British South African Police (Rhodesian Native Regiment)
Died, Thursday, 25th July 1918
Cemetery : Lumbo British Military Cemetry,
Grave Reference or Panel Number : II.C4
|Lieutenant Durrant, H.M.S. Terpsichore, May 1907, Portsmouth. Courtesy Of The Durrant Family.
Christopher Martin Durrant was born at Petworth, Sussex, on the
5th April, 1884 to parents the Reverend Charles Aubrey Durrant M.A. (Trinity College, Cambridge) and Catherine Louisa Holland.
The second son of a marriage that would be
blessed with the birth of 9 children, including Christopher, it was in the year 1887 that the Durrant family commenced
a long association with the town of Wetherby when the Reverend assumed duties as Vicar of St. James Parish Church, the
family taking up residence in the Vicarage located off Walton Road.
record can be traced of Christopher's location in the 1891 Census, in January 1899 he was accepted as a Foundation Scholar
to the prestigious Marlborough College, Wiltshire. The college had been established in 1843 for the education of the sons
of the Church of England clergy and it was here that Christopher would commence his studies as a pupil assigned to Crescent
House, "B2." Source: Marlborough College Register From 1843 - 1904 Inclusive, Fifth Edition 1905. Oxford:
Departing Marlborough in
1901 Christopher Martin Durrant accepted a commission in the Royal Marine Artillery on the 1st September of that year and
was consequently appointed as a Second-Lieutenant, London Gazette dated 29th November 1901.
Service With The Royal Marine Artillery: "A Promising
Royal Marine Artillery had been formed in 1804 to replace units of the Royal Regiment of Artillery who had previously served
in various capacities attached to the Royal Navy. Initially utilised as crew for the manning of 'Bomb Vessels'
and operating mortars for the bombardment of fixed positions on land, by the turn of the twentieth century the R.M.A.
had evolved into a specialised unit that not only operated at sea but on land in coastal defence duties. Particularly adept
in the operation of heavy calibre, high velocity artillery pieces by the outbreak of the Great War, the R.M.A. would serve
as an autonomous unit attached to the British Army.
a period of leave from the 1st September - 29th September 1901, Second-Lieutenant Durrant was posted to the Royal Naval College
however the precise location for this establishment is not recorded in surviving service documents. On the 1st July 1902,
Second-Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant, Royal Marine Artillery, however this
subsequent appointment was not notified in the London Gazette until the 11th March, 1904. Leaving the College on the 30th
June 1903 it was on the 1st July that Christopher was posted to join the ranks of the R.M.A. at Eastney Barracks, Portsmouth.
On the conclusion of the first of many courses of instruction, it was on
the 5th November 1903 that Lieutenant Durrant successfully passed the 'Excellent Course.' The course was
primarily designed to provide instruction in the science of gunnery and was conducted at the H.M.S. Excellent Naval School
of Gunnery, a shore based establishment located at Portsmouth. A report dated the 31st December 1903 concluded; "General
Conduct - Very Good, Ability - Very Good, Professional Knowledge - Very Good, Temperate Habits - Very Good." The
final comments recorded by one Colonel Campbell (Authors note: Colonel & 2nd Commandant, William Campbell, Portsmouth)
suggest that the young Lieutenant had made quite an impression, the Colonel remarking that Durrant would make a "Very
promising young officer."
course of instruction commenced on the 3rd January 1904 when Lieutenant Durrant was posted to H.M.S. Defiance, the
Torpedo and Mining Schoolship, located at Devonport. At the conclusion of this course and upon rejoining the ranks of the
Royal Marine Artillery on the 27th February, a further report by Colonel Campbell dated the 31st July noted one characteristic
that was brought to his attention as regards Lieutenant Durrant's progress. Although maintaining a general standard
of conduct, ability and knowledge that was once again described as being "Very good," the Colonel noted
that he "Will make a good officer but inclined to take things easy."
A final assessment dated the 14th April 1905 before being posted to H.M.S. Magnificent,
a Majestic-class battleship serving with the Atlantic Fleet, recorded that the Lieutenant had passed all his relevant
drills but "only just proceeded in doing so."
to the Magnificent on the 14th April, it was whilst the ship was off the coast of Tetuan, Morocco, that disaster
befell the ship on the 14th June. During a gun practice a shell had exploded in one of the ships twelve 6 inch guns wounding
18 men, three succumbing to wounds at Gibraltar. A report of the incident given by the dying Lieutenant Kenneth Stobart, R.N.,
stated that a cartridge in one of the shells had missed fired and as the breach of the gun was opened, contact with oxygen
in the atmosphere detonated the offending cartridge also igniting two further cartridges housed in the casemate.
Upon Lieutenant Durrants return to Great Britain on the 5th November 1906
two reports are published in surviving service documents as to the continuing progress of the officer. One report is dated
the 4th November and states once again that ability, conduct etc. is "very good" and that Christopher possessed
"very good physical qualities." A report compiled as regards his service on board the Magnificent however
is critical of the Lieutenant's approach to life in the service. "On several occasions he has been reported by
instructors for carelessness..." A further comment identifies Christopher's potential if channelled in the correct
direction; "He is not deficient in ability but is too fond of amusement & requires a fine head to be kept over
Rejoining the Royal Marine
Artillery at Portsmouth on the 6th November, Lieutenant Durrant was posted on leave until the 28th February 1907. Upon his
return to the ranks of the R.M.A. on the 1st March he commenced a Short Course of Instruction in Physical Training at H.M.S.
