Stoker Petty Officer Charles EVANS


Regiment/Service:
Royal Navy
Unit:
H.M.S. Monmouth
Service Number:
277145. (Dev)
Date of Death:
1 November 1914 - Killed in Action
Age:
38
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 2


Personal History:

Charles was born on the 26th December 1875 at Devonport, Devon. He was (probably) the son of John Robinson (Shipwright) and Ann Evans of 18 King Street, Stoke Damerel, Devonport (1881 Census RG 11/2209). If so, he had three older brothers and sisters, Annie, John G., William H. and Kate, and three younger, George, James and Florence.

In the June quarter 1894 Charles married Cecilia Cousins Rowe, in the Stoke Damerel District, Devon. He must have enlisted in the Royal Navy not long after their marriage. At the time of his enlistment in July 1894, Charles stood 5 ft. 6 ins [1.68 m.] tall, had brown hair, blue eyes and a 'fresh' complexion.

In 1901, Census RG 13/2106, Charles, his wife and 3 month old daughter, Olive, were living in one room of 36 Granby Street, Devonport. He was serving in the Navy at the time as a "Stoker".

Ten years later, the 1911 Census (RG 14/13016) wife Cecilia living at 27 Granby Street, Devonport, with their 3 children, Olive May, aged 10, Rhoda Melinda, aged 8, and Charles, aged 5.
At the time of the Census, Sunday, 2nd April 1911, 'Stoker Petty Officer' Charles was away at sea with his ship, HM Torpedo Boat 050 (Census RG 14/34971).

[N.B. Torpedo Boat 050 was one of the ships sent out to rescue passengers following the sinking of RMS Lusitania on the 7th May 1915.]

There is no obvious link between Charles and Buxton. Possibly his wife and family moved to the town after his death, before their marriage Cecilia had been employed as a "Laundress" and lived in Princess Street, Stoke Damerel, Devonport. There is no record of her remarrying which might have been another cause to move.]

Military History:
Charles enlisted in the Royal Navy on the 16th July 1894, for a period of 12 years, as a 'Stoker 2nd Class. He was initially stationed at HMS Vivid which was the Navy barracks at Devonport. It was commissioned in 1890, and operated as a training unit until 1914. Charles remained there until the 4th March 1895 and the following day was posted to HMS Rainbow, an Apollo-class protected cruiser launched in 1891. (She was transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910.)

On the 13th July 1898 Charles returned to HMS Vivid, until the 11th April 1901, when he was posted to
HMS Defiance, as a "Leading Stoker", hence was living at home with his family at the time of the 1901
Census [see above]. (HMS Defiance was the Royal Navy's torpedo school, established in 1884.) This
posting lasted until the 7th October 1901, when he returned to Vivid, until the 17th March 1902. The
following day saw Charles posted to HMS Bulwark, a sub-class of the Formidable-class of pre-
dreadnought battleships of the Royal Navy, known as the London class. Entering service with the
Royal Navy in 1902, so he must have joined her complement from the outset. She sailed with the
Mediterranean Fleet until 1907.

Charles left HMS Bulwark in January 1905, and after a short spell in Vivid II, was posted to HMS Niobe
on the 22nd August 1905. (HMS Niobe was of the Diadem-class of protected cruiser in the Royal Navy.)
Whilst on the Niobe he was promoted to "Stoker Petty Officer", on the 1st April 1907, before transferring
to HMS Devonshire on the 5th November of that year. [HMS Devonshire was the lead ship of her class
of six armoured cruiser, launched in 1905.]

After another period based ashore, from 19th April to 14th December 1909, Charles was posted the HMS Emerald. The Emerald was an armoured frigate, launched in 1861 as HMS Black Prince, renamed in 1904. On the 14th July 1910 Charles was again moved - this time to the HMS Hood. Not the 'mighty' Hood, which wasn't launched until 1918, but a modified Royal Sovereign-class battleship launched in 1891 and sunk as a blockship in 1914. Charles remained on the Hood until the 28th April 1912 and was then posted to HMS Hecla, a torpedo boat carrier/depot ship.

