Reply To: Alfred Henry Sturmy (1898-1989) [Bandmaster, Royal Navy]
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Huddersfield Examiner 23 September 1939, page 10:
SINKING OF H.M.S. COURAGEOUS
A Survivor in Colne Valley : Graphic Story
A vivid account of the sinking of H.M.S. Courageous by a German submarine was given to an “Examiner” reporter on Wednesday by one of the survivors, Bandmaster Alfred Henry Sturmy, who has a close connection with Colne Valley.
Band master Sturmy, who is a Plymouth man, was married at Slaithwaite Parish Church in August of last year to Miss A. E. Fossey, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Fossey, of Slaithwaite (and now of White Lea, Marsden). He is well known to many Colne Valley residents.
In the course of the interview Bandmaster Sturmy said that he considered himself very lucky to be alive. “I was on watch when the first torpedo struck the ship just before eight o’clock on Sunday evening,” he said.
There were two explosions within a few seconds, and the ship listed heavily to port, smashing all the boats on one side of her. The side of the ship was over the water at an angle which necessitated a jump of about 70ft. At about five minutes past eight the captain gave the order, ‘Abandon ship. Every man for himself.’
“While I was waiting to jump I witnessed the destruction of the submarine. Destroyers in the vicinity dropped depth charges — I counted six. After the first the submarine came straight out of the water. The second brought her up again, and I saw the conning-tower fly yards into the air. It was absolutely impossible for the submarine to escape. As soon as she was destroyed the men gave three cheers.
“I did not see the submarine before she fired her torpedoes, but I saw her immediately afterwards,” continued Bandmaster Sturmy. “She was then on the surface, and submerged immediately. The torpedoes hit the Courageous for-ard on the port side, stopped the engines and put out all the lights.”
Bandmaster Sturmy said when he left the ship the Captain was still on the bridge. The Courageous sank at about quarter past eight, and the captain was still on the bridge, alone. “While I was swimming,” he added, “ someone yelled, out, ‘She’s going,’ and we had a final look at her stern disappearing.
“I was in the water for fifty minutes, and I swam a mile and a half to a destroyer.”
BOY BUGLER’S GALLANT CONDUCT
Speaking in high terms of the conduct of the men, Bandmaster Sturmy said an outstanding example was the gallantry of Boy Bugler Emerson, of Plymouth, who was only fifteen years of age. “He jumped the 70ft. into the water and was picked up by a Carley Float,” continued Bandmaster Sturmy. “While he was on the float he caused quite a lot of amusement among other survivors with his witty remarks, and he started a sing-song among the men.”
Bandmaster Sturmy has spent twenty-six years in the Navy. He served throughout the Great War, joining the Royal Marines in 1913, and he took part in the Battle of Jutland, being on H.M.S. Marlborough which was torpedoed but did not sink. He joined the Courageous two months ago.
Among his personal possessions which went down with the Courageous are Bandmaster Sturmy’s medals and a gold watch which was presented to him by the Royal Marines Band in Australia some years ago and which he treasured.
Bandmaster Sturmy has been granted a fortnight’s leave, which he is spending with his wife and infant child at the home of his wife’s parents, at Marsden.
Leeds Mercury 21 September 1939, page 3:
Bandsman Alfred Henry Sturmy is on leave at Marsden, near Huddersfield, where his wife and little child are living.
Sturmy, who is a Plymouth man, said he had been in the Navy for twenty-six years, and served in the Battle of Jutland in the Great War.
“I was on watch when the torpedo struck.” he said. “Ten minutes later the Captain gave the order to abandon ship. I was in the sea for fifty minutes before being picked up by a destroyer.”
Bandsman Sturmy paid special tribute to a fifteen-year-old bugler, named Emerson, of Plymouth, who, he said, dived into the sea and on being taken on to a float kept some of the other survivors in good spirits by his jokes and led the men in a “sing song.”
Sturmy said that six depth charges were released by the destroyers. After the second one he saw the conning tower of the submarine blown several yards into the air.
- This reply was modified 2 weeks ago by Dave Pattern.