Lieutenant Commander Frank Tomkinson BRADE

Royal Naval Reserve
H.M.C.M.B. "No 67A"
Service Number:
Date of Death:
Monday, 18 August 1919
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 32
Distinguished Service Cross.
   Awarded 11th May 1917
Order of Liberty (Republic of Estonia)
   Awarded 26th March 1920

Personal History:

Frank was born in Prestwich, Manchester on the 25th September 1886, the only son of John Baddeley (Political Agent) and Sarah Rowbotham (née Tomkinson) Brade of 43 Victoria Crescent, Eccles, Lancashire. He had a younger sister, Hilda Kathleen. (1901 Census RG 13/3658)

In 1911 (Census RG 14/13062) Frank was listed as "Acting Sub-Lt. R.N.R." H.M.S. Aboukir, Devonport. At the time of their son's death in 1919 Mr and Mrs Brade had been living at "Hillside", Green Lane, Buxton for a number of years.

In the December quarter 1913 Frank married Maud Ethel Thorpe, who later lived at 5 St. Nicholas Road, Wallasey, they had two children, Joan Maud (born 7th May 1916) and Frank Victor (June quarter 1918). [In the March quarter 1960 Peggy re-married Anthony N. G. Rushworth, in Surrey.]

N.B. Their son, Sergeant Pilot 947541 Frank Victor Brade, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, aged 25, was killed in action on the 2nd February 1944, aged 25, and is buried at Wallasey (Rake Lane) Cemetery, Sec. 20.C. Grave 295. He was the husband of Peggy,  (née Morris), later of Swiss Cottage, London, and their marriage is recorded in the March quarter 1944, so they could only have been married a few weeks at most when he was killed.

Military History:
On the 5th October 1905 The Board of Trade issued Frank with a "Certificate of Competence" as a "Second Mate of a Foreign Going Ship". This was upgraded to 'First Mate' on the 13th Febriary 1909. On the 9th October 1911 his rapid progress continued, being Certified "Master of a Foreign Going Ship".

The ship on which Frank was serving in 1911, H.M.S. Aboukir, was torpedoed by the German U-boat U9 on 22nd September 1914. His Service Records have not yet been located, but it is known from the London Gazette (27 May 1913) that on the 28th April 1913 he was promoted from Sub-Lieutenant to Lieutenant. On 2 July 1918 the London Gazette published his further promotion to Lieutenant-Commander.

In 1917 Frank was Commanding a Coastal Motor Boat (C.M.B.) No 5. He was Gazetted on 11th May 1917 for Attacks on German Destroyers on 7th April 1917. "For having assisted Coastal Motor Mechanic Logan to restart the engine after breaking down, the operation being under fire." He was awarded the D.S.C. "Their Lordships high appreciation expressed."

The 'Buxton Advertiser' of 19th September 1919, reporting Frank's death, gave the reason for his D.S.C. as ".. his boat, in company of three others, in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning, raided Zeebrugge harbour and, it is believed, sank one or more war vessels. The story of this raid is one of the many deeds of daring performed by the British Navy that remains untold."

On the night of the 17th/18th August 1919 Frank was in charge of Coastal Motor Boat No 62, on what was to be remembered as the "Kronstadt Raid" which was an attack by eight RN coastal motor boats damaging a Soviet battlecruiser and submarine supply ship. Even after the Armistice of November 1918, in the Baltic area there was still conflict continuing. Britain and France were supporting the newly created Baltic states of Poland, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania against the Bolsheviks, as well as assisting the White Russian Army. HMS Vindictive was employed as the jumping-off vessel for the eight C.M.B.s, as well as an aircraft used for the pre-raid diversion. The main aim of the raid on Kronstadt was to neutralise the two battleships, the Petropavlosk and the Andrei Pervosvanni, although other ships were also attacked.

The  CMB boats and their commanders mentioned in the raid are:

No 31, Commander Dobson
No ??, Lieutenant Macbean
No 79, Lieutenant Bremner
No 88, Lieutenant Dayrell-Reed (2nd in command, Lieutenant G. C. Steele)
No 72, Lieutenant Bodley
No 86, Sub-Lieutenant Howard
No 24, Lieutenant Napier
No 62, Lieutenant-Commander Brade
Also mentioned: Lieutenant Augustus Agar, V.C., D.S.O.

