Larne sailor lost his life during WWI naval tragedy

Stoker (1st) Robert Creighton was born in Larne.  INLT 41-736-CON
Stoker (1st) Robert Creighton was born in Larne. INLT 41-736-CON

A Larne-born sailor who lost his life at sea during the First World War is to be honoured at a commemoration service later this month.

Stoker (1st class) Robert Creighton was a crew member aboard HMS Hawke, which was torpedoed by a German U-Boat 100 years ago.

Some 49 Ulstermen died in the tragedy, one of the greatest single losses of Royal Navy sailors from the province.

The incident occurred on October 15, 1914 when the German submarine U-9 came across two British Cruisers, HMS Hawke and her sister ship HMS Theseus, while on patrol in the North Sea.

Under the command of German Commander Weddigen, U-9 fired on the British ships. The submarine’s first torpedo hit HMS Hawke, igniting a magazine and causing a tremendous explosion which ripped much of the ship apart.

Hawke sank in a few minutes with the loss of her commander and 523 men.

The same submarine, under Weddigen’s command, had caused the deaths of almost 1500 British seamen only three weeks earlier with the torpedoing of the ‘Livebait Squadron’.

Creighton, who was 24 when he died, was born in 1890 the borough. His address at the time of his death was 76 Mountcollyer Street, Belfast.

He was not the only east Antrim man aboard Hawke, with three Carrick-born sailors also having lost their lives.

Stoker Creighton is remembered on the naval memorial at Chatham, but like most of those who perished in the tragedy, his body was never recovered.

Following the attack, the destroyer Swift was dispatched from Scapa Flow to search for Hawke and found a raft carrying 22 men, while a boat with a further 49 survivors was rescued by a Norwegian steamer.

Some 524 men drowned, including the ship’s Captain, Hugh P. E. T. Williams, and 49 Ulstermen.

Only 74 men were saved, six of whom were from Ulster.

The centenary of the sinking of HMS Hawke and the tragic loss of so many men is due to be remembered at the Royal Navy’s annual Trafalgar Day Service in Belfast on October 19.