My Great-Grandfather was in World War One

This is the story of John William Bradley, who joined the Royal Navy at the start of World War One, and was posted to a destroyer called HMS Partridge. The ship was sunk by a German destroyer in December 1917, and John was one of the few men to survive and be rescued by the German crew. He was sent to a prisoner of war camp in Germany, and remained here until the end of the war in 1918. During this time he kept a diary, and extracts from it can be found below.

John William Bradley was born in 1896 in Fenton, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. He was the eldest son of John Bradley Snr and Minnie Buckley, and he had a younger sister, Amelia, and a younger brother, Roderick. John's father had been an ironmonger's assistant and his grandfather had been a coachbuilder on the railways, so it was natural that he should choose a career in an engineering industry.

John completed his engineering apprenticeship at Kerr, Stuart and Company, California Works, Fenton, probably on his 21st. birthday in April 1917. He joined the Royal Navy for the duration of the First World War, taking a Trade Test at a Shore Base, and on passing became Acting Engine Room Artificer 4 (Act.E.R.A.4). His Service Number was M25997, and he was eventually posted to HMS Partridge.

The Royal Navy has a tradition of naming ships after older ones no longer in service. Partridge is one such example. There was a Partridge in service in the early 1900's which was a sloop used as a minesweeper, and a Cruiser in the 1940's.
The ship John Bradley joined was an " M " class Destroyer, launched 4th March 1916, of which 90 were built c1916. They were of 895 - 1025 Tons, and equipped with three 4 inch guns, and four 21 inch torpedo tubes. The speed was 34 Knots, and a crew of 80 was carried.


On December 12 1917, a convoy was being escorted to Norway by the Partridge and a sister destroyer, the Pellew. They were engaged off the coast of Norway near Bergen by four German destroyers, G101, G103, G104, and V100. Outnumbered and outgunned, the result of the engagement was predictable. Pellew, although damaged, was able to escape into a fog bank. Partridge was hit by shell fire, and finally struck by a torpedo in the region of the engine room, and sank at 59 deg.48 min. N, 03 deg.53min. E. This is off the Norwegian coast near Bergen. Some reports of the action have stated that there were no survivors, indeed that the first hit on the engine room killed all the occupants instantly. The action was very short, as may be seen from timings reported in the diary notes given below.


11.50 Action Stations Sounded.
12.00 Firing commenced
12.15 High Pressure Steam Pipe shot away, turbines stopped, Port Turbine smashed
12.15 Order to leave the Engine Room, the Dynamo was hit as the last man was leaving.
12.20 ERA Bradley and others get the Midship Raft into the water and board it.
The survivors were picked up by a German Ship, and taken into captivity.

Most of the crew of the Partridge did not survive, a few of these brave men are listed here.

The following is extracted from a diary kept by John W. Bradley.

1917
Dec.12 I had the afternoon watch. At 11.50 the bell rang for Action Stations and we left our dinners and went below. Just about 12 o'clock firing started and by about 12.15 we had the H. P. Steam pipe shot away and the turbines stopped. At the same time th Port Turbine got smashed up. We were then ordered to leave the Engine Room. As the last man was leaving the Dynamo got hit.
We got the midships raft into the water and put life belts on. I had one that someone else threw down. It had the white tape tied to the Blue. We went into the ditch at 12.20. It didn't seem too cold until we had been in the water for a time. We then pullled towards the German T.B. who picked us up. They let us dry our clothes in the Engine Room an d gave us some rye bread and raw bacon to eat. Most of us went forward to sleep at night. I was in the foremost bunk and didn't sleep much.

Dec. 13. We had bread, meat and potatoes today at dinner. We went ashore to the Laxarett when it was dark. They gave us coffee,bread and butter for supper and soap to wash with. The others joined us and we went into another room.

Dec.14. We were asked about who we were,where we were from and took particulars. Every day we received a bread ration of about lb. a roll of butter about 2ozs. or dessertspoonful of jam in place of butter. We had coffee at 8am and dinner at 11.45, which was generally soup, sometimes we had potatoes, gravy and a piece of meat. Sometimes the soup was macaroni and vegetables or vegetables with meat. Tea was at 3.30 and Supper was at 5.30 when we had soup, or a piece of meat or sausage and coffee.

Dec.16. I wrote to Father and Mother.

Dec.24. We had 6 biscuits, 4 apples, a packet of writing paper and postcards, and punch at supper time. The ward was decorated by ourselves and looked nice.

Dec.26. I wrote to Father and Mother, and Millie.

Dec.31. We had punch at supper time and extras at dinner time.

