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
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,
After leaving School he trained as
a Blacksmiths Apprentice.
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.
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
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
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
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'
joined the Submarine Depot Ship
HMS TITANIA (4th Submarine
Flotilla, China Fleet) at Hong
Kong 'for Submarines' on 1st Jan
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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(?)
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
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.
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.