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Signaller (RN) Percy Baron Richens
HMS/M Royal Navy

Local Information:

Signaller Richens was born on the 31st July 1890, the son of Henry Slade and Agnes Annie Richens (formerly Beard), of Town View (Down View), Hungerford. His birth was not registered until the 31st July 1906 by the local registrar Edward Chapman. [We believe the reason for the late registration of birth was to enable him to join the Royal Navy]. Prior to joining the Royal Navy his employment was shown as a Drapers assistant.

He entered the Royal Navy as a Boy Class II on 14th August 1906, he needed permission of his parents in order to do so, and the necessary consent form, which was signed by his father, reads as follows:

"I hereby certify that my son Percy Baron Richens has my full consent (being himself willing) to enter His Majesty's Navy for a period of twelve years continuous and general service, from the age of 18, in addition to whatever period may be necessary until he attains that age, agreeably to the Admiralty regulations.

Boys from Industrial Schools, and Industrial School Ships, are entered in exceptional cases, on special submission by the superintendent of the school. My son has not been an inmate of one of these institutions.

He has not been in reformatory, nor sentenced to imprisonment.

I declare that he has never had fits.

The date of the boy's birth is 3rd July 1890 [This is corrected to 31st July]

His religious persuasion is Roman Catholic

Witness my hand at St George's Hospital, London 31st day of July 1906".

Parent's signature in full – Henry Slade Richens
Parents address – Town View, Hungerford.

On joining the Royal Navy he was described as 5'3" tall, light brown hair, blue eyes, fresh complexion. (At age 18 his height was given as 5'6").

Photo Gallery:

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- Signaller Percy Richens

- Submarine E34 in dry dock

- The scene inside the officers mess area of Submarine E 34. Signaller Richens would have been on direct terms with these officers due to his duties as a signal operator. Lieutenant Pulleyne is sat centre reading. After the sinking of E34 his body was later washed up.

Naval Information:

Able seaman Richens service record:

 

 SHIP RANK Date from Date to
 HMS Ganges Boy II Class (Signals) 14.8.1906 2.11.2906
 HMS Impregnable Boy II Class (Signals)  3.11.1906 30.5.1907
 HMS Impregnable Boy II Class (Signals)  31.5.1907

29.6.1907

HMS Victory I Boy I Class (Signals) 30.6.1907 27.9.1907
HMS Pembroke I Boy I Class (Signals) 28.9.1907 6.10.1907
HMS Ocean Boy I Class (Signals) 7.10.1907 1.6.1908
HMS Pembroke I Boy I Class (Signals) 2.6.1908 23.6.1908
HMS Indomitable Boy I Class (Signals) 24.6.1908 30.7.1908
HMS Indomitable Ordinary Seaman 31.7.1908 29.3.1910
HMS Indomitable Signalman 30.3.1910 8.8.1910
HMS Pembroke I Signalman 8.8.1910 11.8.1910
HMS St George Signalman 12.8.1910 1.5.1911
HMS Pembroke 1 Signalman 2.5.1911 15.10.1911
HMS Ganges II Signalman 16.10.1911 24.11.1912
HMS Pembroke II Signalman 25.11.1912 9.2.1913
HMS Tyne Signalman 10.2.1913 27.5.1913
HMS Pembroke Signalman 28.5.1913 15.6.1913
HMS Bonaventure Signalman 16.5.1913 3.9.1913
HMS Cormorant Signalman 4.9.1913 31.3.1915
HMS Admant Signalman 1.4.1915 12.9.1915
HMS Egmont Signalman 13.9.1915 5.10.1915
HMS Queen Signalman 6.10.1915 31.12.1915
HM Submarine B11 Signalman 1.1.1916 29.10.1916
HMS Dolphin Signalman 30.10.1916 31.3.1917
HM Submarine E34 Signalman 1.4.1917 20.7.1918

 

Submarine E34 was  sunk on 20 Jul 1918 by a mine in an uncharted minefield, in Helgoland Bight, North Sea.

