N W Hull died in explosion of HMS Bulwark 26 November 1914

May 26, 2010

Do you have any info on HMS Bulwark(1914), which blew up while loading shells. My Uncle (N W Hull) died in that explosion. He was a 16 year old boy sailor, and his name is on the Southsea War Monument. I was wondering if his body was recovered and if so where was he buried.

I am the Nephew of Norman W Hull. My name is David Norman Hull


From : http://www.the-weatherings.co.uk/pccship0144.htm

Details of HMS Bulwark

      The Accidental Death of HMS Bulwark (1914)
      On the afternoon of Thursday, November 26th, 1914,
Winston Churchill made the following statement to
the House of Commons :

      "I regret to say I have some bad news for the house.
The Bulwark battleship, which was lying in Sheerness
this morning, blew up at 7.35 o'clock. The Vice and
Rear Admiral, who were present, have reported their
conviction that it was an internal magazine
explosion which rent the ship asunder. There was
apparently no upheaval in the water, and the ship
had entirely disappeared when the smoke had cleared
away. An inquiry will be held tomorrow which may
possibly throw more light on the occurrence. The
loss of the ship does not sensibly affect the
military position, but I regret to say the loss of
life is very severe. Only 12 men are saved. All the
officers and the rest of the crew, who, I suppose,
amounted to between 700 and 800, have perished. I
think the House would wish me to express on their
behalf the deep sorrow with which the House heard
the news, and their sympathy with those who have
lost their relatives and friends."

      HMS Bulwark, a battleship of 15,000 tons, was moored
to No.17 buoy in Kethole Reach on the River Medway,
almost opposite the town of Sheerness, Isle of
Sheppy, Kent. It was one of the ships forming the
5th Battle Squadron. She had been moored there for
some days, and many of her crew had been given leave
the previous day. They had returned to the Bulwark
at 7 o'clock that morning and the full complement
was onboard. The usual ship's routine was taking
place. Officers and men were having breakfast in the
mess below deck, other were going about their normal
duties. A band was practising while some men were
engaged in drill. The disaster struck.

      A roaring and rumbling sound was heard and a huge
sheet of flame and debris shot upwards. The ship
lifted out of the water and fell back. There was a
thick cloud of grey smoke and further explosions.
When the smoke eventually cleared, the Bulwark had
sunk without trace.

      The scene was described by an eye witness, who was
onboard a ship nearby, to a local newspaper:

      "I was at breakfast when I heard an explosion, and I
went on deck. My first impression was that the
report was produced by the firing of a salute by one
of the ships, but the noise was quite exceptional.
When I got on deck I soon saw that something awful
had happened. The water and sky were obscured by
dense volumes of smoke. We were at once ordered to
the scene of the disaster to render what assistance
we could. At first we could see nothing, but when
the smoke cleared a bit we were horrified to find
the battleship Bulwark had gone. She seemed to have
entirely vanished from sight, but a little later we
detected a portion of the huge vessel showing about
4ft above water. We kept a vigilant look-out for the
unfortunate crew, but only saw two men."


      The explosion was heard in Whitstable, 20 miles
away, and in Southend where the pier was shaken by
the explosion but not damaged. Ships anchored off
Southend holding German civilian prisoners also
reported hearing the explosion. Residents in
Westcliffe-on-Sea claimed they saw "a dense volume
of greenish smoke which lasted for about ten
minutes". The nearby areas of Sheerness and Rainham
took the brunt of the blast with reports of damage
to property being made. Rumour began to run wild
amongst the residents. Some claimed it was the
expected and feared Zeppelin raids commencing,
others said that a periscope had been sighted and
the Bulwark had been sunk by a submarine. 

      Others thought that espionage had taken place and
were on the look out for suspicious people in town.
All these rumours were later discounted.

      Boats of all kinds were launched from the nearby
ships and shore to pick up survivors and the dead.
Work was hampered by the amount of debris which
included hammocks, furniture, boxes and hundreds of
mutilated bodies. Fragments of personal items
showered down in the streets of Sheerness. Initially
14 men survived the disaster, but some died later
from their injuries. One of the survivors, an able
seaman, had a miraculous escape. He said he was on
the deck of the Bulwark when the explosion occurred.
He was blown into the air, fell clear of the debris
and managed to swim to wreckage and keep himself
afloat until he was rescued. His injuries were

      None of the Bulwark's officers survived; although 11
of them were recovered for eventual burial.

