Charles Thomas Purcell

Rank Able Seaman
Service No 205004
Date of Death 23/01/1917
Age 34
Regiment/Service Royal Navy HMS Simoom
Memorial Portsmouth Naval Memorial




Charles Thomas Purcell was born in Ballards Lane, Finchley in 1881. His father Charles Theodore, who was a gas and water fitter, and mother (sometimes listed as Marjorie instead of Mary Ann) had five other children; Maud (b.1875), Mable (b.1877), Salley (b.1880), George (b.1882) and Thomas (b. 1884).  Tax returns indicate that Charles’ parents owned three other properties in Finchley and Barnet that the family both lived in and rented out.


By 1911, Charles had joined the navy and was living aboard an unnamed ship in Plymouth. This was not the Simoom, which was not built until 1916. Charles was killed when the HMS Simoom was torpedoed. His body was not recovered for burial.

HMS Simoom

The destroyer HMS Simoom, an "R" Class destroyer built in 1916, commanded by Commander E T Inman, was sunk in an engagement between British and German destroyers in the Flanders Bight on the night of January 22nd, 1917. The ship belonged to the Harwich Force under Commodore R. Y. Tyrwhitt which had put to sea on the 22nd to intercept a German flotilla, under command of Cdr. Max Schultz, which was known to be making for Zeebrugge from German ports. This flotilla consisted of eleven V, S and G destroyers, each of 570-650 tons.

The rival forces made contact between the North Hinder Light and the Maas at 2.45 a.m. on the 23rd. In the fight which ensued the S50, which had lost touch at about 4 a.m. ran into a line of four British destroyers of which the Simoom was the leading ship. There was a sharp exchange of salvoes and the S50 discharged a torpedo which struck the Simoom and exploded her magazine, causing heavy casualties. The S50 then escaped in the darkness. The destroyer HMS Morris took off all the Simoom´s survivors and she was then torpedoed and sunk by the Nimrod on Cdre. Tyrwhitt´s orders. The Simoom carried a war complement of 90.

HMS Simoom HMS was torpedoed by German destroyer S-50. The Harwich Force, including the light cruisers Centaur, Conquest, Aurora, Penelope, Cleopatra, Undaunted and 18 destroyers, was in action against the German 6th Torpedo Boat Flotilla off the Schouwen light vessel. After HMS Simoom was hit, she was scuttled by the destroyer HMS Matchless.