Ernest James Barnes

Date of birth: 26th November 1893
Place of birth: Southampton
Service No.: J / 11192
Rank: Able Seaman
Regiment: Royal Navy
Vessel: HMS Invincible
Died: 31st May 1916
Death location: Jutland, off the coast of Denmark


Life before the War
Ernest first appears aged 7, listed on the 1901 census as living at 5 Bells Court, St Marys, Southampton with his father Charles, aged 33, who was working as a Marine Fireman, his mother Fanny, also 33, and his 4 siblings – one sister and 3 brothers:

Charles aged 12

Emily aged 5

Edward aged 3

Arthur aged just 11 months

Sadly Ernest and his family were shortly to be devastated by the untimely death, in 1902, of his father Charles whilst Fanny was pregnant with their son George.

By 1911 the family had moved to 14 Queen Street, Southampton.  According to this census, Fanny had married George Martin, a ship sealer, in 1905 and the family now includes his children:

Walter aged 11

Stephen aged 9

As well as their own two children:

James aged 5

Alfred aged 2

Charles, Ernest and Emily are missing from this census – Ernest had already enlisted on 23rd February 1911, and an Emily Barnes of the right age is listed as an inmate in the Hampshire Female Orphan Asylum.


Military Service
Ernest’s first position was as Deck Boy on Ganges II. Over the course of the next year he went on to serve on Victorious, then Prince George, Albemarle and Venerable where he became an Ordinary Seaman on his 18th birthday.  From there he served on Excellent and Victory until he joined his final ship, Invincible, on 3rd August 1914.

From his Naval Service records we know that Ernest was 5ft 6.5 inches tall with brown hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. We even know that he had two tattoos – a ship and a woman’s head on his right forearm and “Faith, Hope and Charity” on his left.

On 31st May 1916 HMS Invincible, captained by the much-admired Rear Admiral Hood, was part of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron caught up in the Battle of Jutland.  Invincible had already fought hard against SMS Weisbaden, a light cruiser, disabling her before turning her guns on SMS Lützow, which was fighting alongside her sister ship SMS Defflinger.  Finally, as the smoke of battle cleared, Invincible became a clear target. The two German ships fired salvoes at her and, after her magazines took a direct hit, she exploded, split into two and sank with the loss of 1021 lives. Ernest died alongside his comrades and his body rests with them and the remains of HMS Invincible off the Norwegian coast.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Ernest James Barnes is commemorated on Panel 12 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Southsea.







Researcher: Mandy Shearing
Published: 1st October 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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