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PORTLAND H.M.S. ILLUSTRIOUS WAR MEMORIAL

Compiled and copyright © Carolynn Langley 2004
Photographs Copyright Vernon Masterman 2004

On 17 October 1948 there was an accident in Portland Harbour, Dorset, when a liberty boat returning to HMS Illustrious, sank close to the ship. 19 of the crew were drowned. They are buried in Portland Royal Naval Cemetery. Other sailors perished in this accident that are not buried in the Naval Cemetery; these are being added as they are found.

Extract from Western Gazette - Friday 22 October 1948:

29 Lost When Launch Sank

Tragedy in Gale Off Portland

Trainees in lll-Fated Liberty Boat

Twenty-eight Naval ratings and a midshipman lost their lives when a liberty launch from the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Illustrious, sank in a gale in Portland Harbour on Sunday night. The launch had sailed from Weymouth Pier and had almost reached the carrier when the disaster took place. Most of the victims were young trainees.

On Wednesday a Naval board of inquiry was opened aboard H.M.S. Illustrious under the presidency of Captain W. E. Banks. C.B.E., D.S.C., H.M.S. Osprey, and an inquest was opened at the R.N. Hospital at Portland upon the body of the coxswain of the launch, 18-year-old Midshipman Richard Arthur Clough, of Oxford, who died after being taken unconscious from the water. The liberty boat was salvaged from the sea by the Admiralty salvage vessel Moordale on Tuesday, the bodies of two of the last ratings being recovered from the water the same day. A deep gloom has been cast over South Dorset by the tragic occurrence and messages of sympathy have been sent to the Naval authorities by Weymouth Town Council and Portland Urban Council.

BRAVE RESCUERS.

The ill-fated launch sailed from Weymouth at about 10.30 on Sunday night and was making her way to the Illustrious in the teeth of a south-westerly gale with visibility at times reduced almost to nil by blinding rain squalls. About 20 men survived the tragedy, being either picked up by other boats or managing to swim to the carrier. Some owed their lives to the courage of men from the carrier who plunged into the sea to pick them up.

Weymouth lifeboat was called to the scene to search for survivors, but found only a number of lifebuoys and a couple of sailors' greatcoats. The lifeboat coxswain (Mr. H. Palmer) said on Monday : “We left harbour at a quarter to twelve and the weather was very bad —blowing a gale. We had a message to proceed to the Illustrious and they told us to search the breakwater for men who might have clambered there or might be clinging to the rocks. We searched from end to end. Searchlights were played on the scene by nearby ships, but there was no sign of any living soul. I landed three men on the breakwater and they made a thorough search. We recovered a number of lifebuoys and pieces of wreckage. It was a wild night. The seas were a mass of foam and I don't think a man could live in it for long.”

After news of the disaster had been announced telephone inquiries from relatives of the ship's company poured into Portland base, and the first action of men who came ashore from the Illustrious on Monday night was to go to the Post Office or to telephone kiosks to send messages saying they were safe.

INQUESTS ADJOURNED

Efforts to resuscitate Clough by artificial respiration kept up for about two hours were described a surgeon-lieutenant when the South Dorset Coroner (Lieut.-Colonel G. G. H. Symes) opened the inquest on the young midshipman on Wednesday.

Evidence of identification was given by a Royal Marine officer, Captain J. H. B. Allan, who said Clough's home address was 30, Longsdale-road. Oxford.

Surgeon-Lieutenant David Owen Haines, H.M.S. Illustrious, told the Coroner that he came on the quarter deck on being informed of the accident. Midshipman Clough had been brought aboard the carrier and was on the deck unconscious, and artificial respiration was being commenced.

The Coroner : "As far as you could tell was he then dead?" —"Yes. sir."

The witness went on to say that artificial respiration was kept, for a most two hours and he also gave two injections, but without result. Oxygen was administered the whole time. Death was due to drowning.

The Coroner also opened the inquest on the two bodies recovered from the sea, which were identified those of Naval Airman Thomas Arthur Leonard (18), of Dagenham, Essex, and Ordinary Seaman Eric Morrison Jack (19), of Aberdeen.

Evidence of identity was given by Petty Officer William Murphy and Chief Petty Officer Leslie Charman, of H.M.S. Illustrious; and the Surgeon-Lieutenant said the bodies had the physical appearance of death by drowning.

Lieut.-Colonel Symes adjourned the inquests to a date to be fixed. "It will probably be some time next week," he said.

H.M.S. Illustrious was lying in Weymouth Bay on Wednesday when the Naval Inquiry opened. The inquiry proceedings, which were expected to last two days, were private, but the findings are to be made public.

BINKS Roy
Leading Writer. PMX 773782. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 21. Born 31 December 1925.
BLACK Walter Hogan
Able Seaman DJX 306883. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 24. Born 22 December 1923.
BLAKEY Robert Albert Edward
Stoker Mechanic PSK 841214. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 23 February 1930.
BRENCHLEY Kenneth Claude
Stoker. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 19. Born 1 January 1929.
COLLIER Geoffrey
Ordinary Seaman PSS 840145. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 30 December 1929.
COPE Richard Walter James
A/RPO. PMX 716347. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 28. Born 18 April 1920.
DAVIES John Malcolm Rees
Naval Airman 2nd Class LFX 853450. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 13 January 1930.
EYERS William Edward
Ordinary Seaman DSSX 848587 HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 17 JUne 1930.
FENNELL Robert Harry
Naval Airman 2nd Class LLFX 855291. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 1 April 1930.
MARSHALL Eric [William]
Leading Patrolman PMX 801822. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 27. Born 21 February 1921.
MARTIN Ian
LFX 853190 Naval airman 2nd class HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 16 February 1930.
MITCHELL Clement Furber
Leading Seaman DJX 245559. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 23. Born 11 February 1925.
MORRISON Edward James
Ordinary Seaman DJX 846727. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 12 May 1930.
NEALE John Richard
Naval Airman LFX 8854989. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 17. Born 29 January 1931.
RYE Edward Frederick [James]
Able Seaman DSSX 771456. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 19. Born 22 June 1929.
SEAFORD Edmund Roy
Ordinary Seaman DSS 840168. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 19. Born 2 May 1929.
STILL Ian
Ordinary Seaman DSSX 840734. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 9 January 1930.
WILLIAMS Geoffrey Wynn
Naval Airman LFX 849264. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 19. Born 14 January 1929.
YOUNG Alan
Boy Signalman PJX 820230. HMS Illustrious. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 17. Born 2 April 1931.
Buried or commemorated elsewhere
CLOUGH Richard Arthur

Midshipman, HMS Illustrious, Royal Navy. Died after being rescued at Portland Harbour 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Resident of Lonsdale-road, Oxford.

JACK Eric Morrison

Ordinary Seaman, HMS Illustrious, Royal Navy. Drowned at Portland Harbour 17th October 1948. Aged 18½. REsident of Aberdeen. Buried in Strichen graveyard, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Photograph Copyright © Kevin Duthie 2018

LEONARD Thomas Arthur aka Buddy
Naval Airman 2nd Class FX 853460, HMS Illustrious, Royal Navy. Died 17th October 1948. Aged 18. Born 3 February 1930. Resident of Dagenham, Essex. Buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Leyton, East London.

Last updated 26 July, 2018

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