Victory, a shore based establishment located at Portsmouth.
|Short Course Of P.T. Circa 1907. Courtesy Of The Durrant Family
Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant seated on the right of the
photograph does indeed possess a certain physical prowess. The photograph can be dated to circa 1907 due to the names of those
seated in the picture to the left of Lieutenant Durrant being annotated on the original. On the extreme left, the man who
is named "Grant" on the photograph is unfortunately untraceable however the officer seated in
the centre of the picture can be identified as one Lieutenant Edward Williams Hamilton Brookfield R.N., attached to the School
of Gymnasia, September 1905.
of this short course on the 6th May, Christopher once again returned to his duties with the R.M.A. It is possibly during this
period of his service that the photograph that heads this commemoration with the comment "always your loving old
Chris" was taken on board H.M.S. Terpsichore, the latter, a ship of the Apollo Class, a 2nd Class
Protected Cruiser. The Terpsichore, completed in 1892 had remained in reserve at Chatham between the years 1892 -
1901 but had then seen service at the Cape Station from 1901 - 1906 before returning to the United Kingdom in the latter year.
Being placed in Reserve and moored at Portsmouth until 1907, the Terpsichore was finally sold for scrapping in 1914.
No doubt recognising his aptitude for physical
exertions Lieutenant Durrant proceeded on a Continuation Course of Physical Instruction at the shore based establishment H.M.S.
Victory on the 15th July 1907. Much was expected of this promising young officer and it was at this juncture that criticisms
were raised by his superiors as to his general attitude. "Lacking in zeal in general duties" was one observation
and "fails to realise the high standard of conduct expected of officers of his corps" was a further assessment
of his approach to life within the ranks of the Royal Marine Artillery. They may seem like harsh comments indeed but his superior
officers knew that the Lieutenant had the potential to become an outstanding officer. To them it must have been rather frustrating
that he did not embrace this fact himself and that a promising future lay ahead of him if he chose to perform his duties in
a satisfactory manner. Barrack life or in this instance shore based attachment is boring in any facet of military service.
It may be just that Christopher found this existence slightly tedious and this is possibly one reason why he excelled at physical
education as some form of release from the day-to-day rigmarole. This is reflected in more positive comments; "Physical
qualities very good and he has carried out his physical training duties in a satisfactory manner."
On completion of this course Lieutenant Durrant once again rejoined the ranks
of the R.M.A. on the 25th October 1907. This return to land based duties proved to be of a short duration as on the 2nd November
passage was taken on the S.S. Delhi, a steamship of the P & O Line, whereupon disembarkation Christopher would
transfer to H.M.S. Bacchante.
|H.M.S. Bacchante. Q 20987. Courtesy Of The Imperial War Museum.
H.M.S. Bacchante, a Cressy Class Armoured Cruiser was built on Clydebank, Scotland, by John Brown & Company
and launched in 1901. Commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Henry D. Barry, K.C.V.O. and the Flag Ship of the Third Cruiser Squadron
of the Mediterranean Fleet, she had a displacement of 12,000 tons and was powered by two shaft, 4 cylinder, triple expansion
engines, twin screwed respectively, and capable of a speed of 21 knots. Her armament consisted of 2 x 9.2 inch Breach Loading
guns, 12 x 6 inch Breach Loading guns as well as 13 x 12 pounder guns.
Durrant was to be attached to the ship for "physical training duties," the senior officer of the Royal
Marines on board being one Major Gilbert Ironside Anderson who had previously served on H.M.S. Andromeda, a Twin
Screw Protected Cruiser 1st Class.
the end of his attachment the Lieutenant's service on board the Bacchante is described in a report dated the
29th December 1908 as General Conduct, "Good," Ability, "Very Good" and Professional
Knowledge, "Good." Returning to the United Kingdom Christopher was posted back to the ranks of the R.M.A.
on the 5th January 1909 but a further posting was soon to follow when on the 17th June he would be attached to H.M.S.
Diadem for 'manoeuvres.'
|H.M.S. Diadem. Q 38636. Courtesy Of The Imperial War Museum.
H.M.S. Diadem, a
Twin Screw Protected Cruiser 1st Class was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company Limited, Govan, Glasgow,
and launched in October 1896. Forming part of the Home Fleet, Portsmouth, Diadem had a displacement of 11,000 tons
and was powered by 2 shaft, triple expansion engines, twin screwed respectively, and capable of a speed of 20 - 20.5 knots.
Armament consisted of 16 x single 'Quick Firing' 6 inch guns, 14 x single 12 pounder Q.F. guns, plus 3 x single 3
pounder Q.F. guns. In addition to this armament, the Diadem was also armed with 2 x 18 inch torpedo tubes.
There are no comments or reports of Christopher's conduct whilst serving
on the Diadem possibly due to the latter attachment being of such a short duration as on the 24th July he was posted
back to the Royal Marine Artillery at Portsmouth. Prior to the conclusion of this posting to his home unit a report dated
the 15th October before a further attachment described that his general conduct and ability were "very good"
and that he had acquired a professional knowledge of physical training. Lieutenant Durrant was also described as possessing
temperate habits however a final note once again describes a failing already noticed previously by his superiors and remarked
upon as "inclined to be slack." It was however clear that Christopher excelled in physical training duties
and this was to be reflected in his next attachment.
& Further Attachments
was on the 15th October that Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant returned to H.M.S. Victory and the School of Gymnasia.
It was whilst on temporary attachment as a member of Staff to the Physical Training School that he qualified as an Instructor
in Physical Training with an emphasis in the instruction of the Swedish System or more commonly referred to as Swedish
Drill, a choreographed series of bending, stretching exercises that required no apparatus.
