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Commander J Bostock DSC RN

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Reference JB
Covering dates 1914-1921
Held by Imperial War Museum Department of Documents
Extent Microfilms
Conditions of access Unrestricted
Creators Bostock, John, 1898-1980, Naval Commander

Microfilm copy of his ms letters to his parents covering his service as a cadet in the training cruiser HMS CORNWALL during her cruises to the Mediterranean and in Home and Norwegian waters (January - July 1914); as a midshipman in HMS CORNWALL during her deployment in the South Atlantic on patrol and shipping examination duties following the outbreak of war, including a full account of his ship's part in the sinking of the German cruiser LEIPZIG in the Battle of the Falkland Islands (August 1914 - January 1915); as a midshipman in HMS WARSPITE (5th Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet) including a long description of his experiences at the Battle of Jutland (June 1915 - June 1916); as a junior officer in HMS MEDWAY (13th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet) including interesting accounts of the Heligoland Bight action of 17 November 1917 and of Armistice day celebrations (November 1917 - November 1918); and as a Lieutenant in the Mediterranean Fleet battleship HMS AJAX, with particular reference to her participation in the evacuation of White Russian forces and refugees from ports in the Black Sea and to the activities of the Nationalists in Turkey (January 1920 - January 1921).

Mss. letters of Midshipman John Bostock to his parents and his brother Peter. Vol. I.  JB/1  24 January 1914 - 14 January 1915

John Bostock's letters home from January to July 1914 cover his time as a cadet in the training cruiser Cornwall, which carried out cruises to the Mediterranean and in Home and Norwegian waters. The most interesting letters refer to the cadets' visit to the Italian naval training college (29 March, 3 April). At the end of June Bostock was confident that he would be appointed a midshipman in HMS Shannon, but, like all the cadets of his Term, his future was to be profoundly influenced by the chain of events set in motion by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Instead of an appointment to Shannon, Bostock received the order, just a few days after his arrival home on leave, to rejoin the Cornwall (Captain W M Ellerton) for active service.
He joined the Cornwall in a mood of buoyant optimism: "I dont think there is much doubt as to the result of this little picknick. I think Germany will be beaten pretty badly. I cant understand why they want war as they undoubtedly do" (1 August) As Cornwall was to be employed on protecting the trade routes in the South Atlantic, Bostock appreciated that their chances of taking part in any major naval action were slim, but hoped that he might get some prize money through the capture of enemy merchant shipping. The monotonous nature of their patrol duties soon became apparent to the gunroom officers - "we are all getting pretty well sick of things, there really is nothing to distinguish one day from another" (21 August) - and the situation was made worse by the ship's acute shortage of provisions, which meant that their diet consisted to a large extent of tinned foods like corned beef (8 September, 19 October). In his letter home on 10 November Bostock mentions that they have heard of the loss of Rear-Admiral Craddock's squadron at Coronel and in early December Cornwall joined the squadron under Vice-Admiral Sturdee formed specifically to seek out and destroy the victorious German squadron. Bostock's hope that he would see some action was realized on 8 December when Cornwall took part in the Battle of the Falkland Islands and, after a long chase, sank the German cruiser Leipzig. He sent home a full account of the battle and of his own experiences during the fight with the Leipzig and, in his letter of 22 December, he refers to the animosity between the British ships after the action:
We are all very bitter with the Glasgow. I cant make out why she did not go on after the Dresden. As a matter of fact I dont think she was very keen on meeting her. She didnt seem to like the fire from the Leipzig and came round onto our port quarter and hid in our smoke, where she really did more harm than good.

Mss. letters of Lieutenant J Bostock to his parents and his brother Peter. Vol. II.  JB/2  3 June 1915 - 24 January 1921

