HMS Thunder Child

03-Jun 04:00 #ThunderChild

03-Jun 04:00 #ThunderChild

HMS Thunder Child

HMS Thunder Child was a Majestic class battleship launched February 30, 1894, and commanded by Captain Allenby.

 

Although Wells described Thunder Child as a ‘ram’, the sole sole torpedo ram to see service with the Royal Navy from 1881 to 1903 was HMS Polyphemus, and it is possible that Wells’ use of the term ‘torpedo ram’ was merely referring to the ram bows common in Victorian warships of the time.

 

The Majestic class of 9 pre-dreadnought battleships were built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1890s under the Spencer Programme, named after the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Poyntz Spencer. 9 units were commissioned, including: HMS Majestic, Caesar, Hannibal, Illustrious, Jupiter, Magnificent, Thunder Child, Prince George, and Victorious between 1894 and 1897.

 

The Majestics introduced a number of significant improvements to British battleship design, including armoured gun shields for the barbette-mounted main battery guns. The ships were armed with a main battery of four BL 12-inch Mark VIII guns, the first large-calibre weapon in the Royal Navy to use smokeless propellant. They were also the first British ships to incorporate Harvey armour.

03-Jun 04:30 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 03 June 1897 04:30 GMT

 

Off Bournemouth, detached from Channel Squadron with HMS Colossus. Lookout reports bright green falling star with a long tail, passing overhead heading inland bearing 22 degrees, NNE. Ship speed 8 kts. Heading 112 degrees, ESE. Sky clear, seas light, winds calm.

03-Jun 18:00 @LtCarver

03-Jun 18:00 @LtCarver

Lieutenant Roger Carver

Lt. Roger Carver commanded HMS Thunder Child’s Royal Marine (Light Infantry) detachment during those crucial days in June 1897.

 

While no individual photograph of Lt. Carver exists, we were able to locate a photograph in “Black and White, November 13th, 1896,” titled the “Portsmouth Division Royal Marine Light Infantry – Winners of the Cup”, with both Lt Carver, and then Colour Sgt Howard in the front row. Lt Carver is on the left, Colour Sgt. Howard on the right. Lt Carver transfered to HMS #ThunderChild 2 months later, where he was joined by Sergeant Howard in March 1897, following the Colour Sergeant’s demotion.

03-Jun 18:01 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver.

 

I had been called to the bridge by Captain Allenby. Lt. Farmer, our Signals Officer, who had who had spent most of his watch fussing with the new experimental and highly temperamental wireless set that the Admiralty had seen fit to bestow on us, entered the bridge, He clutched a piece of paper like it was Holy Writ. “The falling star landed at Woking.”

 

“Really, Mr. Farmer,” Captain Allenby chuckled, plainly unimpressed by our new electric age. “…There was word about some loss of life,” added Lt. Farmer hesitantly.  Allenby frowned. He opened his mouth but was cut off by a shout from by the lookout, “Captain, flag hoist from Colossus.”

03-Jun 18:05 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 03 June 1897 18:05 GMT

 

Received flag hoist from HMS Colossus. Ordered to increase speed to 12 kts and assume position off Thames Estuary and await further orders.  Ship speed increased 12kts. New heading 67 degrees, ENE. Light cloud cover, seas light, winds calm.

04-Jun 07:00 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt Roger Carver, Marines, HMS Thunder Child, 04 June 1897 07:00 GMT

 

Ship’s company has become more tense since yesterday evening. Mr. Farmer’s wireless continues to bring us frightful news of more falling stars and fighting in Essex with the army having been mobilized.

 

04-Jun 23:55 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 05 June 1897 23:55 GMT

 

Lookout reports another falling star on a bearing of 315 degrees, NW. Bright green in colour. Captain orders ship’s speed increased to 14 kts. Heading 112 degrees, ENE. Sky clear, seas moderate, winds 12 kts ENE.

 

07-Jun 09:19 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 09:19 GMT

 

Lt. Farmer reports that the ship’s wireless is not working. He is trying to make repairs but remains doubtful, as he believes the cause may be due to some sort of interference with his signal.  Ship speed 14 kts. Heading 112 degrees, ESE. Sky clear, seas light, winds calm.

07-Jun 13:01 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:01 GMT

 

Off the coast near Shearness.   Observed black smoke arising from coast.  Captain orders speed slowed to 5 knots and a change of course to investigate.  Heading now NNW Low overcast, winds westerly. 10 mph some chop at sea. Colossus follows astern.

07-Jun 13:22 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:22 GMT

 

Drawing closer to coast. Now off Sheerness. Can plainly see with aide of binoculars waterfront aflame and populace crowding the wharf into small boats and making for open water. Lookout reports large metallic tower-like structure rising over the docks. Conditions as observed earlier: layer of black low-lying smoke now heavier close to shore.

