Untitled Document

Ernest Buckell

Telegrapher J23126, Ernest Buckell, Royal Navy


Ernest Buckell

Ernest Buckell.

Ernest was born on 27 December 1896, the son of Charles Buckell and his wife Alice née Huggins. His father was a butler at Park House, Hungerford. In 1901 the family were separated, Alice and the children residing in Newbury while Charles was at Park House. By 1911 Charles had also moved to Newbury where he worked as butler for Stephen Hemsted, a local doctor and the Newbury coroner. Charles may well have chosen to move to this smaller household because Alice (a dressmaker before her marriage) was also able to get employment as the Hemsted's cook. However, the children (at least eight) were not with their parents for the 1911 census, even though the youngest, Eleanor, was still only ten.


Ernest got employment as a shop boy, but evidently decided on a more adventurous life - he joined the Navy as a Boy 2nd Class on 4 February 1913. He was sent to HMS Impregnable, a shore establishment in Devonport, where he would have undergone his basic training before being posted to his first ship, the Royal Arthur, a aging cruiser launched in 1891.

His record shows all his postings and promotion:

HMS ImpregnableBoy 2nd Class 4 Feb 13 
  Boy 1st Class 26 Aug 13 
HMS Royal Arthur   27 Aug 13 18 Nov 13
HMS Victory I   19 Nov 13 22 Jan 14
HMS Queen Mary   23 Jan 14  
  Ordinary Seaman 1 Jul 14  
  Ord. Tele. 14 Jan 15  
  Leading Telegraphist 22 Apr 15 22 Jun 15
HMS Columbine   23 Jun 15 4 Aug 15
HMS Queen Mary   5 Aug 15 10 Mar 16
HMS Cyclops   11 Mar 16 21 Apr 16
HMS Queen Mary   22 Apr 16 31 May 16

As can be seen from his record most of his service was aboard the HMS Queen Mary, one of the Royal Navy's most modern battle cruisers, which entered service on 4 September 1913. His other postings were short, probably indicating periods of training (HMS Victory was the Portsmouth naval base and HMS Columbine was a base ship on the Clyde. HMS Cyclops was a support and repair ship servicing the Grand Fleet, based in Scapa Flow.


HMS Queen Mary

HMS Queen Mary.

On 31 May 1916 HMS Queen Mary went to sea with the rest of the battlecruiser fleet, under Admiral Beatty, in order to intercept a German fleet, under Admiral Hipper, that was about to put to sea. The Battle of Jutland was about to take place.


At 15.20 the German fleet spotted the British fleet, ten minutes later the British also spotted the enemy. As the two fleet closed on each other the Germans opened fire at 15.48, followed by the British.


The Queen Mary exchanged fire with two German ships hitting and damaging SMS Seydlitz, but fire from Seydlitz and SMS Derfflinger was doing serious damage.. Before long a large explosion aft spelled the end of the Queen Mary, she rolled over and sank. All but 18 of her 1284 crew perished. Among the dead were Ernest and two other lads from Newbury, William Bellinger and Alfred Ellaway. Two more local lads, George Southey from Thatcham and Charles Harwood from Bradfield shared their fate.


Destruction of HMS Queen Mary

The last moments of HMS Queen Mary.

The Queen Mary lies where she sank, broken in two. The wreck is designated as a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. [source: wikipedia]


Ernest's body was not one of the very few recovered, he is remembered on the Portsouth Naval Memorial, Panel 15, on Newbury's Town War Memorial, on a memorial board and a roll of honour in St Nicolas Church, Newbury, and (as Buckle) on the lost memorial from St Mary's School, Speenhamland.


His parents remembered him publically via the family announcements column of the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 31 May 1917 – In Memoriam
In ever loving memory of our dear boy, Ernest, youngest son of Charles and Alice Buckell, lost his life in the Battle of Jutland, with HMS Queen Mary (leading Telegraphist), My 31st, 1916, aged 20.
            Christ has called from weary strife,
            In its dawn this bright young life.


Newbury Weekly News, 30 May 1918 – In Memoriam
In ever loving memory of Ernest, youngest son of Charles and Alice Buckell, lost his life in the Battle of Jutland, with HMS Queen Mary, May 31st, 1916.
            Now our lov’d one’s task is o’er,
            And the battle fought and won.

15, Waterloo Place, West Street, Newbury. May 29th, 1918.


Ernest’s sister, May Alice, married Herbert Stillman whose brother, Albert, died on 30 November 1917 in the latter stages of the Battle of Cambrai.


[images of HMS Queen Mary: wikipedia]