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  • HMS Defence
Person Details
02 May 1893
Nottingham
Roderick Charles Alister was the son of the Reverend Dr. James Gow and Gertrude Sydenham Gow (née Everett-Green). His father James was born in London in 1854 (J/F/M Islington). His mother Gertrude was born in London on 28 March 1855 (A/M/J Pancras), the daughter of George Pycock Green and Mary Ann Everett Green. She was baptised at Great Queen Street Chapel, Camden, on 23 May 1855. James and Gertrude were married on 12 August 1885 at St John the Evangelist, Charlotte Street, Camden (J/A/S Pancras London). They had three sons: Andrew Sydenham Farrar b. London 27 August 1886 (J/A/S Pancras) bap. London 10 October 1886; James Cuthbert b. Nottingham 6 August 1890 bap. Nottingham St Mary 25 September 1890 and Roderick Charles Alister b. Nottingham 2 May 1893 (A/M/J Nottingham) bap. St Mary 14 June 1893. James Gow was appointed headmaster of the Nottingham High School and although their eldest son, Andrew, was born and baptised in London in 1886 his parents were living in Nottingham. James and Gertrude were living at 1 Waverley Street, Nottingham, in 1891 with their sons Andrew (4) and James (under one year). They employed a cook, housemaid and a nurse (domestic). Their third son, Roderick, was born two years later. By 1901 the family was living at 52 Arboretum Street, Nottingham, but only James snr. and Roderick (7) were in the home on the night of the census along with a cook, parlourmaid and nursemaid and a boarder, Frances Ann Brownsord (69 b. London), a retired nurse. Gertrude and their son James were visiting friends in Yorkshire and Andrew was a pupil at Rugby School, Warwickshire. By 1911 James and Gertrude had left Nottingham and were living at 19 Dean's Yard, Westminster. James was a school master at Westminster School (also known as St Peter's College, Westminster). On the night of the census only he and his son Andrew, a student at Trinity College Cambridge, were in the family home along with a cook, parlourmaid and three housemaids. Gertrude and James (20) a student, were staying in a boarding house in Hythe, Kent, and Roderick had joined the Royal Navy in 1906 and was a midshipman at Portland, Dorset. At the time of Roderick's death in 1916 his parents were still living at Dean's Yard, Westminster, but they later moved to 40 West End Lane, Hampstead, London, which was to remain their home until their deaths. James snr. retired as head master of Westminster School in 1919. He died on 16 February 1923. James Cuthbert died at sea on 12 April 1929. Gertrude was still living at 40 West End Lane in 1939 when the England & Wales Register was compiled. Also in the household were Lilian E Kavanah (b. 1900) single of private means, and a housekeeper and cook. Gertrude died on 16 February 1942 at Staverston Road, Oxford, although her home was still on West End Lane. Her surviving son, Andrew, was one of her two executors. Andrew became a fellow of Trinity College Cambridge. In 1939 he was recorded at the Blue Boar Hotel, Trinity Street, Cambridge; his occupation was given as tutor and lecturer in Classics. His nephew, James Michael Gow, also went up to Trinity College. Andrew died in 1978 (J/F/M Cambridge). James Cuthbert served for a short period in France as an officer with the Hallamshire Bn York and Lancaster Regiment but was recalled to his civilian employment with Messrs Cammell, Laird & Co to assist in its armament work. He married Katherine Wood (b. Sheffield 1894 J/F/M Ecclesall Bierlow) in Westminster Abbey on 19 June 1919 (A/M/J St George Hanover Square) and they had two sons who were both born in Sheffield: Roderick George Alastair b. 1920 and James Michael b. 5 June 1924. The family lived at 54 Westbourne Road, Sheffield. James died at sea (SS Mauretania) on 12 April 1929 while returning from a business trip for his firm, Cammell Laird. His widow, Katherine married secondly Alastair Fletcher Sanderson (b. 1873 Edinburgh) in 1937 (O/N/D Westminster). Her husband served as a captain in the 6th Bn Seaforth Highlanders and was killed in action on 27 May 1940 (Bedford House Cemetery, Belgium). Her eldest son Roderick served in the Royal Artillery, 1 Forward (Airborne) Observation Unit (121290 Captain), and was killed at Arnhem on 19 September 1944 (Arnhem Oosterbeeck War Cemetery). Her second son, James Michael, served in the Scots Guards during the war and was a career soldier (General Sir Michael Gow, awarded KCB 30 December 1982). He died on 26 March 2013. (See also 'Extra information')
He joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in January 1906.
