How a run ashore became a disaster


On 13 April 1925 at about 11.30pm on the River Medway off Upnor, Kent the ship’s boat of RFA Bacchus (1), containing 11 of the crew were returning from a run ashore, when it was struck by a motor lighter and sank immediately. Five of the crew were saved and six were drowned.

The six who died were: –

Third Officer Victor Mortimer Wakeley – who was single from Swindon, Wiltshire
Wireless Telegraphist Officer Cyril Stonehouse – who was single from Portsmouth
Able Seaman Cyril Chinn – who was married from Plymouth
Able Seaman Albert Edwards – who was married from Plymouth
Stoker Edward Tucker – who was single from Chatham
Stoker John Riddle – who was married from Plymouth


The ship’s boat had left Thunderbolt Jetty, Gillingham at about 11.30pm to return to the ship which had recently arrived from Malta and was in mid stream. The ship’s boat had to steer clear of a barge which was tacking. As it cleared the barge the motor lighter ‘Flame’ struck her and she immediately sank into 15 feet of water.

Those rescued were the boats coxswain, Able Seaman G A Janes from Gillingham, 2nd Officer Prout, Wireless Telegraphist Officer Hawkes, Stoker White from Portsmouth and Ordinary Seaman Horton from London.

The Kent Country Coroner, Mr E. C. Harris, with a jury held a series of inquests at the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham touching on the deaths of the six members of RFA Bacchus’ crew. A verdict of accidental death was returned in each case.

The Master of RFA Bacchus – Captain Roger Fenwick Shoton RFA appeared before the jury and gave evidence.