HMS Courageous
Message Board
Messages 1 through 24

Sept. 20, 2011

I have just found out that my nan was engaged to a man who went down With the courageous, all I know is that his name was Sidney Cooper and he was a cook. If anyone has anymore info on him it would be greatly appreciated.

Amber O'Brien

Reply 1
Sept. 28, 2011

There was a Sidney George Thomas Cooper, P/MX 54570, who was lost in Courageous. I have no other details about him.

Michael W. Pocock

Reply 2,
Feb. 19, 2012

In reply to Amber O'brien,  Sept 20th 2011, I am sending an attachment re HMS Courageous, from the North East Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough (see below).

I was surprised to find it during my research into my family history as I was unaware that she was the first aircraft carrier to be sunk in the second world war, let alone that she was the first major vessel to be sunk so early in the war.

My late aunt's brother in law was stoker James Cooper (21) from South Bank in Middlesbrough, he died along with his friend and near neighbour James Escritt (21)
Both are named on the war memorial in South Bank.

Best wishes,
Brian Smith


June 9, 2011

My Great Uncle, my late maternal Grandmother's eldest brother was one of those that went down with the Courageous and as far as I understand his body was never recovered.  My Nan's childhood home was then bombed and all of the photos / documents she had of him were lost.

I have very little to go on except his name was Hugh Robinson, he was from the Anfield District of Liverpool and did part of his training on HMS Indefatigable which was stationed in the Mersey at the time of this training.

I appreciate how vague and sparse the details are but if you could offer any information I would be most grateful.  My wife and I are hoping to visit the Memorial at  Portsmouth in September.

Paul Heppell

Reply 1
June 10, 2011

There was a Hugh P. Robinson (Seaman R.N.R.), service number D/X 18558A, lost in Courageous, you are correct his body was not recovered.

Michael W. Pocock

Reply 2
Aug. 11, 2011

Regarding Able Seaman Hugh Phillip Robinson, he was married to my late grandmother (Molly), his memorial is actually at the hoe in Plymouth not in Portsmouth.

Neil Kershaw

Four photos of Hugh P. Robinson, late of HMS Courageous.

(Photos courtesy of Neil Kewshaw)

May 29, 2011

My father, Thomas Horace Hawksworth, was doing his 12 years in the Royal Marines and serving on HMS Courageous when it was sunk just two weeks into World War II.  He was one of the survivors and was picked up by a Dutch boat.  He then went on to be captured on Crete and wrote a log of his war time years.  An amusing little antidote in the log... He apparently looked around for somewhere to put his folded uniform before jumping into the water and swam for his life (life in the services taught them to be tidy!). Transcript of his war time log....

"Sept 3rd 1939:
I had been serving in H.M.S. Courageous for nearly 12 months when the momentous news was announced about 11:15 a.m. over the ships broadcaster by Capt. Makeig Jones that war had been declared. Conscious that something important had happened in our lives, many of us greeted this news with cheers, which quickly gave place to sober thought. The general attitude towards the news was that it wouldn't’ make a great deal of difference to us, (all long service men) since we would only be doing the job we had always been doing with an added spice of danger. On the whole, though, I think I was rather glad that at last something was happening in a rather dull world.

We were already at sea when the news was given out and our aircraft were soon up on patrol spotting for enemy subs. Several times our escorting destroyers raced away to make a “pattern” of depth charges. Whether any were sunk I don’t know, though of course most of the ships company laid claim to seeing at least one come up with its back broken.

After putting into Plymouth for oil and more provisions, we were soon out again on the same errand, hunting submarines. This time instead of us getting a submarine, it was a case of the biter being bitten for on Sept 17th 1939 at approximately 20:00 hours, we were struck by at least two torpedoes in the bomb room, port side forward. With half her bottom ripped out it was obvious to everyone she was going. By 20:25 hours there was only the bobbing heads of the survivors, oil and flotsam to show there had ever been a ship there….