Charles returned to shore based service on the 2nd February 1914, but with the increasing likelihood
of War, he was posted to his final ship, the HMS Monmouth, joining the ship's complement on the
30th July 1914. HMS Monmouth was launched in 1903 and remained on the China Station until she
returned home in 1913 and was assigned to the reserve Third Fleet. When World War I began the
ship was recommissioned and assigned to the 5th Cruiser Squadron in the Central Atlantic to search
for German commerce raiders and protect Allied shipping.

On arrival off the Brazilian coast she was ordered to the South Atlantic to join Rear Admiral Christopher
Cradock's squadron in their search for the German East Asia Squadron. Craddock found the German
squadron on the 1st November 1914 off the coast of Chile, but the German squadron outnumbered
Craddock's force and were individually more powerful; they sank Cradock's two armoured cruisers in
the Battle of Coronel. HMS Monmouth and her sister ship HMS Good Hope were lost with all hands.
Every one of the 735 men on board HMS Monmouth, including Charles Evans, died in the cold and
stormy seas.

At around 6.00 p.m. on the 1st November Craddock found himself in pursuit of the German
armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and with Good Hope in the lead, ahead of HMS
Monmouth, he steered a south-easterly course at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph). The Scharnhorst
and Gneisenau each possessed 16 x 8.3 in. guns (21 cm) guns and could only be matched by
the two 9.2 in. (23.4 cm) guns onboard HMS Good Hope, so he needed to close the range to
bring his more numerous 6 in. (15.2 cm.) guns to bear.

Half of Craddock's guns could not, however, be brought to bear on the enemy as they were too
close to the waterline in the Force 7 gales. The German Vice-Admiral von Spee signalled his
ships to open fire at 7:04 p.m., when the range closed to 12,300 yards (11,200 m). Spee's
flagship, Scharnhorst, engaged Good Hope while Gneisenau fired at Monmouth. The German
shooting was very accurate, with both armoured cruisers quickly scoring hits on their British
counterparts while still outside six-inch gun range, starting fires on both ships.

Massie (see below) describes the final acts of The Battle of Coronel as follows:

"Craddock, knowing his only chance was to close the range, continued to do so despite the battering that Spee's ships inflicted. By 7:23 p.m. the range was almost half of that when the battle began and the British ships bore onwards. One shell from Gneisenau blew the roof off Monmouth's forward turret and started a fire, causing an ammunition explosion that completely blew the turret off the ship. Spee tried to open the range, fearing a torpedo attack, but the British were only 5,500 yards (5,000 m) away at 7:35 p.m. Severely damaged, Monmouth began to slow and veered out of line.

The light cruiser Nürnberg had been trailing the German squadron and at 8:35 p.m. saw HMS Monmouth with a 10 degree list to port shortly afterwards. As Nürnberg closed the range, Monmouth's list increased so that none of the guns on her port side could be used. The German cruiser closed to within 600 yards (550 m) and illuminated her flag with its spotlight in the hopes that she would strike her colours and surrender. There was no response from the British ship and Nürnberg opened fire at 21:20, aiming high, but there was still no response. The German ship then fired a torpedo which missed and turned off its searchlight. Monmouth then increased speed and turned towards Nürnberg, which caused her to open fire again. Monmouth capsized at 9:58 p.m. taking her entire crew of 735 men with her as the seas were too rough to attempt any rescue effort."

A similar number of men were lost on board HMS Good Hope, lost with all hands, including Admiral Craddock. The loss of almost 1600 men in a few minutes came as a great shock to the nation and the Government, especially Churchill. On the 3rd November, the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Nürnberg entered Valparaiso harbour and were welcomed as heroes by the German population. Von Spee refused to join in the celebrations; presented with a bunch of flowers he commented, "these will do nicely for my grave". He was to die with most of the men on his ships approximately one month later at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, on the 8th December 1914.

Stoker Charles Evans, of course, has no known grave and is commemorated, with all those who died in the two ships, on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.


Sources:
· I am grateful to 'The War Graves Photographic Project' for the photo of Charles' name on the Plymouth Memorial.
· "Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea" - Robert K. Massie (2004). ISBN 0-224-04092-8. p. 221-234



Commemorated on:
Charles' name does not appear on The Slopes Memorial

Link to CWGC Record
poppy
The Plymouth Naval Memorial
Charles Evans' name on the Plymouth Memorial
HMS Bulwark
HMS Monmouth