Isaac William Hume of H.M.S Hawke

Isaac William Hume (1869 – 1914)

Isaac was Brother-in-law to my 2nd great-aunt Mary Ann Hume (Nee: Janes)

H.M.S Hawke

On the 15th October 1914 the British warship HMS Hawke was sunk off the north-east coast of Scotland by German U-Boat U9. The ship’s magazine was hit by a torpedo and sank within eight minutes with the loss of 524 men – only seventy of the crew survived.

Isaac, sometimes known as just William Hume was the first Goldhanger man to lose his life in the Great War and the 15th October 2014 was the 100 year anniversary of William’s death. To mark the occasion the bells of St Peters were rung at 11am on that day.

This is the story of that sinking, and the biography of one of its men. Isaac William Hume.

Isaac was born on the 11th March 1869 in the rural village of Goldhanger near Maldon, Essex, England. The second eldest son of Isaac Hume senior (1832 – 1983) and Jane Askew (1841 – 1920). The family consisted of seven children and were agricultural labourers like most of Goldhanger’s residents.

The Children of Isaac and Jane

  1. Alice Mary Ellen Hume (1859 – 1935), married George Charles Clark on the 12th February 1881 in Heybridge, Essex.
  2. Ernest Henry Hume (1861 – 1941), married Mary Ann Janes on the 15th November 1884 in the parish church of Goldhanger, Essex.
  3. Emily Jane Hume (1868 – 1948), married Robert John Ranson in 1891 in Maldon, Essex.
  4. Isaac William Hume (1869 – 1914), married Elizabeth Caroline Cooper on the 29th December 1904 in Medway, Kent.
  5. Samuel Edwin Hume (1871 – 1901), unmarried and died young.
  6. Harry Sidney Hume (1875 – 1949), married Annie Knight on the 18th December 1910 in Dagenham, Essex.
  7. Lilian Hume (1878 – 1945), married William Seaborn in 1916 in Maldon, Essex.

Early Life

Isaac William spent all of his childhood in Goldhanger, a neat and pleasant village, at the head of a short creek, on the north side of the estuary of the Blackwater, 4 miles North East of Maldon.

During the years of Victorian England the village held a fair for toys on Whit-Monday.

A great part of the parish is low and marshy, but on the north side the surface rises gently, and the soil is a gravelly loam.

This parish was anciently called Goldangre, and includes the small manors called Folly Faunts and Fawlty, and several scattered farm-houses.

Several small hills are supposed to be Danish barrows, as human bones, tiles, etc., have been found in some of them.

The Goldhanger Parish Church (St. Peter) is an ancient structure, consisting of a nave, chancel, south chapel, and porch, with an embattled stone tower, containing four bells. The nave is in the early English style, but the chancel and porch are mostly of the Tudor period. In the chapel, or south chancel, is a tomb in memory of Thomas Heigham, who died in 1531.

Goldhanger is as much attached the ocean as it is to its land, and Isaac would have spent much of his childhood exploring the muddy banks of the Blackwater Estuary.

On the 24th February 1920, The Manchester Guardian published a beautiful description of the village written by journalist James Hilton. This article is shown below;


Over the dim hills where gorse (a yellow-flowered shrub of the pea family) was all a bloom in February there were villages Whose names were as the jingling or bells. Every signpost in this lovely land was a scrap of purest poetry, not huddled away in musty pages, but flung bravely to meet the sun and the wind and the eye of the wanderer. There was a signpost at the cross-roads just ahead of me, and three of its arms I could read as I approached: Tolleshunt Knights, Tolleshunt DʼArcy, Hatfield Peveril and I knew these names: they had been jingling in my ears for many miles. But the fourth arm, as it swung into view, pointed beyond the ridge of the hill and sounded a new and deeper note. It was as if some mighty poet, passing away from earth, had murmured the name with his dying breath. I whispered it softly to myself, and I thought of serene sunsets and meadows high with corn and the shade of great trees. Goldhanger, Goldhanger, I said aloud. I will go to Goldhanger. And I climbed quickly to the summit.

From the topmost ridge the miles drooped gently into the broad bosom of an estuary. The tide was out and the mud shining in the sun. Brown-sailed yachts lay stranded off the fairway, and through the broad belt of mud the river ran in a curve of gold. And scattered on the nearer bank there were red-roofed cottages and a church with a candle snuffer tower and a white windmill. That was Goldhanger.

