9th Mar, 2021

Redditch remembers: A fateful night in the Channel

Ross Crawford 24th Dec, 2017

IMAGINE being thrown into the freezing waters of the English Channel on a dark December night, or being trapped inside the hull of a ship as it sinks in those same waters.

That’s the fate met by Redditch resident George Frederick Herbert, who, aged just 21, died on December 23, 1917, 100 years ago this week.

George was an Able Seaman on board HMS Torrent, an R class destroyer on escort duty in the Channel, protecting convoys sailing to and from The Netherlands.

On that fateful night the merchant vessels had safely arrived in Holland despite one of the escort ships, Valkyrie, hitting a mine and having to be towed back to Harwich.

As Torrent and the other escort ships, Surprise, Tornado and Radiant, waited for the return convoy, at about 2am on the 23rd, Torrent ran into a minefield off the port of Rotterdam.

A mine exploded and as Surprise and Tornado went to the rescue, they too struck mines. Meanwhile Torrent hit a second mine and quickly sank with the loss of 68 crew.

Only three survived to be picked up by Radiant, the only undamaged ship left.

In all 252 crew from the three ships lost their lives, making it one of the worst episodes in the First World War for the Royal Navy.

George Herbert was born on February 28, 1896, the eldest son of Thomas and Emma Herbert.

His father was a needle pointer and the family lived on Evesham Road, later moving to 35 South Street, Mount Pleasant.

He is remembered today on the St Stephen’s War Memorial and the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

With thanks to Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes and www.wrecksite.eu/

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