Joseph Munro was born in Tongue, son of Duncan Munro and Christina Macleod of Talmine Melness. They were married in Tarbert Harris in 1868. He was a herring fisherman before the outbreak of the First World War and was called up in August 1914, by the Royal Naval Reserve. He left Melness alongside all the other fishermen for Wick and the train, which took them to the naval depots and training camps.
He was posted to the Battle Cruiser H.M.S. Kent, a ship of 9,800 tons that had been built in 1903. The Kent had a top speed of 24 knots and was armed with 14x 6inch guns, eleven other men from Melness also served on this ship. (The names of the other Melness men who served on H.M.S. Kent can be found in the Roll of Honour at the end of this section.)
In November 1914, H.M.S. Kent was under a part of the British fleet commanded by Admiral Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee, sent to defend the Falkland Islands from German attack. British Intelligence had discovered the German China Squadron was returning to Germany, from Japan via South America and may attack the Falklands. The German China Squadron commanded by Admiral Maximillian Von Spree consisted of the Cruisers ‘Gneisenau’ and ‘Scharnhorst’, the light Cruisers ‘Dresden’, ‘Liepzig’ and the ‘Nurnberg’. The two fleets first met off the coast of Chile, the Germans sank the British ships H.M.S. ‘Good Hope’ and H.M.S ‘Monmouth’, the other ships H.M.S. ‘Glasgow’ and the armed merchant ship H.M.S. ‘Otranto’ had to withdraw.
H.M.S. Kent arrived in the Falklands Islands after steaming Southwest from Sierra Leone, joining the fleet off the coast of Brazil. The British fleet now consisted of the Cruisers ‘Carnarvon’, ‘Cornwall’, ‘Glasgow’, ‘Kent’ and ‘Bristol’ with the armed merchant vessels ‘Macedonia’ and ‘Otranto’ in support.
The British fleet had just entered Port Stanley to refuel, when the enemy launched their attack and began to shell the harbour. The Germans not realising the British fleet had just arrived in the Falklands, found they were outnumbered and had to flee with the British Cruisers in hot pursuit.
The German fleet was quickly caught and engaged, after a short battle all the German ships were destroyed except the ‘Nurnberg’ which had managed to escape chased by H.M.S. Kent. The Kent pursued the ‘Nurnberg’ a distance of one hundred and fifty miles south of the Falkland Islands, burning every scrap of wood on board to supplement her coal and maintain maximum speed. H.M.S. Kent managed to close within 11,000 yards of the enemy ship and was missed by two salvoes before the ‘Nurnbergs’ gunners scored a direct hit on the Kents upperdeck. As the German ship began to slip away at dusk, two of its overworked boilers suddenly blew up and the ship stopped dead in the water.
The Kent now moved into 3,000yards and a shooting match began, the British 6inch guns taking a heavier toll than the German 4inch and by 6:25pm the ‘Nurnberg’ was down at the stern and a blaze. At 6:35pm the ‘Nurnberg’ fired one more salvo, then falling silent causing the Kent to cease-fire and await the enemy surrender. When the enemy colours failed to come down H.M.S. Kent opened fire for five more minutes; the enemy colours were then lowered.
German sailors now began to abandon ship and the Captain of H.M.S. Kent lowered his only two undamaged lifeboats to pick up survivors, as they did this the ‘Nurnberg’ suddenly turned over and sank at 7:27pm. The British sailors only found twelve Germans alive in the water from a crew on board the ‘Nurnberg’ of four hundred, the losses on board the Kent were four men killed and twelve wounded.
Seaman Joseph Munro served on board H.M.S Kent at the Battle of the Falklands in 1914; I have also been told he was at the Battle of Jutland in 1915. H.M.S Kent did not serve at the Battle of Jutland so he may have been on another ship, but I have not been able to confirm this. Joseph Munro was accidentally drowned at sea on the 13th of March 1916 he was thirty-four years of age.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLE Munro Joseph 3499B. Seaman . R.N.R H.M.S. Kent. Died 13-03-16.
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION Munro Seaman Joseph 3499B. H.M.S. Kent. Royal Naval Reserve. Accidentally drowned on the 13 of March 1916. Age 34. Son of Mr and Mrs Duncan and Crissie Munro of Talmine, Tongue, Lairg Sutherland. Panel 34.
Seaman Joseph Munro 3499B H.M.S. Kent has no known grave and is remembered on the PORTSMOUTH MEMORIAL TO THE MISSING on Southsea Common, Hampshire.
More information on HMS Kent can be found here http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-06CA-Kent.htm