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World War 1 at Sea - Naval Battles in outline





HMS Carmania, armed merchant cruiser in action (Cyber Heritage/Terry Phillips, click to enlarge)





Action in Outline
Royal Navy Casualties - Killed and Died
Royal Navy Honours and Gallantry awards
Prize Money Notice

Personal Account by Arnold Rushforth, Wireless Operator



Relevant chapter from "History of the Great War - Naval Operations"


Volume 1 by Corbett


XXIII. Admiral Von Spee Crosses The Pacific (including the Carmania action)



also log books of

HMS Carmania, 1914-16, including Action


Royal Navy Single Ship Action - Carmania v CAP TRAFALGAR 1914




SS Cap Trafalgar (Cyber Heritage/Terry Phillips)






Monday 31 August 1914



German auxiliary cruiser Cap Trafalgar, 18,710grt commissioned in South Atlantic with 2-4.1in guns from gunboat Eber sailing from German South West Africa, no British or allied ships sunk



Monday 14 September 1914


Central Atlantic


SS Carmania (Photo Ships)


Carmania, Admiralty armed merchant cruiser, ex-passenger ship, 19,524/1905, Cunard SS Co, Liverpool, hired 8/8/14, 8-4.7in, Capt N Grant, South American Station, taking part in southerly sweep for German raiders, coming down from NE at 16kts to examine Trinidada Island. Discovered Cap Trafalgar (2-4in/6 pom-poms) coaling from two colliers. German made off southwards while colliers dispersed, but then turned west and began to close at 18kts, range down to 8,500yds by 1210, Carmania fired a shot across the bows, Cap Trafalgar replied, and when only 7,500yds apart both ships opened rapid accurate fire. Range continued to shorten until Cap Trafalgar could use short-range pom-poms, Carmania turned away full circle until she was chasing by which time her bridge was on fire, but the German was also on fire forward with a slight list. As a stern chase developed Cap Trafalgar slowly pulled away and by 1330 was out of range, but the fire was gaining and list increasing. Fifteen minutes later she capsized and sank in 20.10S, 29.51W.


Carmania was badly damaged with five holes on the water line and fore-bridges destroyed, fires came under control, made for Abrolhos Rocks, met next afternoon in response to her SOS by light cruiser Bristol which stood by until arrival of armoured cruiser Cornwall; 6 men killed, 4 DOW, 26 wounded (Rn/Cn/D/dk/kp).



(click for source abbreviations)





With thanks to Don Kindell


Monday, 14 September 1914


Carmania, armed merchant cruiser, damaged in action with German auxiliary cruiser in Central Atlantic, three also died of wounds on the 16th, and one on the 21st

 BURFITT, James C, Chief Petty Officer, 145283 (Po)

 GRANT, Norman, Seaman, RNR, B 4237

 MCLEOD, Kenneth J, Seaman, RNR, A 5348

 RUSSELL, Robert W, Seaman, RNR, B 5159

 SNELL, George J W, Corporal, RMLI, 11773 (Po)

 SNOWLING, George, Seaman, RNR, A 3970


Wednesday, 16 September 1914


Carmania, armed merchant cruiser, damaged on 14th

 DIAPER, Cecil R, Seaman, RNR, B 4999, DOW

 DUGAN, Peter, Seaman, RNR, A 4613, DOW

 PIERCE, Richard, Seaman, RNR, D 1684, DOW


Monday, 21 September 1914


Carmania, armed merchant cruiser, damaged on 14th

 LAWRENSON, James, Trimmer, 393494 (MMR), DOW





With thanks to the London Gazette


Gazette No. 29024 - 29 DECEMBER 1914


The KING (is) pleased to give orders for the following appointments to the Most Honourable Order of the Bath:


To be Ordinary Members of the Military Division of the Third Class, or Companions, of the said Most Honourable Order:

 Captain Noel Grant, R.N., (H.M.S. "Carmania").

 Commander James Barr, R.N.R., (H.M.S. "Carmania").



To be Companions of the Distinguished Service Order.

Lieutenant-Commander Edmund Laurence Braithwaite Lockyer, His Majesty's Ship "Carmania."



29123 - 9 APRIL 1915


To receive the Distinguished Service Cross:


For services in the action between H.M.S. "Carmania" and the German Armed Merchant Cruiser "Cap Trafalgar," on 14th September, 1914, when the latter vessel was sunk:

 Chief Gunner Henry Middleton

 Acting Sub Lieutenant George Frederick Dickens, R.N.R.

