Seaman on legendary Indian ship – HMIS Dufferin

Reprinted from The Packet, November 1, 2018
by Lester Green

Seaman Francis King. Courtesy of Barbara Marsh

Seaman Francis King was one of two brothers to enlist for services in the Great War. Unlike his brother, William John, who had enlisted with Royal Newfoundland Regiment, he enlisted with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve in 1915. He was aboard the HMIS Dufferin when it carried supplies to Aqaba and removed 600 Turkish prisoners during the Arab conflict.

Matthias King of St. Jones Within had two sons that enlisted for armed service with the British to defend against Germany during the Great War. Mathias had lost his wife in March of 1911 leaving him with several children to raise.

Francis, his second oldest son, travelled to St. John’s to enlist with the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. His naval engagement papers record the date of December 27, 1915 for his enlistment at the HMS Calypso. However, before he completed his basic training in April it became known as the HMS Briton.

Postcard of RMS Dufferin

He sailed overseas in late April 1916 aboard the RMS Pretorian and was assigned to the Naval base at HMS Vivid I, Devonport. He completed further training and was assigned to Defensively Armed Merchant Ships (DAMS) in the area. On November 4, he was deployed to the legendary ship, HMIS Dufferin belonging to the Royal Indian Marine.

The Dufferin was built as a troop ship in 1905 to transport service men between India, Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong and Africa. During the Great War the ship was re-commissioned as an auxiliary ship to transport men between Britain and India to the East Indies Naval Station.

Seaman King served on the Dufferin between November 1916 to March 1918. He was part of the crew aboard the Dufferin which carried supplies to Aqaba during the conflict between the Arab and Turkish forces in July 1917.

The Arabs were led by Thomas Edward Lawrence or more commonly recorded in history and Hollywood movies as Lawrence of Arabia. The Dufferin landed supplies at Aqaba and took 600 Turkish prisoners aboard transporting them back to the naval station. This uprising led by Lawrence of Arabia was considered by many to be a great Arab victory for the people of the region.

Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve Ships Ledger. Source TRPAD_ GN 182.5

At home, Francis’ brother left St. Jones Within in May 1918 with full intention of joining the Royal Naval Reserve like his older brother. He completed a medical exam on May 22 and was found to be medical unfit for service in the Royal Naval Reserve because of “defective vision” by the Fleet Surgeon of the HMS Briton.

William John was extremely disappointed because he always wanted to be a sailor and had assumed that his experience with the schooner fishery would have insured acceptance into the navy. It is interesting to note that someone had scribbled the words “Try Army” across his medical certificate.

Seaman Francis King’s brother, William John King. Courtesy of Kevin King

Undeterred by this rejection and within days, William John visited the Royal Newfoundland Regiment recruitment office. He was successful and military records indicate that he enlisted on May 25 and was attested for general service with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Seaman King was transferred to HMS Vivid III on March 21, 1918 where he spent the next six months. His final naval assignment overseas was at the HMS President III before receiving orders back to HMS Vivid III.

He received his final orders for transfer back to HMS Briton in February 1919 where he was demobilized on April 10, 1919.

Seaman Francis King returned home for a short period of time before moving to the Maritimes where he raised a family until his death.