achieved notoriety when she was wrecked in Lambert’s Bay on 16 January 1901, thereby becoming the only Royal Navy ship to be lost during the Boer War.
A total of 272 Queen’s South Africa Medals were awarded to the ship’s company of H.M.S. Sybille, 187 of them without clasp.
QSA (0) (Ast. Engr., R.N., H.M.S. Sybille) engraved naming;
1914-15 Star (Eng. Commr., R.N.);
British War and Victory Medals (Eng. Commr, R.N.)
William Dawson was born at New Brompton, Kent in January 1876 and was appointed a probationary Engineer in the Royal Navy in July 1896. Advanced to Assistant Engineer in July 1897, he served in H.M.S. Sybille from October 1900 until she was wrecked.
However, unlike four of his fellow officers who were severely reprimanded at the subsequent Court Martial held aboard the Monarch at Simonstown, Dawson was actually commended by his captain for removing and saving the Sybille’s gun-bedplates - he had, in fact, been asleep when the ship struck the reef, but immediately went below and ordered the watertight doors to be shut in the port and starboard engine rooms. Commendably prompt as these actions were, he still considered it dangerous for the engine room staff to remain because of the ship’s severe list to starboard and the resultant risk of the engines being lifted off their beds, in addition to which, there was a growing risk of steam escaping from fractured pipes. The subsequent order for the engine room staff to make for the upper deck was most likely, therefore, prompted by his swift and accurate report of such dangers to his senior - and may well have been responsible for avoiding loss of life.
By the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, he was serving in the rank of Engineer Commander as 1st Assistant to the Chief Engineer at Hong Kong Dockyard, where he had been employed since August 1911. In August 1915, however, he returned to sea with an appointment in the cruiser H.M.S. Blonde, in which ship he was commended for his services when she had to be refloated in August 1916. Then in January 1918, he removed to the Thunderer, in which battleship he remained employed until July 1919, when he returned to Hong Kong to resume his pre-war duties as 1st Assistant at the Dockyard.
Placed on the Retired List in the rank of Engineer Captain at his own request in January 1923, Dawson settled in Budleigh Salterton, Devon, where he died in July 1948.
H. Cayley served as the Navigating Lieutenant of H.M.S. Sybille during the Boer War. Four of the crew, including Cayley, were tried by Court Martial. Despite mitigating circumstances Cayley chose to resign his commission.
QSA (0) (Lieut. F. E. M. Roe, R.N., H.M.S. Sybille) engraved naming
Frank Edward Mervyn Roe was born in Salisbury on 21 January 1876. He entered the Royal Navy as a Cadet in July 1890 and was appointed a Sub Lieutenant/Acting Lieutenant in September 1895 and Lieutenant in December 1898. At the time of his promotion he was serving on the Harrier and it was reported that he was ‘a Navigator of the highest class’. Later, serving on the Pelorus, August-October 1900, he was reported as being a ‘Good Navigator, untrustworthy pilot, too slow to act as executive officer’. Worse still on his next ship, the Monarch, ‘Given to drinking a good deal of wine but not been seen otherwise than sober. Slow in thought & action’.
His papers show a hiatus in his service record between October 1900 and February 1905 but he is confirmed as a Lieutenant aboard the 2nd class cruiser Sybille for his QSA. The Captain was ashore at the time - some reports had it that he and other Officers were attending a party - and four Officers were subsequently found guilty at a court-martial for her loss. The crew abandoned the Sybille after she struck a reef during the night and were taken off in five boats, a process that took ten hours, one man being lost. Interestingly, in light of the above events, Roe was ‘retired under the provisions of Order of Council of 30 December 1884’ in late 1902. Nevertheless his service record resumes with service on the Hermione ‘for passage home during February/March 1905. He then served on the battleship Canopus, December 1905-December 1906. On 10 December 1906 he was tried by Court Martial ‘for negligent performance of duty’ for which he was reprimanded and dismissed from the ship. Serving on Europa, January-February 1907 and Hyacinth, February-June 1907, his naval career lurched to an end when he was again tried by Court Martial ‘for drinking intoxicating liquors to excess’, for which he was deprived of one years seniority and dismissed from the ship. On 24 July 1907 as a result of his misconduct he was placed on the Retired List.
Opting for the Army on the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, Roe attested service with the Rifle Brigade and was promoted to Corporal in October 1914. On 23 November 1914 he entered the France/Flanders theatre of war with the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade. His brave actions on 18 December 1914 were rewarded with the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (London Gazette 1 April 1915), the citation for which reads, ‘For gallant conduct on 18th December, 1914, in voluntarily going to reconnoitre the enemy’s trenches and remaining out for a period of three hours in a position of danger’.
On 4 February 1915, near Ploegsteert Wood, he received a shrapnel wound to his arm and was invalided home. Commissioned an officer in the 5th (Reserve) Battalion Rifle Brigade on 7 February, he returned to France in May 1915 and in July was advanced to Captain. On 9 July he was wounded a second time while engaged in erecting wire entanglements in front of the trenches and was again evacuated to England.
For his services he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 1 January 1916). Returning to France for the third time in March 1916, Captain Roe, 12th Battalion Rifle Brigade was mortally wounded on 6 June 1916 and died the next day at No.10 Casualty Clearing Station. He was buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.
Assistant Paymaster Archibald Charles Stanley BERE, subsequent to the wreck of HMS "Sybille", " ….. received an expression of their Lordship's appreciation of gallantry at the wreck of "Sybille"; Capt. H.P.Williams , commanding "Sybille", wrote to Rear-Admiral Sir Robert H. Harris as follows: - "I beg to bring to your notice the very gallant behaviour of Lt. Pigon and Assistant Paymaster Bere who attempted to swim out to get hold of a drift line from the "Sybille" in a very heavy surf. These two officers, although not strong or very good swimmers, risked their lives at a time when the natives of the place would do nothing to help, and although they were unsuccessful, I consider their gallantry is worthy of the highest praise".
Archibald BERE enlisted in the RN as a clerk on 15/1/1897, and, as Clerk on HMS "Tauranga" on the Australian Station, was present during the Samoan fighting in 1899. No medal or clasp awarded. He joined "Sybille" as Ass.PM on 6/10/1900 and landed on duty at Lambert's Bay 20-31 February, 1901. Subsequent to a number of postings and qualifications, He earned the Naval General Service medal 1909-1914 with clasp serving on HMS "Pelorus". Extensively qualified in French, Italian and German, he served with Naval Intelligence and was posted to HMS "Pembroke" in January 1915 and was retired Medically Unfit 19/2/1916. His hard working character doubtless had an adverse effect on his health.