George Groom

J/26892, Ordinary Seaman, Royal Navy, HMS Formidable.

Died At Sea on the 1st January 1915 aged 18.

George was born on the 29th October 1896, the son of John & Lizzie Groom.  He worked as farm labourer until he was 16 years old and joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class on the 11th September 1913. After the completion of his training he was drafted to HMS Formidable on the 26th August 1914, three weeks after the outbreak of war.

HMS Formidable a 15,250 tons, pre-Dreadnought Battleship, launched in 1898 and first commissioned in 1901 was sunk by two torpedoes from a German submarine, U24,  off Start Point at 2 am on the 1st January 1915 while on exercises. The first torpedo hit the number one boiler port side; a second explosion caused the ship to list heavily to starboard. Huge waves thirty feet high lashed the stricken ship, with strong winds, rain and hail, sinking it in less than two hours. She sank in 180 feet of water about 37 miles off the Devon coast, the first British battleship to be sunk in the First World War.

Captain Loxley, his second-in-command, Commander Ballard, and the signaller stayed at their posts throughout, sending flares and rockets off at regular intervals. There was no panic, the men waiting calmly for the lifeboats to be lowered. Someone played ragtime on the piano, others sang. The Chaplain risked his life going below to find cigarettes. Suddenly the ship gave a tremendous lurch, the Captain shouted 'Lads, this is the last, all hands for themselves, and may God bless you and guide you to safety'. He then walked to the forebridge, lit a cigarette and, with his terrier Bruce on duty at his side, waited for the end, in true Royal Naval tradition. The piano was thrown overboard and many of the boats were smashed as they were lowered into the water, killing all occupants, or else were swamped and sank. Only 199 men were saved out of a complement of about 750.

George Groom has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. (Panel 8.)

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