      Rescue work continued during the remainder of the
week and on Saturday November 28th, an inquest was
opened at the Royal Naval Hospital in Chatham. The
Admiralty was represented by a local solicitor Mr.
E. L. Baker. The Coroner informed the jury that the
proceedings were to be kept to evidence concerning
the identification of bodies, and that on occasions
he may have to re-open the inquest for subsequent
identification. By this time only 30 bodies had been
recovered and 14 could be identified. These bodies
were identified by Cooks Mate William Frederick
Cooper who was on sick leave on shore at the time of
the explosion. The Chief Surgeon at the Naval
Hospital, Percy Minett, gave evidence that the cause
of death to all of the 30 men was burns. He also
stated that two of the original survivors, Private
Gilbert Guy and Able Seaman Walter Crow had died the
previous night from their injuries without making
any statement.

      The Coroner then adjourned the inquest until
Wednesday, December 16th when it was hoped the
results of the Admiralty Court of Inquiry would be

      On Monday, November 30th, the funerals of 21 of the
victims took place in the Naval Burial Ground at
Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. The funeral
procession left the Naval Hospital headed by the
Royal Marines Band (Chatham Division). The bodies
were conveyed in five lorries. Following the bodies
were private mourners and a naval party. All along
the route, signs of mourning were apparent and flags
were flown at half mast. The funeral party was met
at the cemetery by Read Admiral E. F. A. Gaunt and
Flag Captain P. H. Colomb representing the
Admiralty; the Commander-in-Chief Nore, Colonel A.
E. Marchant represented the Royal Marines.
Representatives from the local councils were also in
attendance showing how the local population felt the
horror of this incident.

      The service was conducted by the Rev. R. S. Hartley
(Chaplain RN Hospital) and the Rev. F. G. L. Cruce
(Chaplin RN Barracks, Chatham). Following the
interment of the bodies, the Royal Marine Buglers
sounded the Last Post to close the ceremony. On
Monday, December 1st, the burials of Captain H. C.
Morton RM and Lt. Cdr. C. M. Queripel took place at
St. Nicholas Cemetery, Rochester and Woodlands
Cemetery, Gillingham respectively.

      The Bulwark inquest was re-opened on December 2nd to
identify and establish the cause of death on Stoker
Anthony Eames and Able Seaman James Anderson, both
original survivors and Reginald Overton a boy. Lt.
Cdr. Queripel had been identified at a previous
re-opening of the inquest.

      On Wednesday, December 16th, the Kent Coroner again
re-opened the inquest at Gillingham. Among those
present were Rear-Admiral Ernest Frederick Augustus
Gaunt (Commodore RN Barracks, Chatham) who was also
the President of the Admiralty Court of Inquiry.
Surgeon-General A. J. J. Johnston and Mr. G. W.
Ricketts were representing the Admiralty. Major
Cooper Key, Inspector of Explosives, Home Office,
was in attendance to assist the Coroner. Thus the
scene was set for the inquest into the tragic loss
of HMS Bulwark and her crew.

      The first witness was Lt. Benjamin George Carroll,
who was assistant coaling officer at Sheerness. He
stated that he was passing down the River Medway on
the day in question and saw the Bulwark lying in
Kethole Reach. He was looking at a signal she was
flying, indicating the amount of coal onboard, when
he saw a spurt of flame abaft the after barbette
turret. Then the flame seemed to rush towards the
after funnel and the whole interior of the ship blew
into the air and everything seemed on fire. He added
that the water was calm and there was no tide and
saw no disturbances in the water. He finished his
evidence by stating that he rendered what assistance
he could and was convinced it was an internal
explosion that he had seen.

      The deposition of Sgt. John Albert Budd, RM, who was
still in hospital suffering from burns and a
fractured leg, was read out to the court. In his
deposition he said that he was serving on the
Bulwark at the time of the explosion and had been
with her since mobilization. At 7.30 he was
finishing his breakfast on the portside second mess
deck, when he saw a sudden flash aft. He turned and
then the deck seemed to open up under him and he
fell down. He recalled coming to the surface of the
water and saw the Bulwark had disappeared. He had
heard no explosion.

