The diary of Thomas Victor Rayson a Stoker on HMS Falmouth. These images have been provided by Neil Fisher. Thomas Victor Rayson was his great uncle.
August 4th 1914
Commenced Hostilities Against Germany @ Sea.
Overhauled Searched & Sank a German Trawler. Fasolt Crew taken prisoners & accident to Sea Boat two men drowned.
Two German trawlers sunk. Crew taken prisoners Mime & Ochtum
Anchored @ midnight Scapa Flow discharged prisoners & coaled ship 500 tons
Left Scapa Flow to join fleet in North Sea. On the way German submarine U15 attempted to torpedo us but luckily missed & was in turn rammed & sunk by H.M.S. Birmingham
German trawler sunk crew taken prisoners. Bakum.
Returned to base discharged prisoners & coaled ship 300 tons
11th & 12th
Scouting North Sea for enemy
Returned to Scapa Flow. Coaled ship 400 tons & received orders to commence hostilities against Austria.
Left naval base for scouting duties in Baltic Sea.
15th 16th 17th
Scouting for enemy in Baltic Sea
Returned to Scapa Flow coaled ship 650 tons.
19th & 20th
Remained in harbour.
Left for the North Sea.
Captured two German trawlers. Heide, other unknown took crews prisoners 28 men. Sunk her taking half a day as they were made of wood. They were first charged with gun cotton & blown up fired by our 6" guns shells weighing 100 lbs each & then had to ram her. After this excitement was caused by seeing a dog clinging to a portion of the wreckage. We lowered a boat & rescued him naming him Kaiser Bill. He proved to be a pup with 6 different breeds & is great friends with the ships company who regard him as a mascot
At sea Japan declared war
Returned to harbour discharged prisoners & coaled ship 510 tons.
Left for sea expecting to discover the German fleet as the Captain told us we should probably be in action the following day.
Chasing enemy's fleet @ all possible speed breaking the record since the ship was built averaging 28 Knots 11.45 AM. Enemy overtaken & first shot fired @ that time we were in a dangerous spot as we never knew when we should strike a mine as we knew we were near a mine field near Heligoland. Then The Great Naval Battle commenced with terrific firing on both sides which lasted 2 hrs. The first of the enemy's ships that was put out of action was The Mainz light cruiser with speed of 25 knots 2 masts 3 funnels tonage 4.350 & crew of 400 men. The armament of her was 12-4" guns to our 8-6" guns. Victory fell to us as our Gunlayers firing was very accurate on account of the splendid control from The fighting tops. The Mainz was now a complete wreck 2 funnels & mainmast shot away & her hull was riddled with holes. She then lowered her flag denoting her defeat for she was rapidly sinking by the bows. It will be remembered although she was outnumbered by ships & in a sinking
condition she put up a splendid fight to our spitting out fire till her last gun was shot away. At this time we were within few hundred yards of her & it was a pitiful sight to see her decks littered with dead & wounded & many more struggling for their lives in the water. As luck happened or by the splendid handling of the ship we had no damage done. Their range was faulty as the shells either dropped short astern & over us but not one found its mark. Their was not the least excitement amongst us as everyman had his duty to do in fact some helped others. When the news came below that she was on fire amidships & sinking the Stokers were pleased as we don't stand much chance if anything should happen. The Stokers were all anxious to have a look @ her but we could not leave our posts before "The Cease Firing" was sounded. As soon as possible everyone who got the chance came on deck to have a look @ her & we gave three hearty cheers as it was first blood to us. We then gave the Skipper a cheer. We were getting ready to lower a boat to pick up survivors when another cruiser was sighted through the haze caused by the smoke from the guns we were soon @ our stations again but we only fired a few shots as the Battle Cruisers were now with us & soon finished her off as she had no chance against their big guns 13.5. Her name was The Koln. 4 funnels 3000 tons. We were now cruising round expecting to be engaged @ any minute. We sighted
another ship & fired catching her bows on fire when she left ablaze @ top speed but was chased & sunk by H.M.S. Lion Admiral Beatty with 2 shots from her 13.5 guns. The German losses that day were about 1000 men. Three of their fastest cruisers & several destroyers. Our loss was very little Arethusa being seriously damaged & 3 destroyers slightly This damage was done by the guns from Heliogoland forts Some of our destroyers by this time had picked up some of the survivors from the German ships & they stated the condition they were in living on Salt Jack & half rations since the war began. When the guns crews were shot away Stokers were driven to man the guns @ the muzzle of a revolver. They also expressed their gratitude to the officers & men of H.M. Ships for saving their lives & the treatment they received on board & said the firing of the British was tremendous. The German sailors deserve credit for the way they fought against the odds. We fired 300 rounds of ammunition during the Battle from this ship alone estimated @ about 20 or 30 tons of iron. Also two of the best torpedoes in the British Navy one of which was the cause of the Mainz being afire amidships
Returned to Scapa Flow & was heartily cheered by the ships in harbour as this was the first naval battle for 110 years & victory to us. Coaled ship 650 tons.