Upon posting back to the ranks of the R.M.A. on the 26th November a report
dated New Years Eve 1909 stated that Christopher's conduct was "good" and that his ability was "very
good." This report concluded that although being a "capable officer," his attitude towards the
management of his own financial matters would appear to be casual, the following comment by his officer alluding to the fact
that he "was careless in money matters." Shore based attachment can or did induce a certain boredom for
many a man but it was whilst at sea that the propensity to spend ones monies in a casual fashion could be removed from the
equation. It was on the 8th January 1910 that Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant was relieved of this temptation when he
was posted to H.M.S. Agamemnon for duty.
|H.M.S. Agamemnon. Courtesy Of The United States Library Of Congress. File: ggbain18554.
H.M.S. Agamemnon, one of two Lord Nelson-Class Pre-Dreadnought
Battleships was built by William Beardmore and Company of Clydeside, Glasgow, and was subsequently commissioned after completion
in June 1908. Her sister ship, H.M.S. Lord Nelson was constructed by Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Company of Jarrow,
Tyne and Wear, and was commissioned after completion some five months later in December.
The Agamemnon, a Twin Screw Battleship with a displacement of 16,500 tons was powered
by two four cylinder vertical triple expansion steam engines, twin shafted respectively. Fed by 15 coal and oil-fired water-tube
boilers producing Superheated steam, the ship was capable of a speed of about 18 knots. Armament consisted of 2 x 2 Breach
Loading Mk. X 12 inch guns, 4 x 2 and 2 x 1 Breach Loading Mk. XI 9.2 inch guns and 24 x 1 Quick Firing 12 pounder guns. In
addition to this formidable firepower, the ship was also armed with 5 submerged 18 inch torpedo tubes.
Forming part of the Home Fleet and serving with the Nore Division, the Agamemnon
was commanded by Captain Bernard Currey, the senior officer of the Royal Marine Artillery on board being Captain George
Young Russell who had previously served on H.M.S. New Zealand. Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant would replace
the outgoing Lieutenant of the Royal Marine Artillery on board ship, Thomas Amaury Macnamara Bourchier.
Comments recorded and dated the 6th April 1910 as regards service on board
the Agamemnon indicate that Lieutenant Durrant had indeed stepped up to the mark as his superiors had so wanted.
"Very Good" on all accounts such as conduct and ability and once again the comment "very good"
as regards his physical ability. In extra curricular activities Christopher had also spent time whilst on board ship
to acquire a certain fluency in the French language. It would appear therefore that this attachment had proved most fruitful
to the Lieutenant's development however once more the prospect of a lengthy shore based posting loomed on the horizon.
A Return To Shore Based
of his attachment to the Agamemnon, Christopher returned to the Royal Marine Artillery Division on the 17th September.
It was not long before the tedium of routine would appear to have had a negative impact on his character or at least that
was the opinion of his superiors. The criticisms once again arose as regards this officers potential in a report dated the
26th September 1910; "an officer of ability and fine physique and wanting in ? & a sense of responsibility."
A further report dated the 31st December would appear at first glance to be almost contradictory with general conduct
etc remarked upon as "very good" however an overall assessment of his character is critical in the extreme
and states "slack and inferior to the average of his rank."
A chance to escape the constant observation of his mannerisms and the criticisms that followed
presented itself in December 1910 when it was proposed that Lieutenant Durrant was to be assigned for a period of service
to both H.M.S. Shannon, a Minotaur Class Armoured Cruiser and H.M.S. Neptune, a Neptune Class Battleship,
the latter due to be commissioned the following month. This attachment however was cancelled by the Divisional Artillery Group
(D.A.G.) due to what was described as the "recurrence of unfavourable reports." The notification of the
intended posting to the Neptune was even preempted and published in The Times, dated December 1910, however
no corresponding notification is to be found within the pages of the London Gazette. The cancellation of this posting
must have been a bitter pill to swallow for Christopher however another opportunity arose to escape from the shackles
of boredom induced by shore based assignment when on the 6th June 1911, Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant was posted on
attachment to H.M.S. Commonwealth. Prior to commencement of this posting, yet another critique of the Lieutenants
character was expressed in a report dated the day previously; "deficient in zeal but improving." Despite
this further veiled criticism it was now that Christopher had the chance to prove to himself, and to his doubters,
that he was, and would be, a most capable officer.
A Union Of Marriage
to posting, Christopher Martin Durrant had also severed the ties of a carefree life led by that of a single man. On the 4th
May 1911, Christopher married one Margaret Ellen Easson, daughter of the Reverand Utten James Easson and Gertrude Amelia Easson,
Vicar of St. Lawrence's Church, Chicheley, near Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire. The circumstances surrounding the acquaintance
and subsequent courtship of the couple are unknown but on the date of the marriage the Buckinghamshire Standard recorded
that "the villagers of Chicheley made holiday, whilst the bells in the old tower of the church rang merry peals in
honour of the event."
|H.M.S. Commonwealth. Source: Wikipedia.
H.M.S. Commonwealth, a King Edward VII Class Battleship, was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering
Company, Govan, Glasgow and commissioned in May 1905. A Twin Screw Battleship, the Commonwealth had a displacement
of 16,350 tons (Source: Navy List, August, 1912) and was powered by 16 coal fired boilers fitted with oil
sprayers, Babcock and Wilcox water tube boilers that comprised of two four cylinder vertical compound expansion steam engines,
twin screwed respectively, producing a speed of 18.5 knots. Her armament consisted of 4 x Breach Loading Mk IX 12 inch guns,
4 x Breach Loading Mk X 9.2 inch guns, 10 x Breach Loading Mk VII 6 inch guns, 14 x Quick Firing 12 pounder guns and 14 x
Quick Firing 3 ponder guns. In addition to this firepower the Commonwealth was also equipped with 4 x 18 inch submerged
Initially assigned on commission
in May 1905 to the Atlantic Fleet, the Commonwealth had a chequered service history. In 1907 she had collided with
H.M.S. Albermarle whilst on manoeuvres off the coast of Lagos, Portugal, whilst sailing from Gibraltar to
Vigo, Spain, the subsequent collision resulting in damage to the hull and bulkhead. Whilst under repair at the dockyard at
Devonport the ship was transferred to the Channel Fleet entering service with the latter in May 1907. In August of the same
year once again an unfortunate accident befell the Commonwealth when she ran aground necessitating her to head for
Lamlash Bay, Isle of Arran, before proceeding to Devonport Dockyard for immediate repairs. Upon returning to service the Commonwealth
was transferred in March 1909 under a fleet reorganisation to the Home Fleet and after undergoing a refit at Devonport
from October 1910 - June 1911 it was at this juncture that Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant, Royal Marine Artillery joined
the ships complement, the latter under the command of Captain Price Vaughan Lewes D.S.O. who had assumed command on the 6th
June 1911 viz Captain George Alexander Ballard who had proceeded to take command of H.M.S. Britannia one of the sister
ships of the Commonwealth.
