Search

Wells harbourmaster Robert Smith - descendant of WW1 sailor meets the scuba diver who has honoured his memory

PUBLISHED: 09:51 15 May 2017

Dive leader Dave Lock with Robert Smith, pictured with the historic death penny, commemorative scroll, and service medals given to Royal Navy sailor Robert J Smith�s family after he was killed in 1914. Picture: Bill Smith

Dive leader Dave Lock with Robert Smith, pictured with the historic death penny, commemorative scroll, and service medals given to Royal Navy sailor Robert J Smith�s family after he was killed in 1914. Picture: Bill Smith

Ceidiog Communications © 2017

The search to find out more about a Royal Navy ship that was sunk in the First World War has led to a heartfelt meeting between a harbourmaster, whose great uncle was killed in the tragedy, and the diver who is keeping the memory alive.

Robert Smith MBE, 57, from North Norfolk responded to an appeal made by members the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) for relatives of those who had perished on the HMS Pathfinder to get in touch.

The divers, led by BSAC national diving instructor Dave Lock, had marked the 100th anniversary of the attack in 2014 by launching a special mission to lay a wreath on the wreck.

Mr Smith, who is the harbourmaster at Wells, said he grew up hearing stories about his great-uncle, Robert Joshua Smith, who he was named after.

He said: “Robert Joshua Smith was the older brother of my grandfather, Sidney Smith, and he died when HMS Pathfinder became the first ship to be sunk by a torpedo launched from a submarine on September 5 1914, just weeks after the outbreak of World War One.

“As far as I can tell, he had only just enlisted in the navy and was serving as a stoker aboard the ship.

“As a boy I often spoke to my grandfather, who was a local fisherman, about his brother and I always felt a bit of an affinity with Robert Joshua as I’m his name-sake.”

The Royal Navy sailor was only 19 years old when he died alongside 249 fellow sailors after a German submarine torpedoed their ship off the coast of Scotland in 1914.

Mr Lock said: “The ship lies 68 metres down off Abbs Head in the Firth of Forth and we were on the wreck site for about 25 minutes. It was a memorable but sombre occasion as it is classified as a war grave and you knew that 250 men had died there.

“After a few minutes’ quiet reflection at the bottom we laid a wreath and flew a flag.”

Mr Smith had been researching his family’s history at the same time that Mr Lock was leading the expedition and the pair were surprised to discover the historic connection as they already knew each other.

Mr Lock added: “It’s been fantastic to meet Robert Smith and to tell him about the dive. I already knew him quite well as we had a boat moored in his harbour for about 30 years.”

Other news

Yesterday, 14:26

A parish council in Norfolk is hoping to pay tribute to those who served in the First World War with a new memorial shelter.

Yesterday, 12:59

Center Parcs has pulled its advertising with the Daily Mail after a promotion appeared alongside a column criticising the diver Tom Daley and his husband Dustin Lance Black, who are expecting a child.

Yesterday, 12:47

Norfolk County Council are urging drivers to take extra care on the roads tonight.

Yesterday, 12:04

Serious flooding like the 2013 storm surge which devastated Norfolk’s coastline are set to become more frequent, scientists warn.

Most Read

Yesterday, 14:26

A parish council in Norfolk is hoping to pay tribute to those who served in the First World War with a new memorial shelter.

Read more
Yesterday, 06:00

Here is a collection of some of your finest photographs from some of Norfolk’s best-loved towns and villages.

Read more
Fakenham
Thu, 19:22

Tesco has launched an investigation into the conduct of two members of staff after a video of them engaging in a sex act in a Norfolk store went viral.

Read more
Tesco
Yesterday, 09:40

The clocks traditionally go forward an hour at 1am on the last Sunday in March.

Read more
Friday, February 9, 2018

One of Fakenham’s best known companies has agreed to sponsor a GoGoHare as part of a county-wide sculpture trail.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 8°C

min temp: 6°C

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Fakenham and Wells Times e-edition today
E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter