Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
baptised. 8th August 1871;
d. 13th May 1915 aged 40 years old
Chief Stoker, 280890
H.M.S. "Goliath", Royal Navy
Remembered with Honour Chatham Naval Memorial
Killed in Action with Turkish destroyer in Dardanelles
Body Not Recovered for Burial
There are very few personal military records surviving for Stephen Champ. We do know that his widow was sent his medals - 15-Star, Victory Medal, British War Medal having been "killed or died as a direct result of enemy action." Probate records (London Administration) reveal that Stephen's home was 2 Triggs cottages, Barrow Green, Teynham, Kent. The probate decision of 9th October awarded effects of £192 13s. 3d. to his widow, Frances Louisa Emily Champ (nee Miles). Stephen Champ married Frances Louisa Emily Miles on Christmas Day 1913 in Teynham Church.
Stephen's parents were James (whose brothers and sisters were also born in Lynsted) and Sarah Champ (from Doddington). Stephen was one of nine children - brothers, Henry John, George, and James; sisters, Mary Ann, Sarah, Emily, Lucy and Frances.
So, with so little else known about this man, we must turn to the circumstances of his death. Of course, if you know more that you are willing to share with us, we can expand his story here.
Stephen Champ, Chief Stoker aboard H.M.S. Goliath, was a casualty of the expansion of conflict to the Dardenelles/Gallipoli. This series of actions proved to be the undoing of the Secretary of State for War - Winston Churchill. During the period before this loss of H.M.S. Goliath, there was a crisis of confidence in military circles over the level of naval presence in the North Sea to hold the naval defensive position at a time when the land battle had become largely static.
On 13th May 1915, HMS Goliath, a Conopus-class pre-Dreadnought battleship, was reassigned from duty on the coast of German East Africa to support the proposed action against Turkey in the Mediterranean. Faced with this shelling of Turkish positions, German Lieutenant Commander Firle took command of the Turkish destroyer/torpedo boat, Muavenet-I-Miliet, and under cover of fog made to attack HMS Goliath and HMS Cornwallis. When challenged, she was able to fire her three loaded tubes and escaped into the night. This was a very daring operation that showed how vulnerable British ships were when asked to stand off the mainland in relatively smooth seas to offer support to the French land forces on the peninsula.
All three torpedos hit the Goliath in close succession. She sank only eight minutes after the first impact. Some accounts state four minutes to sink.
An account is given by Sir Julian S. Corbett in "History of the Great War Based on Official Documents - Naval Operations", p406, "U-Boats in Mediterranean", Volume 2*
May 11-13, 1915
Three U-boats had been definitely located making for the Eastern Mediterranean. One had passed Malta, and on the 11th had been unsuccessfully attacked by French destroyers off the south-east point of Sicily. Another was reported off Bizerta, and instructions had been sent to Admiral de Robeck to take measures to meet them. This he had already done. An anti-submarine defence was in position at Mudros, and all transports were to remain there, leaving the troops to be taken on in fleet-sweepers and destroyers. An elaborate system of patrol had also been organised. The Doris, with two destroyers, was to search the coast south of the Gulf of Smyrna for likely anchorages, while a submarine watched Smyrna itself. An Allied patrol of four fleet-sweepers and four submarines watched the channels east and west of Mykoni which gave access to the inner Aegean. A French patrol was established at Cape Matapan, and four of their destroyers were told off to search the vicinity for oil depots that had been reported.
But there was another danger nearer still which had not been expected. It declared itself the night after the Gurkhas had secured the left of our line. On the right, the French were still holding the position they had gained at the Kereves Dere, but the Turks seemed so determined to wrest it from them that the French General had made a special request for ship support. Every evening two battleships were sent in, and on the night of May 12-13 the ships detailed for the duty were the Goliath and Cornwallis. The Goliath anchored off Morto Bay and the Cornwallis astern of her. Above De Tott's battery was a protecting patrol of two destroyers, Beagle and Bulldog, while the other subdivision, Wolverine and Scorpion, were on guard on the opposite side in Eren Keui Bay, and in mid-channel was the Pincher. The night was very still and dark, there was no moon, and about midnight to increase the obscurity a fog began to roll down the Asiatic shore and spread across the Straits. It was an ideal opportunity for a torpedo attack, and it was noticed that except far up in the Narrows the enemy's searchlights were not working as usual. Orders were therefore issued for special vigilance,
p.407, May 13 1915
and they were not superfluous. That day Lieutenant-Commander Firle, a German officer, had begged leave to make an attempt to check the flanking fire of the British ships which each night was proving so disturbing to the Turks at Kereves Dere. Permission for the hazardous adventure was given, and after sunset he started down the Straits in the Turkish destroyer Muavanet-i-Miliet. (Note: She was one of a group of four destroyers of 600 tons, and 33 knots, with three torpedo tubes, built in 1909.) Keeping as close under the cliffs of the European shore as the depth of water would allow, and going dead slow, he was able towards 1.0 a.m. to steal past the Bulldog and Beagle without being detected, and a little later the two battleships could be made out at anchor. (Note: From the account sent by the Constantinople correspondent of the Berlin Lokalanzeiger, reproduced in the Weser Zeitung, June 3, 1915.)
But for all his care, as he crept on under the steep Eski Hissarlik Point, at 1.15 he was detected from the bridge of the Goliath. The night challenge was made to him, he flashed some kind of a reply, the challenge was repeated and then he could be seen to dash ahead, the order to fire was given, but before three rounds could be got off a torpedo hit the old battleship abreast of the fore turret. Almost immediately another got home abreast the foremost funnel. By that time she was already listing badly to port, and the list rapidly increased till she was nearly on her beam ends, when a third torpedo struck her near the after turret. (Note: So the officer of the watch reported officially in the afternoon. The account he seems to have given on board the Cornwallis when he was first rescued differed, but in no material point except that it made the first hit on the port side and the other two on the starboard. See Stewart and Fashell, The Immortal Gamble, p. 168.)
The attack had been carried out as skillfully as it had been daringly conceived. No ship could survive such punishment, and so rapidly had the blows followed one upon the other that before most of those below could reach the deck she turned turtle, and after floating so a couple of minutes she plunged under, bows foremost. Of her assailant nothing could be seen. She had sped away into the darkness, but as craft of all kind hurried to the spot, and tried to rescue the survivors her exultant wireless signals could be heard up the Straits, "Three torpedo hits! Sunk, sunk." ''An English battleship sunk.'' This was about three o'clock, and the Wolverine, realising that an attack had been made, went off with the Scorpion towards Kephez Point to cut off the invisible enemy's retreat; but though the increasing strength of the signals told them they were very close, and though in spite of heavy fire they maintained their position near Kephez nothing more was seen of the Turkish destroyer. Meanwhile the work of rescue was proceeding. In the intense darkness and the swift current it proved very difficult. In the end, of the Goliath's complement of 750, nearly 570 were lost, and amongst them her commander, Captain Shelford.
As a Chief Stoker, Stephen Champ would have been amongst the most vulnerable to torpedo attack with little chance of survival as he joined the two thirds of the ship's complement that perished.
We have also transcribed an Official Despatch (and inserted maps) dated 20th May 1915 that covers this period as background to our understanding of what was happening in the Mediterranean from early April 1915.