Your Total Event
The Tragic Loss of HMS Galatea
14th December 1941



, Donald Henry, DJX164045  see his story and two photographs on his page.  We are in contact with his son and daughter-in-law. Don had a bench inscribed to the memory of all those lost on HMS Galatea and placed in the National Arboretum in August 2012. Don is still alive as of May 2019.

BROADHEAD, Richard (Dick) He was only 21 when he joined the ship at Alexandria from the battleship Queen Elizabeth, just one month before it sunk. He survived this and another sinking in 1942 of the HMS Manchester. He refused to talk about his service in any detail other than the odd joke. It was only when his great-granddaughter aged 10 had to do a project on the war that the family started researching his service record (1937 until 1949) and realized what he went through. Although in 1978 when he was dying of stomach cancer he kept saying he had to get out as the ship was sinking. Contact: Daughter.

CAINE, Larry, gunner, was not on board that night; he had been reassigned as they had too many crew.  He lives in North Wales.  On being shown details on the website by a neighbour's relative he wanted to get in touch with the relatives of Walter Craft in Malta.  Walter and he had been friends on board Galatea.  He was usually in the gun turret on the other side of the ship to his when at action stations. He has provided us with a copy of a photograph of himself and Walter in a line up when the ship was being inspected by Admiral Jack Tover. Larry remembers an occasion on board Galatea when the ship hit a mine, he said it was raining mud and fish when the plume of water from the explosion shot upwards.

CARNE, Sidney James, from Cornwall.  His family are preparing his story for inclusion on the website.

CLARIDGE, J.W. Lt. Cdr. rescued by HMS Hotspur.  In contact with Grandson.

COMPTON Lt. Cmdr. CRE  His son Nic Compton is writing a book about the pyschology of sailing and is including the incident of war and the fact that his father probably suffered "shell shock" or PTSD as it is now called.

DAVIES,  Jeff, C.P.O (Painter) picked up by destroyer after swimming for 3 days, he never talked about the event with his family.  He was an Artificer when he joined in 1936, served until 1953 when he was invalided out with TB.  He remained in Plymouth until his death in 1987.  In contact with his son.

FERRETT, Alan George, Survivor rescued by Hotspur after several hours in water. He was a Supply Assistant. Family comes from Boscastle, North Cornwall. He was asleep in the forepeak when the torpedoes struck; on reaching the deck he said that he didn't need to be told 'abandon ship' as the situation was already critical. He dived over the side, spent several hours in the water before being picked up by HMS Hotspur. Contacted by son after father's death.

GODDARD, Albert James, better known as Gunner Jim Goddard. He died in 22nd November 2007. Contacted by his Grandson 2 years later who told us that just before he passed away the family had a get together to say their last goodbye.  That night Jim told them that the boat was torpedoed and how he didn't want to leave his family behind; he was in the sea for what he said was forever before being rescued.

GRANGE, Thomas, Ord. Tel. from Shipley, Yorkshire. He died in 2002 just 3 days short of his 82nd birthday.  In contact with his Son, who sent us a copy of his Father's memoirs entitled 'A Sailor's War'   An extract relating to HMS Galatea is included. {Also see the entry for Cyril Smith John Smith, who did not survive the attack, where there is a photograph of him with Thomas}

HARRIS, John from Stourbridge.   Contacted by his daughter.

HIGMAN, Kenneth James joined Navy at 15 as a boy seaman in 1929.  By June 1940 he had reached the rank of Petty Officer on board Galatea.  His recollections to his daughter of the sinking was that he was on watch the night the ship went down.  He said that it went down very fast and that those down below in their bunks didn't have a chance. He lost his two front teeth, they were broken off in the escape from the ship. He was in the water for a long time and swallowed a lot of oily water, which affected his stomach. Thinking of his family back in England, he willed himself to stay alert and not give up hope of a rescue.   There were others with him some who gave up and went under.  This memory stayed with him for the rest of his life. He died in 1969.  His brother survived the sinking of the Exeter and after the War it was a family joke not to go on the Torpoint ferry with either of them.  In contact with Daughter and Son-in-Law.

KEARNEY, James.  He was 20 years old when the Galatea sunk.  He died in Ireland in September 2002.  Contacted by his Son in Australia, who sent in his story.  Also contacted by his daughter Pauline.