1918
Jan.7. We left Kiel Laxarett at 7 pm and walked in the dark to the station. We changed at Hamburg and waited from 12.30 pm to 5.10 pm. Had soup, coffee and two schooner of lager beer. Had the night in a resting place at Bremen.

Jan.8. Left Bremen at 5.30 am and arrived at Dulmen at 12.30. We walked to the camp and arrived at 2.30. They gave us 3 blankets, a palliasse, a spoon and a basin. We had some pea soup in the afternoon.

Jan.9. We moved to the next compound and got vaccinated in the afternoon. The rations were generally as follows -- Breakfast, Coffee at 6.30, Soup at 11.30, two slices of bread at 4.00 and soup at 5.30. We had to parade at 8.00 am and 5.00 pm and also at 11 o'clock on Sundays.

Jan.10. We were inoculated this afternoon.

Jan.11 We were inoculated again today.

Jan.13. I wrote to Father and Mother in a letter and Millie a postcard.

Jan.15. Went to Mass this morning and every one in the week except Saturday.

Jan.18. Had white bread issue.

Jan.21 Had to fill up a form from Red Cross Society making enquiry about myself.

Jan.23. Moved into another compound.

Jan.25. Had a soap issue.

Jan.27. Wrote to Father and Mother. ent to Mass.

Jan.28. Had soap issue and went to Mass.

Jan.29. Had half an emergency parcel each. I had a tin of bully, a tin of milk, 1/3 of tin of cocoa, 1/3 of a tin of dripping, and two thirds of a tin of cheese. I went to Mass this morning.

Jan.31. We had a bath and our gear fumigated.

Feb. 1 had half a loaf of white bread each. Went to camp theatre and enjoyed the show.

Feb. 3. Went to Mass. Wrote to father and Mother on a postcard.

Feb.4. Received a cardigan and a vest from the Committee this afternoon.

Feb.5.Had a 1/16 of a white loaf and an 1/8 of a tin of jam, also tin of dripping for our journey. Left Dulmen at 5.30am to walk to the station. Took train for Hannover at 7o'clock, where we arrived at 5.30 pm and left at 6.30 pm for Magdeburg. We waited there from 10.30 pm till 3.30 next morning.

Feb.6. We arrived at Brandenburg at 5.40 am and walked to the camp and got there about 7.15. Each man received a loaf of white bread and an assortment of food. I wrote a post card to Father and Mother. Had " Ever heard this " from the Library.

Feb.7. Days routine. Fall in at 7.15 am, breakfast after parade, parade again at 12.30 and dinner either just before or after. Tea at 4.30 and lights out at 9 o'clock. I drew a parcel and two white loaves this morning. After that I had a game of football. I also had a bath and saw the doctor. I had a shirt, a pair of pants and a pair of odd socks from the British Committee.

Feb.9. Had a quiet day today.

Feb.10. Had no midday parade today. Had some Xmas pudding for dinner. Was not able to go to Mass. Drew the " Invisible Choir " from the Library.

Feb.11. Made a dough for tea out of bread which had gone dry. Put raisins and oats in it. It was very good.

Feb.12. Made another dough for tea, but had no fruit.

Feb.13. Had dough today with bully beef in it for dinner today. Wrote Millie a post card.

Feb.14. Wrote a letter to Father and Mother. Drew a parcel from the British Committee this morning.

Feb.15. Went to Brandenburg with paccket party this moning.

Feb.17. Drew " Anne of Geir-Stein " by Sir Walter Scott from the Library and went to Mass this morning.

Feb.18. Very cold today. The lake froze over.

Feb.19. Someone broke the iceon the lake and went in, but got saved.

Feb.20. Wrote to Father and Mother. Drew " Spanish Gold " by George Birmingham from the Library.

Feb.21. Drew a packet and two loaves of bread from the British Committee this morning. Henderson, the second mate of the "Cordova" came to see Joe Canning and myself this evening.

Feb.24. Not able to go to Mass today.Drew " Oh! Christina " by JJ Bell from the Library this morning.

Feb.27. Wrote a post card to Father and Mother.

Feb.28. Bread ran out at Breakfast. Drew a packet and some biscuits from the British Committee this morning. Wrote a letter to Millie tonight.

Mar.3.Went to Mass this morning. Went to a concert this eveningand enjoyed it.

Mar.5. Had a game of football this morning. Very nice day.

Mar.6. Wrote to Mother and Father on a post card. Drew " Huckleberry Finn " from the Library.

Mar.7. Drew a packet, some biscuits and a loaf of bread from the British Committee this afternoon.

Mar.8. Had a good game of football this morning.

