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 was born in Ballards Lane, Finchley, in 1881. His parents were Charles Theodore, a gas and water fitter, and Mary Ann Purcell (sometimes listed as Marjorie rather than Mary Ann). Charles had five siblings; 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 has joined the navy and was living aboard an unnamed ship in Plymouth.

Charles was a member of the crew of HMS Simoom, an "R" Class destroyer built in 1916. It was commanded by Commander Edward Tyrrell Inman (1878-1917) and sunk in an engagement between British and German destroyers in the Flanders Bight on the night of January 22nd, 1917. Charles' body was not recovered for burial. The ship belonged to the Harwich Force which had put to sea on the 22nd to intercept a German flotilla, which was known to be making for Zeebrugge from German ports. This flotilla consisted of eleven V, S and G destroyers. 

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 S-50, 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 S-50 discharged a torpedo which struck the Simoom and exploded her magazine, causing heavy casualties. The S-50 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 Comdre. Tyrwhitt´s orders. The Simoom carried a war complement of 90 crew. 

HMS Simoom 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.

The April 1917 monthly magazine of St Luke’s Finchley lists Charles’ death in the Roll of Honour, saying ‘Charles T Purcell, 4 Stanley Terrace, aged 34, A.B.R.N. Perished in Destroyer announced as sunk in the fight with enemy Destroyers at the end of January’. At the time of his death, Charles' parents were living at 5, Grove Terrace, Finchley.