Bridge of Weir

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M/4509 Engine Room Artificer 4th Class
James Miller Stirling Smellie

H.M.S. Cressy, Royal Navy

torpedoed 22nd September 1914

aged 22

Chatham Naval Memorial
St Machar's Church Memorial, Bridge of Weir

Son of James Smellie and Annie Miller
Bridge of Weir

His Life

James Miller Smellie, was born on the 10th April 1892 in Alma Street, Grahamston, Falkirk, the only son of James Smellie, a shipping clerk in a foundry and Annie Salmond Miller who had married in Falkirk on 21st September 1881.

In 1891 James (40) and Annie (30) were living at Burnside Terrace, Falkirk with their first two children, Minnie and Lillias.

By the time James was born, his father had died. Annie married William Forsyth, a baker, in Falkirk on 7th January 1896. It was William's third marriage. He died on 31st December 1900.

By 1901, Annie, twice widowed, was living in Cemetery Road, Falkirk. She was now a Post mistress, and her daughter Minnie was her assistant. James (8) and his older sister Lily, were living a few doors away in Cemetery Road with their maternal grandparents, Johnstone and Marion Miller.

In 1911, Annie, Lilias and James were boarders in the household of John McAndrew, 2 Prospect Street, Falkirk. Annie was a subpostmistress, Lilias a telegraph operator and James (19) an apprentice engineer.

Sometime later, Annie became Post Mistress in Bridge of Weir.

On 18th May 1912, James joined the Royal Navy for a 12 year term. For the next 30 months he served on four ships with shore-based duties at HMS Pembroke, the naval barracks at Chatham. His first ship was HMS Lord Nelson the last pre-Dreadnought class battleship; then HMS Dominion, a King Edward VII-class battleship on which James served during its detachment to the Mediterranean in response to the First Balkan War. It participated in a blockade of Montenegro and an occupation of Scutari. From February to April 1914, James was on HMS Russell, a Duncan-class pre-Dreadnought battleship and Flagship of the 6th Battle Squadron. On 30th July 1914, he was posted to HMS Cressy as an engine room artificer.

Contemporary reports say that James had also served on HMS Lance during the engagement off Heligoland on 5th August 1914, the day after war was declared. Lance fired the Royal Navy's first shot of the war at a German minelayer, which, outgunned, then scuttled itself. The gun that fired is on display at the Imperial War Museum.

The armoured cruiser HMS Cressy, with the equally slow and elderly cruisers Aboukir and Hogue, was on patrol off the Dutch coast on 23rd September 1914. They were an easy target for German submarine U9. Aboukir was first to be hit at 0620 hrs and her sister ships attempted to pick up survivors. Hogue was next to be sunk at 0655 hrs. Then, at 0720 hrs U9 fired two torpedoes at Cressy. One just missed but the other hit her on the starboard side. The damage was not fatal until U9 fired its third torpedo at 0730, rupturing the boilers in the engine room and scalding the men. She sank within thirty minutes. 1459 men were lost from the three ships. Three weeks later the Admiralty removed all of the old, slow, vulnerable armoured cruisers from patrol duty.

Artificer James Smellie was the first of the fallen from Bridge of Weir.


1891 Census 1901 Census 1911 Census Birthplace
Name Age Name Age Name Age
Minnie7 Minnie S17 Falkirk, Stirlingshire
Lillias5 Lily*15Lilias25 Falkirk, Stirlingshire
James*8James19 Falkirk, Stirlingshire

*= not in Annie M Forsyth's family home - see text for details


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