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
Burnley Express 7th
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
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
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
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
Daneshouse Working Mens' Club
of Daneshouse Working Mens' Club)