The end of the Great War, as witnessed by my Grandpa

My Grandfather, Thomas Gill, was born in 1898, in Newcastle.

He worked at an engineering firm ‘Parsons’ until February 1918 when he enlisted for the Royal Navy. Here below is a transcription of his handwritten reminiscences from his time in the Royal Navy.

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The National Service Act had all males to register at the age of 18. I was ‘called up’ (see the firm’s letter of March 19 1917) but because of the work being done was exempted but as time went on, exemptions became less and less and in Feb. 1918 in company with two or three others, we volunteered for the Royal Navy as Engine Room Artificers.

David 5.jpeg

After a couple of months at Portsmouth for training and tests we left Portsmouth on June 4 for Rosyth and by June 7 I found myself aboard H.M. Destroyer Vendetta. The following months were largely taken up with routine activities at sea based at Queensferry near the Forth Bridge, patrols, escorts, gunning practice with the Grand Fleet, looking for suspected German submarines.

August took us to the Scottish Coast, through the Penteland Skerries and past the Old Man of Hoy and down the inner Hebrides to Fairfields Yard at Govan, Glasgow for an overhaul. I was not a good sailor, suffering much from “mal de Mer” and am afraid did not appreciate the beauties of the Hebrides. However it gave me 10 days leave which meant a real treat to be at home again and see friends. Most of September found us in and around Scapa Flow on battle practices with the battle cruisers, and escort duties.

November 11 brought the news of the Armistice signed that morning and all work stopped for the day. It was a fine day also and in the afternoon I had a walk along part of the southern bank of the Forth in the estate of either the Earl of Dalkeith of the Earl of Dalmeny. In the evening a concert on board attended by the Captain (Commander Gordon Ramsay) and Officers, followed by fireworks. On the 13th I went up to Edinburgh in the afternoon where everyone appeared to be very happy, while the 14th saw us once more engaged in battle practice with the battle cruisers.

On Friday the 15th together with 5 light cruisers and 9 other Destroyers we went out to meet the German Light Cruiser “Koningsberg” bringing the delegates to discuss Armistice terms. We met them about 3.20pm – a very efficient looking ship and escorted her to Inchkeith where we anchored over night.

On the 20th we saw H.M. King George, the Prince of Wales and Admiral Sir David Beatty walk by us on the Penne before they embarked to meet the surrender of the German Fleet. Later that night we left with other ships to meet the Germans. Far out in the Forth next morning which proved grey and misty and around 7.45 we sighted the German ships with everyone at Action Stations. First came the great battle cruiser Sedlistg, next the shadowy bulk of the Moltke, followed by Hindenburg, the Derfflinger and the Von der Tan. All told 10 battleships, 4 Battle Cruisers, 6 Light Cruisers and 50 Destroyers. truly a remarkable sight as they steamed into the lines of the escorting British warships. That night we anchored at Inchkeith around the German destroyers.

It must have proved a day of bitter humiliation for Germany to hand over so formidable a fleet but the allies, after 4 years of conflict had won and the Great War was over.

 

 

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