07-Jun 13:25 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:25 GMT

 

I raised my glasses and stared wordlessly at the gleaming apparition rising over the town.

 

It towered above the steeple of the nearby church on three separate but flexible legs, a hooded carapace at its apex. Calmly and deliberately, like a young boy quashing an anthill, it pushed itself into the steeple, sending it clanging to the ground. “What in the hell is that?”

 

That, Mr. Carver,” said Captain Allenby, focusing his binoculars, “is the enemy. Sound action stations.”

07-Jun 13:26 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:26 GMT

 

“Open fire.” The deck shook under my feet as our twin twelve-inch guns in our fore and aft turrets flashed and roared.  I watched as the shells exploded around the Martian fighting machine, kicking up plumes off dirt and debris. “Get your shells on target, if you please,” said Allenby, intently watching the shoreline through his glasses from the wing of the bridge.

07-Jun 13:30 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:30 GMT

 

Captain orders action stations at 13:25 hrs. All guns manned and report ready. Main A and B turrets brought to bear against enemy. Captain orders flag hoist to Colossus: Will engage enemy machine in town. Captain orders open fire.

07-Jun 13:40 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:40 GMT

 

I looked fore across the bow to where Colossus had taken up position, some 100 yards from us. Our sister ship had swung aimed its main battery ashore and fired on a second Martian fighting machine that appeared in the town. Colossus’ gunners, by chance or design, had straddled the second Martian with their first round, which seemed to get their notice.

07-Jun 13:44 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:44 GMT

 

“Closer, but not quite,” said the captain, lowering his glasses.

 

“Look!” shouted Mr. Farmer, pointing.

 

We turned to watch one of the enemy fighting-machines step out from the town, across the stony beach and wade into the water towards us, as to challenge our position. The small boats that were the harbour scattered in every direction trying to get away. Colossus must’ve seen it too, as we watched it’s the barrels of its main batteries depress further as the turrets swung to get a bearing.

 

“Hard a port!’  yelled Allenby from the bridge wing. “Now!” He cupped his hands as he rasped into the speaking tube. “All batteries fire.” I felt the Thunder Child lurch suddenly and grabbed a rail with both hands, as the ship struggled to bring the full weight of her broadside to bear on the enemy.

07-Jun 13:45 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:45 GMT

 

Look out reports HMS Colossus has taken enemy fighting machine under fire.

07-Jun 13:55 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:55 GMT

 

I watched as the Colossus’s broadside erupt in fire and fury. Four twelve-inch shells arched out and struck the lead enemy fighting-machine, causing its carapace to detonate in a ball of fire. A great cheer went up from the bridge as the tripod reeled as if punched in the face and fell back into the water with a splash.

 

Now that’s shooting,” smiled Captain Allenby, lowering his glasses.

07-Jun 13:57 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 13:57 GMT

 

Our exaltation was short-lived. The surviving fighting-machine rose it is full height and from it rose an almost mournful cry of, “Ulla! Ulla!” that boomed out over voices, drowning us out into shocked silence.

07-Jun 14:01 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:01 GMT

 

Look out reports a second Martian machine standing on the shoreline.

07-Jun 14:02 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:02 GMT

 

I cursed under my breath as I saw the new fighting-machine on the shoreline. The people left on the nearby pier saw it too; through my glasses I could see them push each other towards the already overcrowded small craft, shoving some hapless individuals into the water, their arms windmilling as they went. The fighting machine extended a long black tube and directed at the masses at the pier.

07-Jun 14:03 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:03 GMT

 

Look out reports the second Martian machine producing what appears to be smokescreen from a long black tube and projecting towards the people on the pier. Smoke is black, heavy and lays close to the water.

 

07-Jun 14:04 @LtCarver

07-Jun 14:04 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:04 GMT

 

I could hear the screams of the people crowded on the pier echo across the water as the black smoke fell on them. They cried in terror, trying to escape, some even jumped into the water. As the smoke covered them, their voices began to choke out.

 

My mouth hung open.

07-Jun 14:05 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:05 GMT

 

Look out reports black smoke clearing from the pier. Reports no-one left alive.

07-Jun 14:06 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:06 GMT

 

I lowered my binoculars. “It murdered them wholesale.”

 

“No, Carver,” said Mr. Farmer, bitterly. “That would require an acceptance of equality between us. It’s an extermination. That’s what it is. Like a farmer would poison an infestation of vermin.”

07-Jun 14:07 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:07 GMT

 

All eyes were on the second now Martian now, as it raised a camera-like apparatus with a circular mirror and directed it towards the victorious Colossus. It flashed and stabbed out, knife-like at the beating heart of the battleship. The Colossus erupted in fire and steam as it was sundered from bow to stern by the invisible blade.