The road swept down amongst the gorse, and the cool salt wind blew in from the shore. I remembered things that had happened over a thousand years ago, and mighty battles that were fought upon these green slopes. Danish galleys had pushed up the estuary at high tide. Danish warriors had staggered across the mud and shingle and hammered their way up the hills. There was no village in those far days: the hills were lonely for miles inland, yet even in their desolation there would have been beauty in the brown mud and the river sweeping to the sea. Time and time again the sunset spilling its glory over the estuary had dazzled the eyes of those Danish warriors as they made one last attempt to fight their way in from the shore, and the brave blood of countless forgotten men had drenched the waving slopes on which the gorse now bloomed. It could not have been until many a score years afterwards that Essex folk began to creep over the ridge and settle in huts by the edge of the river-mouth. They would be poor fisher-folk mostly, and some day they would wake to find their hamlet grown worthy of a name. But why Goldhanger? Was it be divine accident of some feudal scribe, or did it spring from the soul of an unknown poet of the land?

The road narrowed here into an ill-defined pathway, and climbed abruptly to the top of the sea-wall. A long shining arm of the estuary stretched ahead, dotted with scores of mud banks overgrown with reeds and sea lavender, and all around down both slopes of the sea-wall the grasses waved with shadow and sunlight. At the mouth of the creek the estuary swelled infinitely to the open sea, and miles and miles of brown-black mud hissed in the sun. The sea-wall rolled ahead into great meaningless curves: somewhat to one side the red-roofed village nestled cosily in the dimple of a hill. And above everything was the yellow sun stooping to the west amid the brittle blue of a February sky. There was no sound, save when the wind shook the grasses into waving tumult, or when the seagulls gathered and rose over the mud banks and called shrilly and swooped again to rest. The village drowsed as it had drowsed through years uncounted; no murmur of life came fit its clustered roofs. And suddenly I knew what Masefield meant when he wrote:

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a loud call and a clear call that may not, be denied.

When I left, the tide was creeping in through the maze of mud banks, and I could hear the water oozing and splashing amongst the reeds. The thin gold bar of the river had widened into a broad lake, and over it to seagulls were flapping their wings and crying weirdly. Far in the west, where the estuary closed into the hills, the sun was brooding, in proud splendour, and in the nearer distance Goldhanger lay in the last blood-red rays. Here and there a window glittered like a ruby, and afar off with faces gloriously aflame came figures along the sea-wall. They were the boatmen, waiting for the coming of the tide.

James Hilton.

As recorded in the 1871 census, Isaac resided with his family in Head Street, Goldhanger a small street consisting of at least 18 dwellings which included a blacksmith’s and butchers. At the time Isaac had only three siblings, he being the youngest and the eldest two schooled in the nearby church school. Life in this village would have been a hub of activity but I can imagine it being a good life. Even if at times working life was long.

By the time the 1881 census was taken the family had moved into a new residence in Church Street, the family had grown to seven children by this year. Six of whom still resided at home. The eldest daughter Alice Mary Ellen Hume had married on the 12th February 1881 to George Charles Clark and resided in nearby Heybridge.

For the Hume family, the 1880’s saw many changes and included the death of the family’s patriarch Isaac Hume Senior on the 23rd February 1883. By 1887 Isaac William took a big step in the wide world and left the sleepy village of Goldhanger. He travelled to Chatham, Kent and on the 21st May 1887 began his service with the Royal Navy. He was aged 18.

The Royal Navy

The UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services, 1848-1939, records Isaac as being 5.3½ ft in height, blue-eyed, brown-haired and of a ruddy complexion.

His service record number was: 141118

He joined his first ship HMS PEMBROKE on the 21st May 1887, below is a full list of serving ships that Isaac William Hume served onboard.

