This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Virginia.
Private Elmer Robert Darrock, Royal Marine Light Infantry
Engine Room Artificer 2nd Class Harold Gurney Davis, Royal Naval Reserve
Deck Hand William Kelly, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Deck Hand Joseph Prowse, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Private James Schofield, Royal Marine Light Infantry
Writer 3rd Class Thomas Henry Symons, Royal Navy
Deck Hand Herbert Thomas, Mercantile Marine Reserve
If the society pages of the Washington Post, the Washington Herald and the Washington Times are to be believed, HMS Warrior provided a focus for some of the social whirl in Washington DC during the final months of the war. The influenza pandemic curtailed many of the normal opportunities for social gatherings but, in the words of one commentator, writing about the reception given for Sir Eric Geddes, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was visiting the United States:
‘A more impressive or significant party than the reception given to the distinguished foreign visitors could not be wished for than that aboard the British flagship Warrior, given by Vice Admiral and Lady Grant, who made the trip across on board some months ago. The Warrior is their Washington home and a charming one it is, out in the historic Potomac. It is by special permission of the admiralty that Vice Admiral Grant is accompanied on the Warrior by Lady Grant. The party on Wednesday was the first assembling of society this season, and it was not only a brilliant occasion but a happy reunion. The soft, familiar blue of the French uniforms, with a dash of red here and there, the gay trappings of our own and British, Italian and Canadian officers, both of army and navy, made a significant scene on decks, as well as a picturesque bit of colour against the somber gray of the sturdy warship.’
The society pages did not, however, comment upon the importance of the presence of Vice Admiral Sir Lowther Grant, who had been in Washington since March. His primary concern was the protection of convoys in the north-west Atlantic and he sought greater participation by the United States Navy in anti-submarine operations. Sir Eric Geddes’ visit followed an increase in U-Boat activity in August and September 1918—although the dire warnings about a further increase in such attacks proved unfounded—and he hoped to push the United States into a quicker completion of its warship building programme, which was many months behind schedule. The presence in Washington DC of Vice Admiral Grant, Commander-in-Chief on the North American and West Indies Station, and his flagship HMS Warrior, was eminently sensible, given the complexity of the relationship between the Admiralty (and its policy of maintaining the effort in home waters), the Canadians and the United States.
Warrior, a luxurious steam yacht, was designed by the Scottish naval architect George Lennox Watson and built in 1904 for Frederick W. Vanderbilt, a scion of the Vanderbilt railway and shipping empire. In early 1914, after she had been grounded at the mouth of the River Magdalena on the Colombian coast, the 1,266-ton, 284 feet-long yacht was bought by Harry Payne Whitney. In early 1915, Whitney, a philanthropist businessman and sportsman, and Vanderbilt’s nephew by marriage, sold the ship to his brother-in-law, Alfred G. Vanderbilt, who renamed her Wayfarer. He did not own the ship for long—Alfred Vanderbilt was drowned when RMS Lusitania was sunk by U-20 on 7 May 1915—and the yacht was bought from his estate in 1916 by Alexander S. Cochran. Cochran, a wealthy philanthropist and yachtsman, restored her original name, Warrior. His period of ownership was not wholly happy either—Warrior ran aground on Fishers Island, Long Island Sound in July 1916. This is a short video of Warrior taken in the 1930s (note that the design number is wrong, Warrior was ‘424’):
Warrior was hired by the Admiralty in February 1917 for service on the North American and West Indies Station and, armed with two 12-pounder 3-inch naval guns, served as HMS Warrior, an armed yacht with pendant number 090. Her first deployment was to the Caribbean in July 1917.
The crew was a mix of Royal Navy, Royal Naval Reserve, Mercantile Marine Reserve and Royal Marine Light Infantry. The Royal Naval Reserve comprised men who were professional seamen of the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets and who undertook a month’s training every two years, primarily in gunnery. The Mercantile Marine Reserve comprised merchant seamen who served under a special wartime Naval engagement and were subject to Admiralty regulations and the Naval Discipline Act. The Royal Marine Light Infantry (amalgamated in 1923 with the Royal Marine Artillery to form the Royal Marines), were shipborne infantry responsible for conducting boarding parties and for ship security.
HMS Warrior spent the first part of her war in the Caribbean. She arrived there from Bermuda in July 1917 spending most of the next six months in the Lesser Antilles but also visiting Jamaica and Belize. On 19 January 1918 she sailed from St Lucia back to Bermuda, where she arrived on 23 January. The next three weeks were spent there, cleaning and preparing the yacht for her role as the flagship of Vice Admiral Sir Lowther Grant KCB.
