WW II, a British focus




    An study of the collision between
    the H.M.S. Volunteer and the H.M.S. Newark

    Stoker 1st Class, William, Ernest Coleman

    In Memory of


    Stoker 1st Class
    C/K 64609
    H.M.S. Volunteer, Royal Navy
    who died on
    Thursday, 17th April 1941. Age 35.

    Additional Information: Son of John and Sarah Jane Coleman; husband of Annie Hester Kate Coleman, of, Gillingham, Kent.

    Commemorative Information

    Memorial: CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL, Kent, United Kingdom
    Grave Reference/
    Panel Number:
    47, 2.
    Location: The Memorial overlooks the town of Chatham and is approached by a steep path from the Town Hall Gardens. After the 1914-1918 War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea where no permanent memorial could be provided. An Admiralty Committee recommended that the three manning ports in Great Britain - Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth - should each have an identical memorial of unmistakable naval form; an obelisk which would serve as a leading mark for shipping. The memorials consist of a stone tower supported by four corner buttresses, each with a lion couchant. Towards the top, the tower branches out in the form of four ships' prows. Above them are representations of the four winds, which in turn support a larger copper sphere symbolising the globe. The names of over 8,000 sailors commemorated on the memorial at Chatham are cast on bronze panels placed on the buttresses, and the sides of the tower bear the names of the principal naval engagements fought in the war and an inscription that reads: IN HONOUR OF THE NAVY AND TO THE ABIDING MEMORY OF THOSE RANKS AND RATINGS OF THIS PORT WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES IN THE DEFENCE OF THE EMPIRE AND HAVE NO OTHER GRAVE THAN THE SEA After the Second World War it was decided that the naval memorials should be extended to provide space for commemorating the naval dead without graves of that war. For Chatham, a semi-circular wall facing the original memorial was built, and fifty bronze panels are ranged along it which bear the names of over 10,000 sailors. The wall has wrought-iron gates at its central point inscribed with the following words from Chapter 44 of the Book of Ecclesiastics: ALL THESE WERE HONOURED IN THEIR GENERATIONS AND WERE THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES.

    At the time of the death of Stoker 1st Class, WILLIAM ERNEST COLEMAN, the H.M.S. Volunteer was serving with the 5th escort group escorting atlantic convoys in to and out of the western approaches. The Volunteer was ordered to rendezvous with the H.M.S. Newark when the collision occured. It was about midnight and it is suspected that both ships were operateing in blackout as was the rule at this time. Unfortunatly collisions and attacks between allied forces was more common than we are led to believe. There is a good book written by Paul Kemp called "Friend or Foe" which documents many of these events.

    An account by Robert A. H. (Tony) Robinson, ex Able Seaman R. N., of the collision Between the HMS Volunteer adn HMS Newark on the 10th April 1941, aboard the H.M.S. Newark.

    Very many thanks for your letter, Photos, it brought back many memories! Form my service records I see that I joined the HMS Newark on 4th April 1941 in Plymouth in time for the "Blitz" on the city, that night I joined the ship along with O/A Colin Kidger. We travelled down together from Portsmouth, he was from Mansfield and I from Derby, and as 'townies' we became pals - but for a very short time as he was fatally injured by the collision on 10th April (he was the sole fatality on our ship). It affects me to this day, his calling my name when he was trapped forward and being totally unable to help, I was 16 years old at the time.

    I recollect that we proceeded stern first under our own power and tugs did not assist us until nearly in Belfast. Also, my understanding is that we were some 80 miles from Belfast when the collision occurred. It was just after midnight and I had just come off watch and turned in on my bunk. It did not take from 10th to 18th as stated in the Gook Destroyers fro Britain by Arnold Hague. to travel to Belfast. I believe we arrived there later on the 10th (I have no record of the actual dates). Because my mess was in the bows and was damaged, I was billeted ashore in Belfast with others before being sent on 'survivors' leave, returning in time for the Belfast Blitz. which caused further damage to my ship. (You can say she was a bit of a 'Jonah'!) However I was sent back to Portsmouth and within days joined HMS Vimy, a sister-ship of HMS Volunteer. I served on three further destroyers and in combined operations, leaving the Royal Navy in 1954.