 Midshipman (now Acting Sub Lieutenant) Douglas Nowell Colson, R.N.R.


To receive the Distinguished Service Medal


For services in the action between the "Carmania" and the "Cap Trafalgar," 14th September, 1914:

 John Walker Jones, Chief Petty Officer, ON 116929 (RFR Po A 979)

 Robert Walter Andrews, Chief Petty Officer, O N 143783 (RFR Po A 3472)

 Charles Ware, Petty Officer, R.N., O.N. 173515.

 William Frederick Clark, 2nd Yeoman of Signals, O.N. 220953 (R.F.R. Po. B.3406).

 Albert Edward Mitchell, Armourer, R.N., O.N. 342296.

 William Samuel Dyer, Serjeant, R.M.A., R.F.R., R.M.A./4607.

 Richard Robert Branake, Gunner, R.M.A., R.F.R., R.M.A./10783.

 William Ernest Wadsworth, Private, R.M.L.I., R.F.R., O.N. Po./9430.

 Arthur Stanley Fletcher, Seaman, R.N.R., 3746 B.

 John Hanlon, Seaman, R.N.R., 3177 C.

 Matthew Green, Chief Steward.

 Thomas Adams, Officers' Steward (3rd Class).





With thanks to the London Gazette


Gazette No. 29552 - 18 APRIL 1916


Naval Prize Money.

Admiralty, S.W., 18th April, 1916.

Notice is hereby given to all persons, interested therein, that preparations are now being made for the intended Distribution of the Prize Bounty awarded for the destruction of the enemy armed ship "Cap Trafalgar" by H.M. Ship "Carmania," on the 14th September, 1914. (followed by administration details)





by Arnold Rushforth, Wireless Operator, HMS Carmania

With thanks to Richard Coomber currently researching the effects of World War I on Shipley, West Yorkshire

Letter from Arnold Rushforth, a wireless operator on board the Carmania, to his mother in Eccleshill, as reproduced in Shipley Times & Express 16-10-1914:

'It is with great thankfulness that I am able to inform you that all is well. I am not injured in any way after our naval engagement which took place off the Brazilian coast on Sept 16th. I do not feel inclined to relate to you the details of our engagement, so let it suffice to say that it was a ding-dong struggle as to who had to go under.

I could not explain my feelings during our fierce fight but I know I thought of you as the shot and shell were flying all around and above me. I expected every moment to be my last but my time was not yet come. I had many narrow escapes and in memory of that never-to-be-forgotten event I have got a few pieces of German shells which I picked off the deck and am bringing home.

Our brave captain was as cool as ninepence. He drove the Carmania at full speed during the whole conflict and circled round the German ship at such sharp angles that I thought once we were sinking so badly did our ship heel over.

As the saying was at the time “We gave the Germans hell.” Our gunners fought up to the old reputation of the bulldog breed. Every man fought with never-tiring energy and their marksmanship was splendid. They rattled the shells in one after the other and got home about four shells to the Germans’ one.

For the first ten minutes I was none too happy but the spirits of everybody were soon roused and then we went at it like the “Death or glory boys.” Considering what a terrible fight we had we came off very lightly as regards loss of men. Our casualties were 9 killed, 4 badly wounded and 22 injured.

My two wireless chums are unhurt and marvellous to relate our cabin did not receive a single mark though we had several hairbreadth escapes. Our aerial wire was shot away but that was the only damage in our department.

Our ship however looks a sorry sight for it is almost full of shell holes and the captain’s bridge and officers’ quarters were completely burn out (the ship got on fire during the fight).

Though the enemy fought well, our boys fought better and they deserve great praise for the victory over the Cap Trafalgar.

Some of our comrades have received terrible wounds, which I cannot relate here, but five of them knew no pain for they were killed instantly. I am most fortunate in having escaped without a scratch. Though we were victorious it was a sad spectacle to watch the enemy ship as she slowly sank. My heart went out to those poor fellows who went down in the German cruiser with their colours flying.

We are now at Gibraltar for repairs. I felt very proud that so many of the boys at Eccleshill have gone to do their little bit for the Old Country, for after all our nation is one to be very proud of.'


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