Mon, 09 May 2016
A PLAQUE commemorating a former Bradfield College pupil for his wartime naval heroism has been dedicated at a ceremony.
Lt Cdr Geoffrey Saxton White was the commanding officer of a British submarine in the First World War.
Born in 1886, he attended Bradfield College from 1900 to 1901 before joining Royal Naval training at HMS Britannia.
During the war he and his men were crucial to a naval campaign aimed at disrupting the supply route and communications of the then Ottoman Empire, now Turkey.
In 1918, Lt Cdr White was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after his submarine was damaged by an explosion and sunk. He remained on deck the whole time and was killed by a shell.
One of the survivors later said: “It was credit to us all to think we had such a brave captain... owing to his coolness he saved the boat half-a-dozen times.”
The unveiling was performed by the High Sheriff of Berkshire, Victoria Fishburn, and was attended by Admiral Sir James Perowne, headteacher Christopher Stevens and Lt Cdr White’s grandchildren, Lyn Shore, Andrew Campbell and Nicola Higgins.
The citation for the posthumous award of Lt Cdr White’s Victoria Cross, recorded in the London Gazette of May 24, 1919, stated: “For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Commanding Officer of HM Submarine E14 on 28 January 1918.
“HM Submarine E14 left Mudros on 27 January, under instructions to force the Narrows and attack the German ship Goeben, which was reported aground off Nagara Point after being damaged during her sortie from the Dardanelles.
“The latter vessel was not found and E14 turned back. At about 8.45am on 28 January a torpedo was fired from E14 at an enemy ship... 11 seconds after the torpedo left the tube a heavy explosion took place, caused all the lights to go out, and sprang the fore hatch.”
It added: “Leaking badly, the boat was blown to 15ft and at once a heavy fire came from the forts but the hull was not hit. E14 then dived and proceeded on her way out.
“Soon afterwards, the boat became out of control and, and as the air supply was nearly exhausted, Lt Cdr White decided to run the risk of proceeding on the surface.”
Under heavy fire from all sides his submarine limped towards shore to give the crew a chance of being saved. He remained on deck the whole time himself until he was killed by a shell.
The plaque was dedicated at the ceremony, on Saturday, by school chaplain the Rev Stephen Gray.