I well remember how at the first explosion my resentment arose that the ship I was in should be hit, quickly giving place to the realisation of my position between decks… the struggle to gain the upper deck in the dark. For of course the lights went out on the torpedo striking… The white, tense faces, some almost unrecognisable with their present expressions… The ridiculous manner in which I looked around for a place to put my clothes as I stripped prior to taking the water… swimming… cursing the commander of Impulsive for changing his position causing me several more hundreds of yards to swim… The feel of the deck of Impulsive after the insecurity of the sea... Grog and plenty of it... Thanking God as I stepped over the guard rails… not I think because I am religious, but simply because I was thankful.

My dive off the lockers when a loose block banged the ships side… As happy as a skylark through being saved… Joy in seeing Plymouth again… surprise of marine barracks… leave… bath… sleep… How people I never even knew congratulated me for saving my life… My sorrow at the long list of missing."

Pamela Cox (nee Hawksworth)
(Daughter who wouldn't have been born had he not survived).

Thomas Horace Hawksworth, R.M. (left) and an unidentified Marine seen on HMS Courageous.

Apr. 24, 2011

My Grandfather, Alfred George Longhurst is listed on my fathers birth certificate as being an Able Seaman on HMS Courageous in 1931. But I have not been able to find out anything else. Can anyone help?

Mark Longhurst

Apr. 21, 2011

My father has recently told me that his uncle, Tom Rowbottom (see below) was a survivor of the sinking of the HMS Courageous. I have no other details other than an old photo of him in his uniform. Would you have any further information about him.

Ray Meadows

Reply 1
Apr. 21, 2011

According to my records he was a survivor from HMS Courageous, he was a Stoker 1st Class.

Michael W. Pocock

Reply 2
Sept. 26, 2014

In reply to message #20. Tom Rowbottom was my grandmother's brother and I have several photos of him, although not the one on the website.

Thank you,
Sue Walker

Tom Rowbottom, date and location unknown.

Apr. 3, 2011

My Great Uncle Thomas Stephens was an able seaman (D/SSX 22895. MPK) on HMS Courageous. Can you tell me if there is a memorial that lists those lost and if so where it is? Family stories say there is a memorial somewhere but we aren't sure where. Any help and background information you could give me would be very much appreciated. Also do you know if there were any medals awarded and if so how can we go about claiming them? He was my grandads oldest brother, my grandfather has passed away and I'm not sure if as a distant relative I can claim any medal that Thomas may have been awarded.

Many thanks,
Jayne Kelly

Jan. 5, 2011

I am trying to find details of my husband's Great Grandfather for a family tree we are doing. The family had always believed that he was aboard HMS Rawalpindi when it went down but upon investigation I can not find any record of Ernest Smith being on there. I did however find a record of an Ernest Smith (Ernest W. G. Smith) being aboard the HMS Courageous as the chief engine room artificer (RN D/M 4274) and I know there is a plaque and memorial in Plymouth with these details on there also. Also on the plaque is Captain Kennedy (HMS Rawalpindi) so I was wondering if this plaque in Plymouth for all seamen who lost their lives at sea? Or for specific liners?  Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. 

We don't as yet have much information on Ernest Smith, we are not sure of his date of birth and but we know that he was married in East London in 1927. We know there was an Ernest Smith aboard the HMS Courageous but are struggling to find out if its the right one? The Ernest Smith we are searching for married a Sarah Newsome in 1927, not sure if this is relevant or will help? Thanks in advance for any information you can provide us with.

Carol Smith

Dec. 3, 2010

I was wondering if you could help me, I am trying to build a family tree for my mother and my grandfather was Charles Colin Campbell stoker petty officer on HMS Courageous, he went down with the ship and I was hoping to find his date of birth, his wife's name and family details etc. and also his merchant navy and  military record and family address if that's possible. My father was also in the forces his name was William Robert Edward Campbell and was Charles Campbell's son, he was a QSMI in the Army Catering Corp and served with special forces units so i'm told in the Desert Wars. Any help you can give me would be gratefully received as my mother's health is failing and I wanted to do this to bring closure for her and more depth to my fathers side of the family for both of his sons.

Thank you,
Simon Templar,
(Formerly Robert Campbell)

Reply 1
Dec. 8, 2010

Petty Officer Stoker Charles Campbell (D/K 62032) was 39 at the time of his death in HMS Courageous. His parents were Charles Colin and Anne Campbell, wife Gladys Annie Campbell. From Devonport.

