David Phillips, paternal cousin: Battle of Jutland 1916

David Phillips was born in Sedgeley, Staffordshire and killed when the Royal Navy battle cruiser he served on was sunk during the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

David Phillips was my first cousin twice removed and one of my paternal ancestors. The actual lineage to me is as follows:

  • David Phillips (1888 - 1916) - 1st cousin 2x removed
  • Emma Massey (1855 - 1914) - mother of David Phillips
  • Joseph Massey (1829 - 1907) - father of Emma Massey
  • Jane Massey (1861 - 1899) - daughter of Joseph Massey
  • Ephraim William Hyde (1887 - 1964) - son of Jane Massey - my paternal grandfather
  • Gilbert Wilfred Hyde (1916 - 2006) - son of Ephraim William Hyde - my father
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

David Phillips was born during 1888 in Woodcross, Sedgley, Staffordshire, England. His mother, Emma Massey, it seems went to her mother's home to give birth to David who was the fifth child of eight and possibly it was likely to be a difficult birth and Emma needed the help of her mother. At that time Doctors & Midwifes had to be paid for in cash and it is likely the family was short of money.

David's family home was, at the time of his birth, 11 Gozzard St, Bilston, Staffordshire - a street of typical, working-class terraced houses.

David's father, Isaac Phillips (1857-1914), was born in Bentley, Walsall, Staffordshire and died whilst an imate of the Union Workhouse, New Cross, Wolverhampton and is buried in Merridale Cemetery, 56 Jeffcock Rd, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.

st lukes blakenhallIsaac became an engineer like his father James. Although born in Bentley, Walsall his formative and adult life was spent in parts of Wolverhampton. Isaac married Emma Massey on 18th March 1877 at St Lukes, Blakenhall, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire and they set up home at 18 Parke St, St James's, Wolverhampton. Isaac was, at that time, a Stationary engine engineer - stationary engines were used extensively to power machinery in factories before the introduction of electricity. Initially steam powered, they were steadily replaced by hot oil powered engines from the early 1890's onward. Being a Stationary Engine Engineer was a very responsible job because without fully functioning engines the factories could not operate and their machines would be idle.

By 1891 Isaac & Emma and their growing family had moved to 11 Gozzard St, Bilston and Isaac had moved onto become a Mill & Forge Engineer.

Eventually there were eight children:

  • Jane Phillips (1878–)
  • Florence (Florrie, Florey) Phillips  (1879–1957)
  • Mary A Phillips (1882–)
  • Elizabeth (Bessie, Lizzie) Phillips (1883–)
  • David Phillips (1888–1916)
  • Izaac Phillips (1890–)
  • Caroline Phillips (1892–)
  • Lillian Phillips (1895–)

newcross-workhouseWhilst Isaac seems to always been in work, things obviously turned sour for him & Emma because by 1911 they were both "inmates" of the Wolverhampton Union Workhouse, New Cross, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. Issac was at that time listed as an Engine Driver, still a job of importance but unfortunately by then steam locomotives were being replaced by internal combustion engined vehicles & macinery and it all was in abundance everywhere, so the jobs were not as well paid as in his earlier years. People went into the Workhouse because they were basically destitute and unable to pay their bills and usually because they had become homeless - no welfare state in those days! The workhouse was not a pleasant place at all - men and women were kept apart and slept in separate places, so after being married for 37 years, Isaac & Emma spent the last 3 years of his life effectively apart. Both Isaac & Emma died in 1914 and are buried in separate graves in Merridale Cemetery, Wolverhampton.

At age 13 (in 1901) David Phillips was a Rope Spinner - kids often left school at 12 in those days, with the ones from better off families staying on at school until they were 14. School was often a penny per child per week - so for Isaac & Emma that would have been 8d per week - a lot of money back in those poor times. Even if Issac was a skilled engineer it is likely his annual income would be less than £100.00 in 1901!

His Service Life

Cornwall1 training shipAlthough I cannot as yet prove it, it is quite likely that David Phillips was taken into the Royal Navy as part of his parents state of destitution.

The Royal Navy operated training ships designed to give a training in naval life, skills, and discipline to teenage boys (or 'lads' as they were invariably called) and, of course, provide a ready source of recruits for their Majesty's ships. The training ships were almost exclusively ex-sailing ships, complete with cannon ports, masts and sails.

Boys typically joined the ships at the age of eleven or twelve and stayed until they were fifteen or sixteen. Discipline aboard the ships was strict and the birch often used to enforce it. Food was limited in quantity and variety - biscuit, potatoes, and meat were the staples, with occasional green vegetables. Many of the new boys could not swim and needed to be taught - unfortunately some drowned before they mastered the skill! Sleeping accommodation was usually in hammocks which could be comfortable in the summer but icy-cold in winter.

Despite their promotion by the Local Government Board, local Boards of Poor Law Guardians appear to have shown some reluctance in using training ships for boys in their care — on 1st January, 1911, the national total of Poor Law boys placed on the ten available ships was only 453. This may have partly due to the cost of maintaining them there, typically eight or nine shillings a week or a one-off lump sum, which was generally a little higher than keeping them in their own local establishments. A payment might also be required for a boy's uniform. So in some ways David Phillips was one of the lucky ones. Naval training would have been betetr than Workhouse life.

By 1911, David Phillips had grown into a man of 23 tears and had become an Able Bodied Seaman in His Majesty King Goerhe V's Royal Navy and was stationed in Gibraltar, Mediterranean Sea.

Tracking a RN seaman's service is a lot harder than finding regiments for soldiers, however it is quite likely that David was serving aboard H.M.S. "Black Prince" in 1911 because records show that the ship was using Gibralter as its "home" port at that time.

