Combined Royal Navy and Royal Artillery Gun Crew on the ‘Dilwara’.

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Combined Royal Navy and Royal Artillery Gun Crew on the ‘Dilwara’. © Down County Museum

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Down men in the Royal Navy

Many men from County Down served in the Royal Navy seeing service across the globe. Others were in the Merchant Navy, following a strong nautical tradition in the county. A number of the county’s sailors were killed on active service, among them 18-year-old Able Seaman John Anderson of Killyleagh. Anderson was lost with the aircraft-carrier HMS Glorious which was sunk by the German battle-cruiser Scharnhorst on 9 June 1940. John Anderson is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial (Panel 37, Column 1).

Killyleagh lost another son on 24 May 1941 when the battlecruiser HMS Hood was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck. All but three of her crew of 1,421 men were lost. Among the dead was Leading Writer Robert Victor Berner, aged 24. Sub-Lieutenant Samuel McMaster Boyd, of Bangor, died on 30 April 1944. He was also aged 24. Serving on HMRT Advantage, he is buried in Bermuda Royal Naval Cemetery.

Another Bangor casualty was Leading Seaman Frederick Caulfield, aged 28, who lost his life on 1 September 1944. A member of the crew of HM Motor Minesweeper 117, he is commemorated on the Lowestoft Naval Memorial (Panel 14, Column 1) Able Seaman Hugh John Cunningham, of Banbridge, is commemorated on Chatham Naval Memorial (Panel 53, Column 3). Aged 28 he lost his life aboard the SS Tarimbar on 14 June 1942.

Able Seaman Robert George Hamilton, aged 21, was serving aboard the aircraft-carrier HMS Eagle when he lost his life on 14 March 1940. From Newtownards he is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial (Panel 38, Column 3). On the same memorial (Panel 82, Column 3) is the name of Able Seaman John Hutchinson, aged 32, of HMS Isis who died on 20 July 1944. John Hutchinson was from Hillsborough. The circumstances of the loss of HMS Isis are not clear but the I-class destroyer suffered a violent explosion off the Bay of the Seine and sank quickly with only twenty survivors. Its loss was not known until the following day when the survivors were found in the water.

The Town-class destroyer HMS Broadwater, one of the 50 old destroyers handed over to the Royal Navy by the United States in exchange for British bases in the Caribbean, was sunk by U-101 on 18 October 1941. There were no survivors. Among the dead was Able Seaman Samuel Rutherford Morrison of Maymore Toye. He was aged 29 and is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial (Panel 48, Column 1). Able Seaman Michael Desmond Mulcahy, of HMS Tamar is commemorated on the same memorial (Panel 66, Column 1). A Newry man, he was 29. 

Able Seaman Francis Robinson, aged 24, from Newtownards was serving aboard HM Motor Launch 466 when he lost his life on 25 March 1943. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial (Panel 80, Column 1).