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The Invergordon Archive

The upturned hull of HMS Natal - c1916
The Invergordon Archive
The upturned hull of HMS Natal - c1916

The Natal was sunk in the firth in 1915, by an explosion in the magazine. This shows the hull before it was dismantled.
Picture added on 30 January 2004
I have often searched (with no luck) for information about the Natal. My father told me about it but it seems to be forgotten history. It is amazing to think that I was brought up and educated in the town where this disaster occured but it was never mentioned..ditto the sailors mutiny of 1931.
Added by Bill Geddes on 24 December 2004
I agree - I was brought up in Invergordon and lived here all my life and the first I heard of Natal was on this website where I've gathered bits of information. Are the ships ruins still in the Firth?
Added by Joey on 29 January 2005
The steel from the ship was salvaged over the years. Firstly the Navy blew up the Hull as it was regarded a hazard to shipping. The steel/salvage was brought to the woody pier next to the West Harbour in barges from the main salvage vessel. There were large guns and small arms amongst the haul. We used to find cordite and had set it alight on the beach. There is an isolated danger buoy over the wreck site in the Firth although rigs anchor not far from it now. The wreck itself is, I believe, quite flat now.
Added by SubC on 30 January 2005
Hurrah for the Invergordon Museum! - I'm studying for an MSc Heritage and Museum Studies, and will hang onto the notes from Bill Geddes and Joey against the day when I'm asked for concise proof that museums serve a purpose. Without museums we can indeed let the past be forgotten.
The loss of HMS NATAL, and the Invergordon Mutiny, perhaps slipped from LOCAL memory because for historic reasons the Royal Navy 'traditionally' recruited from the southern half of England: in northern England and Scotland service in the Army was more common. There is a memorial in Portsmouth Cathedral to those lost in the NATAL - unusual for a naval memorial because it records the deaths of a naval officer and his wife who died together in the disaster. As for the Invergordon Mutiny, naval historians could tell a great deal to anyone who wished to know - it was a watershed event in the 20th Century social history of the Royal Navy. See Anthony Carew's 'The Lower Deck of the Royal Navy 1900-39 - Invergordon in Perspective' - Invergordon Library must surely have a copy.
Added by Mark Brady on 30 January 2005
Yes, I agree about museums. But the point I was making is that in a town where not much (of National interest) has happened over the years it is astonishing that the two events referred to were never mentioned during my education in the town where they occurred. You would at least think that the subject would have come up in History classes. What better way to interest kids in the past than telling them what had happened in their own town. Hopefully things have changed now. When I was at school, history ended in 1746. (I suspect this has something to do with a perception that Scotland ceased to exist as a nation after this date.
Added by Bill Geddes on 30 January 2005
In Cromarty in the late 60s and early 70s we were taught about the Natal because at the time its wreck was being blown up to make the explosive stores safe. We used to find bits of cordite on the beach which we would set off in a variety of ways.
Added by Garve Scott-Lodge on 31 January 2005
An exhibition about HMS Natal will commence in Invergordon Museum, April 2005 and will run for a few months.
Added by Colin D Mackenzie on 02 February 2005
My grandfather was on board HMS Natal the night it exploded. He survived and was hospitalised and sent to the Chatham Naval Hospital.
We have a hand written account writtten by him describing how he got away.
I can send a scan for the exhibition. Please could you send more details of the April exhibition (Colin D Mackenzie entry)?
Added by Philip Solomon on 04 February 2005
The exhibit on HMS Natal is currently being compiled for display this year. However, it will be a permanent exhibit and any contributions similar to that mentioned by Philip Solomon will be highly valued.
Added by Malcolm McKean on 10 February 2005
Philip, thank you for your offer. The museum would be very interested in your grandfather's account. We are working on a long-term exhibition on the Natal which will open later this year (exact date tba). It will include information on the Natal's career and sinking, photographs, and objects recovered from the ship or otherwise related to it. Information gathered for the display is being compiled into research folders which will be available to the public. The comments posted on this site and on the Cromarty image library show what a great interest there still is in the subject.
Added by Estelle Quick on 25 February 2005
I have various memories of the 'Natal' history over the years being from Invergordon originally. My grandmother, Catherine Askew nee MacLennan, was brought up in the shore area as was the daughter of a blacksmith who had premises towards the bottom of King Street and stayed in Hugh Miller Street. She recalled the day the Natal blew up at anchor, hearing a tremendous explosion, and being only a young child running with her mother towards the pier known to my generation as the stone arm (beside the present Port Authority building). The view of the Firth was obstructed at that time by the Dockyard fence which at that time ran along the length of Shore Road and nothing could be seen. She later became aware of the full tragedy and her mother, my great-grandmother, along with other local women, was involved in the dressing of bodies from the Natal in the Masonic Hall (Outram Street building?). As a young boy my grandfather who came to Invergordon in 1923 with the Royal Navy and latterly worked on the Harbourmaster's (MOD) pilot boat spoke of grounding on the remains of the 'Natal' hulk. Part of the hull from early salvage attempts lay on waste ground beside Shore Road for a number of years although I cannot recollect this personally. I myself have vivid memories of when the Royal Navy clearance diving team from Rosyth first came up to the Cromarty Firth about 1970(?) to level the wreck. Warnings were printed in the Ross-Shire about the impending detonations beforehand. I can recall sitting about Westwood with pals when the first and largest charge(s) were set off by the Navy. The explosion filled the Sutors in a large black mushroom before subsiding. Over the ensuing weeks, several smaller controlled explosions were carried out. As I remember, one of the Foster brothers who had the photo studio in what was the older Bernards of Harwich shop in Shore Road had a spectacular photo of the first explosion in the shop for several years afterwards. Somebody no doubt has a copy. Mr John MacKenzie, formerly of Cromarty Firth Diving Services, who stays in Evanton, was one of the Navy clearance divers involved in the demolition of the Natal and has an interesting account of the event. The salvage was bought by a Mr Hankey(?) and gun barrels, armour plate etc was eventually taken ashore in the harbour basin at the stone arm before going off south by rail. John Ross, Westwood, now Delny and Mr Savage, Oaks Villa, both worked on the job which I know is documented. As teenagers, my friends and I always took an interest in the work. I am privileged to have seen a copy of the book on the Natal - 'They called it Accident' which is along the lines of conspiracy and details two other RN ships sunk in harbour. It is good that such a tragic event has not been forgotten and is recorded in local history.
Added by Graeme Askew on 21 March 2005
Graeme - was your grandfather Ian Askew? My grandfather also worked on the pilot boat, otherwise known as the harbour master's launch....and they always had to watch out for the wreck bouy of the Natal. It was clearly marked..I am surprised to hear that some people have no knowledge of the Natal. There is a picture of Ian Askew on the pilot boat, see picture #397. My grandfather was Fachy Dunn.
Added by Harry on 24 March 2005
My Grandfather was John MacKenzie, one of six men who died on the vessel S.Y. Disperser which foundered off the North of Scotland Coast whilst engaged on the salvage of the wreck of H.M.S. Natal.
Added by Gloria Thirtle-Watts on 07 April 2005
In response to the comments by Mr Geddes regarding history lessons - things have changed. I was brought up in Invergordon and learnt lots about local history during my time at Park Primary thanks to my primary seven teacher Catherine Mackay. Our class wrote a book and put on a show called Invergordon a Town at War (WW2). We interviewed lots of local people. It was a great way to learn, getting lots of the town's older residents involved too. The show was great fun and the book is a lasting reminder of what went on in Invergordon during WW2. Catherine and her pupils have done books covering different time periods in Invergordon, which should all be available in the library.
Added by Gillian Laing on 20 June 2005
Yes, my Grandad James Vendome Raines perished along with approx 600 other unfortunates on the 31st December 1915. Whilst in England in 2000 I went to the Chatham Memorial and photographed his name. Does anybody know if there is a memorial at Cromarty?
Added by William E Smyth on 26 June 2005
My father-in-law, C W Flynn, was on HMS Canada and witnessed Natal blowing up. He told me some years ago he piped "man lifeboats". All I know he was at Scapa on the Canada and aged about 17. He died at the age of 100 years in 1998. He also told me HMS Vanguard (?) also blew up he thought by magazine problems.
I wish now I could ask him more after reading the interesting comments!
Added by Roy Mawbey on 16 August 2005
I have just found this website and hope someone can help me. I have just learned that my grandmother's half-sister married a James Edward Brice in 1911. On the marriage certificate he is listed as a "stoker" for the H.M.S. Natal. Is there a list of those who died and/or who was on the ship when it was blowing up? Any help appreciated.
Added by Janice on 18 August 2005
Janice, I doubt that your James Edward Brice, was on board HMS Natal at the time of the explosion. Natal was sunk in 1916. If he was a casualty then he would be listed in the Commonwealth War graves site, which I checked and he is not listed. Even if his remains were not recovered he would be listed as a casualty. Again he is not listed. So he must have survived the war....He was most likely on another ship at the time. It is common to transfer, or be transferred to other ships...I found my fathers grave on the Commonwealth war graves site and hoped I could help you this way. Sorry, but perhaps some navy man could put you onto some other way through the Royal Navy, good luck
Added by Harry on 19 August 2005
Janice, I have lists of the Natal survivors and casualties and James Brice is on neither. As Harry says, he must have been transferred to another ship before the incident.
Added by Estelle Quick on 19 August 2005
Estelle & Harry, Thank you so much for your comments. I can continue to search for him!
Anonymous comment added on 20 August 2005
I am researching the men who died in WW1, who are on our village War Memorial, with a view to writing a small book on them. One of them was Lieutenant Guy Titley R.N, aged 24. He was killed when H.M.S Natal blew up. He is mentioned on our two War Memorials and on his mother's grave in Duffield’s Cemetery. His mother had died just a year before. A truly sad time for this family. I have found this web site very helpful in the background to the sinking. It is also good to see so many other people interested in the history and people who lost their lives in WW1. If anyone has any pictures of the officers of HMS Natal it would be very interesting to see them. If you would like pictures of his memorials please let me know and I will send you them.

