max temp: 15°C

min temp: 12°C


Shotley: A German mine that hit HMS Amphion off the coast of Shotley claimed the first British casualties of First World War

10:00 02 August 2014

First World War graves at Shotley Church. The grave of Henry Copland.

First World War graves at Shotley Church. The grave of Henry Copland.


As the world prepares to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, a quiet Suffolk churchyard records the sad details of the first British servicemen to die in the conflict.

Many history books record the first British casualty as Private John Parr at Mons in Belgium on August 21 – but more than two weeks earlier about 150 sailors perished when the Cruiser HMS Amphion hit a German mine off Shotley.

Four British sailors who died are buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Shotley in a plot that is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – nearby are the graves of several German sailors who died in the same engagement.

The story of HMS Amphion is very poignant. Launched in 1911, on the day war was declared she was operating in the North Sea off Harwich.

She was called into action alongside two destroyers when a former German ferry, converted to become a mine-layer, was spotted dropping mines off the Haven ports.

They gave chase and the mine-layer was sunk. It had a crew of 100 and 46 were rescued by the British, many taken on board the Amphion.

A few hours later, in the early hours of August 6, the Amphion hit one of the mines that had just been laid, crippling it in the water. The bridge and the front of the ship was badly damaged with many casualties.

The other ships in the flotilla were able to take off survivors, including many with serious burns, and these included some of the German survivors who had been involved in two ship sinkings in the same night.

A few hours later the abandoned Amphion hit another mine and sank.

The total number of casualties was about 150 – official figures at the time gave the number as 131 but that does not include any Germans who died or those who died later from their wounds.

Four were buried at Shotley, the bodies of others were sent to their home towns or villages for burial, and some could not be identified because of the seriousness of their injuries or the bodies went down with the ship.


  • Well at least it is consistent, Shotley!

    Report this comment


    Saturday, August 2, 2014

  • I typed in Shirley, honest. Must be a reflection on our dependence on American spell checkers!

    Report this comment


    Saturday, August 2, 2014

  • I recently visited the churchyard in Shirley and was surprised at the number of military graves, many more than expected. This includes sailors from Ganges but also many submariners from WW1. Who knew we had submarines in WW1 or that they operated around Harwich Harbour?

    Report this comment


    Saturday, August 2, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Half term is nearly over and you have exhausted your usual list of family activities - arts and crafts, cinema trip and a day out at the park.

Perhaps it was fitting that The Four Tops and The Temptations were performing at the O2 in London on the same night as the Magic of Motown at the Ipswich Regent on. It certainly seemed to notch up the nostalgia factor.

Raising the aspirations of women and girls and filling them with the confidence to follow their dreams – that is purpose of a new community interest company that has been set-up in Ipswich.

Take a look at some of the most valuable homes sold in Suffolk in August.

Portman Road stadium may be home to Ipswich Town football club, but here is a look at some of the other sports played there as we reach the letter P in our Ipswich A-Z.

A project to find safe and friendly homes for vulnerable young people is being launched in Suffolk – after changing lives north of the border.

Motorists are being warned that highways engineers will be surveying the road surface of the A14 in Suffolk next week.

Campaigners are today making a toast to community spirit and tasting a hard-earned sip of success as their dream of saving a village pub becomes a reality.

Fright night fun comes to Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft this weekend as we celebrate Halloween - with the actual scare-fest taking place on Monday, October 31.

A D-Day veteran from Ipswich has been treated to a celebration lunch with the mayor after being awarded a French Legion of Honour medal for his role in the Normandy landings.

Most read

Most commented


Show Job Lists

Topic pages


Newsletter Sign Up

MyDate24 MyPhotos24