William Charles Priday, Battle of Jutland May 1916

William Charles Priday was the great grandson of wife of my maternal great, great, great grandfather and the actual lineage is:

  • William Charles Priday (1896 - 1916) - great grandson of wife of 3rd great grandfather
  • George Harris Priday (1870 - 1948) - father of William Charles Priday
  • James Priday (1837 - 1907) - father of George Harris Priday
  • Sara Ann Kembrey (1815 - 1885) - mother of James Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday (1794 - 1883) - husband of Sara Ann Kembrey
  • Nathaniel Priday (1830 - 1900) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1853 - 1933) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1888 - 1954) - son of Joseph Priday (maternal grandfather)
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Joseph Priday (my mother)
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

William Charles was born 26 Oct 1896 at 14 Hoo St, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales and before going into military service he was, at age 14, an Apprentice @ Railway Wagon Works.

His father was George Harris Priday, a General Labourer, was married to Caroline Eagle born 1871 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England. George & Caroline had two children, William Charles & Bertram Thomas, b. January 1898 in 14 Hoo St, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales & d. 16 Mar 1949 in 98 Danygraig Road, St. Thomas, Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales.

George, Caroline & William and Bertram moved to a new house at 56 Dany Graig Road St Thomas Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales sometime before 1901 and it was from this house that William Charles left to take up his military service.

His Military Service

William Charles was called up to the Royal Navy in 1915 and initially travelled to Southsea, Hampshire, England for basic Royal Navy training. He was given the Service Number 8705.S and was recorded as being in the Royal Navy Reserve.

On 25 January 1916 he travelled to the Royal Naval Dockyard at Devenport, Devon, England where he joined the ships company of H.M.S. Indefatigable.

H.M.S. Indefatigable

HMS Indefatigable was a battlecruiser of the Royal Navy and the lead ship of her class. Her keel was laid down in 1909 and she was commissioned in 1911. She was an enlarged version of the earlier Invincible class with a revised protection scheme and additional length amidships to allow her two middle turrets to fire on either broadside.


When the First World War began, Indefatigable was serving with the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean, where she unsuccessfully pursued the battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau of the German Imperial Navy as they fled towards the Ottoman Empire. The ship bombarded Ottoman fortifications defending the Dardanelles on 3 November 1914, then, following a refit in Malta, returned to the England in February where she rejoined the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron.


Indefatigable's main armament was eight breech-loading BL 12-inch Mark X guns mounted in four hydraulically powered twin turrets. Two turrets were mounted fore and aft on the centreline, identified as 'A' and 'X' respectively. The other two were wing turrets mounted amidships and staggered diagonally: 'P' was forward and to port of the centre funnel, while 'Q' was situated starboard and aft. 'P' and 'Q' turrets had some limited ability to fire to the opposite side. Her secondary armament consisted of sixteen BL 4-inch Mark VII guns positioned in the superstructure. She mounted two 17.72-inch submerged torpedo tubes, one on each side aft of 'X' barbette, and twelve torpedoes were carried.

Indefatigable was unique among British battlecruisers in having an armoured spotting and signal tower behind the conning tower, protected by 4 inches of armour. However, the spotting tower was of limited use, as its view was obscured by the conning tower in front of it and the legs of the foremast and superstructure behind it. During a pre-war refit, a 9-foot rangefinder was added to the rear of the 'A' turret roof, and this turret was equipped to control the entire main armament as an emergency backup for the normal fire-control positions.

Indefatigable received a single QF 3-inch 20 cwt anti-aircraft gun on a high-angle Mark II mount in March 1915. It was provided with 500 rounds. She received a fire-control director between mid-1915 and May 1916 that centralised fire control under the director officer who now fired the guns. The turret crewmen merely had to follow pointers transmitted from the director to align their guns on the target. This greatly increased accuracy since the ship's roll no longer dispersed the shells as each turret fired on its own; also, the fire-control director could more easily spot the fall of the shells.

All of her 4-inch guns were enclosed in casemates and given gun shields during a refit in November 1915 to better protect the gun crews from weather and enemy action, although two aft guns were removed at the same time.

William Charles joined the ship's company following the November 1915 refit (carried out at Devenport dockyard).

Battle of Jutland

The Battle of Jutland (known as the Battle of Skagerrak in Germany), fought between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet in 1916, was the largest surface naval battle of the metal ship era, the only major fleet action of World War 1, and the last major fleet action that the participants will ever fight.  It also played a key role in the demise of the reputation of battlecruiser, saw the first use of a carrier based aircraft in battle and is one of the most controversial naval actions in the Royal Navy's long history.