Mar.9. Drew my E. bread this afternoon.

Mar.10. Was not able to go to Mass today.

Mar.13. Drew " Eleanor " by Mrs. Humphrey Ward from the Library. Wrote a post card to Frank Dusting.

Mar.14. Wrote a letter to father and Mother. Received a Navy League parcel dated 11 Feb. this afternoon.

Mar.17. No Mass again today. Ran out of white bread today at tea-time. I drew " At the Villa Rose " from the Library.

Mar.18. I received a parcel dated 4 Feb. from the Navy League.

Mar.19. I drew a Navy League parcel dated 15 Feb.

Mar.20. I wrote to Hettie on a post card today. I had a book from the Library tonight.

Mar.21. I had a letter from homedated 4 Feb.

Mar.23. This morning I had a Navy league parcel dated 20 Feb.

Mar.25. Went to Mass this morning, and had a book out of the Library.

Mar. 26 It snowed a bit today. I had two loaves of bread marked hand dispatched in week ending 23 Feb.

Mar.27. I wrote a post card to Father and Mother. Tonight I drew a book from the Library.

Mar.28. I had a letter from Hettie this dinner time dated 14 Feb.

Mar.29. Good Friday.

Mar.30. Went to the British Concert tonight and enjoyed it.

Mar.31. Easter Sunday. Wrote a letter to Father and Mother. Drew a nbook from the Library.

Apr.1. Had a sing song outside the huts about 8o'clock.

Apr.2. Had a letter from Father and Mother dated 13 Feb. at dinnertime.

Apr.3. Had a private parcel, bread dated week-ending 2 March and bread dated 23 March. Drew a book from the Library and wrote to Father and Mother on a post card.

Apr.6. Went to Brandenburg with the packet wagon.

Apr.7. Drew a book from the Library. No Mass today.

Apr.8. Had 2 loaves of bread (M) dated 30 March this morning.

Apr.9 Had 2 Navy League packets dated 27 and 28 Feb. this morning.

Apr.10. My birthday today. Wrote a post card to Father and Mother. Drew a book from the Library.

Apr.11 Drew J bread dated 9 March.

Apr.12. Went into town with the packet wagon this morning.

Apr.13 Drew K bread dated 16 March and N bread dated 6 April this afternoon.

Apr.14. Received a letter from Father and Mother dated 25 Feb. this morning. Wrote a letter to Millie. Drew a book from the Library this morning.

Apr.17. Wrote a p.c. to Father and Mother. Drew a book from the Library.

Apr.20. Drew O bread dated 24 Mar.

Apr.21. Went to Mass this morning and drew a book from the Library.

Apr.24. Wrote a p.c. to Father and Mother.

Apr.26. Drew Navy League parcels dated 6th,13th and 15 Mar. today.

Apr. 28. Drew a book from the Library.

Apr.29. Went to Brandenburgh this morning with the packet waggon.

Apr.30. Had a letter from Father and Mother dated 7 Mar. and wrote one in reply.

May.1. Drew a Navy League parcel dated 3 April. Wrote to Millie. Had a book from the Library.

May.2 Drew P and Q bread dated 20th and 27th April.

May.4. I went down with the packet wagon to Brandenburg this forenoon.

May.5. No Mass today. Drew a book from the Library.

May.8. Drew a book from the Library and wrote a p.c. to Father and Mother.

May.11. Had a letter from Mother and Hettie dated 21 Mar. Went to the British Concert tonight.

May.12. No Mass today.Drew a book from the Library this morning.

May.14 Wrote a letter to Father and Mother.

May.15. Wrote a p.c. to Millie, drew a book from the Library.

May.19. No Mass today. Drew two books from the Library.

May.22. Had a letter dated 2 April and one 20 April this morning. Wrote a p.c. home in reply.

May.25. Had a p.c.from the Navy League informing me that the Chiefs and P.O s of the Colossus were paying a subscription for my parcels dated 29 April.

May.26 Was cook today, so missed Mass.

May.29. Wrote p.c. to Colossus.

May.31. Wrote a letter to Father and Mother.

June 2. Went to Mass.

June 5. Wrote a p.c. to Father and Mother.

June 9 Went to Mass.

June 12 Wrote a p.c. to Millie.

June 14 Wrote a letter to Father and Mother mentioned having no soap in packet.

June 15. Had a letter from Mother dated 13 March and one from Uncle Edgar of 20th.

Some three pages appear to have been torn out at this point, and there are no further entries recorded.

John's diary shows just how dull life in the prisoner of war camp must have been, certainly nowhere near as exciting as films would have you believe!

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