Following the outbreak of the war HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth, with crews consisting mainly of reservists, were sent to the coast of Brazil to search for German light cruisers known to be in the area. Encountering no ships Good Hope and Monmouth moved round the coast to Chile, where at Coronel on the evening of 1st November they met the German ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
Scharnhorst engaged the Good Hope sinking it with all hands at 7.50pm, a total of 919 men, following a direct hit on the forward magazine. One shell from Gneisenau blew the roof off Monmouth‘s forward turret and started a fire, causing an ammunition explosion that completely blew the turret off the ship. Severely damaged the ship was later attacked by the Nürnberg and at 9.58 pm the Monmouth capsized taking her entire crew of 735 men with her. The seas were too rough for any rescue to be attempted.
Seven men from Oldham and District were among those killed during the battle. On the Monmouth: Stoker 1st Class Sidney Green (SS/112171) aged 27 and an electrical engineer. He joined the navy as an artificer and was transferred to the Monmouth just before the outbreak of the war; Able Seaman George King aged 20 of Diggle; John Thomas Wade of Diggle, aged 19, adopted son of George King’s father, also George King; William A Mason aged 20.
On the Good Hope: Henry Lilley who was 32 years of age and had come to live in Oldham in 1913, the day the ship sank being the anniversary of his arrival in Oldham. He had been in the navy for five years and was in his fifth year in reserve. On 13 July he left Oldham for a month’s annual training and was in training when the war broke out and was drafted to Good Hope. He was employed at Platt’s and left a wife and two children; Stoker John Henry Wogan had been seven years in the regular naval service and was called up in July for his annual month’s training in the naval reserve. When war was declared he was drafted to the Good Hope. Age 30 left a wife and two children; Charles Sharp of Failsworth had been in the navy 15 years.
Both HMS Good Hope, named after the British colony, and HMS Monmouth, named after the Welsh County, were built at the Govan shipyard, Glasgow. Good Hope and Monmouth were launched in 1901.
This blog post was written by Roger Ivens from Oldham Local Studies and Archives.