Joseph Munro was born in Tongue, son of Duncan Munro and
Christina Macleod of Talmine Melness. They were married in Tarbert Harris in 1868. He was a herring fisherman
before the outbreak of the First World War and was called up in August 1914, by
the Royal Naval Reserve. He left Melness alongside all the other fishermen for
Wick and the train, which took them to the naval depots and training camps.
posted to the Battle Cruiser H.M.S. Kent, a ship of 9,800 tons that had been
built in 1903. The Kent had a top speed of 24 knots and was armed with 14x
6inch guns, eleven other men from Melness also served on this ship. (The names
of the other Melness men who served on H.M.S. Kent can be found in the Roll of
Honour at the end of this section.)
1914, H.M.S. Kent was under a part of the British fleet commanded by Admiral
Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee, sent to defend the Falkland Islands from German
attack. British Intelligence had discovered the German China Squadron was
returning to Germany, from Japan via South America and may attack the
The German China Squadron commanded by Admiral
Maximillian Von Spree consisted of the Cruisers
‘Gneisenau’ and ‘Scharnhorst’, the light Cruisers ‘Dresden’, ‘Liepzig’
and the ‘Nurnberg’. The two fleets first met off the coast of Chile, the
Germans sank the British ships H.M.S. ‘Good Hope’ and H.M.S ‘Monmouth’, the
other ships H.M.S. ‘Glasgow’ and the armed merchant ship H.M.S. ‘Otranto’ had
arrived in the Falklands Islands after steaming Southwest from Sierra Leone,
joining the fleet off the coast of Brazil. The British fleet now consisted of
the Cruisers ‘Carnarvon’, ‘Cornwall’, ‘Glasgow’, ‘Kent’ and ‘Bristol’ with the
armed merchant vessels ‘Macedonia’ and ‘Otranto’ in support.
fleet had just entered Port Stanley to refuel, when the enemy launched their
attack and began to shell the harbour. The Germans not realising the British
fleet had just arrived in the Falklands, found they were outnumbered and had to
flee with the British Cruisers in hot pursuit.
fleet was quickly caught and engaged, after a short battle all the German ships
were destroyed except the ‘Nurnberg’ which had managed to escape chased by
H.M.S. Kent. The Kent pursued the ‘Nurnberg’ a distance of one hundred and
fifty miles south of the Falkland Islands, burning every scrap of wood on board
to supplement her coal and maintain maximum speed.
H.M.S. Kent managed to close within 11,000
yards of the enemy ship and was missed by two salvoes before the ‘Nurnbergs’
gunners scored a direct hit on the Kents upperdeck. As the German ship began to
slip away at dusk, two of its overworked boilers suddenly blew up and the ship
stopped dead in the water.
The Kent now moved into 3,000yards and a
shooting match began, the British 6inch guns taking a heavier toll than the
German 4inch and by 6:25pm the ‘Nurnberg’ was down at the stern and a blaze. At
6:35pm the ‘Nurnberg’ fired one more salvo, then falling silent causing the
Kent to cease-fire and await the enemy surrender. When the enemy colours failed
to come down H.M.S. Kent opened fire for five more minutes; the enemy colours
were then lowered.
German sailors now began to abandon ship and
the Captain of H.M.S. Kent lowered his only two undamaged lifeboats to pick up
survivors, as they did this the ‘Nurnberg’ suddenly turned over and sank at
7:27pm. The British sailors only found twelve Germans alive in the water from a
crew on board the ‘Nurnberg’ of four hundred, the losses on board the Kent were
four men killed and twelve wounded.
Seaman Joseph Munro served on board H.M.S
Kent at the Battle of the Falklands in 1914; I have also been told he was at
the Battle of Jutland in 1915. H.M.S Kent did not serve at the Battle of
Jutland so he may have been on another ship, but I have not been able to
Joseph Munro was accidentally drowned at sea
on the 13th of March 1916 he was thirty-four years of age.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLE
Munro Joseph 3499B. Seaman . R.N.R H.M.S. Kent. Died 13-03-16.
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION
Munro Seaman Joseph 3499B. H.M.S. Kent. Royal Naval
Reserve. Accidentally drowned on the 13 of March 1916. Age 34. Son
of Mr and Mrs Duncan and Crissie Munro of Talmine, Tongue, Lairg Sutherland.
Seaman Joseph Munro 3499B H.M.S. Kent has no known
grave and is remembered on the PORTSMOUTH MEMORIAL TO THE MISSING on Southsea