Wanstead hero fell victim to bad weather

One hundred years ago this week local newspapers were hailing the bravery of one of its residents who perished in the opening weeks of the Great War.

Claude Gould's obituary notice appeared in the October 30th 1914 edition of the Chelmsford Chronicle Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD
Claude Gould’s obituary notice appeared in the October 30th 1914 edition of the Chelmsford Chronicle
Image copyright of Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of  the British Library Board

Claude Gould died after the armored cruiser he was serving on, HMS Hogue, was torpedoed by a German U-boat during a naval engagement in the North Sea known as the Action of September 22nd 1914.  Two other cruisers were sunk, leading to the deaths of approximately 1,450 sailors.  The loss of the three ships remains the biggest maritime disaster in British naval history.

In the October 9th edition of the Essex County Chronicle Mr Gould, of Spratt Hall Road, was described as “a man of exceptionally fine physique, handsome presence, and frank, engaging manners”. The paper points out that he was the eldest son of George ‘Johnstone’ Gould, a “distinguished name in theatrical circles” in the West End and elsewhere.

Claude, who was Chief Yeoman of Signals, had been a member of the Royal Navy for 16 years and since 1912 had been stationed at Chatham, Kent, though he continued to spend most weekends in Wanstead before being mobilised at the beginning of August.

His abilities had been noted during his Naval manoeuvres and he had been recommended for appointment to the battleship Collingwood before he was lent to the Hogue when war broke out.

A survivor of the disaster noted Claude’s final act of bravery. As the ship sunk he was seen destroying his code-book to prevent it falling into the hands of the enemy.

This reanalysis chart shows the depression centred just off Denmark that brought gales in the North Sea, forcing naval destroyers away from escorting cruisers including Hogue
This reanalysis chart shows the depression centred just off Denmark that brought gales in the North Sea, forcing naval destroyers away from escorting cruisers including Hogue. The Air Ministry’s Daily Weather Report for September 17th reports SW’ly severe gale force 9 off Dungeness and Dover – the cause of the heavy seas that forced the destroyers to depart their patrol

Five days before the incident naval destroyers, which had been assigned to protect the cruisers as they patrolled the North Sea, were forced to depart by heavy weather, a blip in a month that overall was dry and bright. Had the weather been different the destroyers would have remained present and the ships would surely have not been such an easy target for the German submarine, the U-9.

The losses from the Action of September 22nd caused a public outcry, eroding confidence in the British government and damaging the reputation of the Royal Navy at a time when many countries were still considering which side in the war they might support.

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September 2014: warmer and dryer than average

In terms of weather events September was a relatively quiet month save for the two thunderstorms that seemed to mark the Scottish Referendum as the results became apparent in the early hours of Friday 19th.

Clouds above could be seen developing rapidly at 2.30pm on 19th September
Clouds above could be seen developing rapidly at 2.30pm on 19th September

September 2014 was warmer than average; the mean temperature of 16.4C was 1.1C above average, making it the 16th warmest September since 1797: 1.6C warmer than last September, the warmest since 2011.

The month was marked with lots of dry, sunny days, the two thunderstorms on the 19th contributing 89 per cent of the rainfall for the month. It was dryer than average – the 44.8mm that fell is 86 per cent of what we would expect in a normal September.

Despite this it was only the driest September here since 2011.

The warmest day occurred on the 18th with 25.6C recorded. Most nights were warm though a couple of nights were chilly: 5.4C was recorded on 24th

Sunshine was below average with 126.9 hours recorded – that’s 91 per cent of mean. The sunniest day was on the 8th when 12 hours of sunshine were recorded. There were 2 days with thunder recorde.

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