Percy Searle was from Exmouth. It was not an easy life for his mother and the family because his father was away for periods of time at sea. Exmouth had been a fishing community since Medieval times.
At age 18 Percy signed on for 12 years with the Royal Navy. In 6 months he would be at war.
Percy was serving on HMS Formidable when on 1st of January 1915 whilst out on gunnery practice off Start Point, Devon, Formidable was hit by a torpedo from the German submarine U24. The weather was rough and several lifeboats were lost in launching. 500 men were left on board who used tables and wooden items to construct makeshift rafts. After almost an hour, U24 fired another torpedo which succeeded in sinking Formidable. 547 out of a crew of 780 were lost.
On 1st of January 1917 Percy joined the crew of HMS Pheasant. It struck a mine on 1st of March 1917 off Rora Head, Hoy, Orkney. All 89 of the crew were killed.
Able Seaman Percy Searle was 20 when he was killed.
This is the first exhibition banner designed by Orcadian artist Martin Laird which we crowdfunded for.
The crowdfund can been accessed here: HMS Pheasant 1917 – a Community Project
There is also a Facebook page where you can find out more: HMS Pheasant 1917
I will be giving a talk on 23rd of November at Orkney Library & Archives, Kirkwall from 2.30 – 3.30pm about the lives of the men of HMS Pheasant.
Our exhibition will be opening on Saturday 30th of November at the Northlight Gallery Stromness. This event is part the St Andrew’s Fair Day and the wider global Fair Saturday Movement.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame