WW1 - Surnames starting with the letter S. 

Sydney Shelmerdine

Ship/Rgn/Sqn No:Royal Navy
Name of Rgt or Ship:H.M.S. Opal
Country of burial:Lost at Sea
Cemetery or Memorial:Portsmouth Naval Memorial
Town Memorial:Irlan & Cadishead
Extra Information:
Born on the 31st July 1895 during the September quarter 1895 in the Barton
upon Irwell R.D. - ref: 8c/728, the son of William Bates & Emily
Shelmerdine (nee Downes).

1901 Census - 54 Whitfield Street, Irlam, Cadishead.     Son - aged: 5 -
born: Lancashire.   Head of household - William B. Shelmerdine - Married -
aged: 40 - occ: Stationary Engine Driver - born: Rotherham, Yorkshire.   
Also - Emily B. Shelmerdine - Wife - aged: 29 - born: Salford.  Plus 1
elder sister.

1911 Census - 11 Bradburn Road, Irlam.   Son - aged: 15 - occ: Plumber's
Apprentice - born: Eccles.    Head of household - William Bates Shelmerdine
- Married - aged: 51 - occ: Oiler and Greaser of Machinery - born:
Rotherham, Yorkshire.    Also - Emily Shelmerdine - Wife - aged: 39 - born:
Salford.  Plus 3 younger siblings.

I am most grateful to Neil Drum & Pete Thomas for allowing me to use
verbatim the following extract from their superb 623 page book "A District
at War - Irlam & Cadishead's Part in the Great War", an incredibly detailed
and comprehensive book that is not only a credit to them, but a magnificent
memorial to the WW1 men of that district.

Served with the Royal Navy on board HMS Opal.

Sydney was born at Broughton on 31st July 1895, the son of William and
Emily Shelmerdine.   He had a sister, Alice (born Broughton c. 1890) and
possibly a brother, William.   At the time of the 1901 census the family
were residing at 54 Whitfield Street, Cadishead, but it appears that they
had moved out of the district by the time of the Great War. His parents
lived at 7 Goldsworthy Road, Flixton.   He enlisted on 5th March 1915 and
was posted to Portsmouth. His service record described him as 5 foot ΒΌ
inches tall, with brown hair, bronze eyes and a fresh complexion. He served
at HMS Victory I (a land-based training establishment) between 5th March
and 16th June 1915. He then served as an Able Seaman on HMS Excellent
between 17th June 1915 and 14th March 1916, when he joined HMS Opal.   HMS
Opal was a 'Repeat M' class destroyer which was launched on 11th September
1915 and served in the 12th Flotilla. Sydney would have been aboard HMS
Opal during her involvement in the great naval battle at Jutland on 31st
May 1916.

On 12th January 1918 HMS Opal collided with another British destroyer, HMS
Narborough, at Scapa Flow during a snow storm.   Both ships sank with the
loss of 180 men and only one survivor.    Sydney lost his life in the
accident.  The following is a summary of an article by K.D. McBride which
appeared in The Mariner's Mirror, vol. 85 1999 - published by the Society
for Nautical Research and quoted with the kind permission of the hon.
editor of The Mariner's Mirror:   "On 12th January 1918 the M class
destroyers Opal and Narborough of the 12th Flotilla left Scapa Flow to join
the light cruiser Boadicea at sea to carry out a Dark Night Patrol to deter
enemy fast surface minelayers. Opal, commanded by Lt Cdr Charles de Malan,
was the senior of the two destroyers and was new to the area. Narborough's
captain was Lt Edmund Bowley.  The pair rendezvoused with the cruiser at
3.35 pm off the Pentland Skerries.   At this time the weather was good, the
barometer steady.  As the patrol made their way eastwards the weather
deteriorated, and by 5.05pm speed was reduced to 12 knots.  At 6.30 pm the
Boadicea detached the destroyers ordering them to return to base. Heavy
snow squalls were occurring and visibility was cut to a few hundred yards.

At 6.40 pm Opal radioed a request that shore lights at different positions
be turned on at various specified times.   She was heard several more
times; at 7.05 pm she advised that her ETA was 10.00pm and at 7.55 pm
requested fog signals be sounded, adding "blinding snow"   Other ships in
the area also reported trouble in the storm; the destroyer Ophelia radioed
that she was at Switha boom but could not see it; two convoys were forced
to seek shelter.

At 10.17 pm the Opal reported that she had run aground, but with only a
partial position, after which several garbled radio reports came in, one
apparently from the Narborough.   Meanwhile the Boadicea had continued
patrolling until 8.00 pm when she turned back, and was forced to anchor off
Copinsay light, in bad  visibility and driving snow.   At 11.42 pm the
Admiral commanding the First Battle Squadron (senior officer at Scapa)
reported that tugs and destroyers would sail to find Opal as soon as the
weather cleared, nothing further having been heard.   The weather clearing
the  next morning, ships sailed at 9.10am to search, with four sloops, plus
trawlers, drifters and shore parties. The weather remained poor, with shore
search parties hampered by 6ft snow drifts. More ships joined the search
during the 13th, but with no sign of the missing destroyers, until late in
the day when awashstand marked "Sub Lt HMS Narborough" was picked up half a
mile south of the Pentland Skerries.   The weather remained poor, with
blizzards, strong winds and deep frosts.  Not until the morning of 14th
January did the searching destroyer Peyton see the wreckage of the
destroyers, and a man, on the shore at the Clett of Crura.  The man was AB
William Sissons of the Opal who semaphored the ships. A boat from the
trawler Michael Maloney picked him up.   Despite his condition he gave
intelligent answers to all questions put to him.   He stated that he was on
duty at no. 2 gun between the funnels. The weather was bad, with visibility
about a destroyer's length.  The snow cleared momentarily; a cliff was
close ahead.  The Opal struck heavily and came to a stop.  The Narborough
came up on her starboard quarter before striking the shore and then went
over onto her starboard side and started breaking up. The Opal slid back
into deeper water, her hull broke at the foc'sle, her funnels and masts
were carried away.  Life rafts were launched but were carried away and the
boats and davits unusable. Sissons said he clung to a funnel until swimming
to the shore.  He covered himself with driftwood and survived the next day
on shellfish.   He passed his second night bitterly cold and starving.

The wrecks were found to be submerged to the tops of their torpedo tubes,
with everything above deck flattened. The enquiry found that the disaster
was due to poor seamanship and lack of judgement in trying to enter harbour
under such conditions. Sissons testified that normal routine was in
progress and the ships were steaming at 13 knots. Visibility was poor; Lt
Cdr de Malan had probably not allowed for the northerly set of the tide".  
Sydney is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial (pictured below)
along with his crew mates.   He was 22 years old.  He is listed on both the
Irlam and Cadishead War Memorial and the Flixton War Memorial in St
Michael's Church, Church Road, Flixton and the Flixton Parish Roll of

Memorials found on:
St. Michael's (Flixton)
Flixton Parish
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