The 8th June 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the Royal Navy’s costliest engagements of World War Two. This date also has significance for Cork, as it almost certainly represents the worst single day’s loss of Cork men serving in Allied forces during the entire conflict. On that day at least 22 natives of the Rebel county were killed when HMS Glorious, HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta encountered the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau off the coast of Norway. The vast majority of them were in their late teens and early twenties.
In early June 1940 the Royal Naval Aircraft Carrier HMS Glorious had been sent to Narvik to assist with the evacuation of British forces from Norway. Early on the morning of 8th June, she set through the Norwegian Sea for her return trip to Scapa Flow, accompanied by her two destroyer escorts, HMS Ardent and HMS Acasta. Around 4 o’clock that afternoon the Glorious spotted two vessels on their western horizon. Disastrously for the isolated vessels, these proved to be the extremely formidable German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
HMS Ardent was the first to close with the Germans as she sought to identify the ships; she came under fire from them just before 4.30. In an effort to protect the Glorious from the enemy, Ardent released smoke to conceal her charge. Before the smoke took full effect, Glorious was struck for the first time. The distance at which the Scharnhorst hit her– 24,000 metres, or some 24km– illustrates the extreme range under which naval combat could commence. Over the course of the next two hours the Glorious sought to escape while the Ardent and Acasta tried desperately to protect her. Their efforts were doomed. Ardent was the first to be sunk, going down at around 5.25 pm. Glorious was sent to the bottom around 6.10, followed by Acasta some ten minutes later. There were few survivors; for those who did succeed in getting off the ships, the failure of the German vessels to pick up survivors consigned many to death by exposure. Only around 45 men survived– a staggering 1,519 sailors were lost. (1)
Each of the three Royal Naval ships carried Irishmen among their compliments. Below are details on the 22 Corkmen and 15 other Irish sailors from the 26 counties who we have identified as being lost that day. Where possible we have sought to uncover more detail about their origins through baptismal records and Census returns, but we are eager to hear from readers who may have additional information on any of them. Behind each of their names are individual stories of life and, ultimately, loss. Among their number are young men like 19-year-old Patrick Pearse Murphy from Cork City, a boy clearly named for the 1916 Revolutionary leader, who ultimately gave his life fighting for the British against Nazi Germany. Tragically the list also includes brothers James and Joseph Regan; it is hard to imagine what it must have been like for their family in Leap, Co. Cork, when word came through that both had been lost aboard Glorious, 75 years ago next week.
Barrett, James. Leading Seaman, age 26. Son of William and Margaret Barrett, Bandon. Co. Cork. The 1911 Census records James’s father William (34), a shoemaker, living with his wife Margaret (26), son John (3) and daughter Elizabeth (2) at 24 Cavendish Quay in Bandon.
Calnan, Timothy. Stoker First Class, age not given. Son of Timothy and Hannah Calnan, Lispatrick, Co. Cork. Timothy Senior was recorded as a39-year-old fisherman in the 1911 Census. He lived at a house in Lispatrick Lower, Ballymackean with his new wife Hannah (31) and niece Maggie (16).
Daunt, James. Chief Petty Officer, age 37. Son of Thomas and Teresa Daunt of Rostellan, Co. Cork. The 1911 Census records the Daunt family at house 12 in Farsid, Rostellan. James was then 9-years-old and living with his 28-year-old mother Teresa and 2-year-old sister Emily.
Hayes, Denis Anthony. Able Seaman, age 22. Son of Timothy and Helena Hayes, Skibbereen, Co. Cork.
Holland, James Christopher Holland. Stoker First Class, age 25. Son of James and Mary Holland of Kinsale, Co. Cork.
Kelly, Joseph Patrick. Petty Officer Writer, age 23. Son of Patrick J. and Helena M. Kelly, Summerhill, Co. Cork.
McCarthy, John David. Stoker First Class, age 21. Son of Timothy and Mary McCarthy, Kinsale. Co. Cork.
Minihane, Denis John. Stoker First Class, age 23. Son of Denis and Mary Minihane, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork. The only Denis Minihane on the 1911 Census was a 21-year-old agricultural labourer and is likely Denis John’s father. He lived in Downeen.
Murphy, John Stanislaus. Stoker First Class, age 22. Son of John T. and Sheila Murphy, Youghal, Co. Cork.
Murphy, Patrick Pearse. Able Seaman, age 19. Son of Patrick J. and Ellen Murphy of Cork. Born in Cork City in 1920.
O’Brien, James Francis. Stoker First Class, age 25. Son of Denis and Mary O’Brien of Cork.
O’Leary, Joseph. Stoker First Class, age 21. Son of Daniel and Mary O’Leary, Clonakilty, Co. Cork. In 1911 Joseph’s parents Daniel (a 30-year-old agricultural labourer) and Mary (20) had just celebrated the birth of their son Michael John who was 6 months old. They lived with Mary’s parents and siblings at a house in Knockskagh, Clonakilty.
Regan, James. Leading Stoker, age 24. Son of Jeremiah and Margaret Regan, Leap, Co. Cork. His brother Joseph died with him. As far as I can establish the Regan’s father Jeremiah was originally from Brulea, Co. Cork.
Regan, Joseph. Stoker First Class, age 22. Son of Jeremiah and Margaret Regan, Leap, Co. Cork. His brother James died with him.