HMS Pembroke | 21st May 1887 –

HMS Pembroke | 1st February 1888 – 6th November 1888

HMS Rover | 7th November 1888 – 21st May 1889

HMS Ruby | 22nd May 1889 – 29th May 1889

HMS Pembroke | 30th May 1889 – 13th February 1890

HMS Warspite | 14th February 1890 – 12th April 1891

HMS Warspite | 20th April 1891 – 24th June 1893

HMS Pembroke | 25th June 1893 –

HMS Pembroke | 1st November 1893 –

HMS Pembroke | 1st November 1895 –

HMS Theseus | 14th January 1896 – 19th July 1897

HMS Pembroke II | 20th July 1897 – 18th January 1898

HMS Speedy | 19th January 1898 – 6th May 1898

HMS Pembroke II | 7th May 1898 – 13th July 1898

HMS Wildfire II | 14th July 1898 – 1st August 1898

HMS Pembroke II | 2nd August 1898 –

HMS Pembroke II | 15th August 1898 – 20th September 1898

HMS Dido | 1st October 1898 – 11th June 1902

HMS Pembroke | 12th June 1902 – 31st January 1903

HMS Galaka | 1st February 1903 – 6th February 1903

HMS Dido | 11th February 1903 – 4th March 1903

HMS Pembroke II | 5th March 1907 – 5th March 1907

HMS Adventure | 6th March 1907 – 2nd December 1908

HMS Pembroke II | 3rd December 1908 – 13th December 1908

HMS Vindictive | 14th December 1908 – 30th May 1909

There are no records for Isaac listed between 15th June 1909 – August 1914.

HMS Pembroke II | August 1914 – 11th September 1914

HMS Hawke | 17th September 1914 – 15th October 1914

His last entry and remark is recorded as follows –

“Drowned in North Sea when HMS Hawke was sunk by German submarine.”

Malta and the Freemason Lodge

In 1900, Isaac was recorded as a C.P.O – A chief petty officer and is recorded in the Malta Freemason Royal Navy Lodge with an initiation date recorded as 19th February 1900.

Freemasonry in Malta has a lengthy history dating from the eighteenth century. The main masonic influences (and external supervision) have been from the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Today Regular Freemasonry is under the jurisdiction of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Malta, formed in 2004.

Malta came under effective British control in 1800, and was formally part of the British Empire from 1814 until 1964. During this time organised Freemasonry developed in Malta.

Early in 1815, a petition for the creation of the Lodge of St. John and St. Paul was submitted to the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). The lodge’s warrant was signed by the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex, on 27 November 1815. This lodge is the oldest English lodge that still meets on the island. From 1822 John Hookham Frere was a member of the Lodge, becoming its treasurer in 1823. He remained part of the organization until 1843.

By 1890 there were five lodges under English (UGLE) jurisdiction, with a total of 409 masons. All of the English lodges in Malta were organised into a District Grand Lodge in 1849, and thereafter had a local District Grand Master and District officers. By 1900 the number of lodges had increased to seven, with a total of 584 members; by 1919 there were 1,484 freemasons in Malta under the UGLE constitution.

During the same period of British rule there were three other regular lodges consecrated in Malta, two by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and one by the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

Later life and the sinking of HMS Hawke

Isaac retired from service on the 15th June 1909 and is recorded in the 1911 census as being a Navy Pensioner Furnace Stoker, although he was far from being retired and was employed at the Gillingham government dockyard. It is likely his main residence from 1904 onwards was Gillingham as he married Elizabeth Caroline Cooper in Medway, Kent on the 29th November 1904. By 1911 he and Elizabeth are recorded as residing at a119 Corporation Rd, Gillingham, Kent.

The couple had no recorded children.

War broke out on the 28 July 1914, and it was only a matter of days or a week or two for Isaac to make the decision to do his part for King and country. He re-enlisted in August 1914 serving for a short time onboard HMS Pembroke II. Then on the 17th September 1914 he was placed onboard HMS Hawke as Chief Stoker, Isaac was an officer of the Royal Navy and in charge of the ship’s engines.

HMS Hawke was an old ship, launched at Chatham in 1891, but she was nevertheless powerful – she had two 9.2 inch guns and ten 6 inch guns, and she was a ‘protected ‘ cruiser, this meaning her ‘protected’ armoured deck varied in thickness between 3 and 5 inches. Her top speed was around 20 knots.  She was considered a safe ship, too, one having 192 separate compartments and 98 watertight doors. Notwithstanding she remained one of the oldest ships in the effective list and had for some time been allocated only ‘instructional duties’; like the rest of the Edgar class ships she had been stationed at  Queenstown (now designated Cobh) in Ireland and largely for training purposes. That also explains why so many of the crew had connections with Ireland, why 49 of the drowned had connections with what would now be Northern Ireland.

