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Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Saxon White

Geoffrey White was born at Bromley in Kent on 2nd Jul 1886 and he was the son of William Henry and Alice White of Charlwood Park House, Charlwood Street, Charlwood, Reigate, Surrey. At the time of the 1891 Census he was listed as living at home with his parents, a brother and a sister. On Sunday 31st March 1901 when the 1901 Census was conducted Geoffrey White was listed as a student at Bradfield College, Bradfield, near Reading, Berkshire.

He joined the Royal Navy as a Cadet on 15th May 1901, promotion to Midshipman followed on 30th Nov 1902 and he was appointed to the 12,950 ton Twin Screw Battle Ship HMS Glory in the Channel Fleet in July 1905.

Geoffrey White was promoted to Sub Lieutenant on 15th Feb 1906 and in August 1906 he was reported to be taking his Sub Lieutenants Courses at Portsmouth. On 26th Jan 1907 he was appointed to the 15,000 ton Twin Screw Battle Ship HMS Venerable in the Channel Fleet and promotion to Lieutenant followed on 1st Oct 1908.

Geoffrey White was appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Mercury (Portsmouth Submarine Flotilla) 'for Instruction in Submarines' on 11th Jan 1909 and then to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Forth (Devonport Submarine Flotilla) 'for Submarine B7 as First Lieutenant' on 1st May 1909.


At the time of the 1911 Census which was conducted on Sunday 2nd April 1911 he was listed as a Lieutenant living in HMS Vivid (the Royal Naval Barracks) at Devonport. His first Command appointment followed, on 25th Jul 1911, with an appointment to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Arrogant at Portsmouth 'for Submarine A4 in Command'.

This was followed, on 30th Nov 1911, by an appointment to HMS Vulcan (Submarine Section VII) at Chatham 'for Submarine C27 in Command'. Geoffrey White was relieved in C27 by Lieutenant Commander Claude C Dobson, Royal Navy by April 1914 having been appointed to the Battleship HMS Monarch for his 'Big Ship' time on 7th Apr 1914.

On his return to submarines in 1915 he was appointed (Nominal List dated 7th Oct 1915) to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Maidstone (8th Submarine Flotilla) at Harwich 'for Submarine Duties' to date 29th Sep 1915. On 2nd Dec 1915 he was appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Titania (11th Submarine Flotilla) at Blyth 'for Submarine D8 in Command'

The Nominal List of 10th Feb 1916 shows his further appointment to HMS Maidstone 'for Submarines' and, on 10th May 1916 'for Submarine D6 in Command' to date 15th May 1916. Submarine D6 was transferred to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Vulcan (3rd Submarine Flotilla) at Immingham (Nominal List dated 1st Jul 1916).

Geoffrey White then relieved Lieutenant Commander Edward Lieutenant Commander Edward Boyle with an appointment to HMS Europa (Special Service Flotilla I) 'for Submarine E14 in Command' to date 10th Aug 1916 – Nominal List dated 1st Sep 1916. In January 1918 Submarine E14 was transferred from Corfu to the Dardanelles in an attempt to locate and sink the Turkish Battleship Goeben that had been damaged by mines and had then run aground in the Dardanelles.

E14 in 1914
E14 in 1914

Submarine E14 failed to find the target which, by the time that E14 reached the grounding position, had been re-floated and towed away to safety. On 28th Jan 1918 Submarine E14 was damaged by an explosion as the boat was leaving the Dardanelles. The Submarine sank after being run aground at Kum Kale.

Geoffrey Saxton White was killed by shellfire, many of his crew were killed and injured and all the officers died. The survivors were made Prisoner of War. Lieutenant Commander White was later awarded the Victoria Cross. This was announced in the London Gazette of 24th May 1919.

The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officer:

Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Saxton White, RN.

For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Commanding Officer of HM Submarine E14 on the 28th of January, 1918.

E14 left Mudros on the 27th of January under instructions to force the Narrows and attack the "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 lights to go out, and sprang the fore hatch. Leaking badly the boat was blown to 15 feet, 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 as the air supply was nearly exhausted, Lieutenant-Commander White decided to run the risk of proceeding on the surface.

Heavy fire was immediately opened from both sides, and, after running the gauntlet for half-an-hour, being steered from below, E14 was so badly damaged that Lieutenant-Commander White turned towards the shore in order to give the crew a chance of being saved. He remained on deck the whole time himself until he was killed by a shell.

Geoffrey Saxton White was married to Daphne M Pemberton in Plymouth in Devon in 1911. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval War Memorial on Panel No. 28.

Geoffrey Saxton White's Victoria Cross and other medals are privately helda t the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth.


1 comment

Geoffrey White married Sibyl Thomas in 1911 not Daphne Pemberton.
In his will he left £179 17s to her and at the time she was living in Dovercourt Essex
   Ray Tuck Tue, 21 Jun 2016

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