de Courcy-Ireland, Stanley Brian (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 12243
Production date
Subject period
  • whole: Duration 330, Number Of Items 11
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview


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Object description

British officer served aboard HMS Bellerophon with Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow, 1915-1916; present at Battle of Jutland, 31/5/1916; attached to HMS Relentless, 1917; served aboard HMS Pellew in North Sea, 1918, including torpedo attack, 19/7/1918; served aboard HMS Westcott in North Sea and Baltic, 1918-1919; present during scuttling of High Seas Fleet

Content description

REEL 1 Background in Adwick-le-Street, Buckland Brewer and Kingsmere, 1900-1913: family circumstances; education; education at Ellerslie Preparatory School, Barnstaple. Recollections of conditions of service, daily routine and lifestyle during training as naval cadet at Osborne College, Isle of Wight, 1/1913-1915: origins of interest in Royal Navy; prior interview and examination; first impressions; dormitory accommodation; uniform; morning routine; practical engineering; boat work; navigation; naval history; educational classes; sporting activities; relationship with cadets; background of cadets; discipline, masters and punishments; masthead drill. REEL 2 Continues: masthead drill; outbreaks of 'pink eye'; send off of senior Dartmouth cadets leaving on outbreak of war during home leave at Kingsmere, 4/8/1914; detachment aboard HMS Centurion during Naval Review at Spithead, 7/1914; family reactions to outbreak of war, 4/8/1914; introduction of retired personnel at naval colleges. Recollections of period training as naval cadet at Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, 1/1915-12/1915: relationship with petty officer and instructors; presence of HMS Britannia; daily routine and lifestyle; gunnery training; sailing experience; interest in progress of war; early posting to sea. Recollections of conditions of service, daily routine and lifestyle during period as midshipman aboard HMS Bellerophon, 4th Battle Sqdn, Grand Fleet based at Scapa Flow, 1916-1917: journey out and view of funeral of crew from HMS Natal at Invergordon, 1/1916; gunroom accommodation and hammocks; public school entrance midshipmen; punishment canings and mast headings. REEL 3 Continues: question of bullying and 'evolutions'; nature of watch keeping duties; cleaning ship; nature of picket boat work in harbour and relationship with coxswain; role as duty steam boat; story of disciplinary proceedings following dispute between steam boat coxswain and Royal Marine officer; theoretical lectures; gunnery instruction. REEL 4 Continues: familiarisation process as member of foretop division: pastoral role of officer responsible for welfare of midshipman; role of divisional officer; drill; daily routine; running ship from quarterdeck in harbour; signal training; opinion of Captain Bruin and story of his reaction to news of suicide whilst leaving harbour; bridge personnel and nature of midshipman's duties; nature of bridge; visits to Invergordon and Moray Firth; action station manning Dumerecq in gunhouse of 'Q' Turret including automated loading procedure and turret gun crew; stages of action stations; nature of routine Grand Fleet sweeps into North Sea; recreations on visits ashore to Island of Flotta; climbing on cliffs of St John's Head, Isle of Hoy. REEL 5 Continues: climbing and collecting birds' eggs on cliffs of St John's Head, Isle of Hoy; concert party; visit to officers' wardroom; food and messing system; supplementing food during visits to Invergordon; drinking habit; question of morale welfare; coaling ship including method, competitive approach and subsequent bath; Christmas celebrations, 25/12/1916; painting ship; relationship with sailors and petty officers; duties cooking and as lookout during detachments detachment onto Hoxa Sound anti-submarine patrol in drifters. Recollections of Battle of Jutland, 30/6/1915-1/6/1916: departure of Grand Fleet from Scapa. REEL 6 Continues: voyage out; limited perspective of battle from action stations in 'Q' Turret; personal morale; preparations; method of operating Dumarescq machine; indistinct first sighting of German ships after deployment into line; question of independent or salvo firing; fire orders controlled by director including reported success in hitting destroyer and use of common