………….. 22 January, 1918. No……….. 198 / H.F.0021.




12 JANUARY, 1918.




                                        No…………… H.F.0021/76.

                                        THE COMMODORE (F).

                                        For information.

                                        Please return.

                                        "QUEEN ELIZABETH" ?????? (sig.)

23 January, 1918. For A D M I R A L.

No. 0039/10. II.



Submitted. Noted and returned.

"CASTOR", Hugh J. Tweedie (sig.)

25 January, 1918. C O M M O D O R E (F).



No. 198/H.F.0021. Date. 22 January, 1918.



12 JANUARY, 1918.



(1). A.C.1 B.S., 042/28, 14 Jan., with copy of signals and track chart.

(2). "Peyton" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Jan., et seq.

(3). A.C.1 B.S., 042/29, 19 Jan., with report of court of inquiry and enclosures as noted
in schedule.

(4). President of the Court . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 January, 1918.

(5). Draft of Grand Fleet Order and Small Craft Order.

The Secretary
of the Admiralty. "QUEEN ELIZABETH"


Forwarded, observing that :-

(i). A court marshal has not been ordered as it does not appear that any further evidence throwing light on the losses would be elucidated.

(ii). The accident was, in my opinion, due to want of seamanlike caution in making the land, and this should not have been attempted in the weather conditions prevailing at the time.

(iii). Copy of a Grand Fleet Order which is being issued, calling attention to this is enclosed.

(iv). The references by the Court to a light on the Lowther Beacon are not germane to the accident: such a light would have made no difference to the situation.
The Pentland Skerries and Stroma lights are sufficient navigational aids for making the eastern entrance to the Firth, and if these lights cannot be seen no vessel should attempt to enter at night. It is considered, therefore, that, even if the difficulties of exhibiting an intermittent light on the Lowther Rock could be overcome, it’s usefulness to H.M. vessels would not be sufficient to counterbalance the assistance it would give to enemy submarines, etc.

(v). It will be observed that no attempt was made to obtain a bearing from Old Head direction - finding W/T station. This was due to the fact that destroyers have not hitherto been able to transmit on R- wave. Arrangements are being made locally for this to be done, with special precautions as to limitation of power in order to avoid risk of damage to deck insulators.

480-16.9.17. DAVID BEATTY.



Enclosure No. 1 to Submission No. 198/HF 0021
of 22 Jan 18 from C-in-C., Home Fleets.



DATE … 18th January, 1918 NO … 042/28




With reference to my telegrams of 13th January, 2010, and of 14th January, 1046, and 1130, in connection with the loss of H.M. Destroyers "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH", the following report is submitted.

2. H.M.S. "BOADICEA" screened by "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH", was employed on Dark Night Patrol on Saturday, 12th January. The weather conditions when the vessels sailed were very favourable, wind Northeast 1 clear, and fine glass low but steady. At 1822 "BOADICEA" reported by W/T that the destroyers were ordered to return to Base on account of the weather. The weather in Scapa at this time was light airs b.c., Heavy snow began to fall at 2000 that day, and the wind continued light in the anchorage, until 0700 on Sunday, 13th January.

3. From subsequent records it has been ascertained that heavy snow commenced in the neighbourhood of the Pentland Skerries at 1945; the fog signal was started at 1953 and kept sounding throughout the night. The wind was North, force 3, and the sea moderate. Pentland Skerries also reported that Duncansby Head fog signal could be heard and was started at 2015.

4. It has further been reported from Copinsay that the heavy snow commenced in that vicinity at 2010. The fog signal was started at 2105, but owing to frozen pipes the signal was sounding irregularly until 2140, when it stopped. It was started again at 2235, and was kept sounding until 1115 on Sunday, 13th January. During the night, 12th to 13th January, the wind was East, force 5, sea rather rough. No other fog signals were heard from Copinsay.

5. The Captain of H.M.S. "BOADICEA" reported that "OPAL" parted company at 1830 on Saturday, 12th January, in Lat. 58.55 N., Long. 1.48 W. On the next day, Sunday, 13th January, at 1545, he reported that on making Copinsay Light at 2200 on Saturday, he found that "BOADICEA" had been set 330° , 5½ miles, between 1628 and 2200.