Vice Admiral Grant had been appointed Commander-in-Chief on the North American and West Indies Station on 7 January and had joined his flagship, HMS Highflyer, at Devonport on 23 January 1918. After an uneventful journey via the Azores, HMS Highflyer arrived in Bermuda on 10 February. Having completed the transfer of equipment and personnel to the new flagship, over the next few days HMS Warrior was readied for sea. Vice Admiral Grant raised his flag on the morning of 16 February 1918 and at noon HMS Warrior sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia.
HMS Warrior arrived at Halifax three days later on 19 February where she remained until she sailed for Washington on 23 March. She sailed down the eastern seaboard, into the Chesapeake Bay and up the Potomac River, coming alongside at Washington on the morning of 27 March; she would remain berthed at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers at Washington Barracks as Vice Admiral Grant’s flagship for the rest of the war, and the residence for him and his wife, who had accompanied him to Washington.
In addition to the routine of ships maintenance, the yacht’s compliment enjoyed liberty in Washington and took part in a number of ceremonies and social functions in support of Vice Admiral Grant’s role, many of which were hosted by his wife. The first large event of note was on Memorial Day, Thursday 30 May. The commemoration in 1918 was unusual. A ceremony planned to commemorate those who died in the sinking of RMS Lusitania was widened to include all of those who had died up to that date in the war. It began on board HMS Warrior and then moved to the USS Wicomico, a yard tug; it was from the latter that large wreaths were ‘launched down the historic Potomac River and above which the ‘Union Jack’ had been raised’. The ceremony also featured ‘a bevy of American girls, flanked by a group of British jack tars, and hydroplanes circling above dropping flowers on the scene’. Thereafter, the receptions and social engagements hosted onboard were a regular feature in the local press reports.
The first cases of influenza were observed in Washington DC in August 1918. They were initially confined to the naval station and local army camps but by the end of September civilian cases were increasing and, in early October, schools were closed and four emergency relief stations and an emergency hospital were opened (although the city’s Black population was not similarly catered for until the end of the month). By early November the epidemic was seen to be in decline and restrictions were lifted but cases increased again in December. The epidemic continued until February 1919 by which time there had been over 33,000 cases and 2,895 deaths. It was ‘one of the more devastating epidemics in the nation’.
The log of HMS Warrior records 46 discharges to hospital between 6 August and 22 December—a substantial majority of her crew.  Seven of these men succumbed to influenza, or to complications related to it in the New Naval Hospital at 23rd and E Streets NW. They were buried in Arlington National Cemetery—the burial parties in all cases were provided by HMS Warrior’s crew. With the exception of Harold Gurney Davis, all of the men are buried in Section 17, on the western side of the cemetery near the Confederate Memorial; Davis is buried nearby in Section 15A. The graves were originally marked with similar headstones to those used through Arlington National Cemetery but they have recently been replaced with Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones.
The final remarks about HMS Warrior reflect, again, the impact that the ship, the Admiral and his wife, and her crew had on Washington’s social scene. Lady Grant had left Washington soon after the Armistice but the romance that she had helped ignite between Lieutenant Charles Fellowes-Gordon and Miss Sara Price Collier, a cousin of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and future President Franklin D. Roosevelt dominated the society press reports in November and December 1918. After the turn of the New Year, a series of functions were held to say goodbye to HMS Warrior’s crew, beginning on 3 January 1919 with a dance held by the crew at a venue ashore (the link to the right will take you to a typical society column from this period).
Sadly, three days later Deck Hand Joseph Prowse succumbed to influenza; he was the final crew-member to die. He was buried on 8 January and a little over a week later, on 17 January 1919, almost 10 months after her arrival, HMS Warrior left Washington DC. Admiral Sir Lowther Grant (he had been promoted on 1 September 1918) sailed in HMS Warrior as far as New York before crossing the Atlantic on the RMS Adriatic, with departing senior members of the British War Mission.
