Stoker Ernest East was a member of HMS Hampshire – a 10,850 ton armoured cruiser stationed with the fleet in Scapa Flow in the Orkneys after having taken part in a naval engagement at Jutland fought on 31st may 1916.
On the morning of Monday 5th June 1916, with its bunkers filled with 1950 tons of prime coal, HMS Hampshire raised her anchors and with a ship’s complement of 655 officers and men, plus Lord Kitchener and his staff of 6 high ranking officials, slipped her berth, left the safety of Scapa Flow, and set a Northern course destined for St Petersburg in Russia. The UK government had requested that Lord Kitchener should arrange discussions with the Russian ruler in an attempt to put heart into a flagging ally and to keep his armed forces active in the Eastern war.
The ship had an uneventful start to its journey, but around 7:30 am, not long after leaving Scapa Flow, she struck a mine around the mid-ships section and by 8:00 am a shore-based telegraph office reported “vessel down”. In a few moments all but 12 of the 655 crew and passengers had perished, including Stoker Ernest East aged 24.
The bodies that were eventually found were buried in a communal grave at Lyness Cemetery at Hoy in the Orkney Isles. The body of Lord Kitchener was never found, but a memorial to him now stands at Marwick, Bursay Bay, Orkney Isles.
Ernest East was the third son of Arthur & Sarah East who lived at Little Street, Milton Malsor.
You can learn more about the sinking on the HMS Hampshire Website