The Royal Navy started the war with a numerical advantage in capital ships over the Germans.  The Germans realised that they were likely to lose a full fleet battle and so determined to even the odds by luring smaller parts of the Grand Fleet into traps to eventually bring about equality with the British, at which point they felt confident they would defeat them.

In the spring of 1916 the U-Boat offensive against merchant shipping was restricted to prize rules, giving Scheer, the German C-in-C, more submarines than usual to use against warships.  He decided to station them off the major British naval basses and then entice the Grand Fleet out of harbour and over the waiting U-Boats.

Initially Scheer planned to raid Sunderland to draw out the Grand Fleet, but this relied on Zeppelin scouting and the weather ruled this out, so an alternative plan was used.  He planed to send the battlecruisers, under by Hipper, to the Skagerrak (the sea between southern Norway and Denmark), threatening British patrols and merchant ships in the area.  On the morning of 31 May the High Seas Fleet made for sea.

The British had by the morning of 30 May received indications that the Germans were assembling, this along with increased U-Boat activity and a decoded (but not interpreted) operational signal led the British to suppose that the High Seas Fleet was going to put to sea. By 10.30 PM on 30 May the Grand Fleet was at sea, two and a half hours before the Germans.

Of the ten U-Boats off British bases only U66 and U32 sighted British ships, U32 reporting two battleships, two cruisers and several destroyers and U66 reporting eight battleships, light cruisers and destroyers.  Only U32 launches an attack with no success.  The Germans did not interpret this as the whole Grand Fleet being at sea.

On the morning of 31 May Jellicoe, the British C-in-C, received incorrect intelligence from the Admiralty that the German Flagship was still in port, resulting in him to deduce that the German operation would be a cruiser sweep with the High Seas Fleet only providing distant cover.  When he found this later to be incorrect it shook his confidence in the intelligence provided, with important consequences for the outcome of the battle.

On the afternoon of 31 May the British battlecruisers, under Beatty, were on a course that at 4.30 PM would take them 20 miles ahead of the German Battlefleet and 40 miles astern of their battlecruisers.  Fortunately, for Beatty, the Danish steamer N.J.Fjord was steaming between the cruiser screens of both battlecruiser fleets. At 2.00 PM the Elbing sighted her and sent B109 and B110 to investigate.  Galatea and Phaeton also went to investigate. At 3.20 PM Galatea signalled "Enemy in sight" and eight minutes later the British light cruisers opened fire.

Beatty turned his battlecruisers south-south-east to engage the enemy.  Unfortunately for the British, owing to a mixture of bad initial positioning, sloppy signalling, lack of initiative and bad luck the powerful 5th Battle Squadron turned in the other direction and carried on for nearly ten minutes increasing the range from the enemy and depriving Beatty of the most powerful squadron in the world during the early part of the Battle of Jutland.

The Battlecruiser Battle

At 3.38 GMT (31 May 1916) the Germans battlecruisers opened fire, with the light in their favour, followed within a minute by the British. A mistake in British fire allocation meant that Derfflinger was not engaged for the first ten minutes of the Battle of Jutland.

Within minutes Lion, Princess Royal and Tiger had been hit.  The range steadily steadily reduced and at 4.00 PM Lion was hit on Q turret, which had to be flooded to avoid a catastrophic explosion.  Three minutes later H.M.S Indefatigable was hit by two shells from von der Tann which caused a small explosion and her to start sinking by the stern.  Thirty seconds later she blew up.

William Charles Priday was Killed in action, with all other hands, when she blew up and sank.

Plymouth Naval Memorial

After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea where no permanent memorial could be provided.

An Admiralty committee recommended that the three manning ports in Great Britain - Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth - should each have an identical memorial of unmistakable naval form, an obelisk, which would serve as a leading mark for shipping. The memorials were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, who had already carried out a considerable amount of work for the Commission, with sculpture by Henry Poole. The Plymouth Naval Memorial was unveiled by HRH Prince George on 29 July 1924.

In addition to commemorating seamen of the Royal Navy who sailed from Plymouth, the First World War panels also bears the names of sailors from Australia and South Africa. The governments of the other Commonwealth nations chose to commemorate their dead elsewhere, for the most part on memorials in their home ports. After the Second World War, Canada and New Zealand again chose commemoration at home, but the memorial at Plymouth commemorates sailors from all other parts of the Commonwealth.

Plymouth Naval Memorial commemorates 7,251 sailors of the First World War and 15,933 of the Second World War.

William Charles Priday is commorated on Panel 19.