KIRVELL, Albert,  His son had a newspaper clipping showing that survivors were shipped to Durban, South Africa. Died from lung cancer believed to be caused by working with asbestos on the ships' boilers.  Contact: Grandson

LAKE, Jack E. (Ginger) A.B. D/JX154237  contact: nephew of Jack's friend Billy HAYWARD.  Billy's sister kept in touch with Jack for some years.

MACKIE, Harold John, P.O. (known as Jack) contact: nephew who said that his uncle who married his mother's sister, lived in Bolton.  When he went to their flat with his Mam and Dad, Jack would talk to them about the war. He remembers him talking about the sinking of his ship HMS Galatea and how he said that when he was in the water he clung on to a piece of coconut matting, which saved his life. He last saw his uncle when he went to Liverpool to join his new ship HMS Kite (he did say that when he left the ship was like a rusty bucket and should not go to sea), but it did go to escort a Russian Convey where it was sunk by a U boat and his uncle did not return.  He left a wife and son.

MASSEY, William.  Aged 17 years.  He joined the Navy in January 1941 having signed on as a Boy for seven years service.  He received his Gunner's badge in October 1941.  He was lucky to survive and lived a good life until he died in 1998 aged 74 years.  Contacted by his half brother.

MCLEAN, Robert Burnett, A.B. Sto., Contacted by his daughter Francis who told us that her father had just turned 23 years of age when his ship was sadly lost.  He had just finished his watch and it was too hot to sleep below deck, so he decided to sleep above on deck.  About ten minutes. later as HMS Galatea was hit by a salvo of torpedoes, the force of the explosion had catapulted him off the deck and into the ocean.  He was rescued about 2 hours later.  Another sailor who was with him in the water prayed to God that if he survived he would become a priest, he survived and kept his word and did become a priest. Robert died in 2001 of a heart attack.  During his life he always spoke proudly of HMS Galatea and his many friends that he sailed with.

MILLER, W., Survivor.  He was one of those in the water for six hours before he was picked up. This was the 2nd ship that had sunk with him on board.  He was on HMS Calypso when it sunk in early 1940.  He only just made it out of the engine room.  He swore he would never sleep below again, as a consequence he was on deck when the Galatea was torpedoed.  He was adamant that was what saved his life.  After surviving being sunk twice he was sent back to a training establishment.  Died in 1997. Contact:  Grandson.

MOFFAT, Edward, Stoker. He came up to the top deck at the moment the torpedo struck. He was in the water for several hours before being picked up, but fortunately never suffered any ill effects. He was assigned to HMS Rhyl. He survived the rest of the war and went on to work for North Thames Gas Board. He was married to Queenie and had four children. He died in 1991 and is buried in Forest Gate Cemetery. We are in contact with a son.

NEAL, Thomas Joseph nickname: Tubby Neal. Pictured 3rd from right (with hat on back of head) on Galley Crew photo in the Gallery. Contact: daughter.

NEWEY, Geoffrey aged 19 at the time, wireless operator. Picked up by HMS GRIFFIN. He wrote an account of the sinking which we hope to feature shortly.

NICHOLSON, Leslie, He was discharged as medically unfit in 1943. He died in 1991 aged 78 years
contacted by his daughter.

NOBLE,John George. He never spoke to his family about his time aboard HMS Galatea. He died in April 2000. Contacted by his daughter.

POLLARD, William Gordon. Born 1915. From Plymouth. He survived along with his best friend William Cremin. His account on that night was that he was on the upper deck during watch, when the torpedos hit he was able to abandon ship, the oil in the water caught fire and left William with a red face and eyes for the rest of his life.  After the sinking and when he recovered he then joined HMS Warrior and saw out the rest of the war. He passed away in 1994 survived by his wife Dorothy, son Stephen and daughter. We are in contact with his Grandson (Stephen's son).

REES, Howell.  I spoke to him on the telephone in May 2009, he was aged 92 years.  He told me that he was transferred to HMS Galatea two months prior to the sinking, having survived the shelling of HMS Janus. Howell had a lucky escape on Galatea, having only just handed over to his relief at midnight - five minutes later he would have turned in and been in his hammock down below - those who were down there were all killed. When the ship was struck he got on to the upper deck, it was keeling over and he took one flying leap to land in the water, but he landed on the side of the ship and injured his behind. He was in the water for three hours.  He remembered that 14th December was his sister's birthday and wondered what she would think if she knew where he was. He was picked up and later transferred to South Africa.  The news of the ship's sinking was kept secret until February when it was announced on the radio.  His father and brother who were miners in Wales heard the report and were devastated.  Prayers were said for his soul in the church at which he was a choir boy. They only learnt that he was alive when a parcel arrived from South Africa - the South African people allowed them to send a package of food home. Howell stayed on in the Navy after the war and became a Petty Officer and taught radar.

