Nisbet, Albert Edward

From Battle of Jutland Crew Lists Project
Photo Gallery Crew List
HMS Barham Crew List (Photographs) HMS Barham Crew List
Narrative Source Photograph
A Veteran

Barham at the Battle of Jutland is
Albert Nisbet of Lerwick who joined
the battleship as a lad of 16. He has
had an interesting career which
includes service through both world
He was born in 1899 in Liverpool,
where his father was a policemen and
in 1905 he came to stay with an aunt at
North Yell while his father completed
his police service. In 1908 the family
took over ythe croft at Smithfield,
Albert left school in 1914 and
went as deckhand on the herring
sailboat Star of the East. In those dayes
young boys had a rough time at sea
being given the most unpleasant job -
that of coiling down the heavy tarred
bushrope as the nets were hauled and
to add to Albert's problems he suffered
from seasickness. He got a job ashore
at John Brown's station
at Lerwick where he was engaged to
wash fish before they were salted. On
the outbreak of war he joined the St
Ninian as crane boy encountering some
stormy weather during the winter. On
one occasion they were stormbound at
Walls and took a fortnight on the
return journey between Leith and the
West Side ports.
In June 1915 he and his pal, Willie
Henry, decided to enlist in the Gordon
Highlanders and travelled to Lerwick
one Saturday for that purpose. They
found the recruiting office closed and
Before long Albert met a friend,
leading seaman James Swanie, who
suggested that he should come and join
the RNR. Together they went to the
Customs Office where Albert had to lie
about his age saying that he was 18
when in fact he was only 16. Next day
he passed a medical examination and
on Monday he began drilling at Fort
Charlotte. A few days later a notice
went up on the board seeking a
hundred men to go to Portsmouth and
Albert was among those who volun-
teered. The group went by troopship to
Scrabster and then by train to
Portsmouth. Albert was not there long
since he was one of 22 men drafted to
HMS Barhan, then fitting out at
Clydebank. He served on her for the
next three years.
During the Battle of Jutland,
Albert, with another Yell man, Bertie
Anderson of Burravoe, was assigned
to stand by one of the six inch guns in
case the hydraulic training mechanism
should break down when they would
operate the hand training mechanism.
Before the battle started he left his
station to have a look outside the gun
turret and he saw the horizon ringed
with fire as the German ships started
firing. Then the Barham opened up
with her 15 inch guns and Albert was
knocked flat on his back and his cap
went over the side. Asked if he was
ever afraid during the battle Albert
replied, "I never seemed to think much
about it." Albert remained on the
Barhamuntil 1918 and finished his war
service in minesweepers being de-
mobbed on 29th January, 1919.
Later in 1919 Albert married
Minnie Spence of Cullivoe and they
settled at Brough, Cullivoe, where they
brought up their family of three
daughters. The croft was, of course,
too small to provide a living and the
following year Albert went back to the
Merchant Navy, his first ship being the
ss Clifton Hall. His peacetime service
was not without incident since he
found himself in the midst of the
Spanish Civil War. His ship had
arrived at Huelva to load iron ore for
Philadelphie but they got no cargo.
They were stranded there for twelve
days, often in the line of fire from a
light cruiser which was shooting at
enemy aircraft. The captain finally got
clearance and they headed for Odessa
to load a cargo of pig iron for Japan.
On another occasion he was at New
Britain and island in New Guinea,
during a volcanic eruption when many
islanders were killed and the dust lay
more than a foot thick on the ship's
During the Second World War he
enlisted as a member of Shetland's
Home Defence and served in the
Gordon Highlanders. He was the first
man to take a watch on the top of
Saxavord in Unst. After the war he
returned to sea for a time, serving with
Metal Industries on the salvage tugs
Bertha and Metinda.
He retained the croft in Yell until
his wife died in 1971 when he handed it
over to a daughter and son-in-law and
moved the Lerwick. In 1973 he married
Dora Paton who had been a brides-
maid at his first wedding, she died in
1979. Now aged 85 Albert lives with his
third wife at 68 North Lochside. He
remains very fit and active taking long
walks around Lerwick and going
dancing at the British Legion on
Saturday nights. Hard work and plenty
of exercise he belives, are the secret
for a long, active life.
Shetland Life,
November 1985,
Pages 13 and 14
Barham - Nisbet, Albert Edward.jpg