or armour piercing shells; independent turret fire; low visibility; noise and atmosphere in turret; view of debris and corpses in sea during lull; ignorance of progress of battle; view of night action; firing at Zeppelin, 1/6/1916; question of renewing action, 1/6/1916; loading procedure; reactions after battle. Recollections of explosion of HMS Vanguard, 9/7/1917: survivors; collection of corpses; question of cause and changes to fuses. REEL 7 Continues: Aspects of period detached for destroyer service experience aboard HMS Relentless, 1917: nature of ship; opinion of captain; duties as officer of watch on bridge; role escorting convoys from Shetlands to Norway, including convoy speed, depth charge attacks against U-boats, rough sea conditions, seasickness and rations; periods in harbour; story of leaving convoy to rescue of troopship liner under attack from U- boat; period escorting Atlantic convoys; further detachments aboard HMS Offa and HMS Pelew prior to return to HMS Bellerophen; preference for destroyer service; passing seamanship examination. Aspects of period aboard HMS Pellew, 1918: opinion of captain; role as acting sub-lieutenant; lack of contact with flotilla; convoy duties; watch duties and daily routine; officers' cabins. REEL 8 Continues: officers' cabins and wardroom; relationship between captain and officers; action stations; action stations preparations aboard HMS Bellerophen. Account of being hit by torpedo in North Sea, 19/7/1918: role escorting minelayers laying barrage; effects of torpedo strike whilst sleeping in cabin; situation trapped by jammed hatch with ship on fire; release of hatch and escape; reporting to captain; putting out fire aft; tow from tugs back to Aberdeen; minimal casualties; difficulties in securing hotel accommodation; physical and mental effects of experience; survivors leave. Aspects of period as sub-lieutenant aboard HMS Westcott, 8/1918-1919: joining ship at South Queensferry; memory loss and blackouts caused by delayed shock; watch keeping. REEL 9 Continues: nature of ship; crew morale; role as gunnery officer and problems with 4.7" guns; storm whilst anchored off May Island in Firth of Forth; picking up ditched Camel pilot after raid on Zeppelin sheds; Armistice celebrations in Edinburgh, 11/11/1918; impressions of surrender of High Seas Fleet, 21/11/1918. Aspects of period guarding German destroyer anchored in Gutta Sound, Scapa Flow, 11/1918-6/1918: duties; ban on fraternisation and boarding German ships; relationship between German lower deck and officers amongst German skeleton crews; question of future and state of ships. Account of scuttling of High Seas Fleet, 21/6/1919: first reports of Germans abandoning ships; British ships present; firing warning shots with machine guns; blowing cable of destroyers and pushing destroyers aground on Isle of Fara. REEL 10 Continues: boarding Hindenburg and failed attempt to save her by closing watertight doors, hatches and sea-cocks; German crews on Isle of Cava; dispute between Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Freemantle and Lieutenant Peplow; question of future and state of ships including sabotaged big guns; interception and boarding German mail destroyer to prevent them scuttling ship in entrance of Scapa Flow; salvage of destroyers grounded on Isle of Fara; question of looting. Aspects of period based at Hamburg, Germany, 7/1919-8/1919: acting as landing stage for HMS Coventry in dockyard; situation; system of organised bartering to eradicate black market; recreations on visits ashore; minimal contact with German civilians; story of receiving petition from islanders whilst at anchor off Heligoland. REEL 11 Continues: story of receiving petition from islanders including ex-Royal Naval rating whilst at anchor off Heligoland. Period in Baltic, 1919-1920: taking over as navigating officer after discovery of failure of predecessor to update charts; story of punishing Soviet spy operating in Copenhagen; minimal contact with 13th Destroyer Flotilla; story of German irregular troops atrocities; role assisting Estonian and White Russian forces fighting Soviet Union; bombarding Soviet positions; confused nature of situation; aspects of anchorage at Biorko, Finland; Tsar's summer residence; Finns construction of kayak; background to bombardment at close range of German irregulars camp; nude sea bathers; question of issue of watch keeping certificate.

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