Regan, Timothy. Able Seaman, age 33. Son of Jeremiah and Mary Regan, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork.
Roche, John Michael. Stoker First Class, age 21. Son of Nicholas John and Margaret Roche, Rosscarbery, Co. Cork.
Russell, Denis Augustine. Stoker Second Class, age 20. Son of Jeremiah and Catherine Russell, Cork. Denis was born in Cork City in 1919.
Stack, Thomas. Petty Officer Stoker, age 36. Son of Michael and Hanna Stack, Youghal, Co. Cork. In 1911 the Stacks lived at 4 Foxes Lane, Youghal. Thomas was (incorrectly?) recorded as a 2-year-old boy living with his father Michael, a 34-year-old general labourer, his mother Johanna (30), sisters Mary (3) and Ellen (1).
Thornhill, John. Able Seaman, age 19. Son of John and Mary Thornhill, Watergrasshill, Co. Cork.
Hegarty, Michael John. Able Seaman, age 28. Son of Michael and Anne Hegarty of Castletownshend, Co. Cork.
Lucey, James Joseph. Leading Seaman, age 26. Son of Denis and Mary Lucey of Cork.
Kiernan, Francis Augustin. Supply Assistant, age 25. Son of Francis R. and Margaret M. Kiernan of Cork. Francis was born in Cork City in 1914.
Kevin Myers has noted that 65 men from the island of Ireland died as a result of the sinkings of Glorious, Ardent and Acasta. Aside from the 22 Cork men outlined above, I have identified a further 15 men from the the 26 counties who perished on that June day. Their names are recorded below. (2)
Other Irish Casualties
Byrne, Patrick William. HMS Glorious. Stoker Second Class, age 23. Son of Peter and Mary Byrne, Dublin.
Collins, James. HMS Glorious. Stoker First Class, age not given. Son of Michael and Mina C. Collins, Kilnaboy, Co. Clare.
Doyle, Benedict Leo. HMS Glorious. Able Seaman, age 24. Son of Michael and Mary Doyle, Dublin.
Duggan, Dermot Harry Tuthill. HMS Ardent. Surgeon Lieutenant, age 27. Son of Captain George Grant Duggan (Royal Irish Fusiliers) and Dorothy De Courcy Duggan, Foxrock, Co. Dublin. Dorothy not only lost her son in World War Two, but her husband in World War One. George, an Irish international cross-country runner, was killed in Gallipoli on 16th August 1915 and is remembered on the Helles Memorial.
Fogarty, Marcus. HMS Glorious. Leading Sick Berth Attendant, no age given. Son of William and Ellen Fogarty, Killenaule, Co Tipperary.
Forsyth, John Thomas. HMS Glorious. Able Seaman, age 20. Son of John and Amy Forsythe, Sandycove, Co. Dublin.
Keogh, Patrick Kevin. HMS Glorious. Able Seaman, age 19. Son of Mary and Jane Keogh of Dublin.
Koyce, John. HMS Acasta. Stoker First Class, age 21. Son of Patrick and Hannah Koyce of Limerick.
Langan, Maurice. HMS Glorious. Stoker First Class, age 33. Son of Peter and Anne Langan, Tarbert, Co. Kerry.
McGhee, Edmond. HMS Glorious. Ordinary Seaman, age 18. Son of John and Elizabeth McGhee, Kilkenny
Pearse, George Passmore. HMS Glorious. Surgeon Lieutenant, age 31. Son of Charles Perrin Pearse and Ellen Gertrude Pearse, Glenageary, Co. Dublin.
Pender, John. HMS Glorious. Ordinary Seaman, age 19. Son of Mrs. C. Pender, Gorey, Co. Wexford.
Porter, William. HMS Glorious. Able Seaman, age 26. Son of William and Mary Porter, Annamore, Co. Wicklow.
Stuart, Francis. HMS Glorious. Petty Officer Stoker, age 31. Son of James and Alice Stuart, Marino, Co. Dublin.
White, William Patrick. HMS Glorious. Able Seaman, age 27. Son of Christopher and Catharine White, Dermotstown, Delahasey, Co. Dublin.
(1) Howland, McMurtie; (2) Myers;
Howland, Vernon M. Loss of HMS Glorious
McMurtie, Francis E. 1946. The Tragedy of HMS Glorious
Commonwealth Wargraves Commission
Myers, Kevin., 9th June 2010, Irish Independent. Let Us Not Forget Irish Deaths in Calamitous Events of 1940.
I wonder if Michael John Hegarty AS HMS Ardent from Castletownshend was one of the men who joined the Royal Navy having consulted Vice-Admiral Somerville prior to that gentleman’s murder by the IRA in 1936? Perhaps somebody in that village could tell us.
Michael joined from Pontypridd, Glamorgan. His father Michael, from Fahouragh, worked in the mines and then Pontypridd tram service. Michael and Annie O’Donovan ( Castlehaven) also lost their only daughter, Mary Therese in Sigginstown, Cowbridge plane crash carrying Welsh rugby supporters back from Ireland 1950- the biggest civil air disaster anywhere in the world at that time. Michael Sn. died 1929, but Annie outlived her two children. My mother was a first cousin to Michael John (Ardent). Her mother a McCarthy from Castletownsend was very upset at the murder of Vice-Admiral Somerville, that he had advised and helped those in her family who who were considering joining the Royal Navy. Large families were often happy to get money home from the service of their sons.