Clement Metcalfe Freeman

Clement Metcalfe Freeman
Born in St Ives in 1894, Clement was the third oldest in a family of four boys and seven girls born to Henry, a shepherd and drover, and Ellen (née Metcalfe). The family home was in Melbourne Place, St Ives, the parents and eleven children packed into five rooms. By 1911 Clement worked as a grocer's errand boy. At some point he was employed as a railway labourer.

Clement joined the Royal Navy in January 1915 as a stoker and was initially trained at HMS Pembroke II, the Royal Navy Air Station at Eastchurch. On 15 May 1915 he was transferred to HMS Princess Irene. The Canadian owned ship started life in 1914 as a commercial liner. It was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and converted into an auxiliary minelayer.

HMS Princess Irene made two successful mine laying trips before mooring at Saltpan Reach, off Sheerness, to be loaded with 500 mines, about 150 tons of high explosive. At 11.14am on Thursday 27 May 1915 one of the biggest naval disasters occurred when the vessel blew up without warning. A column of orange flames shot up into the sky. Seconds later a second column rose to about 300 feet. A deafening explosion followed which blew the ship to pieces.

The wreckage of HMS Princess Irene, engulfed in smoke after the explosion off Sheerness
The force of the explosion hurled debris and body parts in a radius of twenty miles. In total 273 officers and men of HMS Princess Irene were killed, as well as 76 dockyard workers aboard ship at the time and a further three members of the public. Three crew members who had gone ashore survived, as well as one blown off the vessel into the sea.

At the Court of Inquiry evidence was given that priming of the mines was being carried out hurriedly and by untrained personnel. It concluded the cause of the explosion was a faulty timer.

Clement had only been on board HMS Princess Irene for twelve days. He was one of those killed in the explosion. As with most of the men lost, Clement has no known grave. He was aged 20yrs.

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Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.
1901 Census
1911 Census
Royal Navy Register
Commonwealth War Graves Register
Commemorative Certificate

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