Francis Worthington Craven

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Lieutenant-Commander Francis Worthington Craven, D.S.O., D.S.M., Navy Cross (29 February, 1888 – 2 February, 1921) was an officer in the Royal Navy. His career would be marked by a Court Martial and drinking before he came through in life-saving efforts following the loss of the armed merchant cruiser Otranto in 1918.

Life & Career

Craven was born in Manchester and was raised by his mother.

In September 1907, Captain Hinckley recorded that Craven distinguished himself when appointed to Illustrious at Liverpool by prompt careful action he took that probably saved a boat and its crew after they were run down.[1]

Craven's evaluations were becoming ridden with warning signs. In January, 1910 it was noted that he was ill-organised and was forgetful and prone to letting things slide.[2]

Craven was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 1 October, 1910. Craven was further evaluated in April, 1911 as "Careless. Takes every opportunity of leaving ship without permission. Shd. be sent to a big ship. Not suitable for destroyers." In July, he was appointed to the battleship Superb. Time in a big ship did not prove a panacea as criticism mounted over a course of thirteen months in Superb. Though Captain Heath in September 1911 found Craven did well when he "limits his consumption of alcohol as he is doing now", in August 1912, Heath's successor Captain Gaunt recorded that Craven was not temperate and was "weak in money matters." This came to a head on 24 August, 1912, when Craven was convicted in a Court Martial for willful disobedience of a lawful command. He forfeited nine month's seniority, severely reprimanded and dismissed the ship. This resulted in his seniority as Lieutenant was now antedated to 1 July, 1911. He was appointed to the first class protected cruiser Grafton on 6 September, 1912.[3]

Craven was appointed to the King George V Class battleship Audacious on 3 October, 1913 and would distinguish himself with good work performed when the ship was lost to a mine north of Ireland on 22 November, 1914.

Craven served in Queen Elizabeth from her commissioning in December, 1914. In 1916, he was endorsed by Captain Hope for his work in command of a turret, it was noted that Craven required "tactful handling." Reports of continued heavy drinking coloured the edges of his service record. Craven left Queen Elizabeth upon being superseded on 1 January, 1917. He undertook a patrol craft and a destroyer command appointment and then was appointed in command of Mounsey on 14 January, 1918.[4]

Mounsey was in the right place at the right time when the armed merchant cruiser Otranto was wrecked and lay sinking after a collision on 5 October, 1918. Craven drove Mounsey in, repeatedly, to allow men to jump to his deck. Injuries and deaths resulted from the effort, but certain death was the alternative for all. Craven ferried three loads of men to a place near Glasgow in an increasingly unseaworthy destroyer. The American Admiral William Sowden Sims forwarded a letter to Buncrana endorsing Craven's conduct in saving American troops as the former passenger ship went down. In the final tally, Craven was credited, overall, with saving 600 lives (320 American souls, by American accounting) and awarded a D.S.O. for the feat, as well as two American awards, the Distinguished Service Medal and Navy Cross.[5]

Post-War

Craven was appointed in