(The picture can be seen at picture #770)
Added by Warren Osborne on 27 December 2005
HMS Natal blew up after being visited by either 2 or 3 ammunition experts. The same people also visited other ships which also blew up in mysterious circumstances in the English Channel. These people were questioned about their role in the events but nothing could be proved. They eventually ended up in Russia. There is a book called "They called it accident" - I don't know the author but it gives theories on why and how the ships were blown up.
Added by Douglas Will on 16 January 2006
My great grandmother's younger brother was killed aboard the Natal - Harold Parfitt. The comments and photos on this site have been very helpful to me. Many thanks to all contributors.
Added by Kathryn Gray on 22 February 2006
HMS Natal was at the time of her demise the top gunnery ship in the navy ..yet she never fired a shot in anger (i.e. at an enemy). She was considered to be an unlucky ship after she carried the American ambassador's body (he had died in the UK) back to America..sailors are a very superstitious breed.....
Added by Duncan Murray on 29 March 2006
Hi, Gloria, there seems to be a bit of a mystery concerning S.S. Disperser. My Grandfather, Murdo Mackenzie from Invergordon was the Chief Engineer and his body was found on the beach at Kirkwall, Orkney. Others who died were:- George H Absom (Captain, Cromarty); James Anderson (Mate, Middlesbrough); my Grandfather; John Wood Macdonald (2nd engineer, Cromarty); Alexander Shepherd (seaman, Cromarty) Douglas Shepherd (seaman, Cromarty son of Alexander); Andrew Watson and Charles Watson (both seamen of Cromarty); Ernest Southall (seaman, Cromarty); John Mackenzie (Fireman, Inverness); John Maclean (Fireman, Cromarty); Robert Spence (Cook, Cromarty). Their names and the ship are engraved on the plaque honouring Merchant Seamen in The National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle. Any more information would be appreciated Thanks!
Added by Rosalie Samaroo (Graham) on 03 April 2006
Hello Rosalie, thanks for the information about the S.S. Disperser. I did not know that the names of the men and the ship are engraved on a plaque at Edinburgh Castle. I am hoping to get more information so will certainly let you know!
Added by Gloria T-Watts on 03 April 2006
The Disperser foundered in poor weather in Kirkwall Bay in April of 1940. Presumably with the outbreak of war, salvage operations on the Natal had ceased, and the Disperser was employed on more pressing needs in Orkney waters.
Added by Ronald Stewart on 03 April 2006
Graeme, don't know if the wreckage you are talking about was actually on the beach. This in actual fact was one of the floating naval target hulks with a network of poles on it at which the ships fired their big guns. This one was broken up into three sections one section below the old cement shed. The second was level with the end of the ferry slipway and opposite our house in Shore Road. The third section was on the beach about three hundred yards below the old coal yard.
My father and Sandy Russel's father used to go down to the section by the cement shed and separate the large square logs from the main section - these logs were held together by massive nails about 3 feet long and quite thick.
While they were removing the logs they found shells of many different calibres sticking in the wood. I can remember my mother having a press clipping of my dad and Mr Russell posing with some of the shells. This would have been between 1937-39 time. Maybe somewhere in the paper archives there might still be a copy of the picture.
During the war we used to go to the section below the coal yard and collect the metal - mainly rivets - and take them to the scrap yard where we were paid sixpence a load; this was spent on sweets and comics. The scrapyard was just near the slaughter house and the scrap was used towards the war effort.
Graeme, did your parents live on Clyde Street on the opposite corner to the YMCA with a garage across the road from them, also next to Tommy Ross's back yard?
Added by Douglas Will on 03 April 2006
Rosalie, re Disperser.
1 The wreck is lying in Kirkwall Bay "just outside Kirkwall harbour", and has been identified, not in the North Sea.
2 This seems the most likely.
3 A boom defence vessel like Disperser would be an unlikely choice for use as a hospital ship. There were no medical personnel listed as lost with the ship. A more suitable type of vessel would have been found for hospital work.
Added by Ronald Stewart on 04 April 2006
Yes Harry, the area between the seawall and that target has now been filled in. Couldn't believe my eyes when I came round the corner of Shore Road and saw it. The channel there is very deep and there was an oilrig moored just off where the target used to be. During the war a Sunderland landed between that target and the shore - remember the sandbank by the target? - well the Sunderland came to an abrupt stop on that - very lucky, otherwise he would have hit the ferry slip or the RAF pier and that would have been disaster. Nobody was seriously hurt but I would think very shaken up. They used to pull in all the sunk and crashed seaplanes up on the shore between the slip and first pier. I can remember they found either a Botha or Blenheim and that too was dragged up there. From what I can remember they found that plane purely by accident as they were looking for a sunken Lerwick at the time.
Added by Douglas Will on 04 April 2006
Gloria and Ronald, thank you for your comments. I was told 1) the Disperser hit a mine in the North Sea on 14 April 1940 (correct date); 2) foundered in a storm, and 3) foundered while acting as a hospital ship. It would be nice to know which of these is absolutely correct.
Added by Rosalie Samaroo (Graham) on 04 April 2006
Douglas, I remember the "Target" that had a marker pole on it for when it was high tide, you could walk out to it at low tide....located as you say opposite the end of the ferry slip. I understand this is all filled in now..you mention Sandy Russell's father - would that be Willie Russell? I often wondered what he did for a living....
Added by Harry O'Neill on 04 April 2006
The book which relates the story of HMS Natal is entitled "They called it Accident" and was written by one A. Cecil Hampshire and was first published in 1961 by William Kimber & Co., London. The publication is long since out of print. The other ships which the book relates to are demise of the battleship HMS Bulwark which blew up and sunk at her moorings near Sheerness, Kent on 26th November, 1914 and the Dreadnought class battleship HMS Vanguard which similarly blew up at her moorings in Scapa Flow, Orkney on 8th July, 1917. According to the book, crew losses of each vessel were put at 390 (HMS Natal), 766 (HMS Bulwark) and approximately 1,000 (HMS Vanguard). The book gives a good account of each disaster, particularly the Natal, with the author consulting Admiralty records, findings of the Naval Courts, documents of civilian companies who attempted to salve the wrecks and of course survivors and other eye witnesses.
Added by Graeme Askew on 05 April 2006
Thanks Ronald for your comments. Any idea why she sank ?
Added by Rosalie Samaroo (Graham) on 06 April 2006
Hi Graeme, thank you for information re "They called it Accident ". Are you Hamish or Ian's son ? The Askew family lived along the road from us in Clyde Street. My Granny was Mrs Mackenzie.
Added by Rosalie Samaroo (Graham) on 06 April 2006
Rosalie, I am Hamish's son. My father died in 1989 and my uncle, Iain, is retired and now lives in Inverness. I stay in Bonar Bridge but am currently working in the Middle East. My grandparents used to stay at 65 Clyde Street for quite a number of years opposite of what was the YMCA which they owned for a short time. I have access to the book "They called it Accident" which I would glady transcribe and put on-line for historical purposes and the benefit of the local community and beyond but obviously there are copywright issues which I assume prevent this unless anyone can suggest otherwise. I think I may also have extracts somewhere from the "Ross Shire Journal" 44 years ago column which gives some detail of one of the salvage attempts on the Natal in the 1930s.
Added by Graeme Askew on 06 April 2006
Rosalie and Ronald: I have two press cuttings. One states the SY Disperser was engaged on the salvage of the wreck of HMS Natal and the other about the funerals of Mr. John MacKenzie, my grandfather and the funeral at Cromarty. Gloria
Added by Gloria T-Watts on 06 April 2006
Gloria, the Disperser was certainly engaged on salvage of Natal, but with the outbreak of war, these operations would have been suspended and Disperser diverted to other duties in Orkney. It was whilst employed on these other duties that she was lost. If the newspaper claimed that Disperser was lost whilst actively involved in salvage of Natal, then I would suggest there is an error in the report. The wreck of Natal, and the wreck of Disperser are some 100 miles apart. As the Disperser was lost in wartime, there is no detail of the cause, apart from bad weather.
Added by Ronald Stewart on 07 April 2006
Gloria and Ronald, thank you for further comments about the Disperser. I feel sure that you are right, Ronald, about the loss of the ship. Your account seems perfectly feasible and I am quite satisfied with that, ....although.....A mine?????
Added by Rosalie Samaroo (Graham) on 07 April 2006
Graeme, I just thought you might be Hamish's son but I wasn't sure. I knew your grandparents as well although your Dad and Ian are a wee bit older than me. It's nice to meet you through this site!
Added by Rosalie Samaroo (Graham) on 07 April 2006
I have been reading this site since I came across it in February this year. If anyone has more information about the Natal I would be very interested. As I mentioned in my February entry, my Great Uncle died aboard the ship. My mother has a Christmas card he sent to his mother shortly before he died. I live in Australia and it is rather difficult to research from here. Many thanks.
Added by Kathryn Gray on 08 April 2006
Hi, Gloria, Graeme and Ronald, I have just obtained the book "They Called it Accident " (thanks also to Douglas). In the closing chapters and I quote "In August, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland and the Second World War began. Nevertheless the salvage operations went on at Cromarty, for scrap metal had now become vitally important. Then, on the night of April 14th, 1940, a great storm hit the north-east coast of Scotland. The little "Disperser" was lost with her entire crew, nine of whom came from Cromarty and one from Invergordon, and grief once again shrouded the small community." The "one from Invergordon" was my Grandfather - Murdo Mackenzie who was Chief Engineer Officer.
Added by Rosalie Samaroo (Graham) on 20 April 2006
Although there is probably further information elsewhere, I have found a notebook with some information on Disperser.
There are several entries for her arriving and sailing, but the final arrival is dated Friday 10th November 1939. The next entry on Tuesday 21st Nov reads, "Disperser due to sail at sunset, failed to complete". An entry on Wed 22nd suggests she had sailed overnight. As there are no further references to the vessel, I can only assume she did not return to Invergordon but spent her last 5 months in Orkney waters.
Added by Ronald Stewart on 21 April 2006
Thanks Ronald, my Grandfather's body was found on the beach at Kirkwall, Orkney, so it looks that you are right.
Added by Rosalie Samaroo (graham) on 21 April 2006
Such a pity that the hull was blown up. It was a memorial to all those lost.
Added by Margaret Marion Dyson on 23 April 2006
There is further information on the Disperser tragedy on the Cromarty Image Library site, a sister site to this one. Apparently the Disperser had been sent north after the outbreak of war, in order to lay mines in Orkney waters.
Added by Ronald Stewart on 14 May 2006
Jane, he is not listed in the Commonwealth war graves commission site, so he must have survived the war and was probably on the Natal at an earlier date....
Added by Harry O'Neill on 16 May 2006
Can anyone confirm that a Robert Wills was one of those killed when the Natal blew up? My mother, 85, has just discovered that her father, George Wills, had a brother called Robert. Whilst sorting through old papers, she came across a letter from Robert to her father sent from the Natal. She had no knowledge of her Uncle Robert before the letter was unearthed, and is interested to find out all she can.
Added by Jane Marsh on 16 May 2006
Came across this whilst trying to find out more about another incident which I am sure I read about ages ago (in the Scots Magazine?). I think the story was that one of the ships anchored in the Firth fired a salvo (at a imagined submarine?). Unfortunately the shells landed on shore (on the Black Isle side?) and destroyed a croft? Have tried googling the web but with no result. Can anyone thow any light on this?
Added by John Hendry on 08 July 2006
John, I recall once being told a story of a house or croft, I think, in Jemimaville in the Black Isle being destroyed or badly damaged by naval gun fire but don't think that there was loss of life. Sorry but I can't remember any more detail of the event but am sure somebody on the Cromarty home page will have more accurate knowledge of the event.
Added by Graeme Askew on 08 July 2006
This incident is mentioned in the book "This Noble Harbour - A History of the Cromarty Firth." Quoting from page 196, "and the Cromarty Firth's very own submarine scare took place, the famous 'Battle of Jemimaville.' In late October (1914) the Battle Cruiser Squadron commanded by David Beatty, later to be Commander-in-Chief, was moved to Cromarty. As it steamed slowly into anchor a 'periscope' was sighted in the waters of the Firth. Accounts vary as to what it was; some claim it was simply the wake of a ship, others that it was a ten foot long fishing buoy that had broken loose in the Moray Firth and drifted into the Cromarty Firth. Firing commenced, and shells landed on a number of houses in Jemimaville, injuring a baby. The afflicted family was visited by a naval doctor and officer who assured it that THREE submarines had been hit. Years later one of the naval officers present at the time recalled: '...no Bar (has) yet been issued for the Battle of Jemimaville, but for those who were present it remains a treasured memory of the lighter side of the war.'
Anonymous comment added on 08 July 2006
Thanks for this. Glad to find that I was not imagining things!
Added by John Hendry on 09 July 2006
Just to put to rest an earlier link - we had the wrong surname for my mother's 'uncle', whom we had assumed was her father's brother because of the letter Robert sent to him. He turns out to have been called Robert Williams, and I have found his name on the Commonweath War Graves site as having met an untimely end on the Natal 30/12/15 along with many other crew members. He was the Telegraphist, and was just 20 years old. Now I just have to find out his connection with my family, as his parents' names, as listed on the war graves site, give no clues. Thanks for the help following my first enquiry in May 2006
Added by Jane Marsh on 18 January 2007
Ronald, thank you for the further information re The Disperser. My Granny's official letter (she told me) that her husband was killed when the ship was blown up having struck a mine. That is why his name, Murdo Mackenzie, Engineer Officer, is on the Invergordon War Memorial. Also I have a certificate from the Naval records at Edinburgh Castle confirming that he was killed.
Added by Rosalie Graham now Samaroo on 18 January 2007
My Great Uncle Robert Henry Lomas drowned when the Natal went down. I believe he was 15. His name is on a memorial in Chatham. His younger brother and that younger brother's son, my father, both served in the RN for many years.
Added by Bob Lomas on 19 February 2007
Those interested in the detail of the accident which sank HMS NATAL, and/or the explosions in BULWARK and VANGUARD, should look at a recently-published book 'Arming the Fleet' by David Evans. It's published by Explosion! - The Museum of Naval Firepower at Gosport (Yes, most people with any knowledge of naval ordnance HATE the museum's name - but once you get over that the museum is well worth visiting); and among other subjects covers the stability of naval munitions (Yaaaaaawn - unless you have to store and handle them). There was much talk of sabotage at the time, and has been since - people love a Conspiracy Theory - but 'Arming the Fleet' makes it clear that cordite, introduced in the early 1890s, was alarmingly prone to deteriorate to a point at which spontaneous combustion occurred. The deterioration took some years, so it was a while before the penny dropped - a propellant originally thought to be much safer than gunpowder (in a test carried out in 1897 the bottom box of a stack of cordite boxes was fired in a magazine, and burned fiercely but without igniting the others) could reach a point at which the whole contents of a ship's magazine would explode with little or no warning. Prior to 1914 there was a string of accidents caused by deterioration of cordite, but those concerned thought the problems had been solved by introduction of stringent testing and improved storage/handling procedures. During WW1, however, the greatly-increased demand by the Army for munitions led to corner-cutting in their manufacture and storage: it is also possible that RN ships were issued with cordite which in peacetime would have been regarded as over-age. Sabotage was in reality most unlikely - the magazine explosions in all three ships were literally 'accidents waiting to happen'. At the same time, however, further improvements during the war in the manufacture of propellants and explosives made them much safer to store and handle - I think I'm right in saying VANGUARD's loss in 1917 was the last explosion in a British warship attributed solely to unstable ordnance.
Added by Mark Brady on 20 February 2007
My Gt Uncle, Ernest Banyard died in the Natal on 30th Dec 1915. He is on the RN war memorial at Chatham.
Added by Ken Holway on 09 May 2007
A relation of mine was looking out of her kitchen window and saw the Natal explode. She said that there had been a noisy party on board the night before.