 

07-Jun 14:08 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:08 GMT

 

HMS Colossus destroyed by enemy action.

07-Jun 14:09 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:09 GMT

 

“My God in heaven,” Allenby lowered his glasses as he watched the expanding column of smoke and steam arise from the sinking pyre of the Colossus. He turned back and called out, “All batteries fire! Fire as you bear!” The ship rocked as our main batteries engaged the enemy.

 

The smoke cleared.  To our immense encouragement, we had hit the second fighting-machine, damaging it in its rearmost leg with a glancing blow. It limped away from us, almost painfully pulling its injured leg with the remaining two, towards the safety of its partner, calling out, “Ulla! Ulla!”

07-Jun 14:11 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:11 GMT

 

Scored hit on enemy fighting-machine, damaging it, with fire from forward turret. We are closing the distance.

07-Jun 14:12 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:12 GMT

 

We are rapidly closing the range between us and the injured Martian. The captain’s aim had been to destroy it before it could receive aid from its companion advancing from the shoreline.  However, that point was already moot: the Martian had already joined its stricken partner. It extended its long black tube and began to produce the same thick, low-hanging black smoke that had exterminated the hapless townsfolk.

 

07-Jun 14:13 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:13 GMT

 

Second fighting-machine producing stream of black smoke.

07-Jun 14:14 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, Royal Marines, HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:14 GMT

 

For a fleeting instant, I thought the captain mad enough to pierce the black wall of swirling smoke that was drifting towards us with the ship and ram the Martian. But then, I heard him call out from the wing of the bridge, “Hard starboard! All engines full ahead.”

 

I gripped the railing and exhaled in relief. I heard the clang of the engine telegraph and could feel the ship begin to heel to the right as she began her turn. The smoke would miss us.

 

07-Jun 14:15 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:15 GMT

 

Thunder Child breaks contact with enemy.

07-Jun 14:30 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 07 June 1897 14:30 GMT

 

We were rapidly retreating from the enemy.  There was no putting a brave face on it. I looked at the captain. He stood silently on the bridge looking out to sea, his faced fixed in a frown. Our ship – the Thunder Child – was the pride of the Royal Navy and the Empire. A marvel of the modern age. I looked back at the cloud of black smoke astern us that now smothered the coast. But what could we do against that?

08-Jun 09:15 #ThunderChild

Thames Estuary

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 08 June 1897 09:15 GMT

 

Arrived off Thames Estuary. Waters are busy with civilian shipping of all manner. Light cloud cover, seas moderate, winds from the northeast, 16 mph.  Channel Squadron under Admiral Sir Walter Kerr on HMS Majestic, reinforced by elements of Atlantic Squadron, steaming in line ahead close to shore. Continued wireless interference.

08-Jun 09:19 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines, #Thunder Child, 08 June 1897 09:19 GMT

 

I joined Farmer on the bridge that morning as we entered the great estuary.  Captain Allenby appeared on the bridge briefly. He has remained in his sea cabin for much of our time since the battle. When he does emerge, it seems only to brood.

09-Jun 10:25 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 10:25 GMT

 

Thunder Child plowed serenely through the water.  Shipping of sort slipped around us. Everything from giant three-funnelled ocean liners to simple fishing smacks jockeyed for position, trying to close into the beach and piers to take off as many of the poor souls as possible who were crowded onshore.

09-Jun 10:27 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 08 June 1897 10:25 GMT

 

“Flag hoist from the Majestic, sir,” reported the lookout.

 

I raised my glasses and read the string of signal flags fluttering in the stiff breeze from the flagship’s mast. “Report to the captain at once,” I said to the young midshipman beside me, “It seems we’re being summoned aboard.”

09-Jun 10:40 #ThunderChild

09-Jun 10:40 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 10:40 GMT

 

Captain Allenby and Lt Commander Carver summoned to meet with C in C Channel Squadron Admiral Sir Walter Kerr on HMS Majestic.

09-Jun 10:41 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 10:41 GMT

 

Captain Allenby and I stepped from Thunder Child’s whaleboat onto the first rung of rope ladder that led up to Majestic’s deck, piped aboard by the bosun’s whistle.

09-Jun 10:44 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 10:44 GMT

 

…I found it odd. Despite what they had heard, the crew seemed complacent, disciplined, but acting in such a relaxed manner that belied the threat to the whole world. If only they knew…

09-Jun 10:46 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 10:46 GMT

 

We were escorted into the wood-panelled sea cabin of Admiral Sir Walter Kerr. He motioned to the two chairs before his mahogany desk. “Sit down gentlemen.” He lit his cigar and puffed on it. “A shame about the Colossus. We could’ve used her.”