PLY/15645 Private Elmer Robert Darrock, Royal Marine Light Infantry
Elmer Robert Darrock was born on 19 December 1894 at Cardiff in Wales—evidence points to his name being mis-spelled and that the correct spelling is ‘Darroch’. On leaving school, he followed his brother and joined the Great Western Railway on 1 March 1909 as a lamp boy. He enlisted at Bristol into the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 25 March 1912. After his initial training, which included a period on the battleship HMS Exmouth, he joined the compliment of HMS Thunderer, an Orion-class battleship, on 10 September 1913 and on which he served until November 1916, seeing action at the Battle of Jutland. After a period of time ashore, he joined HMS Highflyer on 13 April 1917. Highflyer was then refitting in Gibraltar. She went to sea on 11 May and sailed to Plymouth before visiting Sierra Leone on 4 June, and then sailing for Bermuda, where she arrived on 23 June to join the North American and West Indies Squadron. There is no record of when Darrock joined HMS Warrior but given that Highflyer sailed immediately for Halifax, and that Warrior was about to sail for the Caribbean, it is possible that it was just after he arrived in Bermuda.
Private Darrock was sent to hospital (with Deck Hand J Prowse, see below, and Leading Deck Hand D Murdock) on 10 October suffering from influenza—he died of pneumonia at 8.30am on 19 October 1918, aged 23. He was buried on the afternoon of 22 October. His grave is number 19325 in Section 17. Elmer Robert Darrock is also commemorated on the Grangetown war memorial, Cardiff and in the Welsh National Book of Remembrance at the Welsh National Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff.
Engine Room Artificer 2nd Class Harold Gurney Davis, Royal Naval Reserve
Harold Gurney Davis was born in 1886 at Seaview on the Isle of Wight, where he was christened on 23 January 1887. His father was a master mariner, and Harold and his brother Lionel both became maritime engineers. He married Olive Hill in the latter part of 1915 and they lived at Eddington, in St Helens.
Harold Davis was rated as an Engine Room Artificer 2nd Class—the equivalent of a Chief Petty Officer—but is referred to in HMS Warrior’s log as ‘Engineer Warrant Officer’. There were at least three such engineers on board in this period. All went to hospital while Warrior was in Washington. The first, R Russell was sent to hospital in Colorado in June 1918 to be treated for tuberculosis; he was discharged in November. J A Thompson was sent to hospital on 29 September suffering from influenza; he survived and was discharged a week later. Harold Davis was not so lucky. He had been sent to hospital on 13 September 1918 and died of thrombosis of the mesentery vein at 1.30pm on 16 September 1918, aged 32. He was buried on the afternoon of 19 September. His grave is number 84-NS in Section 15A. Harold Gurney Davis is also commemorated on the Isle of Wight County war memorial in the Church of St Nicholas in Castro, Carisbrooke—the chapel, founded in the 11thC, was reconstructed in 1904, reworked as the county war memorial by local architect Percy Stone and dedicated in 1929. He is also commemorated on the Seaview Parish war memorial, which is built into an exterior wall of St Peter’s Church, Seaview; on the wooden triptych in the south aisle of St Peter’s Church; and by an inscription on his parents’ gravestone in St Helens Cemetery.
Deck Hand William Kelly, Mercantile Marine Reserve
William Kelly was born to Richard and Mary Kelly, who were from County Cork, in 1897 in Poplar in the East End of London, where his father worked on the docks. He was the youngest of six children. A merchant seaman, he served with the Mercantile Marine Reserve as a crew-member on HMS Warrior; there is no record of any other service.
Deck Hand Kelly was sent to hospital on 30 September 1918, with Sub Lieutenant E G Old, Warrant Engineer J A Thompson and Steward R J Goulden, all of whom were suffering from influenza. He died at 7.30am on 13 October, aged 21, and was buried on the afternoon of 16 October. His grave is number 19399 in Section 17.
Deck Hand Joseph Prowse, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Joseph Prowse was born on 21 May 1893. He was a merchant seaman rated ‘able’ when he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on 28 October 1915 (MB/572, Motorboatman). He served first on the Motorboat Resourceful at Southampton until 10 January 1916, when he joined HMS Hermione, the depot ship for the motor boat patrol. On 13 September he joined HMS Europa, the flagship at Mudros, Greece for service with the Motorboat Penelope. From November 1916 he was administered by HMS Victory II (one of a number of similarly named, shore-based, administrative locations) until 22 March 1917. In this period his movements are not known but may have involved his transit to Bermuda. His record is annotated that he then transferred to the Royal Naval Reserve and had signed to acknowledge his wartime Naval engagement and being subject to Admiralty regulations and the Naval Discipline Act. Sometime after March 1917 he found himself in the North American and West Indies Squadron and a crew-member on HMS Warrior.
Deck Hand Prowse was sent to hospital (with Private E R Darrock, see above, and Leading Deck Hand D Murdock) on 10 October suffering from influenza—he died on 6 January 1919, aged 25. He was buried on 8 January. His grave is number 19515 in Section 17.
PO/11561 Private James Schofield, Royal Marine Light Infantry
James Schofield was born on 10 October 1882 at Bradford in Manchester, the third of seven sons and a daughter of Richard and Mary Ann Schofield. Like their father, the seven boys all became miners in the Manchester coalfield. James sought an alternative employment, however, and enlisted in Manchester on 11 June 1901 into the Royal Marine Light Infantry (PO/11561, Private). His first period of sea service began on 28 May 1902 when he joined HMS Duke of Wellington, the sail and steam powered, first-rate, which had been launched in 1852. She was decommissioned in 1903 and, after a short period ashore, Private Schofield joined HMS Imperieuse, an elderly cruiser, for a few weeks until 1 October 1903 when he joined HMS Hawke, a re-commissioned cruiser used to ferry crews to the Cape. From May 1904 he served ashore until he joined HMS Good Hope on 8 February 1906. Private Schofield remained with Good Hope, the flagship of the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet, until 22 July 1907, when he briefly joined HMS Prince George in the Home Fleet. His final periods of sea service before joining the Royal Fleet Reserve, were with the cruiser HMS Argonaut from September 1907 to August 1908, when he joined HMS Venus, upon its return from the Quebec tercentenary celebrations. Private Schofield was transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve on 27 June 1909.
He attended his drill periods annually until 1913 when he volunteered for transfer to the Immediate Class, the Fleet’s high readiness reserve. Following the outbreak of war, he was mobilised on 10 August 1914 and joined HMS Leviathan. He spent almost all of the war on Leviathan, an armoured cruiser, which, following a period spent hunting German raiders and escorting convoys, became the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief on the North American and West Indies Station, arriving in Bermuda on 26 March 1915. Private Schofield transferred to HMS Highflyer in Halifax in July 1918 before joining HMS Warrior on 17 August in Washington.
Private Schofield was sent to hospital on 20 December 1918 (with the Officer’s Chief Cook W J Labett), where he died of pneumonia on 23 December, aged 36. In a double burial ceremony, he was interred on the afternoon of 24 December beside Writer Symons. His grave is number 19518 in Section 17. He is also commemorated on Denton war memorial.
M/18229 Writer 3rd Class Thomas Henry Symons, Royal Navy
Thomas Henry (Harry) Symons was born on 8 May 1893 at Liskeard in Cornwall, the third of six children. He worked in the Liskeard Town Clerk’s Office for six years and acted as assistant to the Borough Librarian before he enlisted into the Royal Navy on 10 January 1916. He joined HMS Highflyer on 16 June 1916. Highflyer served on the Cape Verde station hunting German shipping off the coast of West Africa before transferring to the North American and West Indies Squadron protecting convoys in the North Atlantic. She was in Halifax, Nova Scotia when the French cargo ship, SS Mont-Blanc, collided with a Norwegian ship, the SS Imo. In the resulting explosion and its aftermath—the largest man-made explosion prior to the testing of the atomic bomb—almost 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 injured. Harry Symons was on the deck of HMS Highflyer when the explosion occurred and was saved from being blown overboard by a falling awning. Nine members of the crew of HMS Highflyer were killed.
Harry Symons joined HMS Warrior on 30 August 1918. He was sent to hospital on 17 December and died of pneumonia on 21 December 1918, aged 25. In a double burial ceremony, he was interred on the afternoon of 24 December beside Private Scofield. His grave is number 19519 in Section 17. He is also commemorated on Liskeard war memorial.
Deck Hand Herbert Thomas, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Herbert Thomas was born in 1887 at Liverpool. He became a merchant seaman; it is not known when he joined HMS Warrior.
Deck Hand Thomas was sent to hospital on 8 October 1918 (with Cook A J Edney and Assistant Cook F J Trim) and died of pneumonia on 22 October 1918, aged 31. He was buried on the afternoon of 24 October. His grave is number 19400 in Section 17.
Tony Ball for additional information about Writer T H Symons.
Dix Noonan Webb for the photograph of the Mercantile Marine Medal.
David Dixon for the photograph of Denton war memorial (under a creative commons licence).
Amanda Fulcher, archivist for the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, for providing the photographs of the 1918 Memorial Day ceremony.
International Wargraves Photography Project for the photographs of the original grave markers in Arlington National Cemetery.
John Greyson for the photograph of Grangetown war memorial (under a creative commons licence).
Liskeard and District Museum for the photograph of Liskeard war memorial.
Kevin Quick for the photograph of Seaview war memorial.
Naval-History.Net. This is an outstanding resource for those studying the Royal Navy in the 20thC. In particular, the site provided me with the transcriptions of the logs of the ships mentioned.
1. (Back) HMS Warrior is referred to in some sources as ‘HM Yacht’ or ‘HMY’ Warrior. The ship’s log uses the term ‘HMS’, as do the graves of the men who died, and that is the term that I have used throughout.
2. (Back) ‘Society’. (13 Oct 1918). The Washington Post. p 29.
3. (Back) ‘Spokes from the Rudder Wheel.’ (May 1916). The Rudder. Volume 32, number 5, p 244. New York: Rudder Publishing.
4. (Back) Known as ‘pennant number’ since 1948. See Naval-History.net.
5. (Back) Form T124. This form was also used for men serving with the Royal Naval Reserve Trawler Section and for mercantile marine officers commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve.
6. (Back) Now Fort Lesley J. McNair.
7. (Back) Memorial Day, the commemoration of those who died serving in the armed forces, was traditionally held on 30 May until 1968, when it was moved to the last Monday in May.
8. (Back) ‘Memorial Services, Lusitania Victims.’ (August 1918). Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine. Volume 52, number 8, pp 486-487.
9. (Back) Here you can read more about the influenza pandemic in Washington DC.
10. (Back) Twenty-five men are specifically annotated as suffering from influenza and three from pheumonia.
11. (Back) The exact size of the ship’s compliment is not known but the photograph of the crew taken on 30 May 1918 shows 59 officers, warrant officers, ratings and marines, not including the Admiral and his three staff officers.
12. (Back) The hospital building, behind the Old Naval Observatory, on what was known as Observatory Hill or, more recently, Potomac Annex is part of a historic site that is being redeveloped and renovated for the US Department of State.
13. (Back) It should be noted that the numbering of the sections of Arlington National Cemetery differs from the locations as described by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
14. (Back) HMS Warrior was released from service in January 1919. She was bought in 1920 and renamed Goizeko Izarra (Basque – Morning Star)—in which guise she was used to evacuate children from Bilbao during the Spanish Civil War—and again in 1937, when she reverted to the name Warrior. Requisitioned again during the Second World War, she was named HMS Warrior II. On 11 July 1940 she was bombed and sunk in the English Channel. Chief Steward John William Collins, Naval Auxiliary Personnel (Merchant Navy), aged 60, was killed in the attack. He is buried in Portland Royal Naval Cemetery. Collins had served in The Border Regiment for four years before enlisting into the Royal Navy in 1909. He served throughout the First World War (Mentioned in Despatches) and was discharged in 1928.
15. (Back) See: (a) General Register Office. (First quarter 1895). England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. Volume 11a, p 345. (b) The National Archives (TNA). Public Record Office (PRO). Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891. (c) TNA. PRO. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901. (d) TNA. PRO. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. (e) TNA. PRO. Great Western Railway Company: Staff Records. RAIL264, piece 432. (f) Other references include his brother’s marriage and death registration etc.
16. (Back) He could also have joined HMS Warrior later—a number of crew-members joined HMS Warrior from, and were discharged to, HMS Highflyer, while Warrior was alongside in Washington.
17. (Back) Reported as ‘…the effects of Spanish influenza.’ See: ‘The Island and the War. Seaview.’ (28 September 1918). Isle of Wight County Press. p 8.
18. (Back) For an account of service with motor boats see: Maxwell, G S. (1920). London: The Motor Launch Patrol. J M Dent and Sons [online at Internet Archive].
19. (Back) The only men of the Royal Naval Reserve engaged in this manner (i.e. with Form T 124) were trawlermen who crewed craft engaged in minesweeping and similar duties. The record indicating this transfer to the Royal Naval Reserve and Prowse being recorded as Mercantile Marine Reserve at the time of his death cannot be reconciled. He is recorded on the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and Mercantile Marine Reserve medal rolls, the former referencing the latter.
20. (Back) District of Columbia, Deaths and Burials, 1840-1964. This record gives his name as ‘Prouse’.
21. (Back) The Cornish Times, 3 January, 1919, p 4.