Added by Margaret Dyson on 10 May 2007
If you are looking for relatives, look in the National Archives section ADM for service records. Also look at commonwealth War Graves Commission website to find where people are commemorated on memorials or graves.
Added by Ken Holway on 11 May 2007
Archibald Robert Caskie, who was in the Royal Naval Reserve, perished when the Natal sank. He is listed on the Chatham Naval Memorial. Archibald was my wife's Great Uncle and if anyone has any information about him, it would be most welcome.
Added by Samuel Trevor Stewart on 13 January 2008
I visited the site of the wreck before we moved to New Zealand in 2005. I know there is a memorial at Chatham but is there anything around Cromarty? My great grandfather Victor George Hurn, a stoker, died.
Added by Carrie Reid on 29 June 2008
I visited the area quite recently looking for a memorial. The museum in Invergordon provides a great deal of information plus a list of those killed in the explosion. You get a real sense that local people are still very familiar with events all those years ago. A very kind and helpful local councillor and museum manager met us specially to let us into the museum that happened to be closed that day.

We didn't find any memorial in that area. We were told that there were some graves in a local cemetery but unfortunately we couldn't find it.
Added by Bob Lomas on 30 June 2008
I am looking for Bertie Coles, a stoker on the Natal, who died in the explosion. Can anyone tell me where to get a crew list please?
Added by B Pearson on 03 November 2008
Reply to B Pearson:
This should be in the National Archives in London.
If bertie died, you can find details of him on the war graves commission website, which will give you his navy number and possibly his home town and parents' names.
Added by Ken Holway on 04 November 2008
This him?

