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Robert John Lockyer

By Barrie Downer

The following biography was compiled after some information and copies of letters and a diary were sent to me by John Howe a colleague in New Zealand. Some documents about Robert 'Bob' Lockyer had been sent to him by a relative of Robert now living in New Zealand. Robert joined Submarines in early 1914 served on Submarines D4, D3 and E17 before being interned in Holland after E17 was lost after running aground off the Dutch Coast.

The letter, written by him to a friend in Submarine E24, is quite poignant as E24 was lost before the letter could be delivered and the letter was returned to him. The content of the letter describes life in an Internment Camp but also shows the kindness and concern shown by the Submariners of E24 to their friends in E17.

A great uncle of mine, Leading Seaman Arthur Edmund Ricketts, was a member of Hawke Division of the Royal Naval Division and was also interned in the Internment Camp at Groningen he might even have known Robert Lockyer!

Robert John Lockyer
O/N K4117 (Ch)

Stoker 1st Class Robert Lockyer was born in Hackney in London on 25th Feb 1891 and he was the son of Mr & Mrs Lockyer of 25, Homerton Terrace, Hackney, London. After leaving School he trained as a Blacksmiths Apprentice.

He joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class on 31st Aug 1909 signing on for a twelve year engagement and he was drafted to the Torpedo Boat Destroyer HMS ACHERON on that date. He was drafted to HMS PEMBROKE II on 3rd Mar 1910 and, later to the 13,550 ton Cruiser HMS NATAL (2nd Division, Home Fleet) on 'Commissioning' at Chatham on 10th May 1910. He was advanced to Stoker 1st Class on 31st Aug 1910 and continued to serve in HMS NATAL until 16th Sep 1912 when the Ship 'de-commissioned' at Chatham and he returned to HMS PEMBROKE II.

He was then drafted to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS BONAVENTURE when the Ship 're-commissioned' at Portsmouth on 12th Oct 1912. Robert Lockyer 'volunteered for Service in Submarines' in November 1913 and was drafted to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS MAIDSTONE (8th Submarine Flotilla) at Portsmouth on 24th Apr 1914. He was then drafted to HMS MAIDSTONE 'for Submarine D4' (Lieutenant Commander Kenneth M Bruce, Royal Navy) on 10th Jun 1914. In September 1914 a new Commanding Officer was appointed Lieutenant Commander John R G Moncreiffe, Royal Navy. On 21st Nov 1914 Submarine D4 was transferred to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS ADAMANT.

Submarine D4 was transferred back to HMS MAIDSTONE (8th Submarine Flotilla) on 1st Apr 1915 (as HMS ADAMANT had been sent to the Mediterranean to support Submarines at the Dardanelles. Robert Lockyer was 'Pierhead Jumped to Submarine D3 for a six day patrol at the end of April 1915 returning to Harwich on 4th May 1915 but then returned to Submarine D4. Robert Lockyer probably joined Submarine E17 (Lieutenant Commander John R G Moncreiffe, Royal Navy) on 'Commissioning' on 27th Aug 1915. In the morning of Thursday 6th Jan 1916 Submarine E17 was on patrol north of the island of Texel. The Submarine struck an uncharted bank and was badly damaged. The Dutch Cruiser NOORD BRABANT closed to investigate the problem but Lieutenant Commander Moncrieffe dived the Submarine to escape believing that the cruiser was hostile however the damage forced Moncrieffe to surface.

The crew of E17 was taken off and interned in Holland for the duration of the War. His parents were informed that he was interned in Holland in a letter from the Admiralty dated 23rd Jan 1916. Initially Robert Lockyer was interned at Den Helder but was later moved to the 'Interneeringe' Depot at Groningen. Whilst interned in Holland, Robert Lockyer's administration was carried out by HMS DOLPHIN the Submarine Depot at Gosport. He was released from internment on 14th Nov 1918 and was drafted to HMS PRESIDENT V where he was advanced to Acting Leading Stoker back dated to 15th Feb 1916.

After a month he returned to Submarines when he was drafted back to HMS DOLPHIN on 19th Jan 1919 and was further drafted to the Submarine Flotilla Leader HMS ROYAL ARTHUR 'for Submarine K15' on 4th Feb 1919. Whilst serving in Submarine K15 he was confirmed in the rate of Leading Stoker on 15th Aug 1919 and he was then drafted to the Submarine Flotilla Leader HMS CRESCENT at Rosyth on 6th Jan 1920.

A brief return to HMS DOLPHIN between 20th Jan and 14th Feb 1920 was followed by a draft to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS MAIDSTONE 'for Submarine H48' on 15th Feb 1920. Submarine H48 was transferred to HMS DOLPHIN (5th Submarine Flotilla) on 21st Aug 1921 and he continued to serve in that Submarine until 27th Sep 1923 being transferred to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS VULCAN 'for Submarine L17' on 28th Sep 1923. This was only a brief draft as he was further drafted to HMS PEMBROKE II on 17th Nov 1923 probably for 'embarkation leave' and 'passage'.

Robert Lockyer joined the Submarine Depot Ship HMS TITANIA (4th Submarine Flotilla, China Fleet) at Hong Kong 'for Submarines' on 1st Jan 1924. Whilst serving in HMS TITANIA he was advance to Acting Stoker Petty Officer on 30th Mar 1925 and confirmed as Stoker Petty Officer on 30th Mar 1926.