31 May 1916
23
2866070 - CWGC Website
Lieutenant
HMS Defence Royal Navy
Roderick joined the Royal Navy as a cadet on 15 January 1906 and was educated at the Royal Naval Colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth where he was a successful student. In 1910 he became a midshipman, was promoted sub-lieutenant on 30 September 1913, gained 'firsts' in gunnery, engineering, navigation and seamanship and was promoted lieutenant on 30 December 1914. He served in HMS Bellerophon, HMS Argyll when the ship escorted their majesties King George V and Queen Mary to India for the Durbar, and HMS Hampshire. His last ship was HMS Defence in which he served in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and North Sea. The ship was a Minotaur-class armoured cruiser built for the Royal Navy in 1907; the last armoured cruiser of her type to be built. She was stationed in the Mediterranean when the war broke out and participated in the pursuit of the German battle cruiser SMS Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau when they made it successfully to Constantinople. Defence was transferred to the Grand Fleet in January 1915. Roderick was killed when HMS Defence was sunk on 31st May 1931 during the Battle of Jutland. (See 'Extra information'). His body was not recovered for burial and he is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. He qualified for the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
Other local men lost in HMS Defence on 31 May 1916: Telegraphist Fred J Cross (18) of Nottingham, Able Seaman Adam Fox (23) of Huthwaite, Able Seaman Walter Ernest Fox (20) of Daybrook, Able Seaman Cecil Charles Lear (19) of Mapperley and Able Seaman Robert Merchant on his 20th birthday of Nottingham. (See records on this Roll of Honour) Nottingham Evening Post, 5 June 1916: ‘Lost Officers and Men. Two Rear-Admirals among the drowned. Local Associations ... Lieutenant RCAS Gow. (abridged). Lieutenant Roderick Charles Alister Gow was the third and youngest son of the Rev. Dr Gow, head master of Westminster School and previously for many years head master of the Nottingham high School. Lieutenant Gow was a little boy at Mrs Gilbert’s preparatory school in Arthur-street when Dr Gow was appointed to Westminster.' (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) HMS Defence was sunk on 31st May 1931, during the Battle of Jutland. Escorting the main body of the Grand Fleet, the ship was fired upon by one German battle cruiser and four dreadnought battleships as she attempted to enagage a disabled German light cruiser. Struck by two salvoes from the German ships, the rear magazine detonated and the fire from the subsequent explosion spread to the secondary magazines which then exploded them, blowing the ship up. There were no survivors from the crew of over 900. There are a number of eye witness accounts of the end of the Defence:- A description of the loss of HMS Defence by an officer on HMS Obedient of the 12th Destroyer Flotilla: "There was one incident at "Windy Corner" which, alas, was more prominent than any other. From ahead, out of the mist there appeared the ill-fated 1st Cruiser Squadron led by the Defence. At first, the Defence did not seem to be damaged, but she was being heavily engaged, and salvoes were dropping all around her. When she was on our bow, three quick salvoes reached her, the first one "over", the next one "short" and the third all hit. The shells of the last salvo could clearly be seen to hit her just abaft the after turret, and after a second, a big red flame flashed up, but died away again at once. The ship heeled to the blow but quickly righted herself and steamed on again. Then almost immediately followed three more salvoes. Again the first was "over", the second one "short" and the third a hit, and again the shell of the hitting salvo could be clearly seen to strike, this time between the forecastle turret and the foremost funnel. At once, the ship was lost to sight in an enormous black cloud, which rose to a height of some hundred feet, and from which some dark object, possibly a boat or a funnel was hurled into space, twirling like some gigantic Catherine-wheel. The smoke quickly clearing, we could see no sign of a ship at all - Defence had gone. Mercifully this death, by which the 900 or so officers and men of the Defence perished was an instantaneous one, causing them probably no suffering." From the account by Commander George van Hase, Chief Gunnery Officer on the German battleship Derflinger: "At 8.15pm 31 May 1916 we received a heavy fire. Lieutenant Commander Hausser, who had been firing at a torpedo boat with our secondary battery, asked me "Sir, is this cruiser with the four funnels a German or an English cruiser?" I directed my periscope at the ship and examined it. In the grey light the colour of the German and the English ships looked almost exactly the same. The cruiser