Chingford War memorial


Chingford War Memorial

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FREDERICK JAMES WATKISS

Private CH/19509

Royal Marine Light Infantry

H.M.S. "Natal"

Died 30/12/1915

Age 19

CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL, 13.

Details on this memorial can be found here (Opens in a new window)

Son of Henry John and Charlotte Mar Watkiss, of 3 Warwick Rd, South Chingford, London.

H.M.S Natal
H.M.S Natal

HMS Natal was a Duke of Edinburgh class armoured cruiser. She was built by Vickers Maxim of Barrow and launched on September 30, 1905. She was sunk by an internal explosion near Cromarty on 30 December 1915.

On the 30th December 1915 Natal was lying in the Cromarty Firth with her squadron, under the command of Captain Eric Back (Royal Navy). Shortly after 3.20pm, and without warning, a series of violent explosions tore through the ship. She capsized five minutes later. The most probable explanation was that a fire had broken out, possibly due to faulty cordite, that ignited a magazine.

The exact number of casualties is still debated, and ranges from 390, up to 421. Some were killed in the immediate explosions, others drowned as the ship capsized, or succumbed to the freezing water of the Cromarty Firth. Most of the bodies which were recovered from the sea were interred in Rosskeen Churchyard, Invergordon. A small number of casualties were interred in the Gaelic Chapel graveyard in Cromarty.

There was a huge amount of speculation about the loss of the Natal. A mine laying U-boat was thought to be the cause but an underwater inspection revealed massive damage from an internal explosion. Sabotage by German agents was suspected but never proved.



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