The first boat to go in was No. 79 (Lieut. Bremner) at 1.40 a.m. He was equipped with wire-cutting gear and explosive charges to deal with any protective boom or chain, but found no obstructions. No. 79 was able to accelerate across the basin and fire her torpedo at the Pamiat Azova.

Fifteen minutes after the first wave had gone in, Lieut. Brade's No. 62 turned into the basin but collided with No. 79 on her port side, almost cutting her in half. Equipped with no reverse gear, No. 62 could not back out. Instead Lieut. Brade kept going ahead and managed to turn so that he pushed No. 79 ahead of him out of the basin. Lieut. Bremner ordered his two-man crew to clamber aboard No. 62 while he set the fuses to ensure No. 79's destruction. Shortly after he had climbed aboard and Frank Brade had got his boat away, No. 79 blew up.

Frank still had his torpedoes so decided to attack the Gavril but his torpedoes missed. As No. 62 was heading away, however, a shell struck her and wrecked the engines. The boat was holed so badly that she sank shortly afterwards. An article in The Times stated: "Lieutenant-Commander Brade must have entered the middle harbour and fired his two torpedoes at some unknown target; when it is presumed that his boat was set on fire and sank."

Two officers were awarded the Victoria Cross for their efforts in the Kronstadt Raid, Commander (later Rear Admiral) Claude Congreve DOBSON, who led the raid and who died in 1940, and the second went to Lieutenant Gordon Charles STEELE for his courage and presence of mind when the commanding officer of his boat was fatally injured, and for carrying on to sink the Russian battleship Andrei Pervosvanni. Lt. Steele was second-in-command to Lieutenant Archibald Dayrell-Reed on CMB 88 (Dayrell-Reed was shot through the head after the boat had entered the harbour). One D.S.O. (Napier), a D.S.C. (Giddy) and several D.S.M.s were also awarded.

"In the raid on Kronstadt harbour on August 18, 1919, he [Dobson] led the C.M.B. flotilla which sank three large ships (two battleships and a submarine depot ship) and damaged other units. The flotilla consisted of eight 55-ft. boats, and was attached to the First Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral W. H. Cowan and the Second Destroyer Flotilla under Captain Colin Maclean, which had for some time been operating in the Baltic. Having lost the cruiser Oleg in June, 1919, by torpedo attack from a coastal motor-boat commanded by Lieutenant A. W. S. Agar, V.C., the Bolshevists did not risk a ship outside harbour.

A bold operation therefore seemed called for if the C.M.B.s were to justify their presence. Of the eight craft which entered the harbour of Kronstadt three were sunk and their commanding officers taken prisoner; while in another the captain was killed and his second-in-command, Lieutenant Gordon Steele (afterwards Captain-Superintendent of the Worcester), carried on, torpedoed two ships, and gained the V.C. Commander Dobson was in C.M.B. No. 31 BD, to which had been allotted the torpedoing of the battleship Andrei Pervozvanni; this was duly done. The operation was admirably conceived and as admirably executed, and probably was unique in regard to the amount of damage inflicted in relation to the small cost of the units actually engaged."

The 'Buxton Advertiser' of 13th September 1919 reported Frank's death, describing the Kronstadt action as an "... encounter that will rank with the many heroic deeds of the Great War". It went on to say: ".. they succeeded in sinking a battlecruiser, battle ship and submarine depot ship. These gallant sailors went to almost certain death on these coastal motor boats (42 knot torpedo carriers) for they must have been the targets of heavy concentrated fire and knew they had little chance of returning."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Frank Brade's body was not recovered and he is now commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

· Read more about the Kronstadt Raid in 'The Times Archive' - Saturday 11th October 1919
· 'The Buxton Advertiser', 13 September 1919
· Imperial War Museum

Commemorated on:
Link to CWGC Record
Lt-Com Brade's name on the Plymouth memorial
Distinguished Service Cross
A British Coastal Motor Boat (CMB)
Source: IWM: Q 051671 A British Coastal Motor Boat (CMB)
Order of Liberty
Plymouth Naval Memorial