Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Two Chailey Sailors Drowned

Ninety years ago today on 31st May 1916, two Chailey men, Sidney Bristow and Cecil Langridge, lost their lives when HMS Invincible was sunk during the Battle of Jutland.

Sidney George Augustus Bristow enlisted with the Royal Navy on 12th May 1915, two weeks before his twentieth birthday. He gave his place of birth as Lewes and his occupation as blacksmith. He was five feet, five and a half inches tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion. It was noted that he had a mark on his right leg caused by the removal of a varicose vein. Sidney enlisted for the duration of the war; his number was M13255 and his rating was Blacksmith’s Mate.

He was stationed at Portsmouth (HMS Victory II) between 12th May and 5th June 1915 and then at HMS Fisgard between 6th June and 12th November. On 13th November he joined HMS Invincible.

Cecil Langridge enlisted with the Royal Navy on 24th July 1915. He obviously indicated that he wished to serve for a period of twelve years because on his record it indicates “15 August 1917 - 12 years”. The date would have been Cecil Langridge’s 18th birthday. Sadly, he had already been dead for over a year by then.

On joining it was noted that Cecil was five feet, six and a half inches tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. He gave his occupation as assistant gardener. He was given the number J42643 and posted to HMS Ganges, a shore-based boys’ training establishment at Shotley. His rating was boy, 2nd class. On 21st January 1916, still at Shotley, he was promoted to the rating of boy, 1st class and then, on 29th January, spent three days at Portsmouth before being transferred to HMS Invincible.

Above, Cecil's brother Albert, sister Ethel and father George, circa 1915

HMS Invincible was built by Sir W G Armstrong, Whitworth & Co Ltd. She was laid down at Elswick, Newcastle on Tyne in April 1906 and completed in March 1909 at a cost of £1,767,515. Before Bristow joined her she had already taken part in the Battle of The Falkland Islands on 8th December 1914 where the British Fleet had sunk the German armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Although hit twenty two times during the engagement she suffered no fatalities and returned to Gibraltar where she was re-fitted in January and February of the following year. At Jutland on 31st May, she was hit by a shell at 6.33pm which scored a direct hit on Q Turret and there was an almost instantaneous explosion that blew Invincible in half. She sank within a few minutes.

There were only six survivors, Sidney Bristow and Cecil Langridge were numbered amongst the 1,021 crew members who lost their lives on Invincible that day. The newspaper cutting above, notes that Cecil was the second son of Mr and Mrs G Langridge and that Cecil had worked at the Post Office for a year. Ironically, as the newspaper reports, he was to have served aboard HMS Indefatigable but chose instead to serve aboard HMS Invincible to be with his chum, Stephen Curd. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Stephen was also 16 years of age and was the son of Frederick and Charlotte Curd, of 2, De Montfort Rd., Brighton. (Incidentally, his birth was registered as STEPHEN rather than STEVEN).

Today, ninety years later, we remember Sidney Bristow, Cecil Langridge, Stephen Curd and all of their comrades aboard HMS Invincible.

My thanks to Hazel Dean and Roger Langridge for permission to reproduce the two images on this blog post.

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