The Tragic And Poignant Story Of The Boys of HMS Barham

HMS Barham was a new Queen Elizabeth class Super Dreadnought battleship.  She was the flagship of the Fifth Battle Squadron flying the flag of Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas.  On 30th May 1916, 9 Boys from Barham had their routine vaccinations while the Ship was alongside at Rosyth before the ship sailed later that day.

On the morning of the 31st, the day of the battle, several of them complained of feeling unwell and 8 of them went to Sick Bay and were turned in.  At about 1700 that afternoon while HMS Barham was heavily engaged with the leading elements of the German High Seas Fleet she was hit by two salvoes form the German battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger.  One of those shells penetrated the sick bay and exploded killing medical staff and patients, among whom were the 8 Boys who had complained of illness post-vaccination.

This description comes from Boy 1st Class Henry Hawkins, the ninth injectee, who had declined to complain of his symptoms and had gone to his action station in A Turret:

“I was horrified to come up on deck and see our fore messdeck gone, sick bay patients and staff wiped out as the sick bay took a direct hit.  I thought to myself: “I must be lucky!”  Because nine of us boys who had not been vaccinated during the last five years were attended to on 30th May.  On the morning of the 31st, eight went sick and were detained in the sick bay.  I put up with my sore arm and remained alive.”

Memorial of HMS Barham

HMS Hermes returning from the Falklands