30th & 31st August
Provisioned & ammunitioned ship
Attacked in harbour of Scapa Flow by submarine just saw her periscope as she was following in the wake of destroyers coming into harbour. Fired two rounds @ her but damage not known but as oil was seen in large quantities floating on the surface we came to the conclusion she had been sunk
Left for Norwegian coast as German submarines were reported to have a base among the islands but nothing was seen.
Sept 3rd, 4th & 5th
Scouting round Norwegian coast stopped Scottish trawler for information and what they gave us was very good & that was some fish that was very welcome.
Arrived in Queensferry & coaled ship 650 tons.
Remained in harbour under the Forth Bridge
Left for sea stopped several Swedish ships & examined them to see if they were trading with enemy but all was correct
Crossed over the spot where the illfated ship H.M.S Pathfinder was sunk by a mine off St. Abbs Head East Coast of Scotland 9 am Oclock altered course for Heligoland were
expecting to meet enemy but instead met with very heavy weather with terrific thunder & lightening
Sighted Helligoland @ 4AM 200 British ships manoeuvred off of Helligoland in readiness for the great battle that was iminent as the German fleet were reported to be coming out but nothing doing
On proceeding to harbour sighted some floating mines within a 100 yds: of us & warned the Dreadnought Fleet which was coming up astern of us. Weather @ time being rough.
Carried on patrolling off the Norwegian coast
Returned to Scapa Flow & coaled ship 650 tons. Rained heavily all day.
Sept 14th & 15th
Painted & provisioned ship
Left for Newcastle to be docked as we wanted a new propeller caused through ramming the trawler
Proceeding to dock
Arrived @ Jarrow. Went straight into Hebburn Dock Palmers: had bottom scraped & painted & new propeller adjusted. Working all night.
Still & dry dock
Left dock & proceeded down to mouth of Tyne & coaled ship in the evening
Left The Tyne early in the morning a gale blowing @ the time
Off Norwegian coast steaming north.
Target practice off Shetlands
Returned to Scapa Flow & coaled ship 420 tons.
Left for sea
At sea weather very bad
Weather the same escorting troopship
Searching for one of our submarines which was reported missing weather very bad could make very little headway.
Weather a little better ship leaking in parts & stern damaged
Returned to Scapa Flow. Coaled ship 400 tons.
Left for sea. Gifts of cigarettes from Lady Vernon  which was accepted with compliments
Guarding a certain latitude in the North Sea to prevent enemy attacking Canadian troopships on their way to England
Oct 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th 8th
Same duties nothing of note
Returned to harbour. Coaled ship 600 tons & provisioned ship
Oct 10th & 11th
Left harbour with the fleet
Scouting off the Dogger Bank & proceeded to the coast of Norway to intercept German merchantmen
Oct 14th & 15th
Scouting of Orkney Islands
Scouting in North Sea
Colliers reported carrying coal for the German fleet
Arrived @ Lough Swilly north of Ireland. Coaled ship 600 tons on Sunday night
Received cigarettes which are being subscribed for by the public.
Left Lough Swilly for The Orkney's
Off Orkney Islands.
At sea & very cold
Received winter clothing
Returned to Scapa Flow & coaled ship 500 tons.
Served out with life saving collars. Personal property & more winter clothing with cigarettes
Arrived @ Long Hope & gave a few hours leave on desolate island to roam about like sheep. Was recalled & steam raised & proceeded to sea @ 6 PM.
Ordered to wear our life saving collars night & day & in harbour or @ sea asleep or awake. Chasing a German minelayer. Could not lay mines as weather was to rough. Captured her & signalled her to follow our ships into harbour or we would sink her Crew taken prisoners
Arrived north of Scotland @ a place called Thurso for orders & left same day.
