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Major Francis Harvey RMLI - Battle Of Jutland

Updated: May 31, 2023

Unit/ Formation: Victoria Cross Location: Jutland Period/ Conflict: World War I Year: 1916 Date/s: 31 May 1916

A long serving Royal Marine officer descended of a military family, during his career Harvey became a specialist in naval artillery, serving on many large warships as gunnery training officer and gun commander.

Specially requested for HMS Lion, the flagship of the British battlecruiser fleet, Harvey fought at the battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland.

At Jutland, Harvey, although mortally wounded by German shellfire, ordered the magazine of Q turret on the battlecruiser Lion to be flooded. This action prevented the tons of cordite stored there from catastrophically detonating in an explosion that would have destroyed the vessel and all aboard her.

Although he succumbed to his injuries seconds later, his dying act may have saved over a thousand lives and prompted Winston Churchill to later comment: "In the long, rough, glorious history of the Royal Marines there is no name and no deed which in its character and consequences ranks above this"

This from the book 'From Trench and Turret – Royal Marines' letters and diaries 1914-1918' by S. M. Holloway, Constable, London, 2006, ISBN 13: 978 1 84529 321 5

“It was usual for major warships to have one main armament turret run by 'Royals', and in general this was 'X' turret. The turrets were lettered bow to stern. The foremost turret was 'A', manned by the fo'catle division, the 'B' manned by the top division. The two aft turrets had the Royal Marines in 'X' and the quarterdeck division in 'Y'. Where there were turrets amidships between the funnels, they would be 'Q', or if two, 'P' and 'Q'.

Just before 4pm (Lion's) 'Q' turret, which had fired 12 rounds, was hit by a 12-inch shell (415kg) from Lützow. The round hit at the junction of the roof plates, blowing out the front roof plate and front plate and detonating in the gunhouse.

The occupants were all killed or badly wounded and a fire started amidst the wreckage. The explosion had blown the breach lever of the left gun into the open position. The shell and the bagged cordite charge slid back and fell into the well and ignited in the fire. The resulting flash fire ignited all the cordite charges in the hoist and handling room, as far down as the magazine.

There the fire halted because the Officer of the Turret, Major Francis Harvey, had, in spite of mortal wounds, ordered that the magazine doors be locked shut and the magazine flooded.

Only a sickberth attendant and a wounded sergeant of the Royal Marines, whom Harvey had sent to the bridge to report the damage, survived from 'Q' turret. Captain Francis Jones RMLI, also from the Lion, identified the charred remains and blasted bodies at the close of action and recognised the remains of Francis Harvey, horrifically burnt but not as reported elsewhere, with his legs blown off....”

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