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Cadet To be remembered on the 100th anniversary of his death

7 November 2016
On Remembrance Sunday Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) will remember a former cadet who died exactly 100 years ago at the Battle of Ancre.

Lieutenant (Lt) The Honourable Vere Sidney Tudor Harmsworth, aged 21, gave his life on the first day of the Battle, 13 November 1916, serving with the 63rd (Royal Naval Division) on the frontline in France.

The battle was part of the final phase of the first Battle of the Somme.  In total around 4,000 members of the Royal Naval Division were wounded or killed during the month of November 1916.

The Royal Naval Division was formed by Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty and comprised of reservists for whom there were no billets at sea.  The battalions were named after Naval heroes: Hood, Nelson, Collingwood, Anson, Drake and Hawke.

By the time the Division arrived in France in 1916, it had already seen action in Antwerp in 1914 and Gallipoli in 1915.

Lt Harmsworth, son of 1st Viscount Rothermere, was a pupil at the Royal Naval College Osborne before arriving at Dartmouth. 

He passed out of BRNC in August 1912 and joined HMS Cumberland, which at that time was serving as a training ship for Naval cadets. 

Leaving Cumberland, Harmsworth gained the rank of Midshipman on 15 May 1913 and served in HMS Defence until his discharge from the Royal Navy because of a hearing problem.

With the outbreak of World War One Lt Harmsworth volunteered for the Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve and was assigned to the Royal Navy Division.  He was captured in Antwerp and escaped to serve in Gallipoli, before being sent to France.

If I fall do not mourn, but be glad and proud. It is not a life wasted, but gloriously fulfilled.

Lieutenant (Lt) The Honourable Vere Sidney Tudor Harmsworth

Following Lt Harmsworth’s death the Commanding Officer of his battalion wrote of him: "The men of his battalion who survived the action are thrilled with pride in his name.

"He led his company in the attack on the first German trenches.  He saw that these were cleared of the Germans, and advanced with a number of men on the second line.

"In or near this line he was again wounded, this time on the right shoulder. Almost immediately he got up and collected such men as were near him, and led the attack on the third line.

"Just before reaching it he was hit by a shell, and instantly killed. During the greater part of this time he was commanding the attacking line, and by his endurance and courage got the men forward at a critical juncture."

Lt Harmsworth was the first of Lord Rothermere’s sons to die in World War One. His elder brother, The Honourable Harold Vyvyan St. George Harmsworth, served with the Army in France and died in 1918 of wounds sustained at Cambrai the year before.

Lord Rothermere was determined that the selflessness and heroism of his sons’ generation would not be forgotten. He made a number of presentations and donations in their name including a cup to the Naval College in Osborne, which was later transferred to BRNC.

A painting of Nelson by Leonardo Guzzardi presented to Dartmouth again in memory of Lt Harmsworth and his brother, still hangs in the College today.

The inscription bears words from Lt Harmsworth’s last letter home on the eve of the battle.  He wrote: “It is a great thing, you know, to lead 150 men into Action.

"I am one of the lucky Company Commanders who are to go over with their Companies.” 

“If I fall do not mourn, but be glad and proud.  It is not a life wasted, but gloriously fulfilled.”

Captain (Capt) Jol Woodard, the Commanding Officer of BRNC, said: “The bravery and contribution of the Royal Naval Division in the First World War was extraordinary.

"Trained as sailors, the Division proudly flew the White Ensign over their camp and maintained their Naval ethos while wearing khaki and fighting in the trenches.

"For those of us in the Armed Forces Remembrance Sunday serves as a particular reminder of what it means to be a member of the military.

"We will remember Harmsworth and his men in our church service on Sunday. Their courage and bravery, and that of all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our great country remains an inspiration to us all.”

BRNC will fall silent on Friday 11 November when Staff and Cadets under training will gather on the parade ground to observe the two minute silence.  Commander Rob Dunn, The Commander of BRNC, and the Reverend Keith Robus Royal Naval Chaplain, will attend the open-air service at the Dartmouth war memorial.

On Remembrance Sunday three divisions of Officer Cadets will join with the local community in Dartmouth, after the chapel service, to take part in the Remembrance Parade.  Staff from the College will also be in attendance with Capt Jol Woodard, among the wreath layers at the town’s war memorial.

Representatives from BRNC will also attend Remembrance Day parades in Kingswear, Kingsbridge, Brixham, Townstal, Totnes and Dittisham. 

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