Michael W. Pocock

Nov. 26, 2010

My grandfather whom I was named after was lost in the sinking of the Courageous. His name was Paymaster Cmdr. Martin Lawrey. Years after his death my grandmother married an American officer and moved to the U.S. where my father married and I was born. I understand that my grandfather may have been buried at St. Gluvias Parish. Any other information concerning his burial records or family history would be appreciated.

Martin W. Lawrey

Reply 1
May 23, 2015

This message is from some time ago, but I have only just seen it. Martin Lawrey was my mother's first cousin, the son of her aunt Alice, and my grandmother's nephew. I did not know him, but I did know his sister, Phyllis. I believe that Martin Lawrey's name is on the war memorial at St. Gluvias Churchyard, Penryn, Cornwall. Phyllis died in 1988 I believe, having married at around age 50 to a man called George Eustace. I do know a little of the family history of Martin's mother's family and would be happy to provide you with any other information if you wish.

Pam Urquhart
Toronto, Canada

Reply 2
Aug. 9, 2021

I know this is a long shot, but I believe that the Martin W. Lawrey in the post on the MaritimeQuest forum is a relation of mine. I've been doing family history research and his grandfather, Paymaster Commander Martin Lawrey was my grandmother's cousin. Her mother was Elizabeth Lawrey - his aunt.  If you still have his contact details - would there be any chance of you passing on my email to him?  I live in Devon in the UK and have traced quite a few of the Cornish line, but had been unable to find any more Lawrey descendants. Fingers crossed.

Many thanks,
Harriet Helliwell nèe King

Nov. 22, 2010

I am trying to find out more about my Uncle WALTER DAY who I believe was on HMS Courageous when she sank.  He was a survivor.  Are you able to confirm whether the family story is accurate and that he did indeed survive and was picked up?

Many thanks,
Lisa Martin

Reply 1
Nov. 23, 2010

Yes, Stoker Petty Officer Walter Day (D/KX 77701) did survive the sinking of Courageous.

Sept. 25, 2010

I was told that my late father's brother was on the Courageous when she was sunk but got out alive. He was a Marine called Llew Jones. Family story is that he later survived a land mine explosion and at the end of the war was in charge of Worthing sea cadets although I think an invalided.

David Jones

Reply 1
Sept. 25, 2010

I show a Sgt. Llewellyn Jones, R.N.R. Infirmary as being a survivor.

Michael W. Pocock

Reply 2
Apr. 10, 2012

Some more information on Llewellyn Jones comes from my mother, Margaret (Jones) McCall, who remembers meeting him shortly after the sinking. He used to visit her father, Bransby Jones, when he was vicar of Portslade and she recalls that he lodged in Trafalgar Road, Portslade at that time. In the meantime my grandfather had transferred to Moulsecoomb, Brighton so Llewellyn turned up at the vicarage there only a few days after the sinking, she thinks, and still in a state of shock from the ordeal. She was quite a young girl at the time and asked him for his autograph, which she still has.  It reads:  

      TORPEDOED 7.55 PM
   SUNDAY 17TH SEPT 1939

My mother was interested to hear of his subsequent career and would be happy to hear from his nephew. Thanks for the great site.  I was astonished to find how much interest there still is in this ship and its crew.

John McCall

Aug. 24, 2010

My uncle was aboard the Courageous when she was sunk. The story my father told me was that rather than try to save himself he elected to stay with the Captain and was lost. His family name was Ward and he was from Hull, but i'm afraid i'm not sure of his rank or his first name (though it could have been Frank). I would be grateful for any information, or if you could point me in the direction of any research.

Very many thanks,
Robb Ward

Reply 1
Aug. 24, 2010

There was a Harold William Ward (Able Seaman) DJ/17735 who was lost in Courageous, he was the son of Samuel and Catherine Ward and husband of Nora Ward of Hull. This is probably him. That is all the info I have on him. I hope this is of help.

Michael W. Pocock

Aug. 25, 2010

That is fantastically helpful. Now you have provided that information I remember that one of my father's brothers was called Harold. My father had four brothers and three were lost at sea, the other two in the merchant fleet. Also I didn't previously know the names of my grandparents (a long story). Very, very many thanks for your help! Further I've now been able to confirm that this was my uncle, and also that his elder brother Arthur Ernest was an Able Seaman in the RN and stationed in Malta in 1911. My sincere thanks for your help.