In 1914 HMS Hawke was part of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, a group of vessels deployed to blockade the area between Shetland and Norway.  However, in October 1914, the ships had been ordered further south to protect a troop convoy of 30,000 men and supplies from Canada.  It eventually reached safety.

The Germans, aware of ship activity in the North Sea, had dispatched two U-Boats (Submarines -Unterseeboot) on the 13th October; the U9 was commanded by Weddigan, famous for sinking three British cruisers, Aboukir, Cressy and  Hogue,  in one day, and U18. Technical problems caused the latter to be replaced by U17.

Rear Admiral Dudley de Chair’s flagship HMS Crescent put into Cromarty for re-coaling but, acutely aware of the submarine activity, he had given strict orders that ships in his fleet were to be ‘kept well apart’, to ‘continually alter course’ (zig-zagging) and to ‘vary their speed’. Indeed, on that fateful day the vessels were in a line abreast formation, a ten-mile interval between ships, and speed and direction was being varied.

HMS Hawke and her sister ship made a mistake. Hawke broke formation to pick up mail from HMS Endymion.  It was a long process and the Germans, tailing the fleet, witnessed it all.  One of their officers said as follows:

“I gazed at the little picture of the upper ocean. The distant three cruisers (Hawke, Endymion and Theseus) were some wide space apart, but were converging, and were steering for a point, and that point was apparently in the vicinity where we lay. No wonder the Commander thought they must want a torpedo.”

He went on.

“We imagined they were bent on joining forces and steaming together, but it presently became apparent that they intended to exchange signals, drop a cutter (small boat) in the water, and deliver mail or orders, and then go their respective ways. We steered at full speed for the point toward which they were heading, our periscope showing only for a few moments at a time.”

Hawke and Endymion stopped dead in the water at 9.30 am and exchanged the mail. The other ships moved back on station; Hawke took longer, an additional 15 minutes to recover the cutter.  She was the target selected, and at 10.30 am the U9 

‘manoeuvred for a shot. …  She nearly ran us down. We had to dive deeper and let her pass over us, else we would have been rammed. Now we were in a position for a stern shot at an angle, but she turned. It was a fatal turning, for it gave us an opportunity to swing around for a clear bow shot at 400 metres. … We dived beyond periscope depth, ran underwater for a short distance, and then came up for a look … The Hawke had already disappeared. She sank in eight minutes. Only one boat was in the water. It was the mail dory that had been lowered before the torpedo explosion.”

Why this ship sank so quickly is a matter of debate, though most writers suggest that the torpedo had struck the magazine. She apparently rolled over so quickly that boats could not be got off the sloping deck, hence many crew went down with her or spilled into the freezing North Sea to die.  A stoker told the tale. 

‘The Hawke was holed above the engine room and commenced to can’t over to starboard with alarming rapidity. Her plates were twisted and torn and a huge gap was rent in her side. An attempt to man the guns was made but owing to the extra acute list of the vessel it was found impossible to train them on the submerged craft. The horror of the situation was added to when a tank of oil fuel caught fire and the flames advanced with fatal rapidity. Seeing there was not the ghost of a chance of doing any good-by remaining in what was obviously a death trap I determined to make a dash for it. I scrambled precipitately up the iron ladder to the main deck. All this had happened in less time than it takes to tell.’

Another newspaper reported how two of the survivors described the Hawke’s destruction. The first said:

‘We were struck right amidships between the two funnels quite close to one of the magazines. All hands were on deck, and it was a terrible explosion. The vessel immediately took a heavy list to starboard. I have never been on a ship so well equipped with life saving apparatus, but the way the vessel heeled over made it almost impossible to get the boats out. The boat in which I was saved had a narrow escape from being taken down with the suction.’

