HMS Courageous

James Yearsley d. 1939 Navy

Able Seaman James Yearsley (D/J 38440). Royal Navy, HMS Courageous. Died 17th September 1939. Son of James and Emma Yearsley; husband of Eliza Yearsley, of Miles Green, Bignall End, Stoke-on-Trent. Commonwealth War Dead. Plymouth Naval Memorial. Panel 33, Column 3.

HMS Courageous

Photo: HMS Courageous

HMS Courageous was a warship of the Royal Navy. She was built at the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard as a "large light cruiser". Courageous, her sister ship Glorious, and half-sister Furious, were the brainchildren of Admiral Jackie Fisher, and were designed to be "light cruiser destroyers". They were originally intended to be heavy support for shallow water operations in the Baltic, which ultimately never came to pass. Courageous saw action in the First World War, and then was converted into an aircraft carrier.

HMS Courageous served with the Home Fleet in the Channel Force at the start of the Second World War. On 17 September 1939, under the command of Captain W. T. Mackaig-Jones, she was on an anti-submarine patrol off the coast of Ireland. Two of her four escorting destroyers had been sent to help a merchant ship under attack. During this time, Courageous was stalked for over two hours by U-29, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Otto Schuhart. Then Courageous turned into the wind to launch her aircraft. This manoeuvre put the ship right across the bow of U-29, which then fired three torpedoes. Two of the torpedoes struck the ship on her port side, and she capsized and sank in 15 minutes with the loss of 518 of her crew, including her captain. She was the first British warship to be lost in the war; the civilian passenger liner SS Athenia had been sunk two weeks earlier. An earlier unsuccessful attack on Ark Royal by U-39 on 14 September — and the sinking of Courageous three days later — caused the Royal Navy to withdraw its fleet carriers from anti-submarine patrol.

Photo: HMS Courageous sinking after being torpedoed by U-29