Oldham Historical Research Group

'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.'
from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen

31st MAY - 1st JUNE 1916

Oldham Stoker's Experiences
Rescued from the sinker 'Warrior'
Broadside from the 'Derflinger'

The homecoming of one Oldham heroes of the greatest naval battle of modern times was over-clouded by a great sorrow, for he reached the family hearth just in time to attend the funeral of a favourite brother, which mournful event in the family history took place on Tuesday afternoon, and of course threw a gloom over the household, which curtailed the rejoicings which would otherwise have marked the arrival on leave of one who had so recently help to sustain British naval prestige in the teeth of powerful and crafty foe. The returned member of H.M. Navy is James Edmund Mannock and he was a stoker borne on the books of the ship 'o war 'Warrior', alas now resting on the bed of the North Sea. Stoker Mannock is a young man in the early twenties, and is the son of Mr. and Mrs. John James Mannock, being proud of the fact that he is 'Owdham born and bred'. His father has been, for twelve years, engineer at the Glodwick Spinning Co.'s mill and the home of the family is at 108 Bolton Street, off Greengate Street.

Interviewed by a 'Standard' reporter, the youthful-looking stoker told a vivid story of the great battle and the brief, but gallant part, his proud vessel played in it.

We put to sea a week last Monday and we were in the best of spirits. The weather, being good sailors' weather, we were ready for anything that came along and were looking forward to a brush with the enemy, for we had a sort of foreboding that this trip we should not find him playing his usual skulking game of 'me hide and you seek'. We steamed from our temporary base towards the coast of Denmark and the day passed uneventfully enough until we were just about to sit down to our as-usual-well-earned tea. That would be about four o'clock. All hands were piped on deck and the commander told us where the German Fleet was located, and also, the whereabouts of our main body. Well, the first sitting of us went down to their meal and my turn was drawing near when, just about six o'clock - in the middle of the first dogwatch - the enemy was sighted and the first shot of the great battle was fired. Instantly, every man flew to his action-station-and thus, regretfully, I lost my tea. The first shot was the signal for broadside after broadside and in a few seconds the din was ear-splitting and the deck creaked and rattled under one as our big guns gave tongue. We had got in a few hefty ones, when our turn to be hit came along, a nasty shell catching us and ripping open all the starboard upper deck. That put us on our mettle, more especially as we learned that the 'lucky' hit had accounted for about twenty of our brave fellows. I was only about five yards away at the time, so I got a taste of concussion.

HMS Warrior - Battle of Jutland
HMS 'Warrior before the Battle

We were only in action seventeen minutes, but they were warm 'uns, I can assure you. Both engine rooms were put out of count and then to make things worse a steam pipe burst and six hands lost their lives as a consequence. Then we got a regular salvo of shells from the 'Derflinger'- one of the best of the German boats. The idea, evidently, was that a good broadside would put us under, because the enemy could see we were 'crippled' in the engine department. But the 'Warspite' came up with a rush and threw herself between us and our assailants, and got most of the peppering that was intended for us. Our skipper seized the opportunity to get us out of action, but we hadn't got far before our engine room became flooded, and we were ordered to draw the fires. Luckily just then we sighted a vessel, which we at first took for a German, but what proved to be one of our own ships, H.M.S. Engadine. Our captain signalled to her to stand by, which she did, and the five and a half inch cables were speedily got out, and the newcomer took us in tow. For twelve hours the 'Engadine' pulled us along and then she signalled that her coal supply was running out and she would be unable to take us into harbour. Thereupon our skipper decided that the "Warrior" would have to be abandoned. So, at about 9.15 on Thursday morning the ship's company transferred to the 'Engadine', which drew up alongside the sinking 'Warrior'. The skipper, who kept his post on the bridge, along with the navigating officer, gave the order "Stokers first!" When everybody was on board, including, of course the wounded, had been safely bestowed on the 'Engadine', the captain swung himself at the end of a hawser on to the deck and we parted company with the doomed and dying old fighting ship. When we got at a safe distance from her , our captain called all the 'Warrior's' company together and pointing to the sinking vessel cried 'There's your good old ship, boys, give her three cheers.' We gave the cheers just as she started to take the final plunge, and the echo of our voices had hardly died away 'ere she slid gently to her last resting place beneath the waves.'

On board the 'Engadine' everything possible was done for our comfort, and we made straight for a Scottish port, which we reached safely at one o'clock on Friday morning. We at once landed our wounded, and then we were given a few hours deserved rest. Next day we sailed to a well-known naval-base, and their effectives among our crew were split up between two other battleships. The 'Engadine' saved about 600 of our crew and our casualties totalled somewhere about 140.'

Stoker Mannock has been in the navy three years and six months. He was educated at the Roundthorn Council School, and prior to joining the maritime force, worked as a piecer in the Glodwick Spinning Co.'s Mill. This big battle was not his first taste of naval warfare, for he has taken part in three other engagements, the first dating back to a bare ten days after war was declared. He was also in the tussle of Dogger Bank and the bigger fight in the Heligoland Bight.
Oldham Standard, 7 Jun 1916

By Royal Navy Official Photographer - This is photograph Q 21940 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 2107-01), Public Domain

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