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Five interesting people who served on board HMS Caroline

1. William CrickBoy Telegraphist



William Crick was born in Surrey in 1899 and joined the Royal Navy in 1914. He arrived on board HMS Caroline in 1915, when he was only 16 years old where he became a Boy Telegraphist. His job was to decipher the relentless messages of Morse code coming through to HMS Caroline and write everything down so that the cypher team could decode it. William Crick remained on HMS Caroline for the duration of the First World War, rising to the rank of Leading Telegraphist. He kept a diary throughout his time on board which has become crucial to learning more about the history of the people who lived on the ship. He was also a keen musician and a member of Caroline’s string band. He continued his service with the Royal Navy on other postings after the Second World War.


2. Reginald James Lacy - Gunner



Reginald James Lacy was born in Bristol in 1897 and joined the Royal Navy in 1915. He worked as a carpenter’s labourer prior to the First World War and joined HMS Caroline in September 1916. He was recommended for Seaman Gunner in 1917 and remained on Caroline until March 1919 when he was demobilised. Lacy was a keen rower and took part in inter-ship sailing competitions. He died in 1979.


3. Hugh Percy Johnston – Stoker (1st Class)


Hugh Percy Johnston was born in Bermondsey, London in 1893. He joined the Royal Navy in 1911 and worked as a storekeeper prior to enlisting. He joined HMS Caroline in December 1914 as a Stoker (1st Class) and served on Caroline for the duration of the war. As HMS Caroline was an oil-fired ship, his role was to monitor gauges and judge the boiler pressures rather than shovelling coal which was only used for heating and cooking. He played an active role in Concert parties on board and enjoyed dressing up along with some of the other stokers. He continued service with the Royal Navy at other postings for a short time after the First World War.


4. John Taylor - Boy (1st Class)


John Taylor was born in Dublin in 1899 and joined the Royal Navy in 1914 aged only 15. Before enlisting, his occupation was listed as a school boy and he joined HMS Caroline as a Boy 1st Class. He remained on Caroline until August 1918, eventually becoming a Leading Seaman. Nearly a third of sailors were under the legal combat age of 18 when they enlisted but recruitment officers ignored this concern as they were paid for each new recruit. The lack of experience meant that boy sailors were 16% more likely to die than adult servicemen. John Taylor continued his service with the Royal Navy on other postings after the First World War.


5. Henry Ralph Crooke - Captain


Henry Ralph Crooke, a gunnery expert, became the first Captain of HMS Caroline. He captained the ship during the Battle of Jutland and served on board HMS Caroline from October 1914 to March 1917. By 41, Ralph Crooke had carved himself a model career.  Starting as a naval cadet at thirteen, he rose to become the youngest captain in the service at thirty-six, in part due to his gunnery skills.  As Caroline’s Commanding Officer he was in complete command of the ship and the 289 men in her crew. Crooke was a meticulous man and set rules for everything – for example Rule Number 31 stated that the use of such lubberly and un-seaman-like language as “tie up” instead of “make fast” was to be sternly repressed. Although he still allowed sailors to let loose as concert parties were common and Crooke made the odd appearance at them. He left HMS Caroline to serve on HMS Excellent, the Royal Navy Gunnery School in 1917 and eventually retired as Vice Admiral in 1928.

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