 

“Yes, Admiral,” agreed Allenby, absently.

 

“…of course, there’s no understating your bravery or that of the crew of Thunder Child,” continued the Admiral. “It’s just these… things…”

 

“I know sir,” said Allenby “There’s no word to describe them…”

 

“…but alien,” I found myself piping up suddenly.

09-Jun 10:48 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 10:48 GMT

 

“Yes,” Kerr forced a smile. “Quite… alien. Given your experience with the Martians, you’ll stay close in shore, and acting as screen for the civilian shipping,” said Kerr puffing his cigar. ”That is your official role. “

 

Unofficially,” said the admiral, “you will screen Her Royal Majesty and members of the royal household. We will be evacuating them to France. You will act as escort to the fast yacht Turbina and see them out of threatened waters.”

 

“The situation is far worse than the Government has let on,” said Kerr shaking his head gravely, as if reading our shocked expressions. “The monsters will be on us soon. London is about to fall to the Martians. Both the Government and the Royal Family have fled the city.”

 

“Astounding,” said Allenby. “Things are that bad?”

 

“Worse,” Kerr snorted. “The Cabinet has retreated to Birmingham; and what’s left of the Army is in retreat. They have been ordered to form a new line along the Thames, and from Moulesford along the GWR line to Bristol but who knows if they can hold.”

 

The enemy has yet to seize London,” Kerr continued. But with London now cut off to the West and soon likely to the North, it won’t last long.”

 

“And,” said Kerr with all the studied calm of a man facing his execution, “there have been mutinies on the torpedo-boats of the Thames Squadron.”

 

“Mutinies?” said Allenby in disbelief.

 

“Unfortunate business,” Kerr nodded. “We’ve also had instances of the wireless interference you’ve reported. By means of signal triangulation, we have placed its source around Woking. We believe the Martians have established a powerful wireless beacon to guide their cylinders.”

 

“There’s not more to add,” concluded Kerr. “The Channel Squadron will stand to further out and prevent a Martian crossing of the channel.”

 

I said nothing. How long would that plan last when the Martians began landing outside Paris and Berlin?

09-Jun 11:25 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 11:25 GMT

 

Captain Allenby and Lt Commander Carver returned to ship from Majestic.

09-Jun 13:11 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 13:11 GMT

 

Thunder Child has intercepted and taken aboard a group of mutineers from one of the Thames Squadron torpedo-boats, HMS Terrible. Captain to convene a court-martial on the ship’s quarter-deck.

09-Jun 14:12 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 14:12 GMT

 

Four sullen men, the highest-ranking a leading seaman sat on the bench, flanked by two of the ship’s Marines.

 

“It was madness, that’s it what was, ordering us to charge up the river to do what?” He sneered. “We didn’t get more than halfway when we were met by a wall of black smoke and the Heat Ray.”

09-Jun 14:30 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 14:30 GMT

 

After a brief trial, the captain has pronounced the mutineers guilty of mutiny and desertion in the face of the enemy. Sentenced them to death by firing squad; sentence carried out immediately on the quarter-deck.

09-Jun 14:34 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt. Roger Carver, #RoyalMarines HMS Thunder Child, 10 June 1897 16:40 GMT

 

“The world is coming to an end, and yet this is what we do,” said Farmer, watching the detail slide the wrapped bodies over the side.”

 

“They mutinied and deserted in the face of the enemy,” was all I could reply.

 

“Really? I thought better of you, Carver,” Farmer said, and turned on his heel.

10-Jun 12:05 #ChannelFleet

10-Jun 12:05 #ChannelFleet

In the distance, a couple of miles out, like some swan shadowing its cygnets, someone on the shore might just make out an ironclad, very low in the water, the Majestic class battleship HMS Thunder Child.

 

Beyond the Thunder Child a serpent of black smoke marks the ironclads of the Channel Fleet. A fleet that had hovered in an extended line, steam up and ready for action, across the Thames estuary during the course of the Martian conquest, vigilant and yet powerless to prevent it.

 

10-Jun 16:10 #ThunderChild

From the log of HMS Thunder Child, 09 June 1897 16:10 GMT

 

Lt Commander Carver is still ashore with a detachment of ship’s Marines pier at Bradwell Waterside, awaiting arrival of Royal Party.

10-Jun 16:11 @LtCarver

From the personal log of Lt Roger Carver, Royal Marines, HMS Thunder Child, 10 June 1897 16:11 GMT

 

Much has been written of the events of this day, particularly by a certain fabulist-turned-historian, who has taken some liberties and omits certain important details. As a witness, I can only provide my first-hand version of events, which saw my world forever change.