6. At 1840 on Saturday, 12th January, "OPAL" asked for the lights of Group I to be shown from 2030 till 2230, and of Group II from 2100 till 2300; at 1853 she signalled to "VALHALLA" that her position, course and speed at 1830 was 58.55 N., 1.46 W., N88W., 13 knots.
At 1905 she made that she expected to arrive at 2200; at 1955 she requested fog signals Group I and 2, adding "blinding snow".

7. From an examination of the W/T logs of ships on "Q" wave on Saturday, 12th January, it appears that the only signals made from "OPAL" after 1955 were as follows :-
(a) "OPAL" to Rear Admiral, Scapa. Acknowledge.
Request lights in groups I and 2 until no longer required. (2115).

(b) …..




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(b) "OPAL" to Longhope. Pass to Commodore (F) and Rear Admiral, Scapa, from "OPAL".
Urgent; RAN: erase; have run aground; portion of a position signal; time or origin, 2117 or 2127 or 2120.
Repeat to Commodore (F) and Rear Admiral, Scapa from "OPAL".
Urgent; RAN; have run aground; portion of position signal. Time of origin as above.

8. The position, after examining all the signals appears to be 58.55 N., 2.41 W., (the position of the wrecks is 58.46½, 2.55½ W., (a) was received at 2116 and (b) at 2130.

9. Signal (b) was followed immediately by fragments of what seemed to be a message in plain language, consisting of about seven words and made twice, but the note was so broken that nothing intelligible could be made of it. It is thought that the first word was "PENTLAND".

10. No further signals were heard from "OPAL", and none at all were received from "NARBROUGH".

11. The last bearing of "OPAL" from Old Head directional station was 195° at 2120 on Saturday, 12th January, which read as the reciprocal 15° , nearly indicates her position when ashore. On receiving the signal that "OPAL" was ashore, tugs and destroyers were held in readiness to render assistance but heavy snow continued during the night and it was impossible to move any vessels until shortly after 0700 on Sunday, 13th January, when a heavy Northerly gale set in with thick snow squalls and moderately clear intervals. The tug "ALLIANCE" and the trawler "DIANA" then proceeded to search in the vicinity of the Pentland Skerries, South Ronaldshay, Duncansby Head, and shortly after 0700 the Scapa minesweeping trawlers were sent out to search the Pentland Firth. At daylight the Admiral commanding Orkneys and Shetlands ordered the coast watching patrols to search the coasts in the Orkneys and on the main land, the heavy snow drifts, however, prevented this being effectively carried out.

12. The First and second Fleet Sweeping Flotillas anchored in Kirkwall on the evening of Saturday, 12th January, with orders to sweep the Eastern Channel on Sunday, 13th January, and reported at 0830 on 13th January :-

"Sweeping impracticable. Very heavy South Easterly swell.
"Am returning to Base".
The Senior Officer of Minesweepers was ordered to detach four sloops to search as follows: -
Two from Lowther Rock to Old Head and the East coast of Ronaldshay, and two from Duncansby Head to Ness Head.

13. No wreckage was seen on the shore, but at 1430 "MYRTLE" reported that an officer’s washstand marked "Sub Lieutenant, H.M.S. "NARBROUGH" had been picked up about half a mile south from the Pentland Skerries.


14 ……




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

14. According to the information received from "OPAL", giving her position, course and speed at 1830 on Saturday, 12th January, and the confirmation of this position given by "BOADICEA", and taking into consideration "BOADICEA’S" report made at 1545 on Sunday, 13th January, that she had been set 5½ miles to the Northward between 1628 and 2230 on Saturday, 12th January, together with the bearing of "OPAL’S" last wireless message, which was given by Old Head to be 195° or 15° , at 2120, it appeared probable that "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" were set to the Northward. On Monday, 14th January, a close search was made of the East coast of South Ronaldshay; fine weather enabled this to be done. At about 0930 the wreckage of "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" was discovered in Windwick Bay, South Ronaldshay, Orkney, by Commodore (F), who had proceeded in H.M.S. "CASTOR" with four destroyers at daylight.

