I did plan to be posting more this year - unfortunately events, mostly family ones, have rather caught up with me. However, things are going pretty well on that front at the moment, so I will try to get round to posting every few weeks again - or once a month, anyway.
This is a family-related post, in that it is about my grandfather, my mother's father, Dr Alexander Joe. I never met him - he died a couple of years before I was born, but he was a doctor - a specialist in infectious diseases, and for twenty years Medical Superintendent of the City Hospital, Edinburgh's fever hospital. But he started his career as a Surgeon Probationer - that is, a medical student doing the work of a fully-qualified doctor - in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in World War I. His ship, the HMS Nestor, was sunk at the Battle of Jutland, 100 years ago today, and I came across the following account of this from an interview with him in a German prisoner of war camp after the battle. (The Nestor, unlike many of the larger British ships at Jutland which suffered catastrophic explosions, was disabled and then sunk by the Germans, so most of the crew managed to get into lifeboats, and were then picked up by German ships.) It is such a dramatic account, that I felt that I would like to share it:
By this time the German fire was a bit hot, and before I knew where I was someone pushed a life belt over my head and shoved me in a boat. I was no sooner in and we were about to shove off when someone shouted ‘What about Freeman?’ This man had been left on the bridge with his leg half shot away, so I rushed up on top only to find poor Freeman dead. In about 30 seconds or so I was back in the boat again. There was a frightful shriek and the whole bridge crashed over the side. If Freeman had been alive and it had been necessary for me to carry him down I would assuredly have gone at that time, for he was a heavy man . . . We were now out of the frying pan and into the fire, as we had no oars and couldn’t shove off from Nestor, while the wash from the shells dropping into the sea close to us nearly swamped us, not to mention that it half drowned us with spray. At last we got away . . . paddling with our hands . . . and I saw Nestor about 30 or 50 yards away badly down astern; then she sank, gradually and with dignity until her bow remained projecting out of the sea.