Charles Henry Hacking

Date of birth: 1879
Place of birth: St. Helier, Jersey
Regiment / Division: Mercantile Marine Reserve
Vessel: HMS Otranto
Rank / Service No: Cook
Died: 6th October 1918, aged 39 years
Buried: Kilchoman Military Cemetery, Isle of Islay, Scotland (2.2)

 

Charles was the seventh of 10 siblings born to Albert and Elizabeth Ann Hacking (nee Rogers), who married in St. Helier in 1867.

The whole family were born and bred on Jersey, and most stayed there.

 

Albert, a postman and hairdresser (!), was born in 1848 and he died in St Helier on 5 August 1910.

Elizabeth was born in St Helier on 14 June 1849, and she passed away on 2 March 1933.

 

I am indebted to Roger Taylor and his family tree for the precise dates for the family.

 

Siblings

Ernest Albert   b. 1868   d. 30 March 1869

Henrietta Elizabeth   b. 26 January 1870   d. 14 February 1947

William Ernest   b. 1871   d. 28 November 1877   Died of whooping cough.

Albert Joseph James   b. 14 March 1872   d. 20 November 1948.

Edith Alice Louise   b. 1873   d. 28 November 1877   Died of whooping cough.

Flora Emily   b. 19 March 1875   d. 18 May 1912   Married John J. Dwyer in St Helier on 18 January 1893 (had 5 children).

Charles Henry

Edith Alice Jane   b. 19 July 1880   d. 1918

William Ernest   b. 13 July 1882   d. 27 August 1945 Bournemouth   Married Hilda Blanche Ford St Helier 21 April 1913 (had 3 children).

Ernest William   b. 6 October 1883   d. 1966   Married Adelaide Janvrin St Helier 4 February 1906 (had 2 children).

 

Charles, a waiter, married a Julia Marguerita in the early 1900’s, and presumably on Jersey. Julia had been born in St Peter Port, Guernsey in 1873.

The couple had one daughter, Mary Edith, who was born on the island in 1903.

 

Official records state that the family lived at 59 Bevois Street at some point.

At the 1911 Census, Charles was lodging with the Downey family in Portsmouth; Julia and her daughter were in the Lecky household in St Peter Port, where Julia was a servant.

 

Charles had already served 10 years in the merchant service prior to the outbreak of war.

He was serving on Otranto at the time, and the vessel spent a couple of years carrying troops to Salonika and Mesopotamia.

 

On 25 September 1918, Otranto departed New York with a large number of American servicemen, destined for the UK. She was part of a convoy, complete with American Navy protection.

 

On the 1st October, Otranto accidentally rammed a French fishing boat. Captain Ernest Davidson ordered the rescue of the 37 crew and the sinking of the wrecked French vessel.

 

On 4 October, the convoy encountered a strong storm which got worse over the next couple of days.

The British destroyers that were to rendevous with the convoy could not leave port, and the last American vessel left early on 5 October.

 

There was now a Force 11 storm and the convoy was forced to navigate by eye; there was a degree of uncertainty as to whether the vessels were off the Irish or the Scottish coast.

 

At dawn on 6 October, most of the ships correctly surmised they were off the Scottish coast and turned south. Otranto’s officer of the deck thought it was the Irish coast, and turned north.

 

HMS Kashmir, another troopship, was only half a mile from Otranto and the turns placed them on a collision course.

Both vessels attempted to avoid each other, but Kashmir rammed Otranto on the port side amidships, a few miles off the rocky Islay coastline.

 

Many crew on Otranto immediately drowned and the vessel soon lost all power; Kashmir was able to sail away, only with a damaged bow.

 

The high winds and heavy seas prevented the launching of lifeboats and Davidson decided not to abandon ship in the hope that some may be able to swim to shore.

 

Half an hour after the collision the destroyer HMS Mounsey appeared, after searching for the convoy through the night.

Despite Captain Davidson ordering Mounsey to stay clear, Lieutenant Francis Craven positioned his ship on Otranto’s lee side to allow the men aboard the liner to jump aboard.

 

Mounsey suffered much damage during the hazardous operation, but nearly 600 men were rescued as a result of his actions. The destroyer managed to make Belfast, despite the damage and overloading.

 

3 hours after the collision, Otranto was dashed onto the rocks. Of the 489 men left aboard after Mounsey’s departure, only 21 managed to swim ashore to be rescued by islanders.

 

Otranto completely broke up in no time and there were bodies and wreckage strewn right along the coastline.

 

Best estimates put the death toll at 470 men.

 

The cemetery holds the graves of 29 of the British crew, one of which is Charles.

 

 

Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 1st September 2016
Updated:

 

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