East Antrim sailors remembered during Battle of Jutland centenary

An old postcard of the Battle of Jutland.  INLT 20-657-CON
An old postcard of the Battle of Jutland. INLT 20-657-CON

East Antrim sailors will be among those honoured during an all-island commemoration of lives lost during the naval battles of World War One.

Descendants of Irish sailors will be travelling from Australia, America, Canada, Spain, Great Britain and all four corners of Ireland for the Commemoration of the Irish Sailor event on Tuesday (May 31).

The date was especially chosen to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the most important naval battle of the First World War.

Carrickfergus man Martie Donald was one of those who lost his life following the sinking of HMS Hawke in 1914.

He never returned home to meet his newborn daughter, Mariette Isabella Donald.

Meanwhile, Sullatober Flute band from Carrickfergus lost two of their players: Henry McMurran, on HMS Cressy, and Stoker (1st class) Andrew McAllister on HMS Hawke.

Descendants of sailors both of the Royal Navy and Mercantile Marine will be in attendance during Tuesday’s commemoration at Alexandra Dock.

It will take place against the backdrop of HMS Caroline, which will be officially opened at the event.

The Battle of Jutland took place from May 31, 1916 to June 1, 1916.

It involved 100,000 men over the course of 36 hours, in which time Britain lost 14 ships and 6000 sailors while Germany lost 11 ships and 2500 sailors.

Over 350 of the men lost were from Ireland. The most significant loss of Irish life happened very early in the battle when HMS Indefatigable suffered from a catastrophic explosion of her cordite. From over 1000 crew members, at least 120 were Irish.

Battlecruiser HMS Invincible was blown in half and sank in 90 seconds, killing all but six of its crew of over 1000 men. At least 34 were Irish, including two 17-year-old Belfast boys, John McCullough and John Cleland Carlisle.

Karen O’Rawe, Chair of History Hub Ulster said:“The Commemoration to the Irish Sailor is a significant all-island event, the contemporary relevance of which should not be underestimated. The event is a timely reminder that 1916 is not all about the Easter Rising and the Battles of the Somme.

“The sacrifice of so many men from these shores who fought at sea, the maritime war and the impact of it on our island tends to be overlooked. The centenary of the Battle of Jutland and the launch of HMS Caroline is the perfect context to be officially recognising the contribution of all those in maritime roles on the island of Ireland in the 1914-18 period.”