John Hiscock was lost on the HMS Invincible

Reprinted from The Packet, November 1, 2017
by Lester Green

John was born at Hickman’s Harbour on March 2, 1896 to William and Amelia (Baker) Hiscock. His mother passed away when he was a young boy. His father re-married in 1908 to the widow Julia Jane Vivian (nee Baker) and moved to Northern Bight where John spent his teenage years. John had one sister, Naomi, born on June 25, 1911 but she died a year later.

Evening Telegram, 8 June 1916

John signed his application for enlistment in the Royal Naval Reserve on May 07, 1915 and  listed his place of birth as Hickman’s Harbour but his usual place of adobe as Northern Bight. His ships ledger shows that his period of engagement was for one year in the Reserve. Drill ship records for the HMS Calypso indicate that he spent twenty-eight day between May -June conducting navy training. He was assigned and transported overseas aboard the HMS Calgarian. Upon arrival at England, he was assigned to HMS Victory, a shore based station at Plymouth, England. There he continued training and waited for his transfer orders to a ship.

On November 23, he was assigned to the HMS Invincible and served for the next six months. The HMS Invincible was the latest in what the British Naval Command described as innovative battle cruisers that carried heavy guns but light armour which allowed for exceptional fast speed and manoeuvrability for the time period.

On May 31, 1916, Seaman Hiscock was aboard the HMS Invincible during the infamous Battle of Jutland fought between the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet in the North Sea near Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula.

Ships Ledger

About two hours earlier, the HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary were destroyed by German High Sea Fleet. The HMS Invincible engaged the German fleet and was struck by German gunnery. The ship was hit five times by shells from the German battle cruisers Derrflinger and Lutzow. The final hit struck the “Q” turret separating it from the cruiser and igniting the magazine. A massive explosion occurred and engulfed the entire ship which slipped into the cold water of the North Sea in less than a minute taking most all of the crew. The crew numbered 1031 and when the ship settled to the bottom, 1025 men went to a icy water grave. Among those that was loss on that horrific day was Seaman John Hiscock. The Evening Telegram carried the shocking headline that no family wanted to read: John Hiscock Lost on HMS Invincible. The article started with these dreadful words: “I regret to inform you…”

The Battle of the Jutland involved the sinking of fourteen British and eleven German ships with a tremendous loss of life to both sides. It was described as the largest naval battle in that war and was the last major battle fought primarily by battleships reminding us that war is horrendous to both sides.

The people of Southwest Arm will be forever connected with this battle because of  the sacrifice of one of their own, Seaman John Hiscock. He had enlisted for period of one year but one year later he gave his life so that others may be free. He is remembered with honour at Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial.

Naval application

This article brings to an end the section on sailors who made the supreme sacrifices and will forever indebt the people of the region to their memories and families. It is a dept that we cannot repay but can forever engrave in our memories and those of the region. Lest we forget.

The next section in Where Once They Sailed will take a closer look at families that had more than one son serving in the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. Families that had more than one son carried the extra burden of constantly worrying and listening to the news hoping to hear something about their sons. The articles will start with the story of the tremendous contribution by Joseph and Martha Smith family of Gooseberry Cove and the services of their five boys: Luke, John, Ben, Urias and Isaac Joseph.