|"Y 92" Gun Crew. Courtesy Of The Durrant Family
The above photographic record of one gunnery exercise performed
on board the Commonwealth provides a testimony to the skills of this specific crew. The location of the turret, "Y"
in this instance, would indicate a location close to the stern of the ship. It is unfortunate that a positive identity
of the names of the individuals recorded on the blackboard at the conclusion of this course of instruction cannot be ascertained
with any accuracy, possibly due to the fact that the names of the individuals concerned have been disambiguated. Whoever the
men are in the photograph, one must agree that this was a fine achievement with six rounds being fired resulting in six hits
on the target in under a time of one minute.
would seem that this attachment to the Commonwealth was a chance for Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant to prove
his true abilities if given the chance. A report dated the 26th March 1912 compiled shortly before his departure from the
ship indicated that in ability, conduct and professional knowledge, Christopher had excelled with the remark "very
good" on all counts. In Room Duties, an aspect of service life that the Lieutenant found tedious to the
extreme was also favourably commented on with the remarks being passed that he had "shown zeal and ability."
No doubt due to what was deemed as a marked effort to improve in the eyes of his superiors, these results possibly had an
influence on the choice of his next posting. Spared yet another prolonged period of shore based duties, it was on the 28th
March 1912 that Lieutenant Durrant was now about to accept his next attachment, this time the ship he would serve on would
be H.M.S. Vanguard.
|H.M.S. Vanguard. Image Courtesy Of The U.S. Naval Historical Center. NH 52618
H.M.S. Vanguard, a St. Vincent Class Battleship, was built by Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness, England, and commissioned on the 1st March
1910. Based on an enhanced design of the Dreadnought, she had a displacement of 19,250 tons (Source: Navy Lists August
1912) and was propelled by 4 shaft Parsons direct drive turbines with steam being provided by 18 Babcock and Wilcox large
tube boilers, coal fired, enabling the Vanguard to reach a speed of nearly 22 knots. Her armament consisted of 10
x Breach Loading Mk XI 12 inch guns, 12 x Breach Loading Mk VII 4 inch guns with anti aircraft defences consisting of one
4 inch and one 3 inch gun respectively. In addition to the above, the ship was also fitted with submerged 3 x 18 inch torpedo
Serving with the First Battle Squadron
of the Home Fleet, H.M.S. Vanguard was commanded by Captain Arthur David Ricardo, the senior officer of the Royal
Marine Artillery on board being one Captain John Evelyn Leonard Wilton.
Christopher would serve on the Vanguard until the 10th September 1912. Once again his service on board ship
was performed in a most satisfactory manner with a report dated the 1st October now containing the familiar comments of "very
good" on all counts and also remarking that this officer was "active and of good physique."
Resuming duties with the Royal Marine Artillery on the 11th September in
a shore based capacity, Lieutenant Durrant would not have to wait too long for a further attachment when on the 30th December
he was posted to the compliment of H.M.S. Collingwood. Prior to this posting yet another report would suggest that
Christopher had overcome his tendency to find shore based confinement as somewhat of a constraint as this report clearly stated
that the Lieutenant had embraced his duties with "zeal and judgement." This "promising young officer
" was now, in the eyes of his superiors, set for greater advancement and possible promotion. Service on this ship would
determine the outcome.
|H.M.S. Collingwood. Q 38493. Courtesy Of The Imperial War Museum
H.M.S. Collingwood, a St. Vincent Class Dreadnought Battleship, was built at Devonport Dockyard and commissioned
in April 1910. Serving with the Home Fleet, by mid 1912 the Collingwood formed part of the First Battle Squadron,
the ship being the Flagship of Vice-Admiral Commanding First Squadron, The Hon. Sir Stanley Cecil James Colville, K.C.B, C.V.O.
and captained by James Clement Ley.
at Devonport Dockyard and commissioned in April 1910, the Collingwood had a displacement of 19,250 tons and was powered
by four Parsons turbines driving four shafts respectively. Steam was generated by 18 Yarrow large tube boilers, coal and oil
fired, producing a maximum speed of 21 knots. Armament consisted of 10 x Breach Loading Mk XI 12 inch guns, 20 x Mk VII 4
inch guns and 3 x 18 inch torpedo tubes.
Lieutenant Alfred Leonard Forster who had been attached to the Collingwood as an Interpreter, Lieutenant Durrant
would now report to the senior Royal Marine officer on board ship, Major Thomas Henry Hawkins, Royal Marine Light Infantry
Performing various duties and exercises
in home waters it was shortly after a visit to Belfast that Lieutenant Durrant was appointed to the rank of Captain, Royal
Marine Artillery, on the 1st July 1913. This subsequent appointment however was not published in the London Gazette until
the 16th January 1914 and states; "To take rank and precedence in the Royal Marine Artillery and in the Army as if
his appointment as Captain bore date the 1st March, 1913." Ambiguous notes in surviving service documents suggest
that this was not the first time that Christopher had tried to attain the rank of Captain however this was now inconsequential.