15. The only survivor recovered is William Sissonsx, Able Seaman, Gunlayer 2, (Official number not yet ascertained) of H.M.S. "OPAL"; he was found sheltering in a small cave above Clett of Crura, immediately above the wrecks, today, Monday, and has been sent to Hospital Ship "CHINA".

16. Copies of signals bearing on the loss of "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" and of my telegram no. 887 to the Admiralty, sent after the cable had been disconnected from H.M.S. "QUEEN ELIZABETH", are submitted herewith.

17. The Commodore (F) and the Captain of H.M.S. "BOADICEA" have been ordered to prepare reports in this connection and to forward them to Rear Admiral Douglas R.L. Nicholson, H.M.S. "COLOSSUS". The latter will hold a Court of Enquiry into the circumstances of the loss, as early as practicable, assisted by Captain Edwin V. Underhill, R.N. H.M.S. "TEMERAIRE" and Captain Hugh D.R. Watson R.N. H.M.S. "BELLEROPHON".

(Signed) C.E. MADDEN

A D M I R A L.

x Official number subsequently reported as Po. J 16486

A tracing showing supposed track of H.M. ships "Opal" and "Narbrough" from 1830 to 2120 on Saturday, 12 Jan., is attached. (Original only)


Enclosure No. 2 to Submission No. 198 / HF 0021
of 22 Jan 18 from C-in-C., Home Fleets.


16th January 1918.

I have the honour to forward the following report on statements of W.Sissons, A.B., G.L.2, of H.M.S. "OPAL" who at the time of his ship striking was one of the gun’s crew of the watch at the midship gun.
While searching for wreckage of H.M.S. "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" in Windwick Bay on Monday 14th January 1918. at 9.20 a.m. wreckage was sighted on the Clett of Crura. After closing to a safe distance I proceeded in the whaler to the wreckage to establish its identity before reporting to Commodore (F). Three trawlers arrived from southward and I gave them position of wreck and one of them the "M. Maloney" lowered her boat to examine the wreckage. Sea was calm but there was a heavy swell from south eastward making examination of wrecks difficult and dangerous. A man was sighted ashore who signalled by semaphore that he was a survivor from the "OPAL" so I proceeded to the trawler "M. Maloney" to obtain lines to rescue him. In the meanwhile the "M. Maloney’s" boat had managed to rescue the man. I took over the survivor W.Sissons and returned to my ship where he was rendered medical assistance and on the arrival of "CASTOR" at 10.45 a.m. I was ordered to return to base and discharge survivor to Hospital Ship "CHINA".
The following information was obtained from survivor who though suffering from exposure gave intelligent answers to all questions.
About 9.30 p.m. on Saturday, 12th January, H.M.S. "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" were in company "OPAL" leading. There was a thick blizzard on at the time and a heavy following sea. "OPAL" struck heavily about three times and shortly after appeared to slide into deep water. Almost immediately after striking "OPAL" was pooped by the following sea which filled up her after part and carried away her funnels and mast. After apparently sliding into deeper water her fore part broke off at the break of the forecastle and the remainder foundered in about a quarter of an hour from striking. Directly "OPAL" who, Sissons states, had been sounding with sounding machine, struck she blew three blasts on her syren which were answered by "NARBROUGH". "NARBROUGH" appeared to pass "OPAL" on the port quarter, strike heavily and heel well over. Nothing more of "NARBROUGH" was seen by the survivor. He states that Captain and Sub-Lieutenant of "OPAL" were on the bridge at the time of striking and after striking orders were given to abandon ship. He did not observe any boat manage to get away safely and states that the Carley Floats were launched but owing to sea no one could remain on them. He swam ashore and reached a ledge, with crevices, well sheltered from the wind, with about 50 yards to walk about on. He kept himself alive with shellfish and snow, and at one time managed to scale the cliff to within a few feet of the top but fell back again.
He considers that men on deck before the midship gun-platform should have had some chance of saving themselves but can give no information as to anyone from "NARBROUGH".

I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,


(init). H.R.G.

Enclosure No. 3 to Submission No. 198 / HF 0021
of 22 Jan 18 from C-in-C., Home Fleets.



Date………19th January, 1918. No………042 / 29


12TH JANUARY, 1918.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Submitted. The Finding of the Court is concurred in.

