Jutland Sailor Story - The Isle of Lewis Sailors

Lewis Sailors

The Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles Scotland was represented at the Battle of Jutland with every naval reservist from the island trained as a naval gunner. As news of the battle occurring in the North Sea reached the community it became widely used in conversations amongst local communities. Official telegrams were displayed in all village telegraph offices awaiting eager attention of young and old who learned news of their loved ones away fighting.

A number of islanders were killed on board HMS Black Prince, HMS Broke, HMS Defence, HMS Indefatigable, and HMS Invincible with many others severely wounded and later succumbing to their injuries. The sinking of HMS Invincible was a terrible blow to the Royal Navy and many communities the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and Ireland including the Isle of Lewis. Of the 1,025 sailors killed on HMS Invincible eleven were Lewismen. Lady Hood, widow of Admiral Horace Hood killed when his ship HMS Invincible sank, wrote individual letters to all the widows of Lewismen killed aboard ending with words of hope that the letter might give some comfort to them in their time of grief.

In the small village of North Tolsta on the east of the island, 23 children were left fatherless after the Battle of Jutland. Angus Maciver was killed on board HMS Broke. He had been wounded in the battle, but had insisted on returning to his post where he was subsequently killed. He left a widow and six young children.

Both Kenneth Campbell and Murdo Macleod served at the Battle of Jutland on HMS Galatea and HMS Revenge respectively. Kenneth and Murdo survived Jutland and other Naval involvements of the First World War only to be killed on the 1st January 1919 in the Iolaire disaster, outside Stornoway Harbour on the way home from serving their country for the First World War. Over 200 men from the Isle of Lewis and Harris were drowned on their own doorstep making New Year’s Day of 1919 undoubtedly the Island’s saddest day. Kenneth Campbell was one of the seven sons of widow Campbell, three of whom made the ultimate sacrifice.

Two sailors involved in Jutland from the Isle of Lewis were singled out for awards after they showed their devotion to duty and courage to remain at their posts throughout the fighting.

Carpenter Lieutenant John Norman Matheson of 23 Newton Street, Stornoway was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Vice Admiral Beatty wrote in Matheson’s citation that he “Did splendid work below although taken to the dressing station twice. Once gassed and nearly drowned, he insisted on going back to his post and only rested when ordered by the commander on the following morning.”

Engine Room Artificer Murdo Macleod, a teenager from 50 North Shawbost, Lewis was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for courage and devotion to duty during Jutland.

The sparsely populated Isle of Lewis provided two naval surgeons at the Battle of Jutland. Surgeon Archibald Alexander Morison from Stornoway was killed aboard HMS Indefatigable and Surgeon Lieutenant Malcolm Bonar Brown served at Jutland as well as serving as Surgeon commander in the Second World War.

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HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands