Gunner Francis John Eddolls
PLY/5543 Royal Marine Light Infantry SS Joshua Nicholson
Drowned by Enemy Submarine 18th March 1917, aged 43
Lived at 45 Cromwell Street
Commemorated on the Plymouth Memorial, UK
Burnley Express 7th April 1917

Francis John Eddolls, Lance Corporal PLY/5543 Royal Marine Light Infantry drowned by the sinking of SS Joshua Nicholson on 18th March 1917. Son of John and Amelia Eddolls of Chippenham and the husband of Ida Maud Eddolls of 45 Cromwell Street, Burnley. Remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.
During the First World War, Britain armed its merchant ships to help defend them against U-boats. A single stern gun, equivalent to what a submarine might carry, was mounted; and civilian captains were encouraged to flee and shoot back from their more stable gun platform. 766 civilian ships had been armed by December, 1915. Arming of merchant ships gave Germany an excuse for moving toward unrestricted submarine warfare.
Germany focused use of U-boats against merchant shipping in response to British blockade of German merchant shipping by declaring the entire North Sea a war zone on 2 November 1914. On 5 February 1915 Germany published notice declaring a war zone in all waters around Great Britain and Ireland. Within that zone, Germany conducted unrestricted submarine warfare against merchant ships from 18 February 1915 without warning and without regard to safety of their crew.
U-boats still conformed to earlier conventions of stopping ships when possible, but the typical submarine mounted only a single gun. The two procedures for sinking merchant ships were compared in 1915. Merchant ships escaped 42% of torpedo attacks made without warning, in comparison to 54% escaping from conventional surface attempts to stop the ship. Guns aided escape
The number of British civilian merchant ships armed with anti-submarine guns rose to 1,749 by September 1916 and 2,899 by February 1917. In WW1 Royal Marines often served afloat on these Defensively Armed Merchant Ships to help man the guns. These Royal Marines were mainly older men of the Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR) who had been recalled to the Colours or Pensioners.
Frank Eddolls had served in the Royal Marines and had retired after 21 years service to Burnley in 1912 where he worked for a former colleague in a Burnley restaurant on Hebrew Road. He was recalled to the Colours at the commencement of hostilities and served in the North Sea with HMS Revenge and other ships being involved in several actions in the North Sea including the bambardment of Zeebrugge.
He was serving as the captain of the gun crew on the merchant ship SS Joshua Nicholson (1853 gross registered tons) which was sailing from London to Alexandria when it was torpedoed without warning at 6.30am on 18th March 1917 by U70 off the Wolf Rock near Lands End.. After the torpedo struck she began to settle very quickly with a heavy list to starboard. While the port lifeboat was being lowered she capsized and 3 men were drowned and another man was blown overboard by an explosion. After the ship went down 6 men were left on the surface clinging to pieces of wreckage. Of these men 3 drowned before the 3 survivors were picked up at about 5pm. A total of 26 men were lost including Frank and the ship’s master. Other Royal Navy Casualties were Lt. Edwin B Dalby RNR and Private PO/13653 Henry John Payne

HMS Revenge


Daneshouse Working Mens' Club memorial
Courtesy of Daneshouse Working Mens' Club)




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