The last two months at Oldnautibits have been busy as we continue to travel further and look harder to source stock. We are always on the lookout for "named" items, particularly if they come with historical interest. We are therefore very excited to have obtained a ship's Log Book, for the period January 1901 - October 1902, relating to the Royal Naval vessel HMS Ocean.
HMS Ocean was laid down in 1898, and was a first class battleship of 12,950 tons displacement. She was of the Canopus class and her armament consisted of four 12" and twelve 6" guns. She was built in the United Kingdom in the Thomas Ironworks.
G S Benning wrote our Log. We have yet to research him, but believe he could have been the ship's Gunnery Officer. The Log entries provide a daily record of the routine events on board. They cover the ship's progress from Malta, through the Mediterranean to the Suez Canal, then down via the Red Sea to the China Station. To give a flavour we detail these excerpts:-
Sunday 3rd February 1901
Monday 6th May 1901
On the 21st September 1901 we read that HMS Ocean ran down a Chinese Junk that was sailing without lights off Hong Kong (no mention of casualties!). The day-to-day, matter of fact, reports are brought to life with a wide variety of charts and drawings (many in full colour) illustrating parts of the ship, with an emphasis on the ship's gunnery. It is this bias which leads us to speculate that Benning may have been the Gunnery Officer. Another significant historical event is recorded in 1901:-
Wednesday 7th August 1901
The last entry in our Log is for September 30th 1902. The remaining pages are blank, so we wonder what happened to Benning while his ship continued service with the Royal Navy. We have established that HMS Ocean met with a violent end during World War I, but we still have to research her intervening years.
HMS Ocean off Japan - 1902
This photograph of an original oil painting has been kindly supplied to us by Jean O'Shea, from the United States. It was painted, with considerable skill, by her Great Uncle, Daniel Crowley.
The scene graphically depicts HMS Ocean in heavy seas, against a stormy sky. At the time she was on passage between the Japanese ports of Kobe and Nagasaki, on the 7th and 8th of August 1902. What excites us, is that this actual voyage was detailed in "our" Log Book.
Although Jean has no family history to accompany the painting, she assumes that her Great Uncle was, either serving on HMS Ocean or, perhaps, one of her sister ships? If any readers have information relating to Daniel Crowley - either as a Seaman, or as an Artist! - please contact-us. We will pass the information to Jean, who is researching the history of her Great Uncle's Naval Service.
Many thanks to Jean O'Shea for sharing this emotive picture with us, and for allowing it to be published (possibly for the first time) on our website.
The Dardanelles Campaign
The aim of The Dardanelles Campaign of 1915 was to force the Turks to seek an armistice. Then, with Turkey out of the war, a vital sea route to Russia would have been opened. To achieve this objective the Royal Navy had to eliminate the heavily fortified Turkish shore positions that guarded The Narrows so that they could enter the Sea of Marmara and proceed to Constantinople.
The first phase of the Campaign was completed using the heavy guns of the battleships, which were supported by three cruisers, sixteen destroyers, six submarines and four seaplanes! The shore positions were successfully destroyed; the next phase was to sweep The Narrows for mines. The operation did not go well as the Turks had brought in mobile gun batteries and searchlights - the minesweepers were forced to retreat.
On 18th March 1915 the entire squadron re-entered the Straits - the batteries were once again silenced. The French battleship Bouvet then hit a drifting mine and sank within three minutes, losing 640 members of her crew. The Turks, elated by their success, released more mines and scored a further hit on the cruiser Irresistible, which started to drift towards the enemy shore. HMS Ocean took Irresistible in tow, but she also hit a mine and both ships were lost in deep water. The Dardanelles Campaign ended in complete failure after two further ships, Gaulois and Inflexible, were badly damaged.
Having enjoyed thirteen years in service, the rusting remains of HMS Ocean now lie in a watery grave off the southern shore of The Narrows, just to the south of the wreck of HMS Irresistible, who she was trying to rescue. We have no trace of G S Benning, but at least we do have his meticulously written Log Book to remind us of a period in HMS Ocean's history - exactly 100 years ago.
Is the Log Book for Sale?
We always have difficulty in parting with our more unique items. This was most certainly the case with HMS Ocean's fascinating Log Book - after spending many hours studying the contents, we have now sold it on to a new home.