Douglas J Skuse 1891-1918
Royal Marine Artillery 11571
Served 1905-1918

Joseph 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.

Douglas.. measuring 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 off.
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.

RIP Douglas

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