Best wishes,

Reply 2
Feb. 27, 2014

I have been helping my mum look for information about her father and we came across your site which came up with some fabulous information about her dad, Harold William Ward (Able Seaman) DJ/17735 who was lost in Courageous.

We saw this conversation above, between you and a gentleman called Robb Ward.  This makes Robb my mum's (Kathleen Ward  born  22/02/1937 in Hull) cousin and she would love to find out about him.  Is there any chance you have Robb's email/phone details at all?  We realise the message is from 2010.
My mum was two when Harold was killed and she has always wondered about him and who he was.  She has never even seen a photo of him. If you can help with any information that would be wonderful. Many thanks on behalf of my mum, Kathleen (who is 77 today and this has made her day).

Marcelle Nethersole

May 8, 2010

Two uncles of mine were lost on HMS Courageous, my father's brother Cecil Jenkins who was a seaman and my mother's brother Albert (Archie) Stribling who was in the Air Force or Fleet Air Arm. Both men were from Plymouth, Devon. Someone who survived might remember them or maybe someone has information concerning them. Archie Stribling's brother was coming home in the early hours of the morning when he heard a loudspeaker on a vehicle calling for men from HMS Courageous to return to their ship. He woke his brother who rushed to his ship. He never saw his brother again.

Thank you,
Michael Jenkins

Reply 1
July 8, 2011

While looking up HMS Courageous  I  noticed that one of the correspondents is Michael Jenkins. He is my cousin I have not seen for close to 60 years. I wonder if you could inform him of my interest in getting in touch.

Thank you,
David Lovell

Apr. 25, 2010

My mother's uncle (Frank Makings) was a Marine onboard Courageous when she was sunk, sadly he did not survive. If anyone knew him, or has any information about him, I would be very grateful if they could pass it on.

Paul Halford

Nov. 15, 2009

I am researching the HMS Courageous. Do you know if pictures of the entire crew exist? Also, where can I obtain a list of those who died on September 17, 1939.  I believe that a family member was on board. Thanking those who fought for freedom - - you are remembered.

Angela LeMay
New York, USA

Nov. 8, 2009 My Uncle Alexander Mcintyre went down with the COURAGEOUS sunk in 1939 he was my mothers youngest brother and she talked about him a lot He was a Stoker and I believe close to the direct hit. He died with many men on that day, he was 21 yrs old.

His Niece,
Hillary Mead

Oct. 7, 2009

My uncle, Reginald Luxton was on Courageous when it was sunk. He was picked up and survived the war. He settled in Canada after the war. He was born in Devon.


Aug. 19, 2009

My Grandfather, Joe Clarke was 19 at the time The Courageous was sunk, he was a radio operator on board. He is now 89 and fighting fit. He hasn't told me too much about his time on board or the actual sinking, I believe he was on watch at the time of the sinking, he was in charge of putting out the mayday. He did this, then in his words 'got the hell off it'. Like someone else on this message board has mentioned he too was rescued minus his pants!!!! I believe they lost them whilst climbing the scramble nets during rescue.

Jakki Clarke

Additional information to the above message:
Sept. 8, 2009

Just a note to let you know I visited my grandfather this afternoon, whilst with him he found two small pictures he had and asked me to send them on to you....he has written a note on the back of one. One is of the ship as a Swordfish airplane can be seen making an approach to land, this is the moment just moments after the ship was hit. Apparently the ship had turned into the wind to allow this plane to make a landing giving the U-boat a perfect opportunity to fire at it. 

My Grandad was in full flow and regaled me with a blow by blow account of the sinking. I asked my grandfather whether he had abandoned ship by the time the large photo was taken, he thinks he hadn't and could be one of the men seen standing on the bilges. He says him and three other men stood there and removed all their clothes (apart from underwear) then they shared a cigarette before jumping. He told me a poignant tale about this moment, obviously military men have a superstition about smoking, '3 strikes and your out' (I'm sure you're familiar with this superstition).... well one of the four of them was very superstitious and declined the offer to smoke so my grandfather said as he wasn't bothered he offered to take the 3rd strike, but sadly of the four of them the man who declined the cigarette died and even more ironically his job as a civilian had been as a lifeguard.....

