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Walter Fox

There seems to be a good deal of mystery surrounding the birth of Walter Fox. The only evidence we have of his parentage comes from the Naval casualties list which states that he was the son of Robert who married Mary Kitching in the Malton area in the last quarter of 1892, and Walter was born on 28th February 1891 in Pickering.   

Naval Casualties 1914-1919
Name:, Walter FOX, Rating:, Sto 1st,Birth date/place:, 28.2.91. Pickering Yorks, Section scan:, 8/0437,Service branch:, R.N.,Ship unit:, HMS INVINCIBLE, Official number:, K.13444 (Po), Cause of death:, Killed or died as a direct result of enemy action. Date of death:, 31/05/1916 Location of grave:, Not recorded Cemetery:, Body not recovered for burial Relatives notified:, Father:- Robert. Acomb House, Old Malton, Malton, Yorks.

At the time of the 1891 census Robert was working as a field servant at Howsham and  Mary as a domestic servant in Leppington.

 1891 Census resident at Middle Field, Howsham, Malton, Yorkshire, England

Thos, Stephenson, Head, Widower, Male, 68, , Farmer, Kirby Misperton, Yorkshire, England

H, Stephenson, Son, Single, Male, 24, , Farmer, Cawthorne, Yorkshire, England

Harriet, Massey, Housekeeper, Single, Female, 38, , Domestic Servant, Acklam, Yorkshire, England

Rebecca, Welburn, Servant, Single, Female, 16, , Domestic Servant, Yorkshire, England

Robt, Fox, Servant, Single, Male, 27, , Farm Servant, Ryton, Yorkshire, England

Resident at Plaston Pits, Leppington, Malton, Yorkshire, England

Robert, Gofton, Head, Married, Male, 73, , Farmer, Gristhorpe, Yorkshire, England

Jane, Gofton, Wife, Married, Female, 74, , -, Gristhorpe, Yorkshire, England

Alfred F, Gofton, Son, Single, Male, 42, , Farmers Son, Leppington, Yorkshire, England

Thomas, Gofton, Son, Single, Male, 38, , Farmers Son, Leppington, Yorkshire, England

William, Gofton, Son, Single, Male, 34, , Farmers Son, Leppington, Yorkshire, England

Frederic, Oliver, Servant, Single, Male, 16, , Farm Servant, Leppington, Yorkshire, England

Anne, Potter, Servant, Single, Female, 23, , Servant Domestic, Yorkshire, England

Mary, Kitching, Servant, Single, Female, 19, , Servant Domestic, Saltburn, Durham, England

 However the censuses show no sign of a son Walter to these two. He was  presumably an illegitimate son of Robert’s and was initially registered under his mother’s surname and brought up under it.

 By 1911 Walter is using his father’s surname and appears to be recorded on the 1911 census, working as a cowman at Ryton.

1911 Census resident at Ryton Malton Yorkshire, Ryton, Yorkshire, England

George, Kirby, Head, Married, Male, Farmer, 74, Old Malton Yorks

Martha, Kirby, Wife, Married, Female, -, 68, Askew Yorks

William, Kirby, Son, Single, Male, Farmers Son Working On Farm, 29, Ryton Yorks

Walter, Fox, Servant, Single, Male, Cow Man On Farm, 23, Pickering Yorks

Laurance, Marshall, Servant, Single, Male, Horse Lad On Farm, 15, Ryton Yorks

Harriet, Langford, Servant, Single, Female, General Servant Domestic, 18, Old Malton

Walter joined the Navy on 1st December 1911.   He is recorded as 5’5” tall with brown hair and eyes, a fresh complexion and a mole on his left shoulder blade. After a year spent largely at the land-based training establishment of Victory II, he joined HMS Invincible on 1srt December 1912 and served on her  for the rest of his life as a Stoker. Whether or not he served at the battles at Heligoland Bight and the Falklands, he certainly was on board “Invincible” when she was sunk at Jutland and was not among the survivors.

Invincible class Battlecruiser - HMS InvincibleFrom SN Guides

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Invincible was built by Sir William George Armstrong and Joseph Whitworth’s shipyard at Elswick, Newcastle On Tyne. She was laid down on the 02nd April 1906 and launched just over a year later on the 13th April 1907. She was commissioned on the 20th March 1909, having cost £1,767,515 to build.

Her first major engagement, on the 28th August 1914, was the First Battle of the Helgoland Bight.
After Britain’s first naval defeat since 1812 off Coronel in Chile on the 01st November 1914, the Admiralty were stung into action and Invincible, Inflexible, along with the armoured cruisers Carnarvon, Cornwall and Kent and the light cruisers Bristol and Glasgow under the leadership of Vice admiral Sir Frederick Charles Doveton-Sturdee formed up at Port Stanley in the  Falkland on the morning of the 08th December 1914.  Scharnhorst, Von Spee’s flagship, was caught by the Invincible , and although the shooting at this time was not that accurate, the heavy British shells slowly overcame the German armour and shortly after 1600 Scharnhorst with flames showing through the holes in hull listed suddenly to port onto her beam ends and sank at 1617 with all her crew of nearly 800, her flag still flying.  

Following the Falkland islands battle Invincible dry-docked at Gibraltar on the 01st January 1915 for three months before joining and forming the 3rd BCS with her two sisters Indomitable and Inflexible at Rosyth. After a further short refit in May, they were all stationed at Scapa Flow for working up exercises, Invincible now flying the flag of Rear Admiral Hood.

On the 31st May whilst temporarily attached to the Grand fleet at Scapa Flow for gunnery, the 3rd. BCS took part in the battle of Jutland. The 3rd BCS first came to action at about 1755 and, although firing was only for a few brief minutes, Invincible hit and disabled the Wiesbaden. Next torpedoes were fired at the 3rd BCS by the German destroyers and in turning to avoid this Invincible’s steering jammed and she had to stop for a short period. At 1820 the 3BCS encountered the Lutzow, and initially the 3BCS had the upper hand with the better visibility. Invincible’s firing was considered very good at this time and all the German ships could see was the muzzle flashes of the British guns. At 1830 Lutzow got a clear view of Invincible and fired three salvos hitting Invincible with the third. The Derfflinger was also firing at the Invincible and it cannot be certain who fired the fatal shell but at 1832 there was a shell hit on Q turret, amidships on the starboard side, bursting inside and blowing the turret roof into the air.  Whether flash from the turret explosion or another shell penetrated the magazine will never be known but a massive explosion amidships blew the Invincible in half, the centre of the ship sank leaving the bow and stern sticking up out of the water to sink several hours later, just six of her crew were picked up by the destroyer Badger – 1,026 men still remain with her. Today the Invincible is a protected war grave, having been found by the navy in 1919.

This image taken on the 31st May 1916 shows Invincible at the very moment Q turret started to explode. Image courtesy of the MaritimeQuest website

She lies in two pieces, her stern is upright but her bow is upside down and at some time in the past thieves have stolen her propellers.

Walter is commemorated in St Mary’s Old Malton, Old Malton Memorial Hall and on the Portsmouth Naval memorial