No doubt the news was received at Wetherby with a deep sense of pride by the Durrant family and possibly even more so by Humphrey,
Christopher's younger brother who was now serving as Naval Cadet at Dartmouth.
It was on the 29th September whilst the Collingwood was at Queensferry on the Firth
of Forth, the ship's complement were joined by a most distinguished addition to their number when Prince Albert, the future
King George VI, joined the flagship from Balmoral. His social status however was immaterial and in the best traditions of
the Royal Navy he was rated as a Midshipman, an officer or cadet of the most junior rank.
In November the First Battle Squadron comprising of the Collingwood, Superb, Bellerophon
and Temeraire accompanied by the attached Bellona, a Boudicea Class Scout Cruiser in addition to the
Third Cruiser Squadron and the First Light Cruiser Squadron, prepared to set sail for the Mediterranean. Departing Plymouth,
the Squadron, proceeded by the Third Cruiser and First Light Cruiser Squadrons, reached Gibraltar on the 3rd November in preparation
for exercises with the Mediterranean Fleet off Palma, Majorca.
ships comprising the First Fleet under the command of Vice-Admiral Colville and those of the Mediterranean Fleet under the
command of Admiral Sir Archibald Berkeley Milne on board the Inflexible, arrived at Malta on the morning of the 11th
November. On the completion of manoeuvres, the British Fleet were then joined by the French navy whereupon both navies proceeded
to Greece. The British Fleet were reviewed at the port of Piraeus, south-west of Athens on the 29th November by King Constantine
who was also accompanied by other members of the Greek Royal Family and Ministers of the Greek Cabinet in addition to senior
officers of the Greek navy. During the following day the French Fleet in turn were reviewed followed by dinner during the
evening at the British Legation at which the band of the Inflexible serenaded the assembled dignitaries. It was however
reported that Prince Albert could not attend due to the presence of a slight cold.
Shore leave was granted to a select few of the Collingwood's complement with
the party no doubt at liberty to enjoy the pleasures that the bustling port of Piraeus had to offer. The exact circumstances
surrounding the following events is unknown but the outcome was that Christopher had decided to go absent without leave. Either
returning to the ship of his own volition or apprehended on shore, Captain Christopher Martin Durrant had breached service
regulations and would be dealt with at a later date.
was on Monday, 8th December 1913 that H.M.S. Collingwood accompanied by the Superb, Bellerophon, Temeraire in
addition to the Light Cruisers Bellona, Southampton, Fearless, Active and Amphion arrived at Naples. Salutes
were exchanged between the Collingwood and the Trinacria, the Italian Royal Yacht, the latter flying the
flag of Vice-Admiral Pasquale Leonardi Cattolica the late Italian Minister of Marine.
Upon conclusion of diplomatic affairs, it was on the 10th December 1913 that Captain Christopher
Martin Durrant of the Royal Marine Artillery was summoned to the Bellerophon for trial by Naval Court Martial. The
charges laid before Christopher were; "Absence without leave" and secondly, "Dissent on board."
Pleading guilty to both charges it would appear that the Court assembled were quite lenient in their judgement as to
what in effect were considered a very serious breach of service regulations. On passing sentence the Court declared that Christopher
would forfeit six months seniority as a Captain in the ranks of the Royal Marine Artillery and furthermore he was to be dismissed
from the Collingwood.
Upon being dismissed,
Captain Durrant was now posted to Royal Marine Artillery Headquarters located at Portsmouth on the 13th December 1913, the
latter under the command of Temporary Brigadier-General Leonard Thales Pease. This posting one would surmise was an attempt
to place the Captain under greater scrutiny however this attachment was to be of a short duration as in January 1914 Christopher
was posted to join the complement of H.M.S. Audacious of the 2nd Battle Squadron, Home Fleet.
|H.M.S. Audacious. Rickard, J (24 September 2007), HMS Audacious, http://www.historyofwar.org/Pictur
H.M.S. Audacious, a King George V Class Battleship was built by Cammell Laird & Company of Birkenhead,
Merseyside. Launched on the 14th September 1912, the Audacious was commissioned in October of the following year.
Under the command of Captain Cecil F. Dampier, R.N., the ship had a displacement of 23,000 tons and was powered by four Parsons
Turbines driving four shafts respectively. Fired by 18 Yarrow coal fired boilers also fitted with oil sprayers, the Audacious
was capable of a speed of 21 knots. Armament consisted of 10 x Mk V 13.5 inch guns and 16 x Breach Loading Mk VII 4 inch
guns. In addition to this armament the ship was also fitted with 3 x 21 inch submerged torpedo tubes and 4 x 3 pounder guns.
Assisting Captain Christopher Martin Durrant
in performing his duties as senior officer of the Royal Marine Artillery on board ship was Lieutenant Melvill Stodart Innes,
a native of Mitcham, Surrey, who had joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry on the 1st January 1904.
On the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 the Audacious was
serving with the 2nd Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet the squadron consisting of the battleships H.M.S. King George
V, H.M.S. Ajax, H.M.S. Centurion, H.M.S. Conqueror, H.M.S. Monarch, H.M.S. Orion and H.M.S. Thunderer.