was not at all far from us. She had four funnels and two masts exactly like our Rostock who was with us*. "It is certainly English" exclaimed Lieutenant Commander Hausser; "May I fire?" "Yes - fire away!" I said. I became convinced that it was a large English ship. The secondary guns were aimed at the new target and Hausser commanded "69 hundred!" At the moment in which he was about to order "Fire!" something horrible, something terrific happened. The English ship which I meanwhile supposed to be an old English battle cruiser, broke asunder and there was an enormous explosion. Black smoke and pieces of the ship whirled upward, and flame swept through the entire ship, which then disappeared before our eyes beneath the water. Nothing was left to indicate the spot where a moment before a proud ship had been fighting, except an enormous cloud of smoke. According to my opinion, the ship was destroyed by the fire of the ship just ahead of us - the Luetzow, the flagship of Admiral Hipper. The whole thing lasted only a few seconds and then we engaged with a new target. The destroyed ship was the Defence, one of the older armoured cruisers of the same type as the Black Prince which was sunk by gunfire the following night. She displaced 14, 800 tons, was armed with six 23.4 centimetre and ten 15.2 centimetre guns and had a crew of 700** men. Of the crew not a single soul was rescued. The ship was blown into atoms and every living soul was destroyed by the explosion. I shall never forget the sight I saw through my periscope in all its gruesomeness." * SMS Rostock was torpedoed and sunk during the night fighting 31May/1June 1916. ** Substantially underestimated - Admiralty figures show that there were 903 men on board. Probate: Gow Roderick Charles Alister (sic) of Deans-yard Westminster Middlesex lieutenant RN died 31 May 1916 at sea Administration London 9 August to the reverend James Gow clerk LLD. Effects £285 10s. Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 24 February 1919: ‘After eighteen years, Dr Gow, the headmaster of Westminster School is about to retire at the age of 64. Dr Gow came to Westminster from the High School, Nottingham, on the resignation of Dr. Rutherford.’ (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 19 June 1919: Photographs of James Cuthbert Gow and Katharine Wood, caption ‘Mr James Cuthbert Gow, second son of the Headmaster of Westminster, and Miss Katharine Wood, elder daughter of Mr BG Wood, Hallam Lodge, Sheffield, who are to be married at Henry VII’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, today.‘ (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) A full report of the wedding appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph on 20 June. Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 15 April 1929: Mr J Cuthbert Gow. Death at Sea of Sheffield Firm’s Representative. Information was received in Sheffield on Saturday of the death at sea of Mr James Cuthbert Gow, of 54, Westbourne Road, Sheffield. Mr Gow was was 38 years old was returning from Australia and Canada, where he had been for some months on behalf of Messrs. Cammell, Laird and Co., Litd., with whom he had been connected for about 15 years. Mr Gow was the second son of the late Rev. Dr. Gow, who was headmaster of Westminster School for 19 years. He was educated at Westminster Shcool where he was a King’s Scholar. From Westminster Mr Gow went to Christ Church College, Oxford, taking his MA degree … After leaving the University Mr Gow joined the Sheffield staff of Messrs. Cammell, Laird & Co. and on the outbreak of war in 1914 he enlisted in the Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, with which he went to France as a commissioned officer. He was, however, recalled by his firm, who required his help in connection with their armament work … In 1914 (sic) Mr Gow married the elder daughter of Mr BG Wood, of Hallam Lodge, Sheffield. He leaves a widow and two sons.' (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) CWGC 001295604. Roderick George Alastair Gow b. 1920 age 24. 121290 Captain Royal Artillery 1 Forward (Airborne) Observation Unit. Date of death 19 September 1944. Cemetery: Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery (15.C.7). ‘Son of JC Gow and of Katherine Gow, of Regents Park, London' CWGC 001597589: Alastair Fletcher Sanderson age 47 b. 1893. 93621 Captain 6th Bn Seaforth Highlanders. Date of death 27 May 1940. Cemetery: Bedford House Cemetery Belgium (Enc. No. 6 V.C.7). ‘Son of Arthur and Margaret Sanderson, of Regent’s Park, London. His stepson Roderick George Alistair Gow also fell.' Britain Knights of the Realm & Commonwealth Index: James Michael Gow b. 1924 d. 26 March 2013. Award KCB (Mil) 30 December 1982. Biog: General; GOC Scotland & Governor Edinburgh Castle 1979-80, CinC BAOR 1980-83, Commandant RCDS 1984-1986.
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