Crostwight – All Saints’ Church (Hubert Arthur Francis)

Crostwight lost one person during the Second World War and five during the First World War, but this post is about the former conflict.

The lower memorial, which is beautifully presented in the church, is to Hubert Arthur Francis, who died on board HMS Royal Oak on 14 October 1939. The HMS Royal Oak was built in 1914 to serve during the First World War and was one of the older ships still in the fleet by 1939. At the beginning of the Second World War, it was stationed at Scapa Flow, at the Orkney Islands in Scotland, which was thought to be a safe place.

The Germans had plans for Scapa Flow and they planned an attack on it using their submarines early on during the war. Submarine U-47 fired torpedoes at the Royal Oak and seriously damaged it, but more seriously setting off an explosion of armaments which caused a fireball to rush through the submarine. 835 men were killed with the sinking of the ship, including 134 boy seaman who weren’t even 18 years old. The majority of bodies couldn’t be recovered and they remain there today, the wreck is a war grave and divers are not allowed near it.

Hubert was born in Henstead which is near Norwich, Norfolk on 18 August 1919 and his parents were Stanley and Minnie Francis (nee Merry), who lived in Ramsgate in Kent. Stanley lived from 1882 until 1948 and Minnie lived from 1884 until 1965.

Hubert joined the Royal Navy in 1939, with service number P/JX 142485. He was on board the ship when it was sunk, dying at the age of just 20 and he is commemorated at Portsmouth Naval Memorial. What he was doing in Crostwight I don’t know, the 1939 register didn’t include servicemen, so his address isn’t clear.