Thursday, 2 October 2014

Major Duncan Stubbs' diary entry for 2 October 1914

Friday 2nd October

A lovely day.  Madge went to Tynemouth to spend the day by herself she can’t bear to meet people.  Poor thing.  I saw her off at the Station, returned and went out with the battery until 12 then came back had lunch and caught the 2.17 train to Middlesbrough. 

Gerald [Cochrane] had wired offering the car and he met me at Middlesbrough and we drove to the Box where we had tea and drove down to the Church at 5 pm.  My father, Mother, Kathy, Averil and Peggy were there and I joined them sitting in the Pennyman pew.  The porch was draped with the white ensign, also the pulpit and desk and a laurel wreath suspended.  The church was full of people.  Mr Kemm and Mr Lace took the service, there was a portion of the burial service, 3 hymns and the National Anthem at the end.  A very nice service indeed.  I spoke to many people afterwards but there were very many whom I did not see. 

Mr Nelson very kindly drove my people over and Mr Storr brought Jock from Darlington.  A party came from Guisbro in a brake and several of our old servants were there.  Everyone loved our little Duncan and they are very touched at his death.  Neither the choir nor bellringers would accept payment so I thanked them all, Metcalfe the leader of the ringers said, “That is the very least we could do Sir”. 

Hughes wired that he would catch the train arriving Newcastle at 8 pm, so Gerald sent the car back to Guisbro during the service for Katharine and took her to the Box, after the service G and I went to the Box and met Katharine.  We looked at the puppies and saw several of the Nunthorpe people then had dinner and K and I caught the 7.2 for Newcastle where we arrived at 8.40. 

I had asked Hedley to look after Hughes and my man [illeg.] met the train with a note from Hedley saying that he had taken Hughes to Tilley’s and would stay there until I arrived. 

K and I went to Tilley’s where we found Hughes having dinner with Hedley and Teddy Harris.  Hughes looked pale and rather nervous as though shaken by the terrible experience, they soon finished their dinner and he and K and I took a taxi to 84 St Georges Terrace, K went to bed and Madge and I talked to Hughes until nearly midnight.  He spoke so nicely of Duncan and found some difficulty in speaking sometimes.  He said Duncan was extraordinarily quick and capable, able to pick up things in a day or less that an ordinary person would take a week over, he was known and liked by all the men and was quite capable of managing his battery of 12 pr guns entirely by himself.  Hughes could leave him alone in charge of the battery and at the foretop, Duncan’s station, knowing the work would be done properly.  He said it was impossible for Duncan to tell a lie and that he was a long way the most capable of the midshipmen.  Duncan had never mentioned to Hughes that he had passed out top from Osborne and Hughes did not know it until I told him, but D had often talked about us and Nunthorpe to him.  Duncan and the gunner Mr Shrubsole [Shrubsall] were great friends and took the watch together, Hughes wanted to change Duncan’s watch for some reason but Mr Shrubsole would not hear of it, he liked to hear Duncan talk at night and would not have any other midshipman with him.  Hughes said that when he was in his hammock he could hear the two talking on watch and Duncan’s laugh could be heard all over the ship.  Duncan had been perfectly happy at sea the whole time, was never sick and always cheerful, the night before the disaster Hughes had spent a long time with Duncan and said he was in splendid spirits.  The Captain (Drummond) sent a message to us to say that he was very pleased with Duncan on the ship, which said Hughes was great praise from the Captain who hardly ever gave praise to anyone. 

The whole disaster seems to have been a series of frightfully unlucky events.  The day before the sea was so rough that the destroyers could not keep with the cruisers, consequently in the morning the ships were going dead slow waiting for the destroyers, then a submarine happened by chance or by information from spies to be in the exact spot at the right moment.  Hughes himself thinks there was only one submarine but says other officers think there were more.  Lt Noyes wrote to say that one of his marines told him that Duncan and another midshipman tried to save a drowning marine and that they had both been pulled down and although the other boy was saved Duncan never came up again.  This is being investigated Hughes thinks it quite likely, also that it was Duncan who was the boy described by a seaman as being the coolest he had ever seen, talking about the new chief and other subjects to a man near him  -

Ever since the War began these cruisers had been engaged in patrolling the North Sea off the German coast preventing mine laying the only time when they were withdrawn for a few days the Germans came out and laid mines.  Also they had taken marines to Ostend when fighting was expected there, Duncan begging Hughes to let him go with the landing party, and they were with the fleet in the Heligoland action close in but the fight did not come their way and they could not see much for the mist, but they were all ready and could hear the firing quite distinctly and they brought the destroyers back after the fight. 

After talking until midnight Hughes came with me to the camp and slept in my tent. 

Gerald Cochrane was a family friend and relation of Madge Stubbs.  He lived at The Box, near Nunthorpe station.
Kathy was Major Stubbs' sister.

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