First World War Centenary

Richard Tallack

Date of Birth: 29th November 1865

Service History

Regiment: Royal Navy

Rank: 1st Class Armourer

Service History:

Richard Tallack was a Naval Pensioner and, at the outbreak of the great war, he was recalled to active service.  He was discharged in July 1919 at the age of 53.

Personal History:

My grandfather, Richard Tallack was born in Newquay, Cornwall on 29th November 1865.  He was a Naval Pensioner and at the outbreak of the Great War, he was recalled to active service at the age of 48.  Naval Pensioners were liable to recall under Article 1955 of the King's Regulations (Naval pensioners' Act 1884) unless wholly incapable and whose age did not exceed 55.  The National Roll of the Great War shows he served on board HMS Patricia which was torpedoed in 1916.  This would appear to be incorrect.  HMS Patricia was known as a 'Q' ship.  The SS Lady Patricia was built for the British & Irish Steam Packet Co on the Clyde in 1914.  She was immediately appropriated by the Royal Navy as an Auxiliary Vessel to be used for ferrying stores to capital ships but in her case she was used as an armed merchant ship for escorting other ships.  She was refitted and armed and known as HMAV Patricia.  The 'Q' designation comes from Queenstown in Ireland where many of the vessels were based or converted.  In the case of HMAV Lady Patricia (now Q25) this conversion would mainly be the construction of a fake superstructure or deck cargo to hide her armament.  Conversion probably started at the beginning of March 1917 and was completed on 30th April 1917.  On 1st may 1917 she changed her name to HMS Paxton.  Why? Because the Royal Navy needed to pay its sailors (more importantly RN officers and men were entitled to a rum ration and duty free tobacco) and this change of name allowed it to do so.  The 'Q' ship was designed to look like an ordinary merchantman but at an appropriate time after a Uboat attack, the white ensign would be flown and the disguise removed to reveal powerful guns that could be used to destroy the Uboat.  The Uboat would have to be lured close enough for the guns to be effective.  This involved no small danger as it had to done while the Uboat was firing at the ship and without the ship giving any indication that this allegedly abandoned merchant ship still had a crew on board.
In the National Roll of the Great War it states: was engaged on important convoy duties'.  I believe this was something of an understatement as the work was extremely dangerous.
On the 20th May 1917 HMS Paxton engaged an enemy submarine on the surface without result.  Later in the day at 1915 hours, she was torpedoed and sunk by U-boat-46 100 miles west of the Fastnet Rock.  Three officers and eight ratings were rescued on the 21st May.  On the 26th May a further four ratings were rescued from a raft and finally, on 27th May, twenty survivors reached the coast of Ireland.  I have no idea which batch my grandfather was in but 31 persons were killed.
I have no other details of my grandfather's war service.  He survived the war and was discharged in July 1919 age 53.


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