HMS Kent and a family photo archive
HMS Kent [On caps] H G Fenn second left standing.
HMS Kent (1901) is best known for her role in the Battle of the Falklands in 1914, where she chased and eventually sank the light cruiser SMS Nurnburg. She was an armoured cruiser with 14 6” guns, though some of these could rarely be used as they were so close to the waterline. Her early years were spent, as was typical of the time, on the China station showing the flag, and ironically there was sharing of facilities with the Imperial German Navy, and quite frequent courtesy visits between ships. The German officers in the Far East were incredulous when Britain joined the war on the side of the French, the historic enemy.
By the outbreak of war HMS Kent was already obsolete and in reserve, and was hastily commissioned with a crew of reservists and sent to reinforce Admiral Sturdee’s squadron in the South Atlantic as he sought out the von Spee squadron that had slaughtered Admiral Cradock’s fleet at Coronel, including her sister ship HMS Monmouth.
There was a certain irony in her story. She limped south to the coaling point at Amalrhos islands at 10 knots with engine problems. In the battle, her chance came to give chase to the newer and fast small cruiser Nurnberg. Monmouth was short of coal and, in the stuff of legend, burnt everything wooden to keep up the chase, and she even exceeded her design speed to reach 24 knots. Given her much greater firepower, the outcome was predictable once Nurnberg slowed and came into range, to sink with few survivors. A few months later, back on the China station, she also sank the Dresden off the coast of Chile to complete the revenge.
At the end of the war, we can pick up a little more of her story from the family photo album of David Fenn, whose father Horace Germain Fenn was a torpedo artificer, joined the service in 1916 and training at HMS Vernon. He then served on Kent from June 1918 to August 1919, sailing via the Cape to Vladivostock,”supporting loyal Russians against the Bolsheviks”, as part of a larger Western fleet and extensive military intervention. He paid off in Hong Kong in October 1919. HMS Kent was broken up in 1920. He then became a watchmaker, no doubt the artificer training was a useful background.
Probably HMS Kent
There is a photo of a plaque with a speech of thanks from a local Russian offical, but no details are given of the action referred to, although it would appear to have been be ashore, and there is a photo of a memorial to British casualties including some RN and Marines. The album also contains a considerable number of pictures of the ship, though identity cannot always be certain.
There is also a shield, probably an unofficial shield, which was probably made by Horace Fenn with the arms of Kent.
His photo album also has many commercial cards from Vladivostock, and also Alexandria, Singapore, Algiers, Porto, and Columbo. We hope to add this to the archive at some point.
Badge probably from HMS Kent
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My grandad served on the Kent his name was James Henry Barton he was an electrical atisifer chief petty officer.does anybody have anyone who served on this ship.