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HMS Amphion HMS Amphion
First Name: Douglas Ralph Last Name: HILLIER
Date of Death: 06/08/1914 Lived/Born In: Crouch End
Rank: Able Seaman Unit: HMS Amphion
Memorial Site: Plymouth Naval Memorial

Current Information:

 Age-19

6th August 1914 The sinking of HMS Amphion

War had only been declared two days earlier when HMS Amphion a light cruiser, hit a mine and sank taking 151 of her crew down with her. The earliest casualties of the Great War, these men could have had no conception of the enormity of the struggle that lay ahead over the next four years nor the appalling casualty list that would accompany it. They were the first to lose their lives and shocked as the nation was at the time, their sacrifice was soon swamped by the hundreds of thousands of deaths of the land battles of the Western Front and other arenas.

HMS Amphion was leader of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla based at Harwich on the east coast and early on the 5th August set sail with her accompanying destroyers to patrol part of the North Sea. At sea they received reports from a fishing vessel that an unidentified vessel had been seen throwing things over the side and later that morning sighted this vessel which turned out to be the Konigin Luise, a Germen ferry that had been converted into a mine layer. The objects that had been thrown over the side were of course mines. The British destroyers engaged the German vessel and HMS Lance is credited with firing the first shots of the entire war. The Konigin Luise was sunk  and 46 of her 100 crew were rescued from the waters of the North Sea.

The patrol continued and next day another German ship was sighted. The destroyers launched an attack on her but Captain Fox aboard the Amphion recognised the vessel as the St Petersburg which they had been ordered not to attack because it was carrying the German Ambassador home after the outbreak of war. Amphion steamed inbetween the British destroyers and the St Petersburg to prevent the attack being pushed home.

 

That evening the British flotilla started on their return to Harwich. Their course took them close to where the Koningin Luise had laid her mines and at 6.45am on the 6th August, Amphion struck one of these mines and broke her back. Many of the ship’s company were at breakfast and it was in the forward messdeck, whilst having their meal, that many of them were killed. Ironically, most of the German survivors from the Koningin Luis, the very men who had laid the mine, were killed too. Despite the damage done to her and although Captain Fox had ordered the engines to be stopped, Amphion continued moving through the water. Just after 7.00am and with the last of the survivors having been taken off the vessel, she hit another mine which caused the magazine to explode and the ship to sink.

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