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31ST MAY 1916, AGED 25

JACOB IRELAND was born in Rudgwick on 12th July 1891, the youngest child of Stephen and Fanny Ireland, and the brother of George (born Rudgwick 1873), Arthur (born Rudgwick 1876), Ellen (born Rudgwick 1878), Kate (born Rudgwick 1878), Stephen (born Rudgwick 1881) and Edward (born Rudgwick 1886).

In 1901 the family were living in Lynwick Street, Rugwick, and Jacob's father gave his occupation as that of a plate layer on the railway. By 1911 Edward had become a postman and still lived with his parents in Lynwick Street. Stephen senior was the brother of William Ireland, who was also a plate layer on the railway & lived in the village. Therefore Jacob was the cousin of William Ireland (born Rudgwick 1883) and who was killed in action at the Battle of Loos on 25th September 1915.


Jacob enlisted for service in the Royal Navy on 17th June 1910, to serve for 12 years. His Service Record notes that he was 5ft 3.5in tall with a chest expansion of 35in. Physically, he was described as having a fresh complexion with blue eyes and fair hair. He gave his occupation as 'groom'.

Jacob's record shows that he initially served at HMS 'Victory II', a shore establishment in Portsmouth for one month as a Stoker Second Class before being posted aboard HMS 'Renown' on 17th July 1910. 'Renown', a Centurion Class battleship, had been launched in 1895. The advent of the new dreadnought battleships in 1906 rendered he obsolete, and she was converted to a training ship for stokers and located at Portsmouth towards the end of 1909.

Jacob returned ashore to HMS Victory II on 30th October 1910 and was posted aboard HMS 'Seagull' on 4th January 1911. 'Seagull', a Sharpshooter Class torpedo gunboat, was Jacob's first actively serving vessel. She had been launched in Chatham in 1889, was converted into a minesweeper in 1909 and was served by a crew of 91 officers and men. On 24th June 1911 Jacob was promoted to the rank of Stoker First Class, which coincided with the Coronation Fleet Review for King George V, held at Spithead.

On 11th November 1911 Jacob left HMS 'Seagull' to serve aboard HMS 'Dreadnought', a battleship which had been launched in Portsmouth in 1906. She was served by a crew of up to 810 men. Jacob would have worked on her 18 Babcock & Wilcox water tube boilers which were housed in three boiler rooms. These provided steam for two paired sets of Parsons direct drive steam turbines ('Dreadnought' was the first battleship to use steam turbines rather than reciprocating steam engines). At top speed the 21,060 ton vessel could reach 21 knots. Jacob joined 'Dreadnought' whilst she was a part of the 1st Division of the Home Fleet (later renamed the 1st Battle Squadron), and in December 1912 she became the flagship of the 4th Battle Squadron. Jacob left the battleship on 30th June 1913, returning ashore to HMS 'Victory II', where he remained until 31st July 1914.


With the storm clouds of war approaching, Jacob was posted aboard HMS 'Drake' on 1st August 1914. 'Drake' was a Drake Class armoured cruiser which had been launched in 1901. She was served by a crew of 900 officers and men. 'Drake' had been decommissioned in 1914 but re-commissioned with the heightened political tensions in Europe, hence the crew that Jacob joined aboard were likely to have been relatively new to the vessel. She was assigned to the 6th Cruiser Squadron Grand Fleet and undertook escort duties with the commencement of the First World War.

In August 1914 "Drake' escorted the liner 'Carmania' inward bound from New York and undertook a patrol and sweep up to the Faeroe Islands searching for enemy shipping. In October 1914 she escorted merchant cruiser 'Mantua' on a voyage to Archangel and back. In the same month, together with two light cruisers and two destroyers, she met and escorted back two E class submarines from a reconnaissance voyage in the Skaggerak. As part of the Grand Fleet she also accompanied them on sweeps into the North Sea.

Jacob left HMS 'Drake' on 7th April 1915, returning to shore at HMS 'Victory II', where he remained until 24th November 1915 when he returned to sea aboard HMS 'Queen Mary'.

HMS 'Queen Mary', a battlecruiser, had been launched on 20th March 1912 and completed on 4th September 1913 at the cost of £2,078,491. She displaced 27,200 tons with a length of 214m, a beam of 24.34m and a maximum speed of 28 knots. Her armaments consisted of eight breach loading 13.5 inch guns (firing 635kg projectiles to 21.7km), sixteen breach loading 4 inch guns (firing 14kg projectiles to 10.6km), two anti aircraft guns and two 21 inch submerged torpedo tubes (234kg warhead with up to 9.8km range).

Launch of HMS 'Queen Mary', 1912 and
Rear Turret & Secondary Armament, HMS 'Queen Mary'

When commissioned, HMS 'Queen Mary' had joined the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Beatty. She had taken part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914. In December 1914 the ship had participated in the attempts to catch the German fleet in the act of raiding Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool, and then was refitted in the first months of 1915, after which Jacob became one of the ship's 1275 wartime crew.

On 30th May 1916, intercepted German signals indicated that the German High Seas Fleet commanded by Admiral Hipper would be putting to sea to challenge the British control of the North Sea. Late on the 30th May the British Grand Fleet put to sea from its base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. Initial contact was made with the German High Seas Fleet off the Danish coast of Jutland on the afternoon of the 31st May 1916.