Initials: B J
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Stoker 1st Class
Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Unit Text: H.M.S. "Natal."
Age: 25
Date of Death: 30/12/1915
Service No: SS/112091
Additional information: Son of Alfred John and Emma Coles; husband of the late Clara Alice Coles.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: 11.
Added by Ken Holway on 05 November 2008
Reply to B Pearson: I will forward you a crew list via email. Let me know if you get it, thanks.

Added by Harry O'neill on 07 November 2008
In Memory of Petty Officer 1st Class ERNEST HENRY SPAIN 187501, H.M.S. "Natal.", Royal Navy who died on 30 December 1915. Husband of Florence Maud Mary (born Horwood). They were married 31st October, 1909, at St. Clements Church, Kensington, London.
Added by Margaret Dyson on 07 November 2008
The husband of my great aunt, maiden name Dorrington, died on HMS Natal. She never recovered from the shock and spent many years in hospital. I don't know her husband's name. If anyone can help I would be very grateful.

Added by Richard Dorrington on 07 December 2009
In the early 1960s my paternal Grandmother, Isabella G MacLean, included the following eyewitness account of the sinking of the Natal in a letter to my father (see pages 124 to 125 of "Your Father and I", published by Tuckwell Press as book No 6 in their "Flashbacks" series): "HMS Natal was blown up one day near Christmas 1915 when there was a large party of civilians on board for a cinematograph entertainment. All the civilians were killed and hundreds of the sailors. There were funerals in Cromarty nearly every day for a long time, as the bodies were found by divers. One whole family, Marcus Dods, son of the Marcus Dods whose name must be very familiar to you (latterly, 1907-9, Principal of New College, Edinburgh), factor of an estate in Invergordon and his wife and family were aboard. The Press and Journal (September 1961) has published an account of a book by Cecil Hampstead (sic), "They Called it an Accident", which has an account of the sinking of the Natal at Cromarty. "After a series of loud explosions it sank, a blazing ruin, into the Firth". I must be one of the very few people now alive who actually saw the Natal sink, and so far from being a blazing ruin there wasn't even a puff of smoke. Moreover, nobody on the Cromarty side of the Firth heard a sound at all. On the Invergordon side there had been a certain amount of noise. (Note in text by Colin G MacLean: Mother often told of her witnessing the sinking of the Natal. A sailor from the Natal, George Laird, who had been a neighbour of Mother's in Aberdeen, came that afternoon on shore leave to visit mother at the UF Manse: the two of them were standing outside the Manse talking to one another. Suddenly the sailor exclaimed, "The Natal's away." Mother thought he meant that it had sailed out of the Firth. She looked over the hedge towards where it had been and saw two neat halves of it folding in towards one another and settling into the water - to rest, salvage reports were later to tell - on her funnels and gun turrets. Mother and George Laird hadn't heard a sound. Lines of graves up beside the Gaelic Chapel, and near to our (MacLean) family grave, mark the resting places of a number of those whose bodies were washed ashore)."

One other thought occurs to me:
Having started my own career as a film editor back in the pre-digital days of 35mm sprocketed "safety" film - I can't help wondering whether anybody has ever looked into the possibility of nitrate film stock having been a possible cause of the explosion which sank the Natal? The older nitrate stock was, in some cases, so unstable that - if enough of it were heaped together in one place - it could (I believe) combust spontaneously. I can well imagine how even a small amount of such a volatile material - placed carelessly outside its round metal can - could catch fire from any nearby source of heat. Once one length of film was burning, any nearby reels would be quick to follow - as was seen all too often in many an on-shore fire triggered in similar fashion. If anybody knows whether this theory has ever been put forward (or tested), I'd be interested to hear what the expert thinking was.

Fraser MacLean
Cupar, Fife
Added by Fraser MacLean on 03 January 2010
Concerning unstable nitrate movie-film, NATAL would have had to be carrying a good deal of it AND in the wrong place i.e within a magazine. All the evidence indicated that the disaster began with a fire INSIDE a closed cordite-magazine, resulting in an explosion that not only ruptured decks/bulkheads but released a very large quantity of incandescent gases which spread rapidly throughout the after-part of the ship.

It was no ordinary fire which caused the disaster - near-simultaneous combustion of a large quantity of cordite (i.e WITHIN the magazines) is the only credible explanation for a ship at anchor and in 'Sunday Routine' being destroyed in barely five minutes. I must therefore disagree with the account of Fraser Campbell's grandmother - eyewitnesses on other ships reported that the tragedy began with an explosion of smoke and flame from below NATAL's quarterdeck, and while the fires were largely internal subsequent investigation revealed that the rear half of the ship had been gutted by fires and explosions. It was a weakness of British armoured cruisers ordered before the lessons from the Russo-Japanese War had been assimilated that they were very vulnerable should a fire become established, for the fact that they bristled with guns meant that cordite-magazines were distributed throughout the ship's length - should any one of these become overheated the contents would almost certainly ignite, and the ship would quickly become a blazing inferno.)

Further to my comment dated 20 Feb 2007, I've since read ('Naval Weapons of WW2', John Campbell, p5) that the instability of British cordite before and during WW1 was due to minute particles of iron pyrites - probably from cinder-paths in the factories in which the propellant was manufactured and/or packed. The sulphur in these impurities oxidised slowly to sulphuric acid, which reacted with the nitrocellulose and in certain circumstances might generate sufficient heat for spontaneous ignition to occur. Once this was discovered in the 1920s more stringent precautions were taken to avoid such contamination, and the VANGUARD disaster was indeed the last of its kind for the Royal Navy.
Added by Mark Brady on 04 January 2010
Hey there, Mark, many thanks for setting me straight on the specifics of the explosion (I'm neither a Natal expert nor an explosives specialist). I'm not quite sure where you're getting the "Campbell" from - although there were indeed Campbells on my paternal Grandfather's side (including Isabella's mother-in-law, Ellen...). It certainly wasn't my intention to suggest that, nearly 100 years after the event, I somehow knew better than any of the experts, historians or eyewitnesses in terms of what exploded, where and when. In the light of what my Grandmother wrote (all of it contained within the quotation marks and prior to the bracketed Editor's comments written later by my father - the final, smaller paragraph is all mine....), I thought it was worth asking if anybody HAD ever looked into the possibility of nitrate film stock having triggered (or been part of) what seems, by all accounts, to have been a very rapid chain reaction. One specific thing, after all, that set the Natal apart from the other ships which were reputed to have sunk in similar mysterious circumstances, was the fact that there was a "cinematograph" show taking place at the time and, therefore, quite possibly a quantity of a highly volatile, highly flammable non-military substance known to have been responsible for many disastrous, rapidly-spreading fires on land. And, if one reads the numerous accounts of projection room fires at the time, it took very little nitrate stock to start, if not an explosion as such, then certainly a sudden and intense enough fire to set one off (assuming there was sufficient explosive or combustible material in the vicinity). But, like I say, it was only an interested question on my part, nothing more. My Grandmother first of all qualified as a school teacher and then, once married, she raised her children and ran the Manse; she wouldn't have known a piece of nitrate film stock if she'd found one in her soup. As for "disagreeing" with her account of the sinking of the Natal - you're quite at liberty to. The notion of nitrate film stock is mine not hers. She simply saw what she saw with her own eyes from one of the best vantage points above the Firth (and with one of the crew standing next to her) as the Natal was sinking and, more importantly, she took the time to write it all down. If I've somehow taken the edge of her own contribution to the recorded history of this tragic event with my own casual non-expert's question - more fool me! She remained adamant throughout her life, though, that neither she nor George Laird heard anything, least of all an explosion - although, as she wrote later, there were indeed many reports of loud noises from people on the north shore of the Firth. What she took exception to in Cecil Hampshire's account was the description he chose to write of a "blazing ruin" when, looking directly at the disaster with her own eyes as it was unfolding, she had seen nothing of the kind.
Added by Fraser MacLean on 05 January 2010
As I mentioned in the August 2005 comment, my father-in law was on HMS Canada when the Natal sunk. He told me the ship explosion was very loud and caused much concern on his ship. However I never asked him how far away was the Canada moored from the Natal. It must have been relatively close because he mentioned life boats were sent across.
Added by Roy Mawbey on 05 January 2010
My apologies, I don't know where the 'Campbell' came from either - a slip of the mind, I suppose.

Persons interested in the NATAL disaster should look at www.gwpda.org/naval/thist24.htm, which contains information extracted from an official publication dated October 1919 concerning shipboard accidents with explosives during WW1. This recounts that NATAL was lost after a very heavy explosion which was preceded by a smaller one. The first event which attracted attention was a puff of white smoke rising near her mainmast as high as the tops of the funnels, and very shortly afterwards flames shot up abaft the mainmast to a great height, 'with a rumbling noise not unlike rolling thunder'. This was immediately followed by dense volumes of yellow-brown smoke. The ship at once began to sink by the stern, but remained upright until the quarterdeck was awash - at which point she began to heel to port and quickly capsized. From the initial 'puff of smoke' to the time of her capsize was about 5 minutes, indicating that massive internal damage had occurred in that short period of time.

The Board of Enquiry heard evidence from eyewitnesses, and also had reports of the the subsequent examination of the wreck by divers. Its conclusion was that there could be no doubt that the loss of the ship was due to an internal explosion, which appeared to have originated in either the 3-pdr and small-arm magazine or the after 9.2 magazine. Furthermore the evidence regarding the noise made by the explosion and the colour and odour of the smoke supported the view that it was a 'cordite explosion'. (Technically cordite itself, like gunpowder, doesn't 'explode' but burns very rapidly and emits a great deal of hot gas. If that happens in a confined space there will be an explosion.) As to what had caused the cordite to ignite, exhaustive consideration of the possibilities led to the conclusion that the cause was probably spontaneous ignition of 'First Use' (i.e 'Past its Use-by Date', in modern parlance) cordite - of which NATAL had a good deal on board. 'On the whole', the report stated, 'the cordite on board was getting old, though none of the periodical tests had given any cause for apprehension in the state of the knowledge then available'. The regulations were subsequently changed, however - regular testing of cordite (suspended for about six months after the outbreak of the war) was re-emphasised, as was the importance of good record-keeping, and the practice of warships being issued with and/or retaining 'over-age' cordite was banned.

The possibility of a fire having occurred in HMS Natal prior to the accident was investigated, and no evidence was found to support that theory. (It would have been difficult to be absolutely certain, but a strong argument against that theory was that there had been no indication of any alarm having been raised BEFORE the initial explosion - so if there had been a fire nobody had noticed it.)

The Board of Enquiry found that one cordite magazine was probably open at the time of the accident - but this was probably NOT the one in which the initial explosion occurred. The Board criticised NATAL's non-standard routines for 'Magazine Sweepers', but concluded that these had not contributed to this particular disaster.

As for sabotage, the Board found no reason for suspicion. As I said in an earlier comment, everyone loves a Conspiracy Theory - but considering the propensity of WW1-era cordite to deteriorate over time to a dangerous state (which was known at the time of the disaster) AND the fact that NATAL was known to be carrying a good deal of 'over-age' cordite there seems little reason to argue with the finding that NATAL was lost as the result of an explosion of cordite in one of her after magazines which subsequently caused further magazine-explosions. The actual cause of the initial explosion could not be definitely ascertained, but in the circumstances the spontaneous ignition of cordite was believed to be the most likely explanation.

