Seahouses RNLI Lifeboat Station, Seafield Road, Seahouses, Northumberland NE68 7SH. Tel: 01665 720370
Seahouses RNLI Lifeboat Station
HMS Ascot was a Racecourse-class minesweeper of the Royal Navy. The Racecourse-class comprised 32 paddlewheel coastal minesweeping sloops. She was the last ship to be sunk in the First World War on 10 November 1918, the day before the announcement of the armistice. She was torpedoed by UB-67 off the Farne Islands. Wikipedia
Length: 72 m
Launched: 26 January 1916
Draft: 2.06 m
Builder: Ailsa Shipbuilding Company
Excerpt from Marine Quest –
“Almost forgotten by history is the paddle minesweeper HMS Ascot. This unfortunate ship became the last warship to be lost to enemy action in the Great War. On November 10, 1918, one day before the Armistice was signed, HMS Ascot was operating five miles from the Farne Islands when she was torpedoed by SMS UB-67. Even though orders had been sent on Oct. 20 to all U-boats to return to Kiel, Oberleutnant zur See Hellmuth von Doemming either did not receive it or just disregarded the order. I cannot know his motivation and it would be pure speculation to guess. It is however a sad commentary that this man, who must have known that the war was over, would sink just one more ship before the end of hostilities. Because of his decision to fire the torpedo fifty-three more names were added to the Roll of Honour. What happened on board Ascot in her final minutes is unknown because the last warship sunk in the Great War took every man in her to the bottom.”
Video of the wreck can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aijxhu0fyzk
In memory of those who lost their lives in HMS Ascot
Bevan, William G. - Leading Seaman
Boulton, Harry - Leading Trimmer (RNR)
Connelly, Peter - Seaman (RNR)
Connelly, Percy J. - Ordinary Seaman
Cooper, William - Seaman (RNR)
Coultas, William - Leading Trimmer (RNR)
Cross, Cecil J. J. - Stoker 2nd Class
Dalton, Harry - Trimmer (RNR)
Davis, Patrick - Seaman (RNR)
Dobbs, George H. - Trimmer (RNR)
Duggan, David E. - 3rd Engineer (MMR)
Edmunds, Samuel G.- Deck Hand (RNR)
Gardner, Charles E. M. - Stoker 2nd Class
Grubb, Wilfred C. - Ordinary Seaman
Hill, Charles - Stoker 2nd Class
Horrill, Edward L. - Petty Officer 1st Class
Irvine, James - Seaman (RNR)
Irwin, Robert F. - Steward (MMR)
Jaffa, Leslie C. - Telegraphist (RNVR)
Jones, Edward W. - Signalman (RNVR)
Jones, Matthew G. - Trimmer (RNR)
Judge, James - Trimmer (RNR)
Juhle, Alexander B. - Leading Trimmer (RNR)
Kersey, Robert - Deck Hand (RNR)
Keutenius, James W. - Leading Trimmer (RNR)
Kirkton, Harold E. - Signalman (RNVR)
Kirman, George W. - Junior Engineer (MMR)
Lamb, David B. - Trimmer (RNR)
Leabon, Archie G. - 2nd Hand (RNR)
Long, Arthur J. - Deckhand (RNR)
MacDonald, Donald - Lieutenant (RNR) Vessel Captain
MacKay, Alexander - Deck Hand (RNR)
McLean, Alexander M.- Deck Hand (RNR)
McLeod, James F.- Cook (RNR)
Munn, John W. - Telegraphist (RNVR)
Osborne, James W. - Trimmer (RNR)
Parrott, Charles F. - Deck Hand (RNR)
Paterson, James K.- Engineer Lieutenant (RNR)
Paul, Thomas S. - Trimmer (RNR)
Pender, Patrick - Trimmer (RNR)
Postlethwaite, John M. - Able Seaman
Price, James - Trimmer (RNR)
Redding, Herbert - Trimmer (RNR)
Reynolds, Arthur - Trimmer (RNR)
Richards, Francis A. - Leading Trimmer (RNR)
Robson, James - Trimmer (RNR)
Smith, Baden - Ordinary Seaman
Tocher, John - Leading Trimmer (RNR)
Wallen, John W. - Lieutenant (RNVR)
Wheatland, Arthur - Lieutenant (RNVR)
Williamson, Robert - Able Seaman
Woolfe, George - Trimmer, (RNR)
Youll, Alfred J. - Assistant Steward (MMR)
The history as uncovered from RNLI Records and search material.
