QSA Two bars To The RN

QSA Two bars To The RN


Medal and bars confirmed on roll

HMS Sybille was a twin screw, second-class cruiser of 3400 tons, built in 1890 by R. Stephenson of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Her 9496 horsepower triple expansion engines could produce a top speed of 20 knots.

One of twenty-one Apollo class cruisers built, she was first commissioned at Devonport on 8 January 1895 for the Mediterranean Station under Captain Gerald W. Russell. There she served until returning to Devonport in 1898, where she was paid off on 18 March of that year.

She remained out of commission until 3 October 1900 when she was commissioned at Portsmouth to relieve the HMS Barossa at the Cape of Good Hope Station, under the command Captain Hugh P. Williams.

After an uneventful voyage, the Sybille arrived in Simon's Town from England on Saturday 12 January 1901, where she was coaled immediately and put to sea again on Monday 14 January, bound for Lamberts Bay. Upon arrival the captain, junior lieutenants and the naval brigade - about 50 men in all - went ashore. This was because Lamberts Bay was used as a military base, which necessitated the deployment of a detachment ashore. The Sybille was left under the command of the first lieutenant, Mr H.H. Holland, and navigating lieutenant, Mr H. Cayley.

Almost immediately, the weather, which was most unusual for January, showed signs of deteriorating.

The north-wester which had prevailed on the voyage up the coast, freshened to a gale, and faced with the fact that the anchorage at Lamberts Bay offered very little protection to a vessel of the size of the Sybille, Lt. Holland as the officer in command of the vessel decided it would be prudent to put to sea. The anchor was accordingly raised and, at 10pm on the night of 15 January, the Sybille steamed out of the bay into increasingly rough seas, and heavy squalls. Sharing the anchorage that night were two other vessels, the Royal Navy Torpedo Boat No. 60 and the transport City of Cambridge (Transport No. 15), both of which opted to ride out the weather.

At about 2am the following morning, the weather having moderated somewhat, the Sybille put about and proceeded to steam back to Lamberts Bay. It was later found that unbeknownst to crew and the officer of the watch, Sub-Lieutenant A.G.A Street, the rough weather and the southerly set of the current had pushed the vessel some six miles south of what they believed their position to be. At 4.30 on the morning of 16 January the Sybille struck a reef near the farm at Steenboksfontein, about three miles, or five kilometres south of Lamberts Bay. The order was immediately given the reverse the engines in an attempt to get her off, but to no avail, and when it became clear that the vessel was stuck fast and filling rapidly, the watertight doors were shut, and preparations made to abandon ship.

Amid the heavy seas pounding the vessel, some of which were breaking above her funnels, her company made a number of attempts to get a line ashore, but without success. The outlook may have been grim indeed for the crew, who had taken refuge in the rigging and on the fore-bridge, had the wreck not been spotted by the HMS Tartar and the City of Cambridge, the latter having left Lamberts Bay en route to Cape Town at 4am after an uncomfortable night. In the meantime, Captain Williams had learned of the loss of his ship, and within two and a half hours of the wreck had come out from Lamberts Bay in a tug. With the greatest difficulty a line was attached to the Sybille, and the two hundred and fifty odd members of the crew aboard were rescued without mishap, although the sea conditions meant that the operation took until 2pm that afternoon. The last man to leave the ship was Lt. Holland.

The only casualty was a nineteen-year-old ordinary seaman, W.H. Jones, who sustained fatal internal injuries when he was swept across the deck by the heavy seas and crushed against one of the vessel's 4.7-inch guns. He was later buried ashore, and his grave can be seen in a small cemetery in Lamberts Bay. The rescued crew, most of whom had escaped with nothing more than the clothes they wore, were taken aboard the City of Cambridge, which had remained near the wreck to render assistance while the Tartar had gone on to Saldanha Bay to raise the alarm. From there the crew were taken to Lamberts Bay.

Code: 50962