On the history trail: Casualty of war at sea

HMS Invincible after launch in 1907.
HMS Invincible after launch in 1907.

On 31 May 1916 a vicious sea battle took place in the North Sea which afterwards was named ‘The Battle of Jutland’.

Pocklington War Memorial, outside the Post Office, records the name of Henry Holmes who was born in Wilberfoss in 1896. His brother Arthur was born in Pocklington. Henry was a casualty of the sea battle that took place 100 years ago.

In the 1901 census the Holmes family lived in the Union Workhouse on Burnby Lane where his mother Clara is listed as a pauper and her marital status given as single, not widowed. They were in the workhouse at the same time as the families of other World War One fallen heroes, John Cross and William Cooper. Able seaman Henry Allison Holmes (service no J/4350) joined the navy as teenager and was listed as a 17-year old seaman on HMS Illustrious in the 1911 census.

Henry had attended the National School in Pocklington and on a later return visit on leave he visited his old school. Whilst at home he commented “without brag” that he felt very confident in the ability of the Navy to wipe out the Germans given the opportunity.

Henry then moved ships to be a seaman aboard HMS Invincible, the world’s first battlecruiser, launched in 1907. The ‘Invincible’ had been involved in fighting off the Falkland Islands in December 1914 when the ‘Scharnhorst’ and ‘Gneisenau’ were sunk. But it was in the battle of Jutland in May 1916 that the ‘Invincible’ met her fate after receiving three salvoes each from the German ships ‘Lutzow’ and ‘Derflinger’, the ‘Invincible’ took only 90 seconds to sink. Of her full complement of 1,026 officers and men, all were killed, apart from just six survivors. Unfortunately Henry Holmes was not one of the surviving few and perished during what must have been a terrifying few seconds as HMS Invincible sank rapidly in those cold North Sea waters.