2. With reference to the suggestion in clause 3 of the Finding, that the Captain of H.M.S. "OPAL" might have expected to see the Copinsay Light within 1½ hours of leaving H.M.S. "BOADICEA", this is hardly probable, as the Captain of "OPAL" asked that the lights of Group I, which include Copinsay, should be shown at 2030 (see signal from "OPAL" to Rear Admiral Scapa, timed 1830). By 2030 "OPAL" had Copinsay well abaft the beam, and this points to the Commanding Officer’s intention to make Pentland Skerries Light.

3. Assuming that the survivor, William Sissons, Able Seaman, Official Number J.16486, remembered correctly the soundings called and reported, the figures that he gave in answers to questions 16 and 43 of his evidence, as to the last soundings taken, probably refer to fathoms of sounding wire run out, and not to depths. If the speed of "OPAL" was seven knots, she was inside the 30-fathom line for twenty minutes or more before taking the ground. Thirty-three fathoms of wire out at a 7-knot speed would give a depth of 22 fathoms, which was about that of the water in which "OPAL" actually was ten minutes before going ashore (see answer to question 16 of Sisson’s evidence).

4. With regard to clause 4 of the remarks of the President of the Court, in his covering letter of 18th January, 1918, to the effect that a light on the Lowther Rock would be of much help to destroyers, the light formerly exhibited in that position was extinguished early in the war, because it was unwatched, and, once alight, always alight. It might therefore have been of great assistance to the enemy in making the entrance at night. It is very desirable to light the Lowther Rock if the light can be controlled, either by using reflectors on the rock, lit by a light ashore, or by an ascetylene plant controlled from the shore and burning usually on a by-pass. The uncontrolled light, however, is not recommended.

5. In addition to the cautions to destroyers recommended by the President of the Court in his letter of 18th January, I suggest that it be impressed upon destroyer officers that, when following a senior officer, an accurate reckoning is as essential as when detached, and that the junior officer should not hesitate to report to the senior that he is standing into danger, if he considers such to be the case.

(Signed) C. E. MADDEN.

A D M I R A L.




(Evidence taken aboard Hospital Ship "China" – 17 Jan 1918 – Witness Cautioned).

What were your duties between 6.30 p.m. and the time "OPAL" struck, about 9.20 p.m.

I was Gunlayer of the Gun’s Crew on watch and I was on the Upper Deck when the ship struck, I had the afternoon and first watches.

What was the position of ships during the afternoon to time "OPAL" struck ?

The "OPAL" was on the Starboard side of the "BOADICEA" in the dog watches and left her about 6.30 p.m.

Was the "NARBROUGH" with you ?

Yes Sir ?

Where was the "NARBROUGH" at 8.0 p.m. ?

Astern of "OPAL".

Describe anything you know of what happened ?

Nothing special was going on except the ordinary watch-keeping. I was stationed at the Midship Gun. The weather was very bad with a heavy stern sea. We had orders to go in on account of bad weather, and were supposed to arrive about 9.30 p-m. We should have been in about that time but we ran on the rocks and we could not see anything until the snow and blizzard had cleared away. When the snow had cleared away we could just see the cliff, that was about 9.30 p.m It cleared as we ran up.

Did the "NARBROUGH" strike at the same time ?

When we ran up on the rocks we blew three blasts on the syren, the "NARBROUGH" repeated it coming up on our starboard quarter, in turning she appears to have heeled right over and seemed to crack like a piece of firewood, she went to pieces quicker than the "OPAL" did. The "OPAL’S" bows appeared to have broken off completely and the "NARBROUGH" was lying in two pieces on the starboard side.

What happened after you struck ?

The order was given to abandon ship, all boats and whalers and carley rafts, which were still on board at time of grounding, were manned but the sea carried away the whalers davits, and the people in the boat were shot out, the same thing happened to the motor boat, the men sat on the carley rafts waiting to float off.

How did you get ashore ?

I jumped up the midship funnel and stood on the grating and waited my turn, the sea was getting worse, the sea then washed the after & foremost funnel away, and then the midship funnel went over and I had to swim for it, the funnel tumbled over the side, the next thing I remember was that I was up on the beach.

How far did you have to swim ?

I had to swim about 100 yards.


Were you unconscious during the time you were in the water and what did you do when you got to land ?