    I am so thankful to you fro "stirring my memories" and for you kindness in forwarding the photos etc.. Also you great interest in events happening so long ago.

    Regards and Best Wishes,
    Robert A. H. (Tony) Robinson, ex Able Seaman R. N.

    An account by Allen Flisher R. N., of the collision Between the HMS Volunteer and HMS Newark on the 10th April 1941 aboard the H.M.S. Volunteer.

    I was on the HMS Volunteer at the end of March in 1941. We had brought a convoy home. We left the Clyde area and were detailed to join whet HMS Newark and to rendezvous at midnight off the Irish coast. We thought our food rations were low, we were already out of bread adn meat, so on the way down our C. O. decided to drop a depth charge to see if we could obtain some fish. not one measly fish came to the surface. Later on we were fortunate to make contact with a trawler which supplied us with enough cod to feed all the crew. Taht night I was asleep in my hammock when I was suddenly awakened by an almighty bang and a bright flash. The degaussing cable was cut. We had Rendezvoused with the HMS Newark! Her Bow had ploughed into the stokers mess-deck.

    As the Bow slid out I could hear the rush of water. It surged into the mess along with desperate shouts for help. The mess was in complete darkness except for a bit of night sky that I could see through the hole. It happened so quickly. I know I had to move at the double too, if I was to survive. By swinging from one hammock rail to teh next and then to the ladder which was very bent, I was able to reach the main mess deck. The current was so strong that I could not have swam against it. I stood on the seaman's mess for a while, dazed and wearing just my pants and vest. Some seamen were already packing their kit, while others stood around in a state of shock.

    I swore and made my way to the upper deck. As I did so the chief stoker ordered me to help on the Dounton hand pump. This effort was in vain as the suction line was damaged.

    At 0400 I was ordered to relieve the stoker on watch in the NO. 1 Boiler room. I was standing in two feet fo water. When I saw the S.P.O. on duty I had no qualms about being down below. He stood by the bumps puffing away at his pipe as calm as could be, just as if nothing had happened, giving great confidence to us youngsters. At 0800 when the boiler was shut down we went up on deck.

    I went into the engineers officers cabin and borrowed a pair of overalls. I also found a pair of rubber boots which I purloined. Being dressed sort of make me feel more comfortable.

    The ship was taken in tow to Belfast by a tug stern first. HMS Newark limped home under her own steam. They were both in dry dock side by side. On Volunteer all compartments had to be pumped out, oil and ammunition removed and the length of bilge keel cut off asothat the rivet holes could be plugged. It was when the compartment was drained that we found four stokers and two seamen that were missing. The had been playing cards on the port side when the collision occurred.

    Apart from one empty hammock everything had gone, crockery, tables, lockers, bedding, all washed away. The mess deck ladder was completely distorted and accounted for my not being able to get out of the mess. It took until September for the ship to be repaired and resume duty. It cost me everything except the most precious thing, my life!

    The collision caused a hole from just below the main deck to below the water line, and the hull was peeled back leaving a hole of the size big enough for a double Decker bus to pass through.

    The list of casualties who lost their lives on H.M.S. Volunteer April 1941

    Ayes.William, Richard Stoker 1st class C/SS124189  
    Barnes.Austin, Edward Stoker 1st class C/K58787 age 42
    Coleman.William, Ernest Stoker 1st class C/K64609 age 35
    King.Fredric, Samuel Able Seaman C/J106955 age 40
    Millgate.William, Robert, James L/Stoker L/Stoker age 26
    Waters. John Able Seaman R.N.V.R. C/LD/X5620  
    The casualties from the H.M.S. Newark

    Kidger. John O/Artificer   age 18

    Stoker 1st Class William Richard Ayres C/SS 124189 HMS Volunteer, Royal Navy, drowned in the collision between the Volunteer and the Newark.