Stoker 1st Class Ernest John Crouch (K/14987)

HMS Queen Mary, Royal Navy

Malvern Commemoration: Holy Trinity North Malvern,

Burial/Commemoration: Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Nature of Death: Killed in action at the Battle of Jutland 31/5/1916

Age: 25

Next of Kin: Son of Margaret Poole Gillespie (nee Crouch) of 3 Suttons Row, Lower Wyche, Malvern

Education: The Wyche School

Previous Employment: Shop porter; pre-war Stoker, Royal Navy

Ernest Crouch of the Wyche

Early Years

Ernest John Crouch, known as John, was born on 21st December 1893 in Upper Colwall.  He attended the Wyche School and in the 1901 Census is living with with his grandparents at 4 Rose Cottage, Lower Wyche.  By 1911 he was out at work, assisting in the basket making shop of Edward Bury at 4 Lygon Terrace, Worcester Road, North Malvern.

Royal Navy Service

Ernest Crouch joined the Royal Navy on 17th May 1912, at the age of 19, stating he had previously been a shop porter.  Following training as a stoker he served for a short time on HMS Renown a second-class predreadnought battleship built in the early 1890s.

He then served aboard HMS Commonwealth, a King Edward VII class battleship, part of the 3rd Battle Squadron, which served in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War.  Stoker Ernest Crouch served aboard her during this time, between October 1912 and June 1913 when the squadron returned to Britain in 1913 and remained there into 1914.  During his time aboard Commonwealth he was advanced to Stoker 1st Class.  

HMS Queen Mary

After several months ashore, Ernest joined the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary on 5th June 1913, in her final months of fitting out and testing.  She was commissioned on 4th September 1913.  

H.M.S. Queen Mary The crew cheering the King while passing the Royal Yacht in July 1914.

H.M.S. Queen Mary The crew cheering the King while passing the Royal Yacht in July 1914.
© IWM Q 65680

First World War

Queen Marys first action was as part of the battlecruiser force under the command of Beatty during the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914.  She underwent a refit in January and February 1915 

Battle of Jutland

On 31 May 1916, Queen Mary put to sea with the rest of the Battlecruiser Fleet to intercept a sortie by the German High Seas Fleet into the North Sea.  Queen Mary was the second Battle Cruiser to be lost during the Battle of Jutland at 4.15 p.m., two hours after the first contact was made. She took a plunging salvo on the upper deck, which caused a huge explosion in one of her magazines. She sank with her stern high in the air, and left a towering pillar of smoke.

William Cave who watched the destruction of the huge ship from the battle cruiser HMS Dublin, wrote: “In every detail we could see officers and signalmen with others [on] the ship… [She was] already doing twenty knots with the fore section blown forward, causing a higher bow wave than before only listing slightly to port, then skidding round to starboard towards Dublin. We actually ported our helm to avoid her hitting us but it proved unnecessary; with increasing list she dived, her fore turret guns at full elevation hot with firing, giving off a loud hissing as they met the water. It was terrible to hear those poor souls so near yet so far and being unable to help.”

The sinking of HMS Queen Mary at the Battle of Jutland

The sinking of HMS Queen Mary at the Battle of Jutland


The sinking of HMS Queen Mary cost 1,266 lives.  Only 20 men survived the sinking. Boy Sailor Mornington George Giles from Great Malvern also lost his life aboard the ship.


Ernest Crouch’s body was not recovered and today is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.  He is also commemorated at St James, Colwall in Herefordshire.  Ernest’s mother married John Thomas Gillespie a chimney sweep of Link Top Villa in March 1910 at North Malvern – at this time she lived at Saxon House, Cowleigh Road, hence the link with the Holy Trinity Memorial.

Holy Trinity Marriage Register
Liddle, P H The Sailors' War 1914 - 1918 London 1985
1901 Census
1911 Census

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