He left Submarines and returned to General Service and also returned home on 6th Nov 1926 when he was drafted to the 3,750 ton Light Cruiser HMS CASTOR in the Reserve Fleet at the Nore. This was followed by a return to HMS PEMBROKE II on 23rd Dec 1926.

A move to Scotland followed on 22nd Feb 1927 when he was drafted to HMS COLUMBINE (the Depot Ship at Port Edgar) 'for HMS VANITY a 1,300 ton 'V' Class Destroyer of the 7th Destroyer Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet). HMS COLUMBINE 'for HMS VECTIS' of the same Flotilla on 22nd Jun 1927 and 'for HMS TORMENTOR' on 11th Nov 1927.

After a return to HMS PEMBROKE II at Chatham on 24th Feb 1928 Robert Lockyer returned to the Far East with a draft to HMS TAMAR II (the Destroyer Base) at Hong Kong 'for HMS SEYPOY' to date 31st May 1928.

No further information is currently available but his 'twenty two year pensionable engagement' was due to complete on 25th Feb 1931.

The following letter was sent in April 1916 to Stoker 1st Class Ernest Willcox (care of HMS MAIDSTONE c/o GPO London) who was serving in Submarine E24 by Robert Lockyer (ex Submarine E17) who was interned in Groningen in Holland after the Submarine had run aground on the Dutch Coast on Thursday 6th Jan 1916. Ernest Willcox and Robert Lockyer had previously served together in Submarine D4.

The envelope was annotated 'Returned from SNO for return' and Bob Lockyer had written on the letter 'This letter was returned to me. E24 got sunk and all hands were drowned 28-3-16'.

C Comp Benbow Hut 1547
Interneerings Depot
Groningen
Holland
British Prisoner of War

My Dear Friends,

Again I take much pleasure in writing you a few more lines and also to thank you from all of the Late E17 Crew for the great kindest (sic) you have done us in sending the very useful parcels which I have received at different dates. When I got the first lot we thought it was very good of you but when the other parcels come there was enough for the lot of us and it was shared out as equal as possible. You must have collected a large amount and I only hope I shall be able to do something in return. I don't think I have got a great deal to say this time on account of the routine being the same old thing every day. For the last three or four days there has been plenty of excitement owing to a notice saying that in the interests of the camp everybody should be vaccinated. Don't matter what one talks about its nothing but vaccination and today the first battalion were done (the Benbow's1). I expect there will be great sport in a few days time with the bad arms and the excuse will be "I can't do that Chief my arm is bad".

Yes any little excuse here does the trick for whatever you want to do or what one don't want to do. Generally a crowd of chaps don't want to go route marching especially if they have been ashore over night and then up comes Chiefie Hallo what's up with you? "My legs are stiff" "Having my boots mended" "Got the diarrhoea" and some more little things. I rather like these marches myself as we always get one of the bands with us and it also keeps me fit. Every morning I get up at about seven thirty and have a run around the camp. It is rather a crime to get up at that time but another thing is that I am right on top line for breakfast. Yes I got this letter four days before any parcels came and bet your life I kept my eye on the list as there is another chap has my name and I watch him very closely.

When the parcels did come it caused great excitement; everybody coming to me saying 'there are a lot of parcels for you' and 'You don't get none' and 'What about asking us out to supper', just the same as when old Sandy Adams(?) when he got no letters. By the way what boat has he got? So Joe Doble2 has got his hook well I hope he will be kind to his men. My chief ambition is to roll on my twelve but its rather a long way off yet. I've been talking to some of the lads in the other battalions and they are wanting to get back but the fellows in Benbow are all quite satisfied. I think it's the best one and are nearly all volunteers. Every time leave is given there is great sport as there are about thirty men from Kitcheners Army and they all come from Yorkshire and at the top of their voices they argue until twelve o'clock you can bet they get tons of applause such as "Put a boot in it" etc.

They are dressed in sailors uniform and although they have had it for eighteen months they still look like a new recruit you know a proper (**fful House). Tonight I am patrol but its different altogether to what it is in any naval port in England. I shall fall in about eight o'clock and then we are marched to the nearest (****) and stop there until ten or if anybody has any more money shall stop until half past. If anybody gets out of control the patrol have to come out of that place and tell the fellows to go away and then we adjourn to somewhere else. You haven't seen me in a Khaki Coat have you a proper soldier will send you on a photo when I get one.

What kind of a boat have you got is she as good as the Old Bus, tell George Oakley3 I would like to take his tot the rum here is just like having a halfpenny hot(?) drink.

Well old chum I think this (is?) all in fact I don't know what to write about as one day is just the same as others. I expect that is why the lads get fed up. Trusting you and all the lads are in the best of Health and Luck.

Thanking everybody for sending us such nice and valuable gear. I am yours Very Sincerely and Gratefully,

Bob Lockyer

We have been told that we are here for good now as before Montie4 said we still had a very small chance of getting back.

Give my Best Respects and Wishes to all the Lads.

Comments:

1 Benbows members of the BENBOW Battalion of the Royal Naval Division interned in Holland after crossing the border as they escaped capture by the German Army following the defence of Antwerp.

2 Probably Leading Stoker Sidney Doble, DSM, MiD O/N K3948 born in Yarcombe in Devon on 19th May 1894.

3 Stoker Petty Officer George Oakley lost on E24

4 Probably Lt Commander Moncrieffe Commanding Officer of Submarine E17.The 'Sandy' Adams mentioned in the letter has not yet been identified.

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