It was on the 27th October 1914 that the 2nd Battle Squadron departed their
anchorage at Lough Swilly, County Donegal, Ireland, in preparation for a series of gunnery exercises that were to be conducted
at Loch na Keal located on the Atlantic coastline of the Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides, Scotland. It was whilst performing
a turning manoeuvre at 8.45 a.m. off Toraigh Island located on the north-west coast of County Donegal that the Audacious
ran into a minefield that had previously been sown by the German fast minelayer the S.S. Berlin. Detonating
a mine, the subsequent explosion under the bottom of the ship to the rear of the port engine room immediately caused severe
flooding of numerous compartments with water threatening to invade the central engine room and areas adjacent to the latters
It was at first assumed that the
ship had been struck by a torpedo fired from an enemy submarine and as a consequence of this presumed threat the Audacious
hoisted the submarine warning pennant whereupon the remainder of the squadron steamed clear of the area.
The ship now began to list to port however this was counteracted by the flooding
of compartments on the starboard side of the ship. The situation was further compounded by a rough sea causing the Audacious
to roll however Captain Dampier still had the starboard engine operational and he believed that the only opportunity
to save the ship if power could be maintained was to head back to Lough Swilly to attempt to beach the ship. With water still
rising and threatening to engulf the central engine room the decision was made to abandon this compartment as well as that
of the starboard engine room. Dampier's plan to save the ship appeared to be to no avail and by mid morning with the central
turbine submerged and the port side of the ship taking on water as the vessel continued to roll it would appear that the inevitable
outcome was only a matter of time.
epic attempt to take the Audacious under tow now commenced. With H.M.S. Liverpool, a Town Class Light Cruiser
under the command of Captain Edward Reeves standing by as the Audacious transmitted distress signals, Jellicoe, Commander-in-Chief
of the Grand Fleet wisely ordered his battleships of the fleet to remain at a safe distance due to the perceived submarine
Responding to the distress signals,
the famous White Star Liner the R.M.S. Olympic under the command of Captain Herbert James Haddock arrived on the
scene. The first attempt to tow the Audacious was now implemented whereupon all non essential crew from the latter
ship were evacuated by boats to both the Olympic and the Liverpool. With assistance provided by H.M.S.
Fury, an Acorn Class Destroyer under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Charles Geoffrey Coleridge Sumner, a tow line
was fixed to the Audacious but due to a combination of events and with the ship struggling to make headway the line
failed. A further attempt by both H.M.S. Liverpool and the Thornhill, a Collier ship was also conducted
but this tow line also failed when the cable was cut upon being entangled in one or all of the four screws of the Liverpool.
H.M.S. Exmouth, a Duncan Class pre-Dreadnought Battleship was ordered
to the area to assist but in reality was at too far a distance to have any impact in the rescue operation.
The S.S. Cambria, a pre-war passenger vessel requisitioned by the
Admiralty as an Armed Boarding Steamer now arrived with Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly commander of the 1st Battle Squadron
on board who now took control of the operation. With the Audacious still afloat nearly 11 hours after the explosion
of the mine the remainder of the ships complement including Captain Dampier were evacuated as yet more damage was sustained
to the ship as the Whaler, the transport vessel contained on the Quarterdeck, broke loose resulting in extensive flooding
of the stern.
At 9 p.m. after the Audacious
capsized and now with her bow in the air, a series of explosions occurred throwing pieces of the superstructure into
the air before the ship finally sank.
a sad irony that the only casualty sustained during the whole of the operation was Petty Officer William Burgess, a native
of Plaistow, London, who was killed when a piece of armour plate from the resulting explosions fell on the deck of H.M.S.
Liverpool. William, aged 30 years, now lies buried in Lower Fahan (Christ Church) Churchyard, County Donegal, Ireland.
Jellicoe attempted to have the loss of the Audacious kept secret,
this ruse being agreed by the Government and the Admiralty. It soon became apparent however that the many American passengers
on board the Olympic had taken numerous photographs as the drama of the floundering ship unfolded. At liberty to
discuss what they had witnessed and despite a media blackout in the British press, the ruse was perpetuated until an official
announcement as to the loss of the Audacious was finally published in The Times in November 1918.
A newspaper article that predates this official announcement however exists
in relation to Christopher's death. Dated August 1918 the latter states that he was a survivor of the Audacious but
incorrectly states that the ship was the victim of a torpedo. Whatever the inaccuracies, it is apparent that the loss of the
ship was common knowledge to both the British public and to the German navy despite British attempts to withhold
the truth in fear of the enemy gaining any political or tactical advantage.
H.M.S. Cyclops: The Orkney Islands
On surviving the sinking of the Audacious, Captain Durrant was posted
back to the ranks of the Royal Marine Artillery on the 14th November 1914. This posting was of a short duration as Christopher's
next appointment would witness a journey to the very northern islands of Scotland, the Orkney Isles.
Attached to H.M.S. Cyclops, the correct designation being H.M.S.
Cyclops II, this was in fact a shore based establishment providing land based artillery manned by R.M.A. personnel and
Orkney Territorials protecting the vital anchorage of the British Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow.
Britain's Sea Soldiers. A Record of the Royal Marines
during the War 1914-1919 by General Sir H.E. Blumberg and published
by Devonport: Swiss & Co. 1927 records that Captain Christopher Martin Durrant, Royal Marine Artillery, had assumed command
of the Southern Defences of Scapa Flow. This command covered the areas of Hoxa Sound, Switha Sound, Holm Sound and
the southern entrances to Scapa Flow itself.
the outbreak of the War the coastal defences protecting this vital anchorage consisted of a small number of 3 and 12 pounder
guns. An attempt however, although abandoned, to penetrate the boom defences by the German submarine U18 on the 23rd
November 1914, proved to be a lesson in how vulnerable the Flow could be if not adequately protected. Authors note: The submarine
was subsequently spotted and rammed by both H.M.S. Dorothy Grey, a trawler, and H.M.S. Garry, a Yarrow Type
River Class Destroyer attached to the Scapa Flow Local Flotilla and subsequently sunk.