SEDDON, Henry, Petty Officer, D/SMX 842073. Known as Harry.  He survived after spending some time in the water. Unfortunately a telegram was sent to his wife in Haydock, Lancashire saying that he was missing, presumed dead, but they had mixed him up with the boy Kenneth Seddon who had died.  When Harry returned home he visited the family of Kenneth Seddon in Bolton with some personal effects. He also served on HMS Wayland and Norfolk. He died in 1997. We were contacted by his son who was born in 1950 - he still has the telegram!

SKINNER, Jesse Llewellyn, from Newfoundland. He spoke very little of his wartime service. He was married to Irene in Australia, she was a member of the Australian Women's Army Corps. They settled in Grand Falls, Newfoundland and had five children. After the war he was involved in the Royal Canadian Legion and the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. He died in November 1990. We are in contact with his eldest daughter.

SWANN. Alexander Holland,  Aged 27 at the time of the sinking. He would later recall to his family racing up the gangways against the tide of sailors heading down. When he reached the deck he stepped straight out into the water. He floated in the diesel oil for ages before being picked up. He had to have emergency surgery at the Al Jazeera Hospital for internal 'burns' caused by swallowing the fuel... the after-effects plagued him until at last he had a large section of his stomach and duodenum removed at Haslar (Portsmouth) in 1954 or 55. Along with everything else he lost a pet chameleon which had entertained the Ward Room for many months by catching the flies that sat on the beer rings at the bar. He remained in the Royal Navy serving on other ships and on shore establishments, retiring in 1969.  He died in 2007 aged 92 years. Contact: daughter.

TATAM, John Warne 'Jack', C.P.O., from Portscatho, Cornwall, rescued after two hours in the water. After the war ended he worked at Devonport Dockyard for 20 years. Jack died on 17th October 1996
. Contact has been from his son Anthony and one person not related.

WHITING, James Ernest  He will be 89 in August 2008.  Contacted by his Nephew, who has copied and sent him all the pages from this website about HMS Galatea and the men that were lost.  March 2008 We have heard directly from Jim Whiting and he has written his story for us; it is on his name linked page above.

WORTLEY, Jack, died in 2002.  Our contact knew him in his last years and had obtained a photograph of HMS Galatea for him from the Naval Museum and had it framed - he was moved to see a picture of his old ship. Jack told his friend that he was on the toilet when the first torpedo struck, had he been at his post he would have been killed. He said that the force of the explosions took the door off the toilet and by the time he pulled his pants up he was treading water.
Also contacted by Jack's Son-in-Law who told us that Jack had written his memoir which was in the Second World War Experience Museum in Leeds.


DAWSON-BIGGS, Reginald "Bluebell"  At the time of the sinking he was in hospital recovering from wounds sustained from a bombing raid whilst on leave. We were in touch with a grandson.

JOSE, N.R., Chief E.R.A., was drafted to a shore base a few weeks before the incident and transferred to the 8th Army.  He died in 1978. We are in contact with his widow who still publishes, every year, a memoriam in her local newspaper the Falmouth Packet:

                                                               "HMS Galatea - in memory of all who lost their lives on
                                                                              HMS Galatea, December 15 1941.
                                                                         Age will not weary them nor the years condemn."

We are also in contact with his son Eric. His grandson is a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy.

NETHERSOLE, Ron.  In contact with his nephew, who sent us several photographs. One appears to be a 'crossing the line' ceremony.  He thinks the one of Ron with a friend is possibly Kenneth Seddon.  The picture at sea he thinks is possibly from Galatea with Griffin and Swordfish.

PALMER, Ronald "Peddlar",  Petty Officer and then Chief Writer from April 1938 to Feb. 1940.  The only reason he left Galatea was that he was taking promotion exams to become a Warrant Officer.  In contact with grandson and he has kindly provided us with an account of his grandfather's time on Galatea.     Click Here
Sadly Ron Palmer died on Wednesday, 6th June 2007 aged 96 years.

PEARCE, Ernest Edward, A.B.  He was serving on board HMS Galatea when he died on 28 October 1940.  His death was registered in Medway, Kent, but his body was returned to his home town of East Dereham in Norfolk and he is listed on the memorial there.

Continues with the Photo Gallery