Victor Ernest Funnell, born in 1892 in Hove, was the fourth of James Funnell and Naomi Packham of Chalvington’s eight children. The couple moved successively from their tiny rural Sussex village to Eastbourne, then to Bexhill and to Hove, all seaside towns experiencing an economic boom, the latter in the wake of Brighton, before rejoining Southwick in the suburbs of London.
Like most children at that time, Victor would have finished school at the age of eleven and been sent to work to support his family. He was only 8 when the census enumerator questioned his parents in 1901 and had already joined the Navy before the 1911 census was taken.
In February 1909, at 16 and half years old, Victor engaged into the Royal Navy for a period of twelve years. He measured 5 foot 3½ inches and his dark brown hair was noted along with grey eyes, a “fresh” complexion and a 33 inch chest, rather a small stature compared to today’s standards.
He described his previous occupation as “General Carman”, a term for “delivery man” operating from a railway station and usually driving a horse and cart.
At 18, he was a half-inch taller. He was affected to HMS Ganges as a Second Class “Boy” on the 3rd of February and was rapidly promoted to 1st Class Boy from the the 6th of October of the same year.
He was transferred to HMS Leviathan with this same rating from the 15th January to 25 April 1910 and then to HMS Roxburgh from 26th April to June 1910.
Victor Ernest is affected to HMS Superb from the 5th of June 1910 where he becomes Ordinary Seaman from the 2nd August and Able Bodied Seaman from 26 June 1912.
The 30th of this same month, he leaves HMS Superb and is affected to HMS Victory 1, the admiralty at Portsmouth, then to HMS Victory II meaning training at Crystal Palace, then back to Portsmouth.
There is some confusion on the dates in his naval records, but after this period of training in August 1912, he rejoins HMS Enchantress, the fourth ship to bear the name, until the 14th of January 1914. She was launched at Belfast in 1903: 3.470 tons, coal fired 6.400 horse-power, twin screw with a speed of 18 knots. Her length, beam, and draught were 320 ft., 40 ft., and 16 ft. This ship is the special service vessel, or official yacht, of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in times of peace.
In January 1913, Churchill accompanied the Prime Minister on a tour of naval facilities in the north of Scotland. Speaking at his home constituency of Dundee, he claimed that the Navy was strong and the Army was efficient, and that that strength would be used “to preserve peace, to bring disputing parties together, to smooth away difficulties and to compact an abiding settlement … based upon justice and equality”. He was no doubt, referring to social unrest in the UK rather than global politics. On January 30th, he boarded the Admiralty yacht and headed south. Four days later he was at Portsmouth and Spithead where he was joined on board by King George V.
Winston Churchill was then 1st Lord of the Admiralty and parliamentarian. He loved working on Enchantress and between 1911 and 1914, he spent a total of eight months aboard her. Representatives of the opposition questioned him on expenses, guests and the nature of his journeys (1). A critic in the Commons charged that it was unnecessary for the First Lord to go to sea at all and that because naval stations were dotted around the coast on land, they would be visited more quickly and cheaply by rail.
Churchill responded that in the event of war, the personnel of the yacht would be transferred to fighting ships and the vessel itself would be used as an auxiliary hospital ship.
This may or may not be a reason for Victor being transferred to HMS Doris for a short spell in early 1914 (15/1 to 12/3), then to HMS Bramble (13/3 to 5/8) and finally to HMS Triumph, sistership of HMS Swiftsure.
Triumph was a battleship equipped with lastest technology in terms of propulsion and armament. Built for the Chilean government in 1902 by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness and named Libertad, she was sold in 1903 to the Royal Navy who bought her to avoid her falling into Russian hands.
On the 28th June, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie von Chotkova are assassinated by Gavrilo Princip. Emperor Franz Josef of Austro-Hungary and his ally, Kaiser Wilhem II, of Germany, decide that Serbia must be punished for this crime. The German Kaiser declares war on the 14th of August 1914.
Commissioned at Devonport Dockyard on 28 August 1913 to serve on the China Station, HMS Triumph is then in reserve with a nucleus crew in Hong Kong. She is returned to full commission in August 1914 when World War I breaks out, bringing her crew up to strength by using the crews of demobilised river gunboats and two officers, 100 enlisted men, and six signallers from the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
She was ready for sea on 6 August 1914. Victor Ernest Funnell joined the crew this very same day. Triumph took part in operations against the Pacific Squadron of Maximilian Graf von Spee in early August 1914, capturing a German collier, the 4,900-ton German civilian ship “Frisia”, which was subsequently renamed “Huntress” in British service.
On 23 August 1914, she was attached to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Second Fleet to participate in the campaign against the German colony at Tsingtao, China, and assisted in the capture of the fortress at Tsingtao on 7 November 1914. With Tsingtao in Japanese hands, Triumph returned to Hong Kong for a refit in November 1914.
Upon completion in January 1915, HMS Triumph is transferred to the Dardanelles departing Hong Kong on 12 January 1915 and calling at Suez from 7 February 1915 to 12 February 1915, before moving on to join the Dardanelles Squadron.
HMS Triumph takes part in the opening attack on the entrance forts on 18 February 1915 and 19 February 1915, and joins battleships HMS Albion and HMS Cornwallis in using her secondary battery to silence the fort at Sedd el Bahr on 25 February 1915.