The other reported:

Those on deck for an instant, immediately after the explosion, saw the periscope of a submarine, which showed above the water like a broomstick. When the explosion occurred, I, along with the others in the engine-room, was sent flying into space as it were, and must have been stunned for a little. When I came to, I found myself in the midst of an absolute inferno. One of the cylinders of the engine had been completely wrecked, and steam was hissing out in dense, scalding clouds, penetrating to every nook and cranny of the engine-room and stokehold. The horror of the situation was added to when a tank of fuel oil caught fire, and the flames advanced with fatal rapidity. … Many of the crew had scrambled on to the side of the sinking cruiser as she slowly turned turtle, and from this temporary place of safety were sliding and diving into the sea.

Her demise was also so sudden, and out of sight of the other vessels, that other ships did not realise what had transpired until later.

U17 tried to torpedo HMS Theseus at 1.20 pm and missed. The squadron was then ordered to head north-west at full speed; HMS Hawke did not respond.  HMS Swift was despatched to see what had happened, but it was all too late.  She picked up 22 men on a raft and herself was missed by a torpedo as she returned to Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.  The Norwegian ship Modasta (sometimes Modesta) picked up 49 more.  These were transferred to  the steam trawler Ben Rinnes and she brought 58 men in total into Aberdeen. 

524 men had drowned, including the ship’s captain, Hugh P E T Williams and only 74 were saved.  Many of the crew were Irishmen, the reason for which one survivor explained: ‘the crew for the most part were Irishmen, the reason being … the Hawke …  was stationed at Queenstown … there were only around 24 active servicemen on board, the remainder being fleet reservists’

49 of the dead were Ulstermen and Ulstermen numbered a further 6 among the survivors. 

The loss of life was not surprising, as this Leading Seaman’s tale makes clear:

“I was on the bridge in the forenoon watch when an Able Seaman said to me ‘I don’t like the look o’ that’. And then we saw the bubbles … Oh, the bubbles! There wasn’t no panic. The Skipper and the Com (Commander) tried to get the boats out, but it wasn’t no use. The First Lieutenant was working main derrick, but we couldn’t get no steam … If we only could ha’ got steam. Struck in the No.1 boiler room she did – the swine! Then it was all coal-dust and steam for’ard – couldn’t see nothing.”

A  surviving Hawke gunner commented,

‘The ship at once listed to starboard and the hands went to collision stations but it was impossible to get the mats out. All boats were then ordered out it was impossible to do this. Ship listed rapidly to starboard and sunk in about 5 minutes after being struck. [The] only boat got off  [was the] port cutter, and picket boat, which floated clear. A number of men swam to her and she sank. Three or four rafts floated clear and number of men climbed onto them.’ 

Some accounts suggest at least on boat was crushed with it occupants when the ship rolled.

The Guardian reported on the 17th October 1914 the brief statement issued by the Secretary of the Admiralty through the Press Bureau. It said only as follows:

H.M.S. Theseus (Captain Hugh Edwards, R.N.) was attacked by submarine in the northern waters of the North Sea yesterday afternoon, but was missed. H.M.S. Hawke (Captain Hugh P. E. Williams, R.N.) was attacked at about the same time, and was sunk.

The following officers, together with 49 men of the crew, have been landed at Aberdeen from a trawler:- (Gives names). The remaining officers and men are missing. Further particulars will be published as soon as they are available.

War Memorials recording Isaac William Hume

The Goldhanger parish magazine of November 1914 records – With deep regret we have to record the death of William Hume. Whose life was sacrificed in the service of his country on H.M.S Hawke, which was sunk by a torpedo from German submarine in the North Sea. The Hawke sank in a few minutes, with the loss of her captain, 26 officers and 500 men – only 4 officers and 60 men were saved. Very deep and genuine sympathy has been felt for his mother, Mrs Hume, and for all members of his family in the heavy grief that has befallen them.

William Hume was the first Goldhanger man to lose his life in the Great War and the 15th October 2014 was the 100th year anniversary of William’s death. To mark the occasion the bells of St Peters were rung at 11am on that day. (Note: Goldhanger records his name as just William Hume, it is likely he was known locally as William and by family members.)

the bells of St Peter’s Church, Goldhanger were rung on the 15th October 2014 which was the 100 year anniversary of his death. This recording can be heard via the link below.

100th Anniversary

Isaac William Hume is remembered on three war memorials.

Goldhanger War Memorial

Ipswich War Memorial

And Chatham Naval Memorial.

Isaac William Hume Royal Navy Service Record