My grandad says it goes to show that fate is a funny thing. He also told me that when they removed their clothes they all folded them neatly and placed them in little piles.... he laughs at the thought of it now. He was on watch at the time of the attack and was in charge of the radio's but once hit all the electrics on board failed and as the ship listed the back up battery spilled it's acid all over the floor so they had no means of sending out a mayday.  At this point they were told to abandon their posts.

He thinks he was in the water for approx 45 minuets before he was rescued first by a lifeboat and then by a cruiser, he said thankfully the water wasn't too cold. He also confessed to not wearing the regulation life jacket.... he said that although they were supposed to wear them at all times many didn't.... in his words "I wasn't planning on going in the water so why wear one" also he said that as they had four cruisers around them for protection they felt very safe.

The build up to the attack started when they received a mayday from a merchant ship so two of their cruisers and a Swordfish plane were sent to help leaving the Courageous with just 2 cruisers at the front for protection.  As the Swordfish returned from helping the merchant ship the U-boat struck. He thinks it must have been lurking off their port side for some time. He is very philosophical about the whole thing, he says that "had they spotted the U-boat first they would have done to them exactly what they did to Courageous". He said the U-boat captain was following orders the same as every other man during WW2. 

My grandfather was VERY lucky during the war as not only was he on the Courageous, but he was on HMS Lowestoft when it was accidentally rammed by the Leopard (a Free French Ship) which mistook it for a surfaced German U-boat and he also survived after the HMS Quail was mined off the coast of Bari.... I believe it was around this time he survived a strafing attack by the Luftwaffe whilst on shore leave.

I hope you find his stories as fascinating as we all do. If you have any questions for him don't hesitate to ask..... unfortunately the only thing he struggles to remember are names, but at nearly 90 I guess we can forgive him!!

Jakki Clarke

Reply 1
July 31, 2010

My mother's brother was a radio operator on the Courageous when she went down in the Irish Sea. He would probably have been one of the three men that shared that cigarette you mentioned? You also mention about superstition in your email, well I remember my mother telling me that when he was born he had a cap of skin on his head which an old wives-tale states that if you are born with this that you will never drown. Was one of the last off the ship.

After the sinking he was a Petty Officer Airman (Rear gunner) in Malta and on leave in Dumfries he was learning to fly, but unfortunately was killed doing so. His name was William Paxton from Greenock. He was the head boy in his school and learned all about electronics to be a radio operator. He was going to take my mother and his wife to Helensburgh ironically the birthplace of John Logie-Beard inventor of the television after the war to open a television shop. Even during the war then he knew television was going to be the next big thing, but then had he survived and got his wings an airline pilot's job could have been waiting? We will never know? I did have a picture of him with his Swordfish plane. Hope this is of interest.

Tom Kilpatrick

Reply 2
Aug. 14, 2010

My father, George Grandage, was Officer on Watch on Courageous at the time of the sinking and may well have been with your grandfather. I have my father's account of the sinking - he was picked up by one of the merchant ships in the area and went on to serve in the Navy for the rest of the war. He died in 1986 at the age of 81 - possibly your grandfather will remember him. Let me know if you want some more information on this. I could send you his account if it would interest you.

Best wishes,
Jerry Grandage
Melbourne, Australia

Aug. 15, 2009

My age is 71, my Father was on HMS Courageous, his name is William George Stephens. I was a few months old, he visited me at my foster home, and with him was the ship's mascot, a German shepard dog, he was panting, I quickly gave the dog a dish of water, it was so heavy, my father William gave me a hand. My father promised me that on his return he was going to bring a big tin of sweets home on his next leave, my father then returned to his ship, soon to be blown up and sunk.    

The Germans picked up my father and a few others and sent them to a concentration camp, two years after the war ended, my father was found in a second secret experimental camp, when clearing out the experimental camps. My father was left to rot with only half of brain, no arms or legs, which left me with a mother in a mental institution, I was completely alone. The church and God helped me to survive. What really happened? I do not know if my father is still alive. Thank you for your interest, it will help me to find out WHAT REALLY HAPPEND?