She, Albion, and HMS Majestic are the first Allied battleships to enter the Turkish Straits during the campaign when they carry out the initial attack on the inner forts on 26 February 1915. She takes part in the attack on Fort Dardanos on 2 March 1915. She and Swiftsure are detached from the Dardanelles on 5 March 1915 for operations against forts at Smyrna, returning to the Dardanelles on 9 March 1915. Triumph participates in the main attack on the Narrows forts on 18 March 1915, and carries out experimental firing on Ottoman Turkish trenches at Achi Baba on 15 April 1915.
On 18 April 1915, one of her picket boats and one from Majestic torpedoe and sink the British submarine HMS E15, which had run aground near Fort Dardanos and was in danger of being captured by Ottoman forces.
Triumph supports the main landing by the Anzac forces at Gaba Tepe on 25 April 1915, and supports the Anzacs there during a strong Turkish attack on 19 May 1915.
On 25 May 1915, Triumph was underway off Gaba Tepe, firing on Ottoman positions, with torpedo nets out, guns manned, and most watertight doors shut, when she sights a submarine periscope 300 to 400 yards off her starboard beam at about 1230 hours. It belongs to the U-boat U-21, commanded by Otto Hersing, which has just arrived in the area.
All watertight doors are shut when she opens fire on the periscope, but was almost immediately she is struck by a torpedo cutting through her torpedo nets on her starboard side. A tremendous explosion follows, and Triumph listing 10 degrees to starboard. She holds that for about five minutes, then her list increases to 30 degrees. Destroyer HMS Chelmer evacuates most of her crew before she capsizes ten minutes later. She remains afloat upside down for about 30 minutes, then begins to sink slowly by the bows. A loud sound is heard from inside her hull, reported by some observers to be an internal explosion and by others to be the shifting of weight within the hull. She sinks in about 180 feet (55 m) of water.
Three officers and 75 ratings die in the sinking of HMS Triumph. Victor Ernest Funnell is one of them.
His younger brother, Harold FUNNELL, born in Hove the 23rd of April 1898 (died 1970), who also joined the Navy, married Alice M. BAYFORD and named his first son, Victor Ernest (born 1924).
(1) H.M.S. “Enchantress” (Deb 9 June 1913 vol 53 c1232 1232 § 9)
Mr. HUNT asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether there are any regulations as to the number of guests who can be carried and entertained on the Admiralty yacht “Enchantress” during the time she is cruising; and are guests entertained at the expense of the country? The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill): No, Sir. The matter is regulated in practice by the amount of accommodation not required by the Board or by official persons. All unofficial guests are paid for by the First Lord, and no expense falls upon the public.
H.M.S. “Enchantress” (Deb 26 June 1913 vol 54 cc1236-8W 1236W)
Mr. SANDYS asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will furnish a Report of the movements of His Majesty’s ship “Enchantress” from 1st December, 1912, to the present date, showing in order and with dates the ports which this vessel has visited during that period; if he will state the number of miles which the ship has travelled since that date and the number of tons of coal consumed, and what has been the cost of the coal; and if he will state the numbers of officers and men, respectively, serving on the vessel, and what expenditure has been incurred in connection with the movements of the vessel since 1st December, 1912? Mr. CHURCHILL: For the sake of completeness the answer has been made to cover the whole period since the present First Lord took office. Since 31st October, 1911, the “Enchantress” has covered 19,705 miles and consumed 4,900 tons of coal. This includes two visits to the Mediterranean for the official inspection of the naval establishments at Malta (1912 and 1913), and Gibraltar (1912). The list of ports visited is attached. Since 31st October, 1911, the First Lord has spent 182 days afloat, and in addition to the Mediterranean cruises has visited nearly every port in the British Isles that is either a naval port or naval base or is connected with naval interests (i.e., private docks, private shipbuilding yards, etc.). With a few exceptions every naval establishment in the British Isles and the Mediterranean has been inspected by the First Lord, with or without other members of the Board. Apart from the regular Board inspections of naval bases, all of which have been carried out, the First Lord has during this time personally visited or inspected between sixty and seventy battleships and cruisers—many of them on several occasions—besides ninny visits to the destroyer and submarine flotillas, and has been present at day and night exercises of the Fleet on between thirty and forty occasions. The complement of the “Enchantress” is ten officers and 186 men, all of whom are required for the needs of the War Fleet, and either hold war appointments or are told off to ships of the War Fleet. As to the question of cost, there is nothing to add to the replies that have been given from time to time in this House beyond saying that the cost of entertaining unofficial guests is borne by the First Lord, in accordance with long-established precedent, and that no part of it falls upon public funds. The original cost of the “Enchantress,” which was built by Lord Selborne’s direction in 1903 and completed in 1904, was £131,000. The depreciation upon this capital sum is computed at £6,500 a year, and would continue whether the vessel were employed or not. LIST of all Ports visited by His Majesty’s ship “Enchantress” since the present First Lord of the Admiralty came into Office.
(2) In Memory of VICTOR ERNEST FUNNELL Able Seaman J/3452 H.M.S. “Triumph.”, Royal Navy who died on Tuesday, 25th May 1915. Age 22. Additional Information: Son of James and Naomi Lilian Funnell, of 70, Southview Rd., Southwick, Sussex. Commemorative Information Memorial: PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL, Hampshire, United Kingdom Grave Reference/Panel Number: 7.
(3) Abl Smn Victor Ernest Funnell. Birth: unknown Death: May 25, 1915 Note: Able Seaman, Royal Navy. Age: 22. Burial: Portsmouth Naval Memorial Portsmouth Hampshire, England Plot: Final resting place unknown. Name listed on Panel 7.
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