Following up to “Great Grandad, what did you do in the Great War?”

Back in January we posted about the research undertaken into the naval service record of Horace Collar. More research has now been undertaken into the 1917 incident aboard HMS Centaur that lead to Horace losing all of his personal effects.

A very large envelope from the National Archives were delivered to the family and a story worthy of the BBC Radio Comedy The Navy Lark unravelled.

According to the book North Sea War 1914-1919 by Robert Malster:

On 23rd October 1917 Tyrwhitt (Commander of the Harwich Fleet) was told that a number of destroyers were expected to sale from Zebrugge for a north German port. Four light cruisers, Canterbury, Carysfort, Centaur, and Concord, with a flotilla leader and four destroyers, left Harwich to intercept them, but the enemy ships slipped past that night.


On their way back to port the flotilla ran into a severe gale and it is at this point Centuar was damaged. An explosion towards the aft of the ship  caused considerable damage to the engine room necessitating Centaur to be out of action undergoing repairs for quite some time.

The documents from the National Archive are incredibly interesting as they are so contradictory.  One document, listing the findings from an investigation dated 27th October 1917, states that it is the considered opinion that the damage was caused by a surface mine exploding near the ship:

centaur 1 centaur 2


This theory is, however, refuted in all of the other documents in the pack and in Malster’s book, where the conclusion is that the high seas and gale caused the depth charges stored at the back of Centaur to be washed overboard where at least one detonated and damaged the ship!

centaur 3


The documents make fascinating reading and include the transcript from the Court of Enquiry and instructions on how to run the Enquiry. The good news to this from the family perspective is that Horace Collar is not mentioned at all in the paperwork, and on a broader level no one was killed, indeed the report reads “I am glad to report that beyond one Officer who (was) slightly shaken no casualties were incurred.”


HMS Centaur during WW1

HMS Centaur during WW1