Sea­man on leg­endary In­dian ship HMS Duf­ferin

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Sports - Lester Green Where Once They Sailed

Matthias King of St. Jones Within had two sons that en­listed for armed ser­vice with the Bri­tish to de­fend against Ger­many dur­ing the Great War. Mathias had lost his wife in March of 1911 leav­ing him with sev­eral chil­dren to raise.

Fran­cis, his sec­ond old­est son, trav­elled to St. John’s to en­list with the New­found­land Royal Naval Re­serve. His naval en­gage­ment pa­pers record the date of Dec. 27, 1915 for his en­list­ment at the HMS Calypso. How­ever, be­fore he com­pleted his ba­sic train­ing in April it be­came known as the HMS Bri­ton.

He sailed over­seas in late April 1916 aboard the RMS Pre­to­rian and was as­signed to the Naval base at HMS Vivid I, Devon­port. He com­pleted fur­ther train­ing and was as­signed to De­fen­sively Armed Mer­chant Ships (DAMS) in the area. On Nov. 4, he was de­ployed to the leg­endary ship HMS Duf­ferin be­long­ing to the Royal In­dian Ma­rine.

The Duf­ferin was built as a troop ship in 1905 to trans­port ser­vice men be­tween In­dia, Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong and Africa. Dur­ing the Great War the ship was re-com­mis­sioned as an aux­il­iary ship to trans­port men be­tween Bri­tain and In­dia to the East Indies Naval Sta­tion.

Sea­man King served on the Duf­ferin be­tween No­vem­ber

1916 to March 1918. He was part of the crew aboard the Duf­ferin which car­ried sup­plies to Aqaba dur­ing the con­flict be­tween the Arab and Turk­ish forces in July


The Arabs were led by Thomas Ed­ward Lawrence or more com­monly recorded in his­tory and Hol­ly­wood movies as Lawrence of Ara­bia. The Duf­ferin landed sup­plies at Aqaba and took 600 Turk­ish pris­on­ers aboard trans­port­ing them back to the naval sta­tion. This upris­ing led by Lawrence of Ara­bia was con­sid­ered by many to be a great Arab vic­tory for the peo­ple of the re­gion.

At home, Fran­cis’ brother Wil­liam John left St. Jones Within in May 1918 with full in­ten­tion of join­ing the Royal Naval Re­serve like his older brother. He com­pleted a med­i­cal exam on May 22 and was found to be med­i­cally un­fit for ser­vice in the Royal Naval Re­serve be­cause of “de­fec­tive vi­sion” by the Fleet Sur­geon of the HMS Bri­ton.

Wil­liam John was ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed be­cause he al­ways wanted to be a sailor and had as­sumed that his ex­pe­ri­ence with the schooner fish­ery would have in­sured ac­cep­tance into the navy. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that some­one had scrib­bled the words “Try Army” across his med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate.

Un­de­terred by this re­jec­tion and within days, Wil­liam John vis­ited the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment re­cruit­ment of­fice. He was suc­cess­ful and mil­i­tary records in­di­cate that he en­listed on May 25 and was at­tested for gen­eral ser­vice with the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment.

Sea­man King was trans­ferred to HMS Vivid III on March 21, 1918 where he spent the next six months. His fi­nal naval as­sign­ment over­seas was at the HMS Pres­i­dent III be­fore re­ceiv­ing or­ders back to HMS Vivid III. Sea­man Fran­cis King’s brother, Wil­liam John King.

He re­ceived his fi­nal or­ders for trans­fer back to HMS Bri­ton in Fe­bru­ary 1919, where he was de­mo­bi­lized on April 10, 1919.

Sea­man Fran­cis King re­turned home for a short pe­riod of time be­fore mov­ing to the Mar­itimes where he raised a fam­ily un­til his death.

Next week’s “Where Once They Sailed” will fea­ture a spe­cial story doc­u­ment­ing acts of courage by two of our boys dur­ing World War 1. Able Sea­man Le­an­der Green was hon­oured with the Dis­tin­guish Ser­vice Medal for his brav­ery in sav­ing lives in the cold North At­lantic. Able Sea­man Wal­ter Ge­orge Critch was awarded the Mer­i­to­ri­ous Ser­vice Medal (Naval) for his acts of gal­lantry dur­ing the Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion.


Sea­man Fran­cis King.


New­found­land Royal Naval Re­serve Ships Ledger.

Post­card of HMS Duf­ferin.


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