      Finally Rear-Admiral Gaunt took the stand and gave
his evidence. He stated that exhaustive and
scientific investigations had bee completed. There
was no evidence to suggest that the explosion was
external; and that everything pointed towards the
explosion being internal. There was no evidence of
treachery or of loose cordite. He said that loose
cartridges in the cross ammunition passages had been

      The Coroner asked if this had any relation to the
cause of the explosion. Rear-Admiral Gaunt replied
"No". The Coroner pressed the point "There must have
been ignition somewhere ?" The Rear-Admiral replied
as follows : "All the evidence we had was that the
explosion occurred. After that there was no proof of
the actual cause. There were many possible causes,
but no direct evidence and there have been many
theories which are untrue." The jury were not
satisfied with this explanation, even after a
Commander Wilton confirmed that every cartridge
onboard was traced and that no evidence of loose
cordite was found. A juror asked the question again,
"We should like to know how ignition occurred ?" The
Coroner replied, "That is precisely what we cannot
solve !"

      The Coroner, clearly not quite satisfied with the
evidence, summed up the findings. He said it was
impossible to discover exactly how the ignition was
caused. The theory of external explosion could be
discounted. If the jury were prepared to endorse the
views placed before them, then their duty would be
very simple. A verdict of accidental death was
returned and the inquiry on the crew of HMS Bulwark
was closed.

      During January 1915 many more bodies of the
Bulwark's crew were washed up on the Kent shoreline.
Many were identified some were not. Woodlands
Cemetery in Gillingham has 82 graves to unknown
ratings from World War I, they all contain the
bodies of crew members from Bulwark. Twelve lie in
individual graves, the 70 are in a large communal
grave with those from another disaster in Sheerness
the following year. Of those identified, 67 are
buried in Woodlands.

      Article written by Richard
Stacpoole-Ryding/Published by Medal News© September
      Go Back..

      Here is a list of the 14 survivors, and those bodies
that were identified and some burial sites. As your
Uncle is not identified, we cannot find his burial

      From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Site
here is his Certificate

In Memory of Boy 1st Class NORMAN WILLIAM HULL J/28631,

H.M.S. "Bulwark.", Royal Navy  who died on 26 November 1914

Remembered with honour PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL

Commemorated in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission                   

Best wishes,


List of Survivors and those identified bodies that were
recovered and buried.

      The Accidental Death of HMS Bulwark (1914)
              The Survivors
            Fourteen men survived the explosion initially.
The crew of HMS Bulwark numbered approx. 750.
Five eventually died from their injuries. 
            Name Rank Number
            Anderson, James Seaman RNR 3695C
            Budd, Albert J Sergeant RMLI PO/8314
            Crow, Walter Archibald AB 238557
            Day, William E. G Stoker Class 2 K/21477
            Dufty, Fred Goodlad Stoker Class 1 K/17693
            Eames, Anthony Stoker Class 1 K/83372 (RFR
            Gale, James John AB 166068 (RFR PO/B1886)
            Guy, Gilbert Lionel Private RMLI PO/15744
            Johnson, William Leading Seaman 198355
            Marshall, Stephen Frederick AB 321657
            Pitter, Charles AB J/7172
            Spackman, Frederick. C. AB 205028 (RFR PO/B6521)

            James Anderson died from his wounds in late
November 1914.
            Anthony Eames died from his wound on November
27th, 1914
            Walter Crow & Gilbert Guy both died from
severe shock and burns on November 28th, 1914
            James Gale died from his wounds in January 1915
            All were patients in the Royal Naval Hospital
Chatham and are buried in Woodlands Cemetery,