Arrived @ Longhope & coaled ship 250 tons.
Preparing for sea
Left for unknown destination with all possible speed. Weather rough @ the time.
Returned to Scapa Flow & coaled ship 100 tons.
November 5th, 6th, 7th & 8th
Remained in harbour welcome change
Left for scouting purposes in the North Sea.
Nov 10th, 11th, 12th
Still scouting the North Sea
Returned to Scapa Flow getting ready for coaling when ordered to proceed to Wick with some officers on board. Returned the same night with Sir Percy Scott on board who was received by Admiral Jellicoe on board the Iron Duke. In returning to Scapa we ran on to sand bank but soon managed to get off.
Coaled ship 300 tons.
Nov 15th, 16th
Taking in stores & provisions
Cruising off the Bight of Heligoland
Nov 18th & 19th
Cruising in the North Sea.
Returned to harbour & coaled ship 300 tons.
Taking in stores
Left with fleet for North Sea & in the middle of the night action sounded off but was then found to be two of our own destroyers
Steaming S.E. towards Heligoland
While steaming in North Sea were attacked by aeroplane previous to this our own seaplane had attacked Zeebrugge & a German submarine sighted the German aeroplane dropped some bombs, narrowly missing H.M.S. Liverpool ourselves only about 600 yds off. We fired @ him & he very soon made tracks for home. And during the day we could hear the forts of Heligoland firing on some of our own fleet as they were within range & we were expecting their fleet to come out but nothing doing.
Returning to harbour
Arrived Scapa Flow & coaled ship 450 tons.
Provisioned & stored ship
Left harbour for patrolling duties in the North Sea.
Nov 29th & Dec 1st
Some duties & very rough blowing a gale.
Returned to Scapa Flow & coaled ship 350 tons.
Started to store ship but the weather to rough had to let Store Ship go & ourselves dragging anchor
In harbour under 2 hrs notice
Sub calibrating & tested our torpedoes in place of which we used @ Heligoland
Captain congratulates Ships Company on work which had been done since hostilities had commenced & also The Stokers on the way they steam the ship. We gave him a cheer as he has the confidence of the Ships Company
Coaled ship 150 tons & the first of winter surprises in the arrival of 2 dummy Dreadnoughts one came quite near & one of her crew caused a roar of laughter when he pushed one of her supposed 13.5 guns round with one hand. The tonnage of a real 13.5 being about 100 tons.
Remained in harbour
Received message of the sinking of H.M.S Good Hope & Monmouth by German cruisers in Pacific leaving nobody to tell the tale.
News of German cruisers being sunk in Pacific leaving only one more German cruiser @ bay & that one being chased. Left for sea same day
Dec 11th, 12th, 13th
Patrolling North Sea weather very rough
Returned to harbour & coaled ship 100 tons
Midnight steamed to sea @ full speed. Choppy sea. Received news that German Squadron was @ sea & later news came that they were bombarding the east coast firing on unfortified towns. Afterwards hearing woman & children had been killed. It was hardly believed true @ first. This proves that the German nation has broken all the international laws of warfare.
Cleared for actions destroyers sighted but proved to be 4 of our own that had been in action in the early morning & they were chasing the German fleet: who were racing back to their base but our Admiral had anticipated such a move & had cut them off. Forming a cordon of ships round them. At 12o/c noon we sighted an enemy ship on the horizon & steamed full speed after her. The weather which had up to now been clear began to develop an haze & we lost all trace of her in the mist that got quite thick & this & some luck enabled them to
slip between our ships. It was dammed hard luck for The British Fleet as they would never had been able to have told the tale of our they massacred the the women & children of unfortified towns
Dec 17th & 18th
Scouting the North Sea.
Arrived in Cromarty & coaled ship 550 tons & got the full account of the German treachery
Sunday in harbour.
Patrolling duties in North Sea
Arrived in Scapa Flow & coaled ship 180 tons
Left for North Sea 3.30pm.
Christmas Day @ sea. Weather fine & received X Cards from King & Queen wishing a safe return.
Boxing Day @ sea weather dirty gale blowing
Tried to get back to Scapa Flow but had to abandoned owing to weather being so rough 12 noon weather eased down & proceeded to harbour got in @ 3 o/c coaled ship 300 tons on Sunday night
December 28th to December 31st in next section
- Battle of Heligoland Bight
- Lady Georgina Vernon (1840-1928)
- Battle of Coronel