During his service he was always graded as 'Very Good' and his efficiency was frequently reported as 'Superior'.

At some point during his service in submarine E34 he was awarded a mention in dispatches (London Gazette 7.8.1918). It's not known what for, but clearly connected to his signalling duties. In addition he was awarded the Rumanian DCM (3rd Class)

Naval Information:

Ship's Log for Submarine E 34 reads:

5.6.1918 – Shifted berth to Maidstone.

8.6.1918 – Mine tubes examined by Chatham yard official – Adverse report.

9.6.1918 – Hand employed preparing boat for sea.

11.6.1918 – In position for laying mines.

13.6.1918 – Returned to harbour – secured alongside Maidstone.

24.6.1918 – Cast off and proceeded.

26.6.1918 – Commenced laying mines 5.50 am – 6.15 all mines laid – 6.20 am proceed to base.

27.6.1918 - Entered Harbour.

This is the last entry because the following log book went down with the vessel.

14th July 1918 the ship left Harwich to lay mines off Vlieland. Due to lay at about 02.00 on the 15th. Nothing further heard, reported lost/missing on 19th July

30th July 1918 – Body, probably that of a British officer washed ashore on Vlieland. Handkerchief marked 'Pulleyne'. He was the captain of Submarine E 34 and was Seaman Richens commanding officer.

He died on Saturday, 20th July 1918, aged 28. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent. In addition he is commemorated by a in Hungerford Church.

Mark Sijlmans from The Netherlands contacted the Virtual Museum (Dec 2012) to add that he is doing further research into the graves in his cemetry at Noordwijk, The Netherlands. Lt Pulleyne (see photograph above) and 3 other crew members of the E34 were buried at Noordwijk.

Point of Interest:

Submarine E34 was launched on the 27th January 1917 and commissioned on the 10th March.

Seaman Richens joined the vessel the following month, so was effectively joining a brand new boat. It was crewed by three officers and twenty eight ratings. It carried six torpedoes and forty mines. Its maximum speed on the surface was 14 knots, and 9.5 when underwater.

After being commissioned it joined the 9th flotilla at Harwich with depot ships HMS Maidstone and HMS Forth for North Sea patrols.

Seaman Richens was present throughout the following events and it was during this time that he was awarded the MID (Mention in Dispatches).

23rd August 1917 – Sank German steamer 'Rinate Leonhardt' off Hamburg with one torpedo from port bow tube. Surfaced to pick up survivors (Position 53.03'N 4. 34'E)

10th October 1917 – 20 'S' mines laid about 40 miles north of Vlieland (Field 160)

21st November 1917 – 20 'S' mines laid 25 miles north by west of Heligoland (Field 132)

November 1917 – 20 'S' mines laid 6.5 miles west of Terschelling (Field 203)

2nd January 1918 – Sailed from Harwich at 08.30 to lay mines from 53.50N 05. 54E in direction 200 for 1.5 miles. Mines set for 8 feet below LWOS and fitted with 38 day plugs.

23rd January 1918 – 9th May 1918 – On various mine laying patrols.

10th May 1918 – At 18.50 dived to attack 'UB16' on surface steering 360/7 knots. Fired both bow tubes at 1915 at 400 yards. One hit by CT, other hit bow, broke surface but did not explode. Surfaced and recovered one survivor swimming in oil fuel. No other survivors. About 4 or 5 men on deck at time of firing.

17th May 1918 – recommended Lt Pulleyne for DSO, plus two for DSM, 1 DSC and 2 MID. (We believed seaman Richens was one of the two)......great credit, showing that they were in an immediate state of readiness to dive and fire their torpedoes and kept a better look out than the enemy.

29th May 1918 – Mine laying 20 mines (Fields S73), picked up 5 men of Dutch Lugger 'Annie En Adri' which had been mined on the 28th. One of the crew lost, Captain with broken thigh.

9th June 1918 – 5th July 1918 – On mine laying patrols.

14th July 1918 – left Harwich am to lay mines off Vlieland. Due to lay about 0200 on 15th, nothing further heard, reported lost/missing on 19th July.