Obviously the RN liked David and he no doubt like the Naval life because by the time of his death in 1916 he had risen the ranks to Leading Seaman.

H.M.S. "Black Prince"

HMS Black Prince-ww1HMS Black Prince was a Duke of Edinburgh-class armoured cruiser built by Thames Ironworks for the Royal Navy in the mid-1900s.

The Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company Limited was a shipyard and iron works straddling the mouth of Bow Creek at its confluence with the River Thames, at Leamouth Wharf (often referred to as Blackwall) on the west side and at Canning Town on the east side of London.

Its main activity was shipbuilding, but it also diversified into civil engineering, marine engines, cranes, electrical engineering, motor buses, lorries & cars.

The company notably produced iron work for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge over the Tamar in the 1850s, and the world's first all-iron warship, HMS Warrior, launched in 1860.

The Thames Ironworks formed a works football team, called Thames Ironworks Football Club, This club later become West Ham United F.C., whose emblem of the crossed hammers represents riveting hammers used in the shipbuilding trade. West Ham are known as "The Hammers" for this reason.


HMS Black Prince was stationed in the Mediterranean when the First World War began and participated in the pursuit of the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and light cruiser SMS Breslau. After the German ships reached Ottoman waters, HMS Black Prince was sent to the Red Sea in mid-August to protect troop convoys arriving from India and to search for German merchant ships.

After capturing two ships, Black Prince was transferred to the Grand Fleet First Cruiser Fleet in December 1914 and was sunk during the Battle of Jutland in June 1916, with all hands killed.


Battle of Jutland

The Battle of Jutland was fought by the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet (which also included ships and individual personnel from the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Canadian Navy) against the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet between 31 May - 1st June 1916.

The battle was fought in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of battleships in World War One. It was only the third-ever fleet action between steel battleships, following the smaller but more decisive battles of the Yellow Sea (1904) and Tsushima (1905) during the Russo-Japanese War.

The (German) High Seas Fleet's intention was to lure out, trap and destroy a portion of the (British) Grand Fleet, as the German naval force was insufficient to successfully engage the entire British fleet. This formed part of a larger strategy to break the British blockade of Germany and to allow German mercantile shipping to operate. Meanwhile, the Royal Navy pursued a strategy to engage and destroy the High Seas Fleet, or keep the German force contained and away from Britain's own shipping lanes.

The German plan was to use Vice-Admiral Franz Hipper's fast scouting group of five modern battlecruisers to lure Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty's battlecruiser squadrons into the path of the main German fleet. Submarines were stationed in advance across the likely routes of the British ships. However, the British learned from signal intercepts that a major fleet operation was likely, so on 30 May Admiral Sir John Jellicoe sailed with the Grand Fleet to rendezvous with Beatty, passing over the locations of the German submarine picket lines while they were unprepared. The German plan had been delayed, causing further problems for their submarines which had reached the limit of their endurance at sea.

hms blackprince jutland stowerOn the afternoon of 31 May, Beatty encountered Hipper's battlecruiser force long before the Germans had expected. In a running battle, Hipper successfully drew the British vanguard into the path of the High Seas Fleet. By the time Beatty sighted the larger force and turned back towards the British main fleet, he had lost two battlecruisers from a force of six battlecruisers and four battleships, against the five ships commanded by Hipper. The battleships, commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Hugh Evan-Thomas, were the last to turn and formed a rearguard as Beatty withdrew, now drawing the German fleet in pursuit towards the main British positions. Between 18:30, when the sun was lowering on the western horizon, backlighting the German forces, and nightfall at about 20:30, the two fleets – totalling 250 ships between them – directly engaged twice.

Fourteen British and eleven German ships were sunk, with great loss of life. After sunset, and throughout the night, Jellicoe manoeuvered to cut the Germans off from their base, hoping to continue the battle the next morning, but under the cover of darkness Scheer broke through the British light forces forming the rearguard of the Grand Fleet and returned to port.

The cruiser Black Prince which, at the first meeting of the two main fleets had followed her flagship, Defence, into action and been roughly handled at the time that Defence had been blown up and Warrior disabled, had been left behind by the Grand Fleet's turn to the southward after deployment. For some reason which will never be known, she was still at this time far astern of and out of touch with the British fleet; but when a line of battleships was dimly seen ahead, it was nodoubt thought that they were the British squadrons. Course was altered to close them. At a bare half-mile range, the German recognition signal flashed out. The horrified Captain Bonham, swung his ship away in a desperate effort to escape, but it was too late.

In the battleship Thuringen the same deadly efficient night action procedure that had been displayed at the head of the line went into play. Brilliantly lit by half-a-dozen searchlights, the Black Prince was raked from stern to stem by a tornado of shells and lay a helpless wreck before she could even fire a shot in reply. As she drifted down the German line, ship after ship opened up on her, Thuringen, Ostfriesland, Nassau and, finally, as the fleet flagship Friedrich der Grosse, added her quota, the Black Prince met the same end as the Defence, blowing up with a tremendous explosion, vanishing with all hands.

HMS Black Prince had 857 officers and men aboard - one being David Phillips - all were lost, with no bodies recovered. Although the Commonwealth Graves Commission record David's date of death as 31 May 1916, the Black Prince was attacked just after midnight on 1st June and sunk within the hour.


david phillipsLeading Seaman David Phillips, service number 227886, aged 29 and a member of the crew of HMS Black Price is commemorated on Panel 12 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea Common, Hampshire, England.

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 Portsmouth Naval Memorial was unveiled by the Duke of York (the future George VI) on 15 October 1924.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial commemorates around 10,000 sailors of the First World War.