Yours faithfully,
A. D. Stephens

Aug. 1, 2009

My father's mother's brother was Arthur Donovan, born 16 September 1886 in Malta according to a family Bible.
We understand that he was a radio operator at St Michael's Mount, England and my father's sister [still alive] has identified the cottage he lived in on St Michael's Mount. He was supposed to be only a few days from [early?] retirement when WWII started and we believe that he died on the HMS Courageous. I hope that this might be of help and I would welcome confirmation that he was on the HMS Courageous, possibly as a radio operator.

Graham H. Wilson

Arthur Donovan, Electrical Artificer (D/347673) was lost in HMS Courageous Sept. 17, 1939
-Michael W. Pocock

Reply 1
Aug. 19, 2009

In reply to message no 5 re: Radio Operator Arthur Donovan. My Grandfather, Joe Clark, who is 89 and fighting fit was a radio operator on the Courageous also. I will ask him whether he knew Arthur.....I'm sure their paths must have crossed if they shared the same role on board.

Jakki Clarke

Reply 2
Oct. 3, 2010

I am Arthur's granddaughter and my father DENNIS DONVAN is his last surviving son. Arthur and Maude were the children of ARRON ATKINS and SARAH DENNIS and were born in Senglea, Malta (my father has copies of their birth certificates but was unable to trace Maude's family). Arron Atkins was an inspector of boiler makers in RN dockyards. He returned to Devonport from Malta and died at Maude's home in 1927, but was buried in Devonport with his wife Sarah who had died in 1900.

 Arthur, an electrical artificer in the RN, retired in 1929 and became the engineer at St. Michael's Mount, where my father and four brothers and a sister grew up. Arthur was recalled to the Navy in 1939 and died on the Courageous in Sept. of that year. His wife Edith died in 1976. My father Dennis also joined the Navy and now lives in Somerset. We would be delighted to hear more about your side of the family.

Regards Anne Mantell (nee Donovan)

July 6, 2009

My brother has just given me some copies of my Dads' war records. I see that he was on HMS Courageous in 1938 I believe. It says from 8th Jan 38 to 29th Dec 38. I don't know if they meant Dec 39. He was a Royal Marine. His name was Edward Fallon (nickname of NIP/NIPPER). I was wondering if anyone out there has any knowledge of him or his time on the ship? I know that it is a long shot, but hope springs eternal.

With thanks,
Judy Sweeney (nee Fallon)

Apr. 15, 2009

We also lost an Uncle (John Gregory) on the Courageous. He was 19 yrs of age and a Royal Naval Volunteer (Wireless) Reserve. His name is on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, does anyone remember him ?

John Gregory & Susan Williams

May 24, 2007

Do you know if there are any internal photos of HMS Courageous, my father died in her.

Tony Weekes

Mar. 5, 2006

Is there any survivor(s) out there who was on the “Courageous” was sunk.? My father, now 84, survived and I am looking to see if there is any help in forming a lasting memory for him. He spent all his working life in the RAF so I guess he was a young fleet air arm starter. He has never said much about what happened so my details are very limited, so I would like to think I could talk to him with some knowledge.


Reply 1
Oct. 5, 2007

I don't know much about the sinking, but apparently my great uncle James Miller went down with it. My family are from Belfast and my uncle, being patriotic, joined up on the outbreak of WW2. He had already been in WW1 and was now in his 40s. His family warned him "you know this war won't be as safe as the last one was for the Navy" - within days of it starting, of course, the Courageous was torpedoed. I know the memorial is in Portsmouth.

Aaron Boyd

Reply 2
Oct. 9, 2007

I can't offer very much info except that the Courageous was built for WW1 and was used as a light aircraft carrier in WW2. As she turned into the wind for the aircraft to take of she was torpedoed and sunk on the 17th Sept 1939. My grandfather was on the carrier having a bath at the time! ( Mr Victor Whalen ) I recall a newspaper cutting hung on the wall and trying to locate it as my grandfather was mentioned in it having had to swim to shore nude.


Reply 3
July 22, 2009

My Uncle was a seaman on the Courageous. He drowned when it was sunk. I was wondering if Ian could ask his father if he knew my uncle. James Runnegar. Any news would be appreciated so I could pass it onto my mother who was James' Sister.

Thank you,
Russell Smith
Gawler, South Australia

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