No. I was quite all right, until I got on shore, I climbed up the cliff to take my bearings and see if there was anyone with whom I could communicate, I got six feet from the top and then came down with a run, on account of my hands being numbed. I covered a place on the rocks with drift wood for a little shelter and stopped there for 36 hours.

Someone then saw you from the sea ?

On the morning of the 14th I saw a trawler and I hailed them with an ensign which was washed ashore and they answered and came in the skiff, they said that they had been sent to look for us.

Have you any idea what the course of the ship was when you struck ?

I do not know.

Did you hear any conversation among the Captain and Officers ?

None whatsoever.

The only order you heard then was "Abandon Ship" ?

I heard the result of last sounding and then abandon ship.

Were the sounding machines used ?

Yes Sir.

What was the last sounding ?

33 fathoms without tube.

Were the sounding machines used from 8.0 p.m. to time of running ashore ?

They were used in the Last Dog and were continually on the run.

Where are they situated ?

Just abaft the break of the Forecastle.

Did you hear any blasts on the syren ?

I heard the three blasts for going astern.

Can you say whether the "OPAL" altered course before striking ?

I cannot say, she ran straight up on the rocks.

Do you know whether there was any failure in the engines ?

I do not think so, the engines were in good condition as far as I know.

Do you know whether the "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" exchanged any signals regarding position?

I cannot say.


Have you any idea of the speed of the ship, just before striking.

About 7 knots ?

Had you been going slowly for some time ?

We were going very slow speed all the last dog while the blizzard was on.

What time was it the blizzard came on ?

At about 7.30 p.m. I first went on to upper deck and snow was falling thickly.

Were any fog signals heard or light seen.

I cannot say for certain before running on the rocks. I saw a white light when I was on top of the funnel after grounding, and when I was on the cliff I heard a faint noise that sounded like a fog horn.

What sort of weather was it and what was state of sea after 8.0 p.m.

The sea was following us and washing down the stern, the weather very bad.

How far could you see looking out from your station ?

Just about a Destroyer’s length.

Was there much movement on the ship between 8 and 9.0 p.m.

Just the usual roll caused by the sea.

Do you know about what the force of the wind was ?

I cannot say.

Can you tell me what look-outs were placed ?

Just the ordinary two look-outs at each side of the screen were placed.

Do you know the name of the Captain ?

I am not certain of the name as he had only been there a short time. He was a Lieutenant Commander.

Who was the First Lieutenant.

Lieutenant Lewis-Lloyd.

Was the Captain on the bridge when the ship struck ?

The Captain and Sub-Lieutenant Shaw were on the bridge and had been there for some time.

Can you give the name of the quarter-master ?

I cannot say for certain I have an idea it was Legros Able Seaman.

Can you give me any information as to signals Wireless or otherwise made by "OPAL" after she struck ?

Directly we ran aground we started making wireless, but the sea washed everything away immediately, and the mast went over the side. + the sea went down into the Boilers.


The "OPAL" made three blasts and these were repeated by "NARBROUGH" ?

Yes Sir.

The "NARBROUGH" had no time to turn ?

The "NARBROUGH" had no time, she was all over just alongside us.

Did they make any signals to each other after they ran aground ?

There were no signals, the only thing you could hear was the men yelling.

How long was it between the ship running aground and the midship funnel going overboard ?

About ¼ of an hour.

During that time did you see anything of your Captain ?

I only saw six men on carley float, two on after funnel and two on foremost funnel, and I cannot say who they were. The carley float was between the two funnels.

Was any attempt made to slide them it off ?

There was no attempt made to slide them it off, it was bitterly cold and the men’s hands were numbed almost immediately.

How long before you struck was the last sounding taken ?

Last sounding about 10 minutes before she struck. The soundings before that taken with a tube were 35, 34, 33, 35, and 33 again.

Was there anyone with you at the gun ?

There were two other hands at the gun, and I have no idea what happened to them. The sea came over the upper deck and washed everyone over the side. I climbed up the funnel to get out of the way of the sea.

After you got on shore did the weather remain bad or was it clearer ?

It was very thick and only lifted temporarily.

Did any men try to swim ashore ?

I did not see anyone trying to swim ashore at all, I could see people in the water, but the sea came on top of them and they went down.

