IRON, James Thomas [DSM]

No.K/11011, Leading Stoker, James Thomas IRON DSM
Aged 35

H.M.Submarine K-4, Royal Navy
formerly no. SS/103629, Royal Navy
Drowned in Duty on Thursday, 31st January 1918

James Thomas IRON was born in Haverhill on 5th October 1884 (Risbridge Q4-1884 4A:603), son of George and Eliza IRON (née CRACKNELL).

1891 census...Aged 7 he was at Bigmore's Yard, Queen Street, Haverhill with his father George IRON [40] silk weaver; his mother Eliza [38]; sister Fanny [9]; brothers Charles [5] and George [2]. All were born in Haverhill.
The children were baptised at St Mary's Church, on 22nd February 1890. Their youngest brother Frederick had died in 1893 aged 10 months.

1901 census...Aged 14 (sic), a factory hand, he was still at 1 Bigmore's Yard with his parents; sister Fannu (tailoress) and brothers Charles and George

1911 census...Aged 26, he was a RN Stoker, staying at the Union Jack Club, Waterloo Road, London. His parents were at 2 Peas Hill Slade, Haverhill with his brother Charles George (tailor's cutter)

He married Matilda PRESTON (née MAYES) (b. 4-5-1875) in 1911 (Medway Q2-1911 2A:1447). She was born at Barnardiston, but had moved to Haverhill, working as a tailoress, to raise her family of four sons and one daughter, who were then living at 64 Mill Road. Her first husband, Christopher, had died in 1907.
Matilda was living at 47 High Street and George and Eliza at Peas Hill, Haverhill, when they received the sad news of James' death. The pension card has his widow Matilda at 33 Withersfield Road, Haverhill with his stepdaughter Perle Ivy PRESTON (b.26-2-1907)

The South West Suffolk Echo of 16th February 1918 reported:-
In our issue prior to Christmas last we made the following pleasing announcement that Leading Stoker, James Iron, K-11011 had been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for bravery displayed by him in the Sea of Marmara. We regret to announce that his wife, Mrs S.Iron of 33 Withersfield Road, Haverhill has been officially informed that he lost his life on duty while in one of H.M. ships on war service. The deceased had been in the Navy for upwards of 12 years, and we feel sure the sympathy of all readers will be extended to the widow on the loss of one who proved himself worthy to be counted amongst the country's heroes."

and the following week:-
Leading Stoker Iron was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Iron of 3 Peas Hill. Two other sons are also serving in H.M.Forces. One became a member of Kitchener's Army, joining the Suffolk Regiment and afterwards being transferred to a Red Cross Ship, on which he is at present engaged. The other is in Egypt serving in the Essex Regiment.

E14 took part in an operation to penetrate the Sea of Marmara. She successfully dived beneath the minefields and broke into the Sea of Marmara on 27 April 1915. She quickly sank the Turkish gunboat Nurel Bahr, sinking 200 tons on 1 May. She then went on to damage the minelayer Peik I Shevket sinking 1014 tons in a torpedo attack. On 3 May she torpedoed transportship Gul Djemal with 4,000 soldiers on board.
Upon her return, her captain, Lieutenant Commander Edward Courtney Boyle received the Victoria Cross; Lieutenant Edward Geldard Stanley and Acting Lieutenant Reginald Wilfred Lawrence were both awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and all the ratings were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

He enlisted at Chatham, on 22nd August 1906 for 5 years in Colours and 7 on Reserve. He was 5 feet 2.5 inches ( 158.8 cm)tall, chest 37.5 inches (95.3 cm), brown eyes, dark born hair, giving his date of birth as 5th October 1884 in Haverill, a draper's porter
Initially Stoker II at HMS Acheron ("stone frigate") a stoker's training ship at the Nore, on the Thames. His base from Feb '07 to May '07 is illegible, he went to HMS Warrior a torpedo training school on June 1st 1907 and was made Stoker II on 19th June 1907 , leaving Warrior to go to HMS Bedford on 2nd February 1909, finally going to sea. Bedford ran aground in the South China Sea in August 1910 and was scrapped on October 10th

The Navy always has it's men posted to "HMS somewhere" so it was not until 30th October 1910 that he had a month at HMS Pembroke II ( a shore based accommodation at Chatham) before moving on to HMS Albion, a Canopus-class pre-dreadnought battleship launched in 1898 and sold in 1919.

He transferred to No K-11011 on 2th March 1911 as Stoker. As K-11011 he left Albion on 24 February 1912.
Then followed posting to Blenheim (a destroyer depot ship in the Mediterranean
Neptune (an early dreadnought)
Bonaventure, a submarine depot ship
Dolphin, a submarine school ship
Maidstone, a depot ship, where was when war broke out. He left Maidstone on 30th June 1915 and went to
Adamant, a depot ship, where he was promoted to Acting Leading Stoker
Europa, a Diadem class cruiser until 1st July 1916
Dolphin, a submarine depot ship, joining submarine K-4 on 1st January 1917 at depot ship Fearless. He was promoted to Leading Stoker on 15th April 1917

The K submarines earned the nick name of Kalamity Class since although none were sunk by the enemy, accidents accounted for 6 out of the 18

On January 30/31st 1918 during night time fleet exercises later known as the Battle of May Island (Operation E.C.1) K-4 was attached to the 13th Submarine Flotilla.
The first two subs found themselves bearing down on two minesweepers and changed course. The third, K14, veered to starboard to avoid colliding with them but performed a complete circle as its rudder jammed. That brought it back into line just in time to be rammed by the last submarine in the group, K22. A battlecruiser, HMS Inflexible, then ploughed into K22.
The first ships in the convoy turned back to rescue the submarines and steamed straight into the chaos. A cruiser, HMS Fearless, rammed K17 , another of the subs, sinking it within eight minutes. Then two further submarines, K4 and K6, collided. To complete the disaster, a destroyer then carved through the survivors of K17, killing many of those who had been left in the water. The entire 59-man crew of K4 was lost and all but eight of K17's.

only 2 photos found, both when K-4 had run aground at Whalney Island in 1917

plaque on monument in Anstruther harbour

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

James Iron DSM is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, panel 29
and on a memorial at Anstruther harbour, close to the site of the disaster.

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details

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