HMS Ascot was a Racecourse Class Mine Sweeper (Paddle Steamer), with 53 crew. At some time on 10th November 1918, she was at sea approx 6 - 7 miles off Seahouses, when she was spotted by a German Submarine UB67 patrolling in the area, commanded by Oberleutnant Zur See Hellmuth Von Doemming. We understand UB 67 had one torpedo left, which was fired at HMS Ascot. The vessel sank with the loss of all hands. The Keeper on the Lonsgtone Lighthouse heard the explosion, and reported that he thought a vessel had struck a mine, and requested lifeboats to launch. The explosion was also heard on the shore. The Seahouses (then known as North Sunderland) and Holy Island Lifeboats were launched. The Holy Island Lifeboat was the Lizzie Porter (later to be stationed at Seahouses) and the Seahouses boat was the Forster Fawcett. Both were 35ft lifeboats powered by oars and sail. A steam tug also responded. Weather conditions were gale force winds, with rough seas and poor visibility. It is believed that HMS Ascot was the last vessel to be sunk in anger during the First War 1914-18. The lifeboats reached the scene, and not without great difficulty we imagine. An amazing tribute to their crews. However, despite their best efforts in searching the location, no survivors were found. Both lifeboats returned to their stations, and the steam tug assisted the North Sunderland lifeboat back towards the shore. The U Boat surrendered on 24 November 1918, and was broken up at Swansea in 1922. We believe the young commander, Von Doemming, died in 1921. The wreck site is locally known as the "Sweeper", although its origins were not fully appreciated until recently. The wreck position is 55 37'924N and 001 29'860W.
One crew member of HMS Ascot was Able Seaman John Matthew Postlethwaite of Liverpool. His memorial can be found at Plymouth Naval Memorial. His descendants, a Mr Paul King and family, visited Seahouses in late May 2016, to make a donation in memory of Mr King's late wife Dorothy, and mentioned the Ascot story, although their information was very scant and incomplete. They thought the vessel had been sunk in Morecambe Bay. We were able to research far deeper, and located the RNLI Service Return at Seahouses Lifeboat Station. We provided them with a photocopy and other documentation that we had discovered from non RNLI sources. Further research on the internet revealed the story as now known. The family expressed a wish to mark the centenary of the loss of the crew of HMS Ascot, including their relative room Liverpool, A/S Postlethwaite. On 10th November 2018, we were able to make that a reality, and were honoured and privileged to be able to do so.
The RNLI Service record reads,
2.45pm 10th November 1918. Lifeboat - Forster Fawcett. Launched 3pm. Service performed under sail.
Crew performed well but had never sailed in a gale such as this. Returned to boathouse 8pm
“What was supposed that a vessel blown up, was distinctly seen by several persons from the shore, including the coastguard. I have since ascertained from the lighthouse keepers on the Longstone Island that they are under the impression that a small torpedo boat struck a mine or was torpedoed. They saw the craft’s bow rise and then sink but they were too far off to be able to see any more detail.
The lifeboat was promptly launched and proceeded to the spot indicated by the coastguards and saw nothing whatsoever. Two patrol vessels also came down from the north, searching for the vessel which had gone down. They saw nothing either and later on, one took our lifeboat in tow inshore for shelter. It was a terrible gale, the water blowing “smoke” as they turned for home. I know the Holy Island Lifeboat rowed here in a hard tussle, and back home. I understand she was also launched.
Crew: - C Robson (Coxswain), H Spears, J Swan, G Dawson, W Nelson, W Robson, J Dawson, N Allen, W Rutter, P Swan, N Robson, J Walker, J Robson. Total expenses paid to the crew - £20 15s 6p.
Signed, LB Ross, Honorary Secretary. Chas. Robson, Coxswain.
NB: The original records have faded with age and the initials of the crew may not be totally accurate, as parts of the 100yr old document was quite difficult to read.
A fascinating story and piece of local history, as well as a tragic waste of life so close to the Armistice !
Some family artifacts and possessions of John Postlethwaite
(The Queen’s Penny was about 5in across, was sent to all WW1 widows - no pensions in those days. Many Penny’s were thrown away by the recipients, angry at losing a loved one in the conflict)