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Irish honour Jutland dead with memorial dedicated 102 years after titanic clash of battleships

4 June 2018
One hundred and two years after the greatest naval battle of the modern era fought in European waters, the people of Cobh in southern Ireland unveiled a memorial to their Jutland dead.

Twenty sailors from the town – then known as Queenstown when the country was part of the British Empire – died in the enormous clash between British and German men o’war in the North Sea, a fraction of the 350 Irishmen killed in the battle.

Cobh was a key harbour for both merchant and warships; it was the final port of call for the Titanic before her fateful voyage across the Atlantic, it was the reception point for survivors and the dead from the torpedoed liner Lusitania, and in the second half of the WW1, was a major base in the fight against the U-boat.

The biggest single blow was delivered by the Battle of Jutland on May 31/June 1 1916 – the failure of the Royal Navy to destroy the German Fleet and the heavy loss of life severely impacted on public morale.

The Jutland Memorial Society has spent several years campaigning/fundraising to erect an 8ft obelisk as a monument not just to the 20 Cobh men lost at Jutland, but all locals who died in the Great War at sea.

Having raised nearly £6,000, the memorial was installed in the Bible Garden of the Benedictine Nuns, overlooking the harbour.

It was a very dignified and emotional service,

Eithne Wright, Chairwoman of the Jutland Memorial Society

A joint Catholic-Church of Ireland service was held in St Colman’s Cathedral with the pews packed as locals were reminded of the impact Jutland had on the town; a joint blessing then took place of 20 sailor’s caps, each representing the rank of those Cobh men killed in action in the clash of dreadnoughts, including one for Cdr Richard Herbert Denny Townsend, the highest-ranking Irishman to die at Jutland.

“It was a very dignified and emotional service,” said Eithne Wright, Chairwoman of the Jutland Memorial Society and great niece of Shipwright William McGrath.

He died when battle-cruiser HMS Queen Mary blew up – a tragedy which prompted Admiral Beatty’s famous remark: “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.”

Afterwards, a short procession led by Piper Adam Duggan and a symbolic pall bearer detachment from the Irish Naval Service Reserve, the flag standards of the Royal Naval Association of Ireland and descendants carrying the 20 caps moved to the grounds of St Benedict’s Priory – Admiralty House under British rule.

There sculptor James McLoughlin’s monument was unveiled by County Mayor, Cllr Declan Hurley and blessed by Father John McCarthy and the Reverend Paul Arbuthnot.

Wreaths were laid and a Bugler sounded the Last Post. This was followed by a two-minute silence which was concluded with a bell being rung eight times – as traditionally used to mark the change of watch on ships.

The event was concluded by Chev. Adrian Gebruers of St. Colman’s Cathedral where the service began. At 4.03pm, marking the moment  the HMS Indefatigable sank, he played the Naval Hymn on the Carillon Bells, followed by Abide with Me at 4.25pm – marking the moment HMS Queen Mary met her fate.

Pictures: Gordon Kinsella and the Jutland Memorial Society of Cobh

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