To combat any further threat, a rapid expansion with particular reference to that of the coastal batteries was initiated
with larger calibre guns being installed in more permanent arrangements.
Naval Court Martial
Serving in what would surely have been one of the remotest of postings and separated from loved ones and with
little chance of amusement from the 23rd December 1914 - 14th January 1915, it would appear that Christopher was granted some
leave just after the Christmas and New Year festivities or was posted on a further attachment in a different capacity to the
Royal Marine Artillery.
Returning to H.M.S.
Cyclops II on the 23rd January 1915, Captain Christopher Martin Durrant was then attached to the H.M.S. Royal Arthur,
a First Class Edgar Class Cruiser launched in 1891 and now acting as a Guardship in the Scapa Flow defensive ring. With
a displacement of 7,700 tons, the armament of the Royal Arthur consisted of 1 x Breach Loading Mk VI 9.2 inch gun,
12 x Quick Firing 6 inch guns, 12 x 6 pounder guns in addition to 5 x 3 pounders. Captained by Frederic Aubrey Whitehead,
Royal Navy, the senior marine officer on board ship was Major Edward Kenmir Story, Royal Marine Light Infantry.
It was on the 22nd February 1915 that Captain Christopher Martin Durrant
of the Royal Marine Artillery was brought before a Naval Court Martial, proceedings being conducted on board H.M.S. Blake,
Depot Ship to the Second Destroyer Flotilla of the Grand Fleet.
Four charges were laid before Captain Durrant, the nature of these being recorded in surviving service documents
at T.N.A. (The National Archives), reference, ADM/196/63. Pleading not guilty to all four charges, Christopher was acquitted
on two counts but found guilty on the remainder. These amounted to a serious breach of service regulations that in view of
the Court assembled constituted "acts to the prejudice of good order." Sentence was now passed that consisted
of one, being deprived of all seniority as a Captain of the Royal Marine Artillery, secondly, to be severely reprimanded and
dismissed from the Royal Arthur.
must have been the bitterest of blows to Christopher. The stark reality now facing him was that this was the end of what had
promised to be a glittering service career with further advancement within the ranks of the Royal Marine Artillery a distinct
possibility. The sentence passed however was amended as regards seniority to deprivation of the rank as a Captain within the
ranks of the R.M.A. to a period of four months, dated 23rd April 1915. This was followed by a notification in the London Gazette
dated the 14th May 1915 that placed Christopher on the Retired List amounting to being relieved from active service and placed
on a reduced rate of pay.
Christopher Martin Durrant is placed on the Retired List under the provisions of Order in Council of the 12th December, 1885."
Placed on the Retired List with an annuity
in lieu of a gratuity, the provisions of the Order in Council were invoked as regards the charge of misconduct. It would seem
rather brutal terminology but in a nutshell, Captain Durrant had been stellenbosched, in effect, sacked.
The exact circumstances that now made Christopher choose a path of self imposed
exile are impossible to imagine. It is not known if Christopher actually made his intentions clear to family, his wife or
his friends but in his own mind one may surmise that he was not prepared to cause what he would have perceived as any embarrassment
to his loved ones or to endure any form of ridicule. His decision was made, no doubt after much painful consideration. He
would leave England and those he loved behind and depart for South Africa.
South Africa: Service With South African Military Forces
Heading to London, Christopher, described as a Retired Officer and incorrectly stated
as aged 51 years, was recorded as departing the Port of London on the 22nd May 1915 as a passenger on board the S.S. Dunvegan
Castle, a passenger steamer operated by the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company. Travelling First Class, the ship and
her passengers were bound for Cape Town arriving at the latter place around the end of the month.
The campaign in Africa during the Great War is perceived by some as a 'sideshow'
to events that unfolded elsewhere during the course of the conflict. By this juncture in 1915, the attempts to conquest the
German colonies in Africa by South African forces had by now focussed on an invasion of German South-West Africa, modern day
Namibia. Under the command of General Jan Smuts and General Louis Botha, prime minister of the Union, this campaign was brought
to a successful conclusion when on the 9th July 1915 German forces led by Victor Franke surrendered to the Union Defence Forces.
It is now that the Author will provide a summary of Christopher's service
with the South African forces kindly provided by Chris and Shirley Durrant of Western Australia. Chris, the son of Oliver
Torlesse Durrant, Christopher's brother, has carried out his own extensive research that has resulted in a fascinating
insight into a war fought over inhospitable terrain with inadequate equipment by a cosmopolitan army.
It is most likely that Christopher Durrant enlisted in the South African
Military Forces shortly after arrival in Cape Town. The only evidence to support this assumption is a hospital discharge document
showing that he was discharged from hospital, at his own request, on the 24th July 1915. At this period, Christopher's
rank is described as that of a 'Gunner' serving in the ranks of the South African Mounted Rifles (S.A.M.R.). This
unit had come into being in 1913 by the amalgamation of the Cape Mounted Police, Cape Mounted Rifles, Natal Police and the
Transvaal Police. Comprising of five regiments with an attached artillery brigade comprising of five batteries, the S.A.M.R.
were stationed at various locations within the Union of South Africa. In times of peace the S.A.M.R. acted as the first Permanent
Force of military constabulary but like its sister arm the South African Police (S.A.P.), the latter conducting the duties
of that of a regular police force, both could be mobilized to act as a military units in times of conflict.
The above hospital discharge document in addition to stating Christopher's
rank and unit also records that initial service was conducted in the ranks of the S.A.M.R. with Per Force, one would
assume this acronym relates to the Permanent Force, before being transferred to the Ammunition Column, this latter posting
being recorded as taking place on the 21st June 1915.
subsequent transfer would appear to explain the rank of 'Gunner' as opposed to that of 'Trooper.'
