Seaman on legendary Indian ship HMS Dufferin
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.