This second volume of Bostock's letters covers his service as a Midshipman in HMS Warspite (5th Battle Squadron) from March 1915 to June 1916; as a Sub-Lieutenant in HMS Attack (1st Destroyer Flotilla) from June to August 1916 and in HMS Medway (13th Destroyer Flotilla) from August 1916 to December 1918 (he was promoted Lieutenant in March 1918); as a Lieutenant in the destroyer Walpole for a few weeks in early 1919 and in the battleship Ajax on the Mediterranean Station from January 1920 until the summer of 1921. From March 1915 onwards, his war service was therefore exclusively with the Grand Fleet in Northern waters. As the great majority of his letters are concerned with family matters or minor details of ship's routine, only those letters which are of more general interest have been copied and these are described below.
No 1 HMS Warspite 1 p. 3 June 1915
Mentions recent gunroom recreations, but "... one day is very like another."
No 2 HMS Warspite 1 p. 19 August 1915
Comments on the award of the VC to Midshipman W St A Malleson.
No 3 HMS Warspite 1 p. 27 December 1915
Some public school entry midshipmen have joined the ship. "They are not really much good and most of them seem half baked."
No 4 HMS Warspite 1 p. 6 June 1916
His initial reactions to the Battle of Jutland. "It was undoubtedly a great victory for us as the admiralty have stated our own losses to the full and seem to have minimized those of the Huns."
No 5 HMS Warspite 11 pp.
ND (ca June 1916) A long and interesting description of his own experiences at the Battle of Jutland, in which his action station was at the starboard 6-inch battery. Warspite suffered some damage during the action and there was a fire in Bostock's battery but he was not injured. A 7 pp. typed transcription has been made of this account.
No 6 HMS Attack 2 pp. 15 July 1916
"... we have great hopes of turning over to one of the new boats just commissioning."
No 7 HMS Medway 1 p. 19 November 1917
"Just a line to say that I was in the scrap on Saturday and that I am O.K. The ship was undamaged."
No 8 HMS Medway 6 pp. 18 November 1917
An interesting personal account of the action in the Heligoland Bight on 17 November 1917, which seems to confirm the subsequent judgement of historians that a superior British force failed to inflict any significant damage on a German force of light cruisers, destroyers and minesweepers.
No 9 HMS Medway 3 pp. 20 January 1918
Much to Bostock's relief, his Commanding Officer has been appointed to another ship.
No 10 HMS Medway 2 pp. 11 April 1918
Some amusing thoughts on the manpower shortage.
No 11 HMS Medway 2 pp. 23 November 1918
Armistice Day celebrations in Northern waters.
No 12 HMS Walpole 2 pp. 13 January 1919
The arrival of the German battleship Baden at Scapa Flow for internment; his thoughts on his new ship.
No 13 HMS Ajax 2 pp. 20 January 1920
The ship has just commissioned at Malta and is likely to be ordered to the Black Sea to embark refugees and bombard Bolshevik positions.
No 14 HMS Ajax 6 pp. 13 February 1920
The Ajax had been to Odessa to assist in the evacuation of refugees and General Schilling's Volunteer Army (one of the four armies under General Denikin). The evacuation had been chaotic, but Ajax's guns had kept the Bolshevik forces at a respectful distance during the proceedings.
No 15 HMS Ajax 3 pp. 17 March 1920
Because the Turkish Nationalist party seemed "... to be arming people and carrying out propaganda against the Allies ...", Constantinople had been placed under martial law and parties of marines landed from Ajax to help in its enforcement.
No 16 HMS Ajax 2 pp. 20 April 1920
The ship has been in action at Sochi with Bolshevik troops advancing south along the eastern shore of the Black Sea towards Batpum.
No 17 HMS Ajax 2 pp. 1 May 1920
"The remains of Denikin's men at Sochi are in a pretty bad way and with very little Food."
No 18 HMS Ajax 2 pp. 5 June 1920
Ajax is acting as guard ship at Sevastopol.
No 19 HMS Ajax 2 pp. 19 June 1920
The ship is at Batoum, where "they are beginning to get ready to evacuate the place and we have had a party ashore blowing up guns for the (last) two days." He expects the Bolsheviks to occupy the town within a few weeks.
No 20 HMS Ajax 1 p. 12 July 1920
Batoum "... is now in the hands of the Georgians who have proclaimed martial law and are busy arresting anyone of any note."
No 21 HMS Ajax 2 pp. 26 July 1920
The ship is back at Constantinople, where the Nationalists are still causing problems.
No 22 HMS Ajax 2 pp. 15 August 1920
The ship is at Ismid, and Bostock concludes that "... the nationalist business seems to be more or less finished as an organized show."
No 23 HMS Ajax 3 pp. 4 December 1920
He refers to the fate of the large number of White Russian refugees.
No 24 HMS Ajax 3 pp. 24 January 1921 An explanation of the unusual gun mountings in the ship and the difficulties that they pose.

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