Following a chronological sequence, with the S.A.M.R. withdrawn from its
exploits in German South-West Africa, it is doubtful that Christopher participated in this campaign and this may have been
a factor that influenced his transfer into the ranks of the British South African Police (B.S.A.P.) on the 18th August 1915.
Posted to the latter unit and allocated the
rank of 'Trooper,' the B.S.A.P. were originally formed in 1889 by the British South Africa Company. Acting as a paramilitary
force under the control of the Company and designated the British South Africa Company's Police, by 1896 they were granted
autonomy subsequently changing their designation to the B.S.A.P. respectively. Amalgamating with the Southern Rhodesia Constabulary
in 1909 this force would first witness action in the Great War in the campaign conducted in German South-West Africa in mid
1915 but more significantly in a series of actions conducted against German forces under the command of Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck
in German East Africa.
There is now a period
where Christopher's service becomes somewhat ambiguous that is until the 1st May 1917 when he was transferred to the 2nd
Rhodesia Native Regiment. The 2nd R.N.R. were formed in 1917 and chronologically this would appear to confirm attachment to
this unit. Allocated the rank of 'Trooper' the R.N.R. consisted of a small cadre of officers of European descent and
about 500 natives. Promotion was relatively swift possibly due to a lack of experienced officers, Christopher being appointed
the rank of Sergeant on the 1st July 1917.
is now yet further confusion derived from surviving service documents located in the archives in Zimbabwe as regards promotion,
dates are erroneous and rank progression dates are incorrect. Christopher is recorded as either departed for or returned to
East Africa on the 16th September 1917 however amidst this confusion one can deduce that on the 7th November 1917 he was promoted
to the rank of Temporary Second-Lieutenant.
period would once again coincide with the further incursion of South African and Nigerian forces under the command Lieutenant-General
Jacob van Deventer into German East Africa. This ultimately resulted in an engagement at Mahiwa located in modern day Tanzania,
against a column of enemy forces under the command of Lettow-Vorbeck. Tactically the engagement had proved to be a German
victory but logistically in the terms of expenditure of ammunition, supplies to maintain the offensive and the inevitable
loss of manpower from a force about the third of the size of Deventer's, Mahawi would ultimately lead Lettow-Vorbeck to
commit to a tactical withdrawal from German East Africa.
southwards with his depleted force of trained troops and associated camp followers it was on the 25th November 1917 that Lettow-Vorbeck
crossed the Rovuma (Ruvuma) River into Portuguese East Africa, modern day Mozambique. Exploiting internal strife and Portugal's
inability to maintain order within its own colony an attack on the Portuguese garrison at Ngomano just south of the river
in the proceeding days after their incursion reaped dividends resulting in the virtual destruction of the garrison and the
capture of all the supplies needed for Lettow-Vorbeck to continue his advance southwards.
It was on the 26th March 1918 that Christopher Durrant was appointed the rank of Temporary
Lieutenant, his rank being confirmed by the now Commanding Officer of the 2nd R.N.R., Lieutenant-Colonel Clive Lancaster Carbutt.
Throughout the following months Lettow-Vorbeck's
column continued their march southwards with virtual impunity. The port of Quelimane was reached in June however the German
advance now turned away from the latter place upon the realisation that it was placed in a state of defence and continued
towards Nhamaccura, a vital rail station and logistical centre. Upon forcing the crossing of the Licungo river on the 1st
July, the combined British and Portuguese garrison finally capitulated after a series of assaults on the 3rd July with Lettow-Vorbeck's
force capturing large quantities of guns, ammunition and supplies. The commander of the British contingent, Major Eric Antony
Rollo Gore-Brown, attached 2/3rd King's African Rifles, was unfortunately drowned along with many of his men as they tried
to make good their escape.
Thursday 25th July 1918: The Death Of Lieutenant Christopher Martin Durrant
It was whilst conducting a training exercise in the use of the 3 inch
Stokes mortar, a British designed muzzle loading trench mortar, that disaster struck the assembled men. The shell, either
in the barrel or upon exiting the latter, exploded prematurely killing six men including Lieutenant Durrant and wounding eight
men. The exact circumstances as to this premature detonation are not known but the normal procedure to fire the mortar was
to remove a split pin to arm a timed fuze similar in design to that of a Mills hand grenade that was attached to the mortar
shell. The shell was then loaded in the barrel and as it dropped down the tube and reached the base a propellant cartridge,
basically a 12 bore shotgun cartridge fixed in the base of the mortar round struck a firing pin, detonated, and propelled
the shell from the barrel. Upon the mortar round exiting the tube, a safety lever attached to the timed fuze mechanism parted
company with the latter effectively arming the round. At some stage during this procedure the round detonated with disastrous
The location of the incident
is recorded as Macubi however a search of a variety of maps both modern and of the period fail to accurately pin point the
the precise place of death. Furthermore, an analysis of the Commonwealth War Graves Database as regards the other six victims
of the explosion provides the following results, search criteria being South African Forces and date 25th July 1918 respectively.
Private Dolf Cupido, 7032, 2nd Cape Corps
Private John Julie, 6886, 2nd Cape Corps
Private Booi Ronganger, 7339. 2nd Cape Corps
Private Jacob Williams, 6841, 2nd Cape Corps
Private Tom Pesco, 7248, Cape Corps
All the above men are now commemorated on the Dar Es Salaam British and Indian Memorial,
Tanzania, the men having no known grave. Suffice to say, if these men are those killed in the explosion, their graves could
not be identified after the conflict unlike that of Lieutenant Durrant, also originally commemorated by the Commonwealth War
Graves as serving at the time of death with the 2nd Cape Corps.
|Original Grave Photograph Taken At Macubi, Portuguese East Africa. Courtesy Of The Durrant Family.