All of that, by the way, is not incompatible with Mrs MacLean's account of having heard no explosion nor seen any smoke - but nonetheless the after-part of NATAL would have been, in Cecil Hampshire's words, a 'blazing ruin' before the ship capsized.
Added by Mark Brady on 05 January 2010
I have a picture of a relative 'Bessie' - I'm assuming short for Elizabeth in a HMS NATAL uniform with one stripe on the sleeve, date of the postcard is AU or JU 7 08. Can anyone tell me what rank this would be and any other information that would help me identify her? My maiden name was Mackie. Other names that may be related are Eastes, Whyte, Gray.
Added by Margaret Foulston on 06 February 2010
Message for Samuel Stewart: Archibald Caskie was my partner's Great Grandfather whose son in turn died in the 2nd World War. Both their wives were pregnant at the time of the deaths so neither sons ever saw their fathers. Very sad.
Added by Melanie Davis on 24 March 2010
To B. Pearson--my great-uncle was "Bertie John" (Albert John) Coles of Millbrook, Bedfordshire. He was a stoker on the Natal. His wife, Clara Alice, died shortly before Bertie was killed on the Natal. They had an infant daughter, I believe, whom I have searched for, but have been unable to find out what happened to her. Are you related to this daughter? If so, please email me and let me know. Bertie John's death is recorded at the memorials (one inside, one outside) St. Michaels and All Angels Church in Millbrook, Beds.
Added by Penelope Shaffer on 17 July 2010
My husband was an air-gunner on Sunderlands during WW2, and landed at Invergordon. He was told about the naval disaster, and that all the children from the village were on board for a party, and that they were all killed. It does not seem that this is true after reading all the comments. Did such a thing happen?
Added by Raymond Baker on 29 April 2012
As I added to this idem a few years ago, an elderly relative of mine who lived close to where the ship sank, said that a party was going on, on board, the night before and could see what was going on.
Added by Margaret Dyson on 29 April 2012
The civilians killed in the NATAL disaster were Mrs Ada Bennett (wife of Engineer-Lt Bennett - there's a memorial to this couple in Portsmouth's Anglican Cathedral), the wives of two other officers, three Nursing Sisters from the hospital-ship DRINA, and a civilian couple and their three small children. I believe all their names are recorded in the Invergordon Museum. Eight adults and three children - that's all. Still a terrible tragedy, but it's a sad fact that no tragedy is so terrible that thoughtless people won't subsequently embroider the story.
Added by Mark Brady on 30 April 2012
Thank you for clearing up the mystery of the people lost on the Natal, obviously the story of the tragedy has been embelished over the years, and a lot has been explained in the previous letters too. My thanks to all those who have contributed.
Added by Raymond Baker on 01 May 2012
I am seeking information about a sunken ship that my great uncle was involved in clearing from the inside of the ship during the period from 15.12.39 until 1.4.40 whilst he was based at HMS Flora, the Navy Shore Establishment. Along with the talk of kegs of rum being "rescued" and happy evenings spent in the local inn there were mention of other 'things' which at the time seemed to indicate that it was a recently sunk ship. However having read comments about HMS Natal is it possible that the Admiralty decided to deal with the wreck after the breakout of WW2? Can anyone have any information about this event? How can I contact the museum that could possibly help? Thank you for any help given.
Added by Jean Jones on 04 October 2012
Further to my comments on 4th October 2012: does anyone know which sunken ship the Royal Navy were clearing (the internal contents) during the period between 15.12.39 until 1.4.40 which my sailor uncle was involved in.
Added by Jean Jones on 05 October 2012
I'd be very surprised if there was considered to be anything worth recovering from the wreck of HMS NATAL over 20 years after she sank - it's far more likely that Jean Jones' great-uncle was clearing the wreck of a ship that had sunk only a short time previously. What was his specialisation? - was he a Diver? And did he make any mention of the location of the wreck? - it's possible that he was on the books of HMS FLORA (Invergordon/Aultbea) but the wreck was somewhere else (e.g the wreck of HMS ROYAL OAK, in Scapa Flow). The reference book 'British Vessels Lost at Sea 1939-45', which actually lists all ship-losses, might help - but without more information and/or local knowledge it would be difficult to suggest a name for the sunken ship.
Added by Mark Brady on 05 October 2012
Mark, I am sure you are correct. Initially I thought the clearance of the ship in WW2 was because of maps and code books that had to be removed. I questioned HMS Natal because that seemed to be the only ship that was known to have been sunk at Invergordon. There was the possibility of the sunken ship being HMS ROYAK OAK which would tie in better with the dates. I will try the book 'British Vessels Lost at Sea 1939-45'. Thank you for bothering to try to help.
Added by Jean Jones on 06 October 2012
For anyone interested, I found this while browsing HMS Natal. Not sure if this link has already been mentioned, but it includes a list of casualties and survivors.
Added by Peter Legge on 14 March 2013
Dear Mark, I have just discovered that my great Aunt Ada Bennett (who married to Lt. Bennett ), formerly Bevis, was killed in the explosion on HMS Natal. Can you advise how I can find out more about them, where they are buried or anything to fill in the gaps.
Added by Robin Bevis on 04 April 2013
Hi Ronald and Douglas...Just to re-open the case of the DISPERSER. My Grandmother, as I previously mentioned, had a letter stating that her husband, Chief Engineer Officer Murdo Mackenzie was killed when the ship was mined near Orkney. Later "information" states that the Disperser sank in a storm. However I have now a script of a video entitled The Disperser story. This states that this ship sank in a Northerly gale of STAITHES in 1934!! I even have pictures of the ship's bell and other artifacts recovered by divers. As my Grandfather's Disperser was sunk on 14 April 1940, I am naturally very curious about all of this especially regarding my Gran's notification stating that the Disperser hit a mine. The other Disperser was sunk in 1934 and was originally an Ant class gun boat. This ship was found by divers in 1996.
Added by Rosalie Graham (Samaroo) on 05 April 2013
For Robin Bevis (4 Apr) - the best places to start are the National Archives at Kew, where one can probably find Eng.Lt. Bennett's Service Record, and the Invergordon Museum (see www.invergordonmuseum.co.uk). That's despite the latter stating that 'HMS Natal blew up in mysterious circumstances': for the benefit of the museum staff, and all other readers of this web-page, I'll reiterate (see my previous comments) that THERE WAS NO 'MYSTERY' AT ALL. A Board of Enquiry found that the cause of the disaster was almost certainly spontaneous ignition of cordite within a closed magazine, and subsequent work on the chemistry of cordite has only tended to confirm that finding.

Enough of that hobby-horse of mine. I know virtually nothing of any individual who perished in the disaster - so it would be best to try Kew or the Inverdordon Museum.
Added by Mark Brady on 06 April 2013
Also for Robin Beavis: check out the War Graves Commission website www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx
Added by Ken Holway on 07 April 2013
Dear Mark Brady and Ken Holway, thank you for your information and will follow up the leads you have given.

