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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
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.
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
“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.