Gunner Frank Patrick Saint

Frank Saint

Branch of service: Royal Marine Artillery, HMS Defence
Service No: 14470/PO

Date & place of birth: 4 March 1897 at Romsey, Hampshire
Date & place of death: 31 May 1916 (aged 19) at Battle of Jutland, off Denmark

Frank Saint was born at Romsey in Hampshire, the son of a gamekeeper and moved to Cocking as a child. By the time of the war he was working for the Goodwood estate, also as a gamekeeper. During the war, he served in the Royal Marine Artillery and was killed when HMS Defence was sunk at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.

Family background

Frank was born at Luzborough Lane, near Romsey, Hampshire on 4 March 1897. His parents were Harry Saint (1866–1936) and his wife Eliza née Cooper (1868–1951). Harry had also been born at Romsey and worked as a gamekeeper, as had his father before him. Harry and Eliza married in Romsey in the spring of 1890 and their first child, Kate, was born the following year. Two children died as infants in 1894, before Frank was born. The couple went on to have a further eight children.

In about 1900 the family moved to Fisherton Delamere in the Wylye valley in Wiltshire, where Harry was gamekeeper to Granville Ryder, who had been MP for Salisbury in the 1870s. Following Ryder’s death in 1901, Harry found employment in Sussex, where daughters Henrietta and Mary were born at Milland and Compton in 1903 and 1905 respectively. The next daughter, Florence, was born at Cocking in 1908.

At the 1911 census, the couple were living at The Warren Bottom, Cocking, with six children. Harry, aged 45, was employed as the local gamekeeper. By this time, Frank had left home and was working at Downs Farm, Funtington where he was employed as a waggoner.

By the start of the war, when Frank enlisted, he described himself as a gamekeeper on the Goodwood estate, aged 17.

Military service

Frank enlisted at Eastney barracks, Portsmouth on 17 November 1914, joining the Royal Marine Artillery. His enlistment papers describe him as 5ft 7⅞in with brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion and of Very Good character.

In April 1915 he was arrested at his home in The Warren, Cocking and charged with being an absentee from his unit. He informed PC Phillips that he had missed the last train back on 4 April and started to walk into Midhurst the next morning. On 22 April the West Sussex Gazette reports his claim that “he fell down in a fit and laid on the downs asleep until the following day. As he did not like to go to Portsmouth or return home, he remained on the downs until the previous day when his father found him. He was on the downs 10 days according to his story.” When asked what he ate during this time, Frank claimed that he “went without”. The magistrate did not believe his story and, remarking that “the lad was silly to do as he had done”, he made an order for him to be handed over to an escort to be returned to his unit.

After completing his training as a gunner, he joined HMS Defence on 22 September 1915. HMS Defence was a Minotaur-class armoured cruiser which had been commissioned in February 1909. She was armed with four 9.2in guns, ten 7.5in guns and sixteen 12 pounder quick firing guns.

Death & commemoration

On 31 May 1916 HMS Defence was the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Robert K. Arbuthnot, commander of the First Cruiser Squadron at the Battle of Jutland.  The squadron formed the starboard flank of the cruiser screen, ahead of the main body of the Grand Fleet. During the battle, Defence came under heavy fire from the German battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger  and four battleships. Defence was hit by two salvoes from the German ships that caused the aft magazine to explode. The resulting fire spread via the ammunition passages to the adjacent magazines which detonated in turn. The ship exploded at 6:20pm with the loss of all men on board; between 893 and 903 men were killed.

Frank Saint is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common and on the Cocking War Memorial.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project