Prior to the advent of radar, naval warfare relied on visual sighting and aiming and was therefore extremely dependent on the prevailing visibility. At night the main means of targeting was by the illumination of ship mounted searchlights. Hipper's battlecruisers spotted the Battlecruiser Fleet to their west at 1520 hrs, but Beatty's ships did not spot the Germans to their east for a further 10 minutes. Immediately Beatty ordered a course change to east south-east to block the German line of retreat and called his ships' crews to action stations. This move, however, failed, and the opposing ships ended up on paralleling courses heading east south-east.

HMS 'Queen Mary'

Approximately two hours before action, taken from HMS 'Tiger'.
HMS 'Queen Mary' on left, following HMS 'Princess Royal' & HMS 'Lion'

At 1545hrs the range closed to under 18,000 yards (16,000 m) and three minutes later the Germans fired the first salvos of the Battle of Jutland, followed almost immediately afterwards by the British. The German fire was accurate from the beginning, but the British over-estimated the range as the German ships blended into the haze.

Queen Mary opened fire at about 1550hrs on the SMS 'Seydlitz', using only her forward turrets. By 1554hrs the range was down to 12,900 yards (11,800 m) and a minute later the 'Queen Mary' scored the first of two hits on the 'Seydlitz', causing a massive cordite fire that burnt-out her aft turret. 'Seydlitz' also managed to strike the 'Queen Mary' twice to unknown effect. Beatty changed course away from the German ships to open the range. The increase in range impacted upon the British accuracy and Beatty changed course back towards the German fleet, exposing the lead ship in the vanguard, HMS 'Lion' to fire from the German battlecruisers. She was struck several times, and the smoke from these impacts obscured the following vessel, HMS 'Princess Royal', causing the SMS 'Derfflinger' to switch her fire at 1616hrs to the 'Queen Mary', the third ship in the British line.

The 'Queen Mary' scored a third hit on the 'Seydlitz' at 1617hrs, but again was hit by the 'Seydlitz' four minutes later. The range reduced to 14,400 yards (13,200 m) at 1625hrs and Beatty again altered course to starboard in an attempt to prevent the range from closing too much. This move came to late for the 'Queen Mary', which was hit twice by the Derfflinger's fire at 1626hrs. One shell hit forward and detonated one or both of the forward magazines, breaking the ship in two near the foremast. The second hit may have struck 'Q' turret and started a fire in 'Q' working chamber. A further explosion, possibly from shells breaking loose, shook the aft end of the ship as it began to roll over and sink.

SMS Derfflinger fires a full salvo

The moment was described in the Official History," Naval Operations" by Sir Julian S. Corbett :
“Thus the 'Queen Mary', at from 15,800 to 14,500 yards, became the target of both these ships. For about five minutes she stood it gallantly. She was fighting splendidly. The Germans say full salvoes were coming from her with fabulous rapidity. Twice already she had been straddled by the 'Derfflinger', when at 4.26 a plunging salvo crashed upon her deck forward. In a moment there was a dazzling flash of red flame where the salvo fell, and then a much heavier explosion rent her amidships. Her bows plunged down, and as the 'Tiger' and 'New Zealand' raced by her to port and starboard, her propellers were still slowly revolving high in the air. In another moment, as her two consorts were smothered in a shower of black debris, there was nothing of her left but a dark pillar of smoke rising stemlike till it spread hundreds of feet high in the likeness of a vast palm tree.”

German postcard of the moment HMS 'Queen Mary' exploded.
To the left is HMS 'Lion' on fire, and a salvo of shells can be seen landing.

The next ship in the line was HMS 'New Zealand'. The navigating officer later gave an account of the loss of the 'Queen Mary':
"All seemed to be going well with us on 'New Zealand' when suddenly I saw a salvo hit 'Queen Mary' on her port side. A small cloud of what looked like coal-dust came out from where she was hit, but nothing more until several moments later, when a terrific yellow flame with a heavy and very dense mass of black smoke showed ahead, and the 'Queen Mary' herself was no longer visible. The 'Tiger' was steaming at 24 knots only 500 yards astern of 'Queen Mary', and hauled sharply out of the line to port and disappeared in this dense mass of smoke. We hauled out to starboard, and 'Tiger' and ourselves passed one on each side of the 'Queen Mary'. We passed her about 50 yards on our port beam by which time the smoke had blown fairly clear, revealing the stern from the after funnel aft afloat, and the propellers still revolving, but the for'ard part had already gone under. There was no sign of fire or of cordite flame, and men were crawling out of the top of the after turret and up the after hatchway. When we were abreast and only about 150 yards away from her, this after portion rolled over and, as it did so, blew up. The most noticeable thing was the masses and masses of paper which were blown into the air as this after portion exploded. Great masses of iron were thrown into the air, and I saw, I suppose at least 100 or 200 feet high, a boat which may have been a dinghy or a pinnace, still intact but upside down as I could see the thwarts. Before we had quite passed, 'Queen Mary' completely disappeared."

HMS 'Queen Mary' sank with the loss of 57 officers and 1,209 men killed; 2 officers and 5 men wounded. One officer and one man were subsequently rescued by German destroyers. One of the men who died was Stoker First Class Jacob Ireland. As Jacob was lost at sea, he is commemorated with the rest of his shipmates on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

1901, 1911 Census Returns
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Free BDM
Sailor’s Personal Records (National Archives)
Official History," Naval Operations" by Sir Julian S. Corbett
Ireland Family Tree, thanks to Barry Hyder