Part III - Witness to a Terrible Wartime Event & his Medals

By Derek Longly

During the 1st World War, on 27th May 1915, HMS Paris (the Newhaven - Dieppe ship built in 1913) was at Sheerness in connection with her wartime task as a minelayer. Also in the port at that time was the Canadian Pacific Line vessel Princess Irene. This ship having only been delivered to her owners on 26th January 1915 was almost brand new but had nonetheless also been called up for service as a minelayer.

During the operation of loading mines aboard the Princess Irene on that fateful date, a notoriously tricky and dangerous operation in those days, an accident occurred and as a result the vessel blew up being completely obliterated, together with her entire complement.

Parts of the ship rained down on the surrounding area and my Grandfather, who was on duty aboard HMS Paris at the time collected one of the fragments of steel which fell and after the war he had this mounted on a wooden base with a brass plaque affixed to it stating 'Fragment of the Princess Irene.'  In addition amongst the items he left me was a printed 'In Memorium' tribute to those who died in the disaster.

As a result of his war service, which I believe was aboard HMS Paris throughout the conflict, my Grandfather received a number of decorations, including the Italian Bronze Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Set out below are pictures of the memorial to the Princess Irene, the mounted fragment of the ship and an unfortunately rather blurred picture, the only one I have, of my Grandfather's medals.  The Italian Bronze Medal is easily identified by the colour of it's ribbon, being at the right hand side of the group but I am not sure which is the DSM, possibly the one with the all blue ribbon second from left.

For anyone interested in more detail about this story, there is a fine painting of HMS Paris escaping from chasing warships displayed in the Newhaven Museum together with explanatory notes and the story of the Princess Irene disaster can be found in a book entitled 'Blown to Eternity' written by John Hendy. Within the book is a photo of HMS Paris anchored just ahead of the ill fated Princess Irene at Sheerness.

Photo:Memorial to the victims of the Princess Irene disaster

Memorial to the victims of the Princess Irene disaster

Derek Longly collection

Photo:Mounted fragment of the Princess Irene

Mounted fragment of the Princess Irene

Derek Longly

Photo:Medals of Hubert Longly gained in World War I

Medals of Hubert Longly gained in World War I

Derek Longly collection

This page was added by Derek Longly on 11/12/2011.
Comments about this page

I have now found out what the medals awarded to my Grandfather are. Looking at them in the photo from left to right they are: the Distinguished Service Medal, the Italian Bronze Medal, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the Mercantile Marine Medal. I am grateful to a contributor of the Ships Nostalgia website for providing this information.

By Derek Longly
On 23/06/2012

My uncle (same name as me) served on HMS Paris during WW1. In WW2 she was operating as a hospital ship in 1940 at Dunkirk when she was sunk by enemy fire.

By Robert Hamilton
On 24/05/2013

My grandfather Lawrence Lonsdale also served aboard HMS Paris, He was reportedly involved in operation laying mines along the Belgian coast  but was injured during an explosion and was never the same.

Eventually he died as a direct result of this service in 1949.

Thank you for sharing this story

By Jeff Lonsdale
On 05/05/2015

My Great Grandfather, James Cromie, served on HMS Paris during WW1, during which he was involved in mine laying on HMS Paris in connection with the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915.

By Glen Carr
On 07/06/2015

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.