            The Victims
            The known location of some crew members of HMS
Bulwark are listed below. Many victims were
never recovered or are buried in as yet
unidentified locations, therefore the list is
not comprehensive.
            Gillingham (Woodlands Cemetery)
            Name Rank Number
            Anderson, James Seaman RN 3695/C
            Bellamy, John Henry Private RMLI PO/15123
            Block, George Ernest AB RN J/11467
            Box, Edward Arthur Leading Seaman RN 230609
            Breakspear, Frederick R. H. Chief Gunner  
            Bruce, Donald Hendry Private RMLI PO/15881
            Buckingham, Edward Henry Stoker 1st RN K/7984
            Butler, William Seaman RNR 5804/A
            Clarke, Thomas Private RMLI PO/16152
            Cramp, Lance Percy Stoker 1st RN K/5991
            Cronshaw, Percy AB RN 219392
            Crow, Walter Archibald AB RN 238557
            Dunford AB RN J/3360
            Eames, Anthony Stoker 1st 283372 (RFR PO/B2763)
            Ferris, William Private RMLI PO/12746
            Freeman, Albert John AB RN J/22277
            Frost, Albert Private RMLI PO/12675
            Gale, James John AB RN 166068 (RFR PO/B1886)
            Griffin, John AB RN 215611
            Gubbey, William Ernest Ordinary Seaman RN
            Guy, Gilbert Lionel Private RMLI PO/15744
            Harrison, Arthur Private RMLI PO/11998
            Harwood, Ernest George AB RN 217276
            Holness, Josiak Charles Corporal RMLI PO/14006
            Jacobs, Andrew William AB RN J/13549
            Jerrom, Harry Herbert Boy 1st Class RN J/23308
            Johnson, Daniel Leading Stoker (CG) RN 304018
            Jupp, Thomas Ordinary Seaman RN J/22963
            Kenningley, Clifford Stoker 1st RN SS/114941
            Lockett, Robert AB RN 218626
            Lowe, William John Ordinary Seaman RN J/22209
            McNichol, James Seaman RNR 5012/B
            MacRitchie, Murdo Seaman RNR 2164/A
            Marriott, Herbert Ernest Sergeant RMLI PO/9908
            Millis, Frederick Harold Ordinary Seaman RN
            Morgan, James Frederick Stoker 1st RN K/10193
            Mullarkey, Alfred John Chief Petty Officer RN
            Neale, Thomas Private RMLI PO/10125
            Oxford, Ernest Private RMLI PO/16421
            Paggett, Frederick Private RMLI PO/15861
            Parsons, William John Ordinary Seaman RN SS/4189
            Pierson, Dan Leading Seaman RN 213526
            Poole, John AB RN J/3750
            Porter, John Edwin AB RN J/16707
            Queripel, Cecil Mervyn Lieut. Commander RN
            Rendell, Frederick Sergeant RMLI PO/9599
            Saunders, Edgar William Bugler RMLI PO/15495
            Scotman, Edward George AB RN J/14112
            Slade, Ernest Frederick W. AB RN 177143
            Smith, Samuel James Private RMLI PO/12256
            Stratton, Thomas William Leading Seaman RN
            Taylor, Norman Willis Midshipman  
            Toy, Albert Sidney Boy 1st Class RN J/25902
            Treacher, Thomas Henry Petty Officer RN 182390
            Tullett, Frank Petty Officer RN 217763
            Tweddell, Alfred John Blacksmiths Mate 346052
            Underhay, William F. G. AB RN 195322
            Vernon, Harold William Ordinary Seaman RN
            Waggett, George Shipwright 1st Class RN 343008
            Walters, William John Boy 1st Class RN J/28357
            Ward, Edwin James Sergeant RMLI PO/9009
            Ward, Bertram William AB RN J/22952
            Wheeler, William Leonard Ordinary Seaman RN
            Wilson, Douglas H. V. Lieutenant  RN
            Woodgate Unknown RN 340367
            Wort, Leonard James Leading Telegraphist RN


            Chatham Cemetery
            Doherty, George Charles Writer 1st Class RN


            Rochester (St. Nicholas) Cemetery
            Morton, Herbert Claude Captain RM


            Odiham Cemetery
            Sclater, Guy Lutley Captain RN


            Burns Stoker RN
            Chamberlain, Edgar Warner Engineer Commander RN
            Docherty Officers Cook RN
            Fergusson, Nigel Robert Lieutenant  RN
            Finch, Edward T. D. Lieutenant RN
            Jagger, O.K.O. Cadet RN
            Lucas, C.H. Private RMLI PO/15894
            Macy Chief Writer RN
            Malachy Chief Boatswains Mate RN
            New, Charles Chief Steward RN
            Nix, Percival Kent, MB,BA Fleet Surgeon RN
            Overton, Reginald Boy RN
            Penrose, John S. S. Lieutenant RN
            Phillips, Albert M.H. Commander RN
            Russell Chief Engine Room Artificer RN
            Williams, Walter Kent MVO Engineer Captain RN
            Wilson, Douglas H. V Lieutenant RN
            Wrest Sick Berth Attendant RN

      Article written by Richard
Stacpoole-Ryding/Published by Medal News© September


back to letters index


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved