Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.
O’Hea, Seaman Gunner Albert Henry, 213773
Seaman Gunner O’Hea died on November 1, 1914.
He was the son of Albert O’Hea, 249, Bishop Street, Londonderry, and his name is recorded on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon.
His name is also commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.
Seaman Gunner O’Hea died aboard the HMS Monmouth of the British Royal Navy, which was the lead ship of a class of armoured cruisers of 9,800 tons displacement. She was sunk at the Battle of Coronel fought off the coast of Chile on Sunday, November 1, 1914.
The Monmouth was completed in 1903. She had a weak armament for an armoured cruiser, her main guns being fourteen six-inch quick-firers of an old pattern. Additionally, most of the guns were situated so close to the waterline that they were unusable except in the most peaceful weather. Her armour was also much too thin for an armoured cruiser and could be easily penetrated by German shells. These problems would prove disastrous at Coronel. She served on the China Station between 1906 and 1913, before being put in the Reserve Fleet in January 1914.
On the outbreak of the First World War she was reactivated and sent to the Fourth Cruiser Squadron (the West Indies Squadron) of Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock. Cradock took into action at Coronel two armoured cruisers, Good Hope and Monmouth, the light cruiser Glasgow, and an armed liner, Otranto. A battleship, Canopus – whose 12 inch guns were impressive, but her slow speed made her useless in action against faster ships – was left to escort the accompanying colliers. Cradock’s squadron met Admiral Maximilian von Spee’s East Asiastic Squadron, which included the German ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, at Coronel. Otranto was ordered away immediately but Cradock tried to bring his other ships into action even though they were outranged. Intercepted intelligence gave Spee the advantage. He kept out of range until darkness fell, then opened fire in the gloaming. It took just forty minutes to reduce Good Hope and Monmouth to blazing wrecks that quickly sank with all 1,600 sailors aboard. Glasgow was struck five times but survived to warn Canopus and save her from a similar fate. Captain John Luce of the Glasgow told the following detailed story of the fight.
“2 p.m., Flagship signalled that apparently from wireless calls there was an enemy ship to northward. Orders were given for squadron to spread N.E. by E. In the following order:- Good Hope, Monmouth, Otranto and Glasgow, speed to be worked up to 15 knots.
“4.20 p.m., Saw smoke; proved to be enemy ships, one small cruiser and two armoured cruisers. Glasgow reported to Admiral, ships in sight were warned, and all concentrated on Good Hope.
“5.47 p.m., Squadron formed in line ahead in following order: Good Hope, Monmouth, Glasgow, Otranto. Enemy, who had turned south, were now in single line ahead, 12 miles off, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau leading.
“6.18 p.m., Speed ordered to 17 knots, and flagship signalled Canopus: ‘I am going to attack enemy now.’ Enemy were now 15,000 yards away, and maintained this range, at the same time jambing wireless signals. By this time sun was setting immediately behind us from enemy position...and while it remained above horizon we had advantage in light, but range too great.
“6.55 p.m., Sun set, and visibility conditions altered, our ships being silhouetted against after glow, and failing light made enemy difficult to see.
“7.30 p.m., enemy opened fire 12,000 yards, followed in quick succession by Good Hope, Monmouth, Glasgow. Two squadrons were now converging, and each ship engaged opposite number in the line. Growing darkness and heavy spray of head sea made firing difficult, particularly for main deck guns of Good Hope and Monmouth. Enemy firing salvos got range quickly, and their third salvo caused fire to break out on fore part of both ships, which were constantly on fire till 7.45 p.m.
“7.50 p.m., immense explosion occurred on Good Hope amidships, flames reaching 200 feet high. Total destruction must have followed. It was now quite dark. Both sides continued firing at flashes of opposing guns. Monmouth was badly down by the bow and turned away to get stern to sea, signalling to Glasgow to that effect.
“8.30 p.m., Glasgow signalled to Monmouth ‘Enemy following us’, but received no reply. Under rising moon enemy’s ships were now seen approaching, and as Glasgow could render Monmouth no assistance, she proceeded at full speed to avoid destruction.
“8.50 p.m., lost sight of enemy.
“9.20 p.m., observed 75 flashes of fire, which was no doubt final attack on Monmouth.
“Nothing could have been more admirable than conduct of officers and men throughout. Though it was most trying to receive great volume of fire without chance of returning it adequately, all kept perfectly cool, there was no wild firing, and discipline was the same as at battle practice.
“When target ceased to be visible, gun-layers spontaneously ceased fire.
“The serious reverse sustained has entirely failed to impair the spirit of officers and ship’s company, and it is our unanimous wish to meet the enemy again as soon as possible.”
Gunner O’Hea’s father, also named Albert, died around the beginning of September 1928. In his early years he joined the McCorkell line of ships. In later life he became organiser and secretary of the Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union.
McCullough, Sergeant Thomas, 7208
Thomas McCullough, 2nd Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was born at Londonderry, and died in German East Africa on November 4, 1914.
His remains are interred in Tanga Memorial Cemetery, Tanzania.
On November 2, 1914, an 8,000-strong Anglo-Indian expeditionary force landed near the German East African port of Tanga. The defence of the German colony was in the hands of Lieutenant Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, with almost 1,000 Schutztruppe (colonial soldiers) under his command. Lettow’s aggressiveness had caused Britain to prepare a military expedition against him. He was not only raiding into Uganda and Kenya, where he raised the German flag on British territory under Mount Kilimanjaro, but carrying out inland naval operations on the Great Lakes. The arrival of the Anglo-Indian force was known in advance, for the Germans had captured some Indian mails. A battle ensued on November 4, and the Anglo-Indian troops fled back to their ships, leaving 16 machine guns, hundreds of rifles and 600,000 rounds of ammunition behind.
The 2nd Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, the 13th Rajputs, the 61st King George’s Own Pioneers, the 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry, the 98th Infantry and the 101st Grenadiers sustained most of the casualties; the 2nd and 3rd Kashmir Rifles and the Gwalior (Imperial Service) Infantry also took part in the operations.
In his book, The First World War, historian Hew Strachan describes in more detail the disastrous events of early November 1914, that led to the death of Sergeant Thomas McCullough: “On 2 November 1914 Indian Expeditionary Force B went ashore at an undefended beach close to Tanga. The town was held by a single company, and Lettow-Vorbeck’s attention was focused on the danger to the other end of the railway. But the preparation of IEF B had not been a high priority for the Government of India, which had already diverted its best troops to other theatres – France, Mesopotamia and Egypt. ‘They constitute the worst in India, and I tremble to think what may happen if we meet serious opposition’, the expedition’s intelligence officer, Richard Meinertzhagen, wrote in his diary. ‘The senior officers are nearer to fossils than active, energetic leaders of men.’ They had been at sea for the best part of a month, and they were not trained in bush warfare. Moreover there was no attack from the other end of the northern line until 3 November. Lettow-Vorbeck could have suffered a major defeat at the very outset of the campaign; instead he was able to snatch a crucial victory. IEF B’s dilatory and demoralised approach gave him time to concentrate seven companies by the morning of 4 November, with two more due to arrive that day. Deprived of effective artillery support by a decision not to disembark its guns, and confused by the thick bush, IEF B none the less fought its way into Tanga by late afternoon on 4 November. At this juncture some German company commanders instructed their buglers to sound the recall in order to regroup. But the signal was mistaken as one for a general retreat. On the British side, Meinertzhagen recognised the call for what it was, but others insisted it was the charge. For a second time the Germans were given a chance to recover an apparently irredeemable situation. Tanga was empty and, as British naval gunfire at last began to take effect, Lettow-Vorbeck prepared to continue the fight to the west of the town. But the British commander, A.E.Aitken, had decided to give up. IEF B had completed its evacuation by 3.20 p.m. on 5 November...”
O’Connell, Private Patrick, 9179
Patrick O’Connell, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, resided at 17, Walker’s Place, Derry, and was killed in action on November 7, 1914.
On that day, the 2nd Inniskillings were sent forward to recover trenches on the east side of Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium, which the Germans had taken from another regiment. Two assaults on the position were led by Captain G.R.V. Steward, but were unsuccessful. An incident of this action was that of a Private A. Murray, who, after his Section Commander had been killed, took command and led the Platoon in a counter-attack. The Battalion suffered heavy casualties.
Private Patrick O’Connell is almost certainly the same Private Patrick McConnell, 9179, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Despatch Rider and 1st Class Signaller, who died in November 1914, aged 24. The surname confusion led to his name being placed on the Diamond War Memorial twice.
He was the son of Daniel O’Connell, 5, Walker’s Place, Londonderry, and Annie O’Connell, and his name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.
His brother, John, was killed in September 1917.