Name:Frank Bousfield Somerville
DoB: March 8 1897
Regt: HMS “Conway”; Midshipman (probationary), R.F.R.,. H.M.S. ” Formidable.”
DoD: January 1 1915
Academic Career: CGS: 1906-12
Frank was the second child of seven born to Michael B. Somerville and Mary Elizabeth Somerville of 95 Scotland Road, Stanwix, Carlisle. In the 1911 Census, his siblings are listed as Margery (15), Tom (12), Olive (ten), (Winifred) Rosecleer (seven), Gordon (five) and Kathleen (seven months). Michael Somerville was a commercial traveller (flour trade). His father Thomas had been a coal dealer. When Michael died in 1940 he left over £8000.
Carlisle Grammar School 1906-12. Frank played in the cricket and football teams and won second prize at sports day in the cricket ball throwing, and he was first in the egg and spoon race in 1909. He won academic prizes for algebra, French and mathematics.
Frank was on a training ship in the Mersey after leaving school and had joined HMS Formidable in August 1914.
He was one of 600 men lost on New Year’s Day 1915 when a German submarine, U24, torpedoed his ship, he was 17. Carlisle Grammar School Memorial Register erroneously recorded his death as June 1 1915 (Great War, Midshipman (probationary), R.F.R., H.M.S. ” Formidable.” Drowned, June 1, 1915.) HMS Formidable was the first British battleship sunk in the First World War. The fleet had been on manoeuvres on December 31 and had gone over the same ground in so doing. It was a clear night with a full moon, and so proved an easy target for the U boat. As HMS Formidable was the last in line she became the one attacked. Commander KGB Dewar on board the HMS Prince of Wales later wrote that hostile ships should have been expected in the area and as this was simply an exercise such a risk should not have been taken.
Of the 747 men on the Formidable, 34 Officers and 513 ratings died. They were either blown up by the torpedo attack, drowned, or died of exposure. Of these only 18 bodies were recovered; Frank’s body was not one of them. Some survivors were brought in by HMS Topaze, some by HMS Diamond, some by the Provident (a trawler), and some spent more than 22 hours battling the seas in atrocious conditions before landing at Lyme Regis in Dorset. Of the 72 or 73 in the lifeboat, only 33 survived. Mark Potts and Tony Marks’ book “Before the Bells have Faded” contain graphic accounts from some of the survivors of their ordeal. The book also lists the whole ship’s company..
Royal Navy, H.M.S. Formidable
The Cumberland News reported Frank’s death (“A promising young Carlisle lad”) on 9 January 1915 and revealed two other men on board from Carlisle had been saved. Frank’s family had actually received a card from him on New Year’s Day.
a) Carlisle School Memorial Register 1264-1924
1911 RG RG14/31339
c) FreeBMD Births
the UK and Commonwealth War Graves Register
e) World War 1 – Casualty Lists of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies Researched & compiled by Don Kindell
f) ** “Before the Bells have Faded” Mark Potts and Tony Marks The Naval and Military Press 2004
g) The Carliol 1915.
h) The Cumberland News 9 January 1915