The Essex Association of Change Ringers   President: The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

Charles Henry Ballard

Royal Navy

Died on 1 November 1914 Age 29

Devon United Kingdom

Son of Thomas Henry Ballard, of Comer House, Great Totham, Witham, Essex, and the late Eliza Ballard.

Service No. 215387

Charles Henry Ballard was born 20th August 1885 in Maldon, Essex the fifth of six children born to Thomas Henry Ballard, Market Gardener & Eliza neé Redgewell.  They all lived in Baleigh Road (possibly now known as Beeleigh Road), Maldon.  By 1901 the family had moved to Maldon Road Wickham Bishops. Charles Ballard was also listed at this time also as a market gardener.  The Ballard family later moved to Comer House, Great Totham. 

Charles was a member of the Essex Association and rang his first and only recorded peal at Great Totham on 3rd February 1901, aged 15 on the 5th bell.  The peal of Plain Bob Minor was rung in 2 hours and 47 minutes and was “Rung with the bells deeply muffled as a last token of respect to Our Late Majesty Lady Queen Victoria”, who had passed away on 22nd January.

Charles did not stay in Great Totham for long as he is recorded as having enlisted in the Royal Navy on 28th June 1901.  He was recorded as being 5 feet 4 inches tall with light hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.  Following his training on HMS Northampton he served on a large variety of vessels from sloops and yachts to frigates & cruisers.  He transferred to HMS Monmouth on 2nd August 1914.  HMS Monmouth was an armoured cruiser built in 1901 with several design flaws.  Most of her 6 inch guns were situated so close to the waterline that they were unusable in all but the calmest weather and in addition her armour was much too thin for an armoured cruiser and could be easily penetrated by artillery shells.  

These problems would prove disastrous for her thirteen years later at Coronel.  She served on the China Station between 1906 and 1913, before being put in the Reserve Fleet in January 1914.

On the outbreak of the First World War she was reactivated and sent to West Indies Squadron of Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock and participated in the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile on 1st November 1914.  Outmatched and with an inexperienced crew, she was quickly overwhelmed and a 21 cm (8.2 inch) shell from SMS Gneisenau penetrated the armour of the forward 6 inch gun turret, destroying it and causing a massive fire on the forecastle.  More serious hits followed, and she soon could no longer hold her place in the line of battle.

HMS Glasgow broke contact with the German squadron at 20:05 and discovered Monmouth, listing and down by the bow, having extinguished her fires.  She was trying to turn north to put her stern to the heavy northerly swell and was taking water at the bow.  There was little that Glasgow could do to assist the larger ship as the moonlight illuminated both ships and the Germans were searching for them.

The light cruiser SMS Nürnberg had been trailing the German squadron and spotted the plume of smoke from Glasgow at 20:35, and then saw Monmouth with a 10-degree list to port shortly afterwards.  As Nürnberg closed the range, Monmouth's list increased so that none of the guns on her port side could be used.  The German cruiser closed to within 600 yards (550m) and illuminated her flag with its spotlight in the hopes that she would strike her colours and surrender.  There was no response from the British ship and Nürnberg opened fire at 21:20, aiming high, but there was still no response.  The German ship then fired a torpedo which missed and turned off its searchlight.  Monmouth then increased speed and turned towards Nürnberg, which caused her to open fire again.  Monmouth capsized at 21:58, taking her entire crew of 735 men with her as the seas were too rough to attempt any rescue effort.

After the First World War, an appropriate way had to be found of commemorating those members of the Royal Navy who had no known grave, the majority of deaths having occurred at sea where no permanent memorial could be provided.  The Plymouth Naval Memorial was unveiled on 29th July 1929.

Charles Henry Ballard is also remembered at Great Totham.  A tablet commemorating the fallen of the parish is mounted on the wall of St Peter’s Church just to the right inside the main entrance doorway from the south porch.  It is of grey marble within a decorated brown marble surround. The mosaic decoration is of Celtic inspiration in blue and gold with a St Peter's cross at each corner.

Inside the porch is also a Roll of Honour commemorating those who served in the Great War.

At the United Reformed Church in the north of the parish there is a simpler memorial containing the name of Charles Henry Ballard.

With grateful thanks to the Great Totham Bellringers, Every Man Remembered, Essex Society for Archaeology and History and Paul Ballard.

Andrew Brewster

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