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Walter Lightfoot

Walter was the younger son of William and Sarah Jane (nee Milsom) Lightfoot who were married in the Malton area in the third quarter of 1882, and was born on 23rd April 1891 when his family was resident at Pauls Row, Greengate, New Malton.

Sarah Jane died in the second quarter of 1900 aged 34 and by 1901 the family were living at 8, Stephens Yard, Newbiggin, Malton.


1901  Census– resident at 8, Stephens Yard, Newbiggin, Malton

 LIGHTFOOT, William, Head, Widower, M, 39, Agricultural Labourer, Old Malton Yorkshire,
LIGHTFOOT, Dasey, Daughter, Single, F, 15, House Keeper, Malton Yorkshire,
LIGHTFOOT, Herbert, Son, Single, M, 12, , Malton Yorkshire,
LIGHTFOOT, Walter, Son, Single, M, 9, , Malton Yorkshire,
LIGHTFOOT, Esther, Daughter, Single, F, 7, , Malton Yorkshire,
LIGHTFOOT, Hilda, Daughter, Single, F, 1, , Malton Yorkshire,

Before Walter joined the Navy, he was working as a town labourer, but on 29th July 1910 he joined the shore establishment Victory 1 at Portsmouth as an Ordinary Seaman.  In September he joined HMS Illustrious, a Majestic-class battleship, by that time thoroughly obsolete and serving with the Home Fleet.

In January 1911 he transferred to HMS Neptune a much newer dreadnought battleship which was the flagship of the Home Fleet. By the time of the census in 1911 William had moved to Old Malton, living at 3 Pit Houses with two daughters, a granddaughter and lodgers while Walter was on shore leave at the Royal Sailors’ Rest, Portsmouth.

1911 Census – resident at Royal Sailors’ Rest, 172 -174 Commercial Road Portsmouth
LIGHTFOOT, Walter, , Single, M, 19, O Seaman, Yorks Malton

In October 1912 he was promoted to Able Seaman and left Neptune in January 1913 to join HMS Vindictive, an elderly Arrogant-class cruiser functioning as a tender for the training establishment HMS Vernon.

After just over a year with Vindictive he joined the Acasta-class destroyer HMS Lynx in February 1914. HMS Lynx was part of the response to the German bombardment of Scarborough on 16 December 1914. At 05:15 she sighted the German destroyer SMS V155, and summoned her destroyer squadron to investigate. The brief skirmish took place with a force of German destroyers and cruisers, and Lynx was hit several times by German shells. She sustained minor damage to a propeller, and had one man wounded.

Lynx left Cromarty with two half-divisions of the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla on 15 December 1914 and she encountered a German destroyer. Lynx was hit by gunfire as she gave chase and her forward magazine was flooded. Her steering gear jammed and the rest of the force made the error of following her, thus ending the pursuit.

 At 0600 on 9th August 1915, HMS Lynx was on patrol on the Moray Firth, when she struck a mine and exploded, with the loss of all but 26 of her crew, including Walter.

HMS Lynx was one of the Grand Fleet destroyers on patrol in the Moray Firth on the night of 8-9 August 1915. An enemy minefield was known to exist, but its exact extent was not accurately known. Three destroyers normally patrolled together, but HMS Midge was the only other destroyer on the patrol line with Lynx at the time. The torpedo boat destroyer, HMS Osprey had been sent to deliver orders to the minesweeping trawlers, and she arrived later.

At 10.40 pm on 8 August, Lynx received a message that was sent to all of the destroyers on outer patrol in the Moray Firth, ordering them to keep at least five miles to the eastward of the N-R line (Noss Head to Rosehearty), and well clear of the minefield. She struck a mine and sank at 06.10hrs on 9 August. The mine had been laid by the German raider Meteor.  Her Captain, Cdr.J.Cole was lost with 73 of his crew. There were only 26 survivors.

At the time Lynx was blown up there was no information that the minefield extended north of latitude 58°, but Lynx had been warned by HMS Faulknor that it was feared the minefield extended across the Firth.

A signal made at 12.30pm on 8 August only directed Lynx to pass north of latitude 58°. She was sunk in latitude 5808N. There was no evidence to show the exact position at the time of striking the mine, but survivors were picked up by the SS Vulcano about 8.30am in 580700N, 023830W.

The Midge had correctly interpreted the order to keep well outside the N-R line, but the Court took the view that it would be wrong to censure the late commanding officer of Lynx for not having taken the same view, and that recent sweeping had shown mines were laid eight miles outside the N-R line.

The explosion apparently occurred in front of No.1 boiler room, wrecking and severing the fore part of the ship, as far aft as No.1 boiler room. A second violent explosion also occurred in the vicinity of No.1 boiler room, between 5 and 10 minutes after the first explosion. The Court of Enquiry was of the opinion that this was caused by the after part of the ship drifting against a second mine.

The wreck constitutes a war grave and its exact location is unknown.

Walter was among those who lost their lives on 9th August 1915. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial as well as both the Old Malton War Memorials.