“I realised it would be a Herculean task to climb those huge cliffs, my body numbed and drained of energy. “

By Paul Busteed

Lord Kitchener, HMS Hampshire and the Aghada Connection

Today, 5th of June,   is the anniversary of the loss of HMS Hampshire, a survivor of The Battle of Jutland, off the west coast of Orkney, Scotland. A total of 737 men died after the ship hit a mine in stormy weather on 5 June 1916.

On 5 June 1916, HMS Hampshire left the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow, Orkney, bound for Russia. The Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, was on board as part of a diplomatic and military mission aimed at boosting Russia’s efforts on the Eastern Front.

At about quarter to nine in the evening, in stormy conditions and within two miles of Orkney’s northwest shore, HMS Hampshire struck a mine laid by German submarine U-75. Only twelve survived.

There were at least 28 Irish sailors lost on HMS Hampshire, one of them was 194183, Leading Seaman Michael Flavin born 7 May 1882, Farsid (Rostellan), one of five brothers, all of whom served in the Navy. A year earlier his older brother John a Chief Stoker in the Royal Navy, while on leave was killed in a Railway Fatality in Midleton and is buried in the old graveyard in Upper Aghada.

Of the 737 crew members and 14 passengers aboard, only 12 crew survived after coming ashore on three Carley floats. One of these men (the only Irishman amongst the twelve survivors) was 228580 Leading Seaman William Cashman, Born 22 April 1886, Ballinrostig.

During this time William’s brothers were also serving, Joseph born in 1895 serving in the Royal Navy and surviving the war and their brother Thomas born 1892 serving with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers but was killed in action 27 August 1914 and is buried at Etreux British Cemetery, Etreux, Departement de l’Aisne, Picardie, France.

William continued his service with the Royal Navy until September 1919.

This is part of his story told in his own words,

“I realised it would be a Herculean task to climb those huge cliffs, my body numbed and drained of energy. I started to climb, but slipped back, tearing off my finger nail in the attempt. The next effort was successful, but not without struggling desperately, and losing strength rapidly, did I succeed in gaining the top. When I got up I staggered along, rolling and pitching, as I could not shake off the motion of the raft. I was seen by some of the Orkney islanders, who immediately came to my assistance and carried me safely to one of the farmhouses. They brought my other three shipmates up the cliff immediately after.

The people of the farmhouse were very kind and decent to us and attended our many wants and requirements immediately. The other two rafts of the ship came ashore some miles distant along the Orkney Coast. There were eight survivors on those two rafts and four on mine, making a total of twelve. I was the only Irish survivor, the remainder being from England, Scotland and Wales. Before retiring at night, for a long time after the disaster, I lived on the frontiers of fear, for I knew that during my few winks of sleep, I would endure again the horrors of that disaster in the form of a nightmare. Such is the story of the “Hampshire”, the most terrible experience of my life.”

On the 20 September 1921 William Cashman married my cousin Helena Cosgrove in Saleen Co. Cork. Helena’s brother, Maurice Cosgrove (M. 12378, Blacksmiths Mate H.M.S. ‘Defence’) was killed in the Battle of Jutland.

William Cashman passed away 27 October 1963.

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