Royal Navy HMS Cressy. 22 September 1914

Robert Grazebrook was the second son of Charles Grazebrook of The Racecourse, Pedmore, and grandson of George Pearson of Thorn Hill, Oldswinford. He was educated at Stourbridge Grammar School from 1884 to 1891 and then at Devonport, where he embarked on a career in the Royal Navy. He had been very successful. For six years he had been engineer officer in King Edward VII's royal yacht 'Victoria and Albert'. Then he had joined HMS Tartar and went on to HMS Sappho. Some months before the outbreak of war he became Engineer Commander of HMS Cressy, a pre-Dreadnought battle cruiser. The sinking of the Cressy, together with her sister ships, Hogue and Aboukir, was a naval disaster. It came only six weeks after the outbreak of war and brought home to both the navy and the public just how serious a threat submarines could be. These three ships had been posted not far off the neutral Dutch coast to deter the German High Seas fleet from entering the Channel. Their vulnerability had been eventually realised, not least by Winston Churchill as First Sea Lord. However, orders requiring the ships to retire to British waters were delayed and then it was too late. A German submarine, U 9, attacked Aboukir at 7.30 a.m. on 22nd September and a single torpedo was responsible for its sinking. Hogue stood by to rescue the crew and was sunk by another torpedo. In turn, Cressy gallantly attempted to rescue the survivors, while firing at a periscope. Thirty minutes later three torpedoes had been launched by U 9. The first had little effect, the second missed but the third hit the hull, causing the ship to heel over. Commander Nicholson, a survivor, reported that Robert Grazebrook was seen with others on the upturned keel of the vessel before it finally went down. Although he was an expert swimmer, he was not seen again. The losses were 1459 men dead while 837 were saved by Dutch vessels and British trawlers. A fine memorial window to Robert Grazebrook was erected in the Lady Chapel at St. Mary's church in 1916. At the top can be seen the year 1914 and the flags of Britain's allies in that year, including Japan and Serbia. At the bottom is a view of the ship, together with his portrait. The main scene is a poignant depiction of Christ saving St. Peter from the waves. The window was designed and erected by William Morris and Co., well known for their strong colours and flowing design. The impact of the waters and the powerful imagery make this a dramatic and fitting memorial to Robert Grazebrook. He was 39 years of age and is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial and the Stourbridge, Oldswinford church and King Edward VI College Memorials.

Commemorated at:

Stourbridge Oldswinford St. Mary

Stourbridge Oldswinford St. Mary

Rectory Road, Old Swinford, DY8 2HA

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