Skuse and Florence Hurley were married at the Countess of Huntingdon's
Chapel in Bath in 1889. Joseph was originally from Brighton and at only
26 years old was a Professor of Music and an accomplished violinist.
Douglas Joseph Skuse was born at the family home on Monday 21st September
1891.. the same day that basketball was invented. He was baptised in
the Church of England on 14th October 1891. Douglas was their third
child after daughters Lilian and Marjorie and the family lived at 1
Kelston View, Sydney Buildings, George Street in Bathwick.. an affluent
area of Bath in Somerset. The family however split when Florence successfully
filed for divorce in 1902, by reason of the cruelty and adultery of
her husband Joseph, who was performing with the Bath Pump Room Orchestra.
Sadly.. Marjorie passed away aged only three.
just 4ft 6 had only just turned fourteen years old when he joined the
Royal Marine Artillery and the Royal Marine Band as a clarinet and violin
player on 5th October 1905, enlisting at Eastney. His father Joseph..
and next of kin was by now living at 37 Cedar Road, Cricklewood in North
West London. His father’s expertise on the violin guided him to
the position of leader of the orchestra and conductor at Drury Lane
and the Royal Opera Covent Garden.
Band Boy Skuse had
only been serving for three days when amazingly he was sent to join
the Royal Marine Band onboard HMS Renown.. on 8th October, not only
that but he was tasked with the role of 1st Violin. Douglas obviously
made a great impression on violin to be selected for the tour and to
have had his training put on hold. He must have been playing the violin
before he could walk, with his father a master of his trade.
Renown left Portsmouth bound for Genoa in Italy. At Genoa, the Prince
and Princess of Wales.. (the future King George V and Queen Mary) embarked
for a royal tour of India. Band Boy Douglas was invited by the Princess
to play his violin to her in her cabin each evening before dinner. At
the conclusion of the tour.. Renown departed Karachi on 23rd March 1906
and arrived back at Portsmouth on 7th May.
On his return to
the School of Music, he continued with his military training courses,
completing training in September 1907. Douglas then joined the band
onboard the battleship HMS Queen and served on her for fifteen months.
In March 1909, he joined the Royal Marine Band on HMS Dreadnaught for
a two year stint.. she was the flagship of the Home Fleet and the battleship
that revolutionised naval power, she represented such an advance in
naval technology that her name came to be associated with an entire
generation of battleships.
Douglas was then posted onboard a series of Home Fleet battleships...
HMS Africa, HMS King Edward VII, before a second spell on HMS Queen.
Musician Skuse was assigned a three-year posting onboard HMS Lord Nelson,
she was the flagship of the Channel Fleet when the First World War began
in 1914. The ship was then transferred to the Mediterranean Sea in early
1915 to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign. HMS Lord Nelson remained
there, becoming the flagship of the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron.
On 27th February
1918, Douglas was posted to HMS Britannia, joining the ship at Simon's
Town Naval Base in South Africa where she was tied up for a month. The
ship transited too and forth from Simon’s Town and Sierra Leone,
also stopping occasionally at St Helena, Ascension Islands and Dakar.
In September, the number on the sick list jumped significantly while
in Sierra Leone, reflecting the onset of the second wave of the 1918
influenza pandemic (the ‘Spanish Flu’), the number on the
sick list peaked at 337. In October and November with the war drawing
to a close, the ship was conducting patrol and convoy escort duties
in the Atlantic Ocean supporting supply convoys to South Africa which
brought her into the area of the Straits of Gibraltar.
On the morning of 9th November 1918, Britannia was in the western entrance
to the Strait of Gibraltar when she was torpedoed off Cape Trafalgar
by the German submarine UB-50. Soon after 0800, the U-boat fired three
torpedoes and one hit the ship’s aft on the port side, there was
a large explosion. The Britannia developed a 10-degree list to port.
A few minutes later, a second explosion started a fire in a 9.2-inch
magazine, which in turn caused a cordite explosion in the magazine.
It was too difficult to launch the ship's boats so some of the company
transferred to one of the escorting vessels which came alongside. Meanwhile,
the ship was full of cordite fumes which claimed many lives. Assisting
vessels, including HMS Rocksands and HMS Corepsis, transferred the rest
of the company from the sinking ship. Flooding with water, Britannia
began to list to port. A distress call went out in the chaos that ensued,
fortunately for some of the crew, they managed to transfer directly
to one of the escorting vessels which came alongside. Following the
call for help, two other ships were scrambled from Gibraltar to assist
Britannia's two escorts. At about 09.30, a periscope was spotted near
HMS Britannia. The Britannia opened fire with her guns and the enemy
submarine again disappeared from view. By this time, USS Druid and another
ship now on the scene, attempted to locate the enemy submarine and attacked
with depth charges... ultimately, UB-50 managed to escape. Britannia
held her 10-degree list for two and a half hours before turning turtle
and sinking at 11.31, enough time to allow most of the crew to be taken
Most of the men who were lost were killed by toxic smoke from the burning
cordite, fifty men died and eighty were injured, over seven hundred
men were rescued and taken to Gibraltar. Britannia was sunk only two
days before the Armistice ending the First World War was signed on 11th
November 1918. She was one of the last British warships lost in the
war and remains a war grave off the coast of Spain.
Musician Douglas J Skuse aged 26 was one of the eighty, he was seriously
injured and taken to the Royal Naval Hospital Gibraltar.. as a result
of his wounds, he sadly passed away two days later on 11th November
1918.. the last day of the First World War.. his father Joseph was notified.
Douglas is buried in the North Front (or Garrison) Cemetery in Gibraltar,
Section B Grave 4221 and remembered there on the World War I Memorial
located to the west of Line Wall Road.
Musician Skuse was awarded The 1914-15 Star.. recipients of this medal
also received the British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal, they were
collectively known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.
Joseph passed away on 28th May 1941 aged 79.