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John Connelly (1875-1916)

Sunderland boy joined the Royal Navy and rose to petty officer on HMS Queen Mary at the Battle of Jutland

John Connelly’s Royal Navy service record shows that he was born in Sunderland on 14 December 1875. Little is known about his family or his whereabouts until he joined the service as a boy 2nd class on 12 May 1891. He was assigned to HMS Vincent a training ship for boys at Haslar, Gosport, Hampshire where he spent five months before moving to HMS Caledonia for further training. He was promoted to boy 1st class on 17 March 1892.

John became an ordinary seaman on his 18th birthday when he was serving on HMS Hood, a pre-dreadnought battleship that served most of her active career in the Mediterranean Sea. He was further promoted to able seaman on the same ship in May 1894.

John was promoted to leading seaman on 11 January 1899 whilst serving on HMS Canopus, another battleship in the Mediterranean Fleet. His rise up the ranks continued and his record shows that he passed afloat educationally for petty officer on 1 January 1909. He held this rank when he was transferred to HMS Queen Mary, a newly built battlecruiser, shortly after it came into service. He served on Queen Mary at the battle of Heligoland Bight in August 1914 and when it defended the German raid on Scarborough in December 1914.

HMS Queen Mary put to sea on 31 May 1916 to take part in the Battle of Jutland. She came under fire and one shell hit and detonated one or both of the forward magazines, which broke the ship in two near the foremast. A further explosion, possibly from shells breaking loose, shook the aft end of the ship as it began to roll over and sink. A total of 1,266 crewmen, including John, were lost in the sinking.

John’s body was not recovered for burial. He is honoured on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

John Connelly was awarded the Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal for his service in World War One.

Postscript from Durham at War team:

An anonymous user of the Durham at War website contributed a little more to John Connelly’s story which led to a rather intriguing discovery. According to our nameless contributor, John Connelly was married to Ada Jordon and had three daughters with her; Norah, Eileen and Queenie. A quick look at the 1911 census showed that John was living in Portsmouth and that he had been married for 16 years. He was also living with Ada Elizabeth Jordon, but she was single and listed on the census as a domestic servant rather than his wife. However, the Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll lists his widow as Ada, living at 12 Priory Lane, Kings Lynn. A little further digging found the marriage of a John Connelly and Alice Annie Chandler in 1895. By 1901 Alice was living with her boarder, Isaac J Paul. Ten years later, Alice and Issac were living as husband and wife and a marriage can be found on the indexes for 1915. It seems likely that John and Alice’s marriage had broken down by 1901 and that each found another partner.

Civil Parish: Sunderland

Birth date: 14-Dec-1875

Death date: 31-May-1916

Armed force/civilian: Navy

Residence: 18 Ranelagh Road, Portsmouth (1911 census and 1937 probate)

Employment: Petty Officer (Royal Navy record)

Family: Parents: Michael Connelly, Amelia Connelly
Wife: Alice Annie Chandler (BMD indexes, 1895)
Wife (no evidence of marriage): Ada Elizabeth Jordan
Children: Eileen Ada Connelly (1911), Queenie Connelly (1914), Nora Jane Connelly (1916)

Military service:

Boy 2nd class, 12 May 1891
Boy 1st class, 17 March 1892
Ordinary Seaman, 14 December 1893
Able Seaman, 31 May 1894
Leading Seaman, 11 January 1899
Petty Officer, 1 January 1909
HMS Queen Mary, 8 November 1913 - 31 May 1916

Medal(s): Star
Victory Medal
British War Medal

Memorial(s): Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Gender: Male

Contributed by David D, Stanley, Co Durham