Added by Robin Bevis on 07 April 2013
Rosalie, there were two salvage vessels called the Disperser (strange I know). You can find details of the other one - that went down in 1934 - on the website at www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?10939
Added by Sandy Thomson on 02 June 2013
Thank you Sandy. I was really puzzled about this.
Added by Rosalie Graham (Samaroo) on 04 June 2013
The full story of the Disperser tragedy can be read on my blog at www.spanglefish.com/cromartyhomesandheritage
Added by Sandy Thomson on 04 June 2013
Referring back to my comments on the 4th, the 5th & 6th October 2012, could the Dispenser be the ship? I have looked in the book 'Ships of the Royal Navy' but the Dispenser is not listed for pre 1934, neither is the second Dispenser. I will try to check Sandy Thomson's blog 4-6-13. No luck - doesn't recognise spanglefish.
Added by Jean Jones on 06 June 2013
The Disperser employed on HMS Natal was not a RN Ship, so would not be included in the book you mention.
Disperser was a commercial salvage vessel owned by the South Stockton Shipbreaking Co.
Added by Ronald A Stewart on 06 June 2013
Don't understand why you can't access our Cromarty Homes and Heritage website. Try Googling it.
Neither Disperser was a Royal Navy ship. They were privately owned salvage vessels.
Added by Sandy Thomson on 06 June 2013
Thanks Ronald & Sandy - Have now accessed site.
Added by Jean Jones on 08 June 2013
Bit of a long shot here but has anyone got any information on my great grandfather Charles Sandison Macpherson from Invergordon? He was apparently killed in an explosion on a ship around 1915; I think my great grandmother was Ann Morrison, Macleod or Ross. They lived at 8 Clyde Street. I have heard reports of a court case and jury which led me to the HMS Natal disaster. Many thanks.
Added by Sean Cameron on 19 February 2015
I wonder if anything is happening to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the HMS Natal this year. Grt grandad died on it.
Added by Carrie Reid on 16 March 2015
Carrie Reid,
We will have to be quick organising something. 30/12/1915 is the anniversary.
Good idea though.
Added by Ken Holway on 16 March 2015
It would only be appropriate that the loss of the Natal be marked in some way on the anniversary of her sinking.
Would the Port Authority and Highland Council pave the way along with Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland?
Added by Graeme Askew on 16 March 2015
My advice if you want to know whether the Royal Navy is planning a commemoration ceremony, or to suggest that the RN should, is to contact the Inverness Sea Cadet Corps unit - the SCC tends to take that sort of thing quite seriously. Phone 01463-226069 or e-mail InvSCC@aol.com.
Added by Mark Brady on 16 March 2015
Maybe this being the 100th year since the disaster that a memorial be placed somewhere near the area - somewhere like Saltburn Road which would view the area of the disaster. Just a thought.
Added by Doug Will on 16 March 2015
Thank you Mark. I will contact them in the first instance. Good idea Doug but I know there is now Natal Gardens in the shore area made a number of years ago. Somewhere in the area of where Ness Cottage used to be.
Added by Graeme Askew on 17 March 2015
My relative is on the Chatham Naval Memorial. I assume most from Natal are.
Added by Ken Holway on 17 March 2015
Hi Graeme, sorry, did not know about the Natal Gardens, been away from Inverg a long time.
Cheers for the info, all the best, Doug.
Added by Doug Will on 17 March 2015
I live in NZ but would consider travelling back to the UK to mark the day and remember my grt grandad.
Added by Carrie Reid on 18 March 2015
I have received emails regarding HMS Natal WW1 but my interest was in WW2 ships that were sunk. Therefore please remove my name from HMS Natal listings. Thank you, Jean Jones.
Added by Jean Jones on 19 March 2015
I would also be more than happy to participate in a Natal centenary memorial event of some kind - perhaps my Grandmother's eyewitness account of the sinking could form some part of the commemoration?
Added by Fraser MacLean on 19 March 2015
I've been doing a bit of tidying up at the Natal Gardens and have been reliably informed that there will be a Centenary Memorial and that it will take place on the 30th of September this year, with various dignitaries in attendance.
Added by Peter Legge on 23 June 2015
Query 30th September - the date of the disaster was 30th December 1915, as various contributors of previous comments have mentioned.
Added by Mark Brady on 23 June 2015
For all those wondering about this year's commemoration events, on 30th September (the 110th anniversary of her launch) there will be a church service at Invergordon Parish Church followed by a wreath-laying at the wreck site by the grand-daughter of the Natal's captain. Thereafter, in Cromarty, local schoolchildren will have a memorial event at the Natal graves in Cromarty graveyard. Then, at 5.30pm, a Royal Marines marching band will parade at Cromarty harbour and a commemorative panel will be unveiled. Keep an eye on local press for details nearer the time.
Added by Sandy Thomson on 23 June 2015
Delighted this is going ahead. Sadly I will be working in Scandinavia in September, so will not be able to attend. Are there plans for TV and radio coverage or a locally-made video or documentary?
Added by Fraser MacLean on 24 June 2015
Not at present, Fraser, but leave it with me!

Added by Sandy Thomson on 24 June 2015
Sounds good!
Added by Fraser MacLean on 24 June 2015
Mark Brady, I think your query has been addressed. I wasn't aware of the 110th anniversary of the Natal's launch either, I thought the date change was for Weather/ Festive period reasons.
Added by Peter Legge on 24 June 2015
I believe that the baby injured by the submarine shell in Jemimaville was Sally Relph. My parents told me that Sally was in a pram outside the middle house on Church St. when a shell from Invergordon hit the roof of the house and some debris landed beside her in the pram.
Aside from being a lovely lady Sally was very good at cards and had a good sense of humour, and in the distant past she used to push me in a pram around Poytnzfield and down Udale road.
Happy days
Added by Anon on 07 November 2015
I imagine many relatives of those lost on HMS Natal this day 100 years ago will spare a thought for those brave souls today. My Grandad, Leading Stoker Alfred William Brigden was one of those. The terrible weather in the Highlands prevents me travelling there from Suffolk, but I will be there again soon to honour his memory. RIP Grandad
Added by Tony Brigden on 30 December 2015
Yes Tony my father in law saw her blow up and capsize from HMS Canada. Natal often comes to mind together with the interest in the ship from so many people who were connected with her. One hundred years ago today she went down and my father in law Charlie who lived to 100 years of age would have been 117 this year.
He often spoke of Scapa. In fact because his name was Flynn they assumed he was a Catholic and used to take him and others on small boat to shore every Sunday for a service until the time came when he was so fed up with cold and swell on the boat he told them his great grandfather originated from Ireland but he was brought up C of E ! He was only 18 when he was at the Battle of Jutland on the Canada. Different world then.
Added by Roy Mawbey on 30 December 2015
Luckily my grandad Ordinary Seaman George Undey survived with a broken arm and damaged ligaments that never recovered. He was hospitalised to Chatham and went on to serve throughout The Great War and was on HMS Phoebe at Zebrugge. But he spoke little of that night in Cromarty. Although he did write a note for the family a copy of which I sent to Estelle a few years ago.
Added by Phil Solomon on 30 December 2015
Remembering Victor George Hurn, Stoker today. Not forgotten Grt Grandad. Remembering him in New Zealand today.
Added by Carrie Sherring on 30 December 2015
RIP All 421 Souls lost in the Tragedy. Relatives may be interested to know that Volunteers have been keeping the memory alive, theinvergordonarchive.org/picture/number1686.
Added by Peter Legge on 30 December 2015
Thanks to people who posted yesterday and today. Jogged my memory about my gt uncle, Ernest Banyard.
Added by Ken Holway on 31 December 2015
Not strictly HMS NATAL but I came across the following article today and offer it up believing that it may be of some interest to local folk and/or any descendants of Baby Relph...

Arising from earlier postings a light-hearted explanation of this incident (which caused a minor injury to baby Sally Relph) can be found in the pdf archives of the Naval Review, 1927 Edition Vol 2 pdf pages 138 & 139 at www.naval-review.com/showissue.asp?Year=1927&Iss=2
Added by Bob Lewis of Southsea, Hants on 26 February 2016
As has been said my grandfather Thomas Henry Robinson (Stoker just of shift) was a survivor from the explosion on that night. I have a photo of him with a band playing a Ukulele dressed up for a ships concert (All the band are named) in 1915.
Added by Alan Robinson on 18 June 2017
My father always told the story of boarding the ship just as she blew up. He said he walked up the deck as the boat turned over then walked down the side. Dived off and swam to shore. I cannot fine any reference to him in the survivor's list although we had a copy of the from page of a nation paper which listed him as a survivor. His name was James H Rowland service number J25629. If anyone has any information I would love to hear from you.
Added by Ivan Rowland on 03 May 2018
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The Natal - Warship destroyed by an explosion off Invergordon during WW1

H.M.S. NatalNatal graves at Rosskeen CemeteryGuy Titley's MemorialThe Wreck of HMS NatalHMS NatalHMS Natal and Cantilever crane at Barrow.HMS Natal