So far as you know all ordinary precautions in thick weather seem to have been taken ?

Yes Sir.

After the ship struck, nothing more could have been done ?

Nothing more could have been done, the sea simply took charge.

As regards the "NARBROUGH" you can give no information ?

I cannot tell you anything about the "NARBROUGH".


Can you say whether any shore fog signals were heard ?

When I got ashore I could hear the faint sound of something which was like a fog signal but I had no idea where we were lying. (NOTE:- when position was pointed out to him, he said he thought that it might have been in the direction of the Skerries).

I also saw a white light which I thought was a destroyer with a searchlight on.

Did you hear anything before the ship went aground ?

No Sir.

Do you think any other men could have climbed up the cliffs ?

I doubt whether any men could get up the cliffs on account of the cold, they would not have been able to get a grip of anything.



SECRET Copy for Commander – in Chief, G.F.

From The Commanding Officer, H.M.S. "BOADICEA"

To The Rear Admiral, Fourth Battle Squadron.

( Copies to the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, and
the Admiral Commanding, First Battle Squadron. )

Date. 15th. January, 1918. No. CS/3/4.



In compliance with orders received from the Admiral Commanding, Fourth Battle Squadron, the following report in connection with the loss of H.M. Ships "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" is submitted.

"BOADICEA" left this Base at 2.30 p.m. on Saturday, 12th. January for Dark Night Patrol, and was joined at 3.35 p.m. by "OPAL" and "NARBROUGH" in a position 2.4 miles 13° from Pentland Skerries, from which a course N 76 E was shaped – speed of advance 16 knots, with destroyers screening, and the force zig-zagging.

At 4.28 p.m. Copinsay Light House bore N 40 W (Mag.)

Burgh Head " N 19 W ( " )

Old Head " S 75 W ( " )

A heavy swell was running from the eastward, with a rising south-easterly wind.

At 4.45 p.m. speed was reduced to 15 knots, and at 4.50 p.m. a straight course was steered.

At 5.5 p.m. speed was reduced to 12 knots, owing to the state of the sea which was breaking on destroyers’ forecastles.

At 5.5 p.m. position by dead reckoning was 58.55 N, 2.17 W, and course was altered to S 73 E (Mag) to approach the patrol area on the northern side in accordance with my proposals previously signalled to Commodore (F). Destroyers were then ordered to take station astern.

At 6.05 p.m. speed was reduced to 10 knots, and at 6.28 p.m. I signalled to Base that destroyers were returning on account of weather, and at the same time ordered them to return as the wind was then force 5, and the sea rising rapidly.

The destroyers parted company at 6.35 p.m. in an estimated position 58.55 N, 1.48.30 W, and steered to the westward.

"BOADICEA" then altered course to East magnetic to bring the sea broader on the bow, and continue the patrol in the area which was then much restricted by the presence of a Northbound and a Southbound convoy.


At 7.25 p.m. "BOADICEA" reduced to 8 knots, and at 7.55 p.m. altered course to WSW. At 8.30 p.m. she increased to 12 knots, and altered course to West, in compliance with orders received in S.N.O.A.’s 1950 to return if weather was unsuitable.

At 10.10 p.m. Copinsay Light was sighted, and at 10.20 ship’s position was approximately fixed in 58.52.30 N, 2.29.30 W, when course was altered to S 56 W. This position was 5½ miles 333° from the dead reckoning position.

At 10.50 p.m. the position was fixed by Copinsay and Pentland Skerries Lights in 58.46.50 N, 2.36.50 W, when course was altered to S 78 W for Pentland Skerries. This latter position was 6½ miles 4° from the dead reckoning position worked up to the same time.

The wind was then south-easterly, force 7, with a very heavy sea; but the visibility was, and had been since leaving the Base, about 7 miles, except between 5 and 6 p.m., when a heavy snow storm passed.

After passing the Pentland Skerries at 11.35 p.m. a very heavy snow storm was encountered which lasted for over three hours.

A copy of signals, made, received and intercepted, is attached, including a W/T signal from "NARBROUGH" at 9.08 p.m. and a broken signal from "OPAL" at 9.24 p.m., which latter time was presumably immediately after she grounded.

E H Edwards


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