Rank: Able Seaman 229498
Regiment: Royal Navy, HMS Invincible
Died: 31 May 1916
Beer Memorial Cross, St Michael's Church Tablet, Beer
Other Memorial: Portsmouth Royal Naval Memorial [Google]
PDF Download: ABBOTT Walter Tom
Walter Tom Abbott was born in Beer on 4 February 1888. In the 1901 Census, Walter is shown living with his mother, Sarah, his sister Mary, aged 11, and his brother Arthur, who was nine. Their address appears as Orley’s Court. His father, Robert, must have died by this time, because Sarah is listed as a widow. She worked at home, making Honiton lace.
Walter joined the Royal Navy as a Boy Second Class on 26 October 1903, when he was 15. His entry in the Admiralty Register of Seaman’s Service describes him at that age as 5ft 6in tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion, and a scar under his left eye.
He initially joined HMS Boscawen, a training ship moored at Portland, and then joined the battlecruiser HMS Lion. He became an Ordinary Seaman on his 18th birthday, 4 February 1906, while serving on the battleship HMS Jupiter, and an Able Seaman in 1907.
Walter served on several other ships, including the cruiser HMS Good Hope, and at shore establishments such as HMS Victory and Excellent, before joining the battlecruiser HMS Invincible on 3 August 1914, the day before Britain entered the First World War.
HMS Invincible, weighing 19,940 tons, was built by Armstrong Whitworth, and commissioned in 1909. She carried eight twelve-inch and 16 four-inch guns, and was 560 feet long, with a top speed of 25 knots.
She was the flagship of the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron. On 28 August 1914, Invincible was involved in the battle of Heligoland Bight, the first naval battle of the war, in which three German cruisers were sunk in the North Sea.
On 4 November 1914, Invincible, together with her sister ship Inflexible, was sent to the South Atlantic to help in the hunt for a squadron of German warships commanded by Admiral Graf Spee. This squadron, including the armoured cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, had just inflicted defeat on the Royal Navy at the Battle of Coromandel, off the coast of Chile.
One of the British ships sunk at Coromandel was HMS Good Hope, in which Walter had served in 1913. Invincible, as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sturdee, together with Inflexible and several other ships, sank the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and other supporting ships in the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914.
After a refit at Gibraltar in January and February 1915, Invincible joined the 3 Battlecruiser Squadron as the flagship of Admiral Hood, and took part in the battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.
In the early evening of that day Invincible came under fire from the German ships Derfflinger and Lutzow, and at 6.34pm was struck by a shell on the starboard midship 12-inch turret. This ignited a nearby magazine containing 50 tons of cordite. Invincible blew up, and sank in less than 15 seconds. There were only six survivors from her crew of 1,021.
Walter Abbott’s body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial for almost 10,000 sailors of the First World War who have no grave but the sea.
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RIP. Gone but not forgotten. They made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and its freedom. Rest in Peace lads
Walter Tom Abbott was my great uncle. I never met him of course, however, he is well remembered and respected by members of my family. R.I.P uncle Walter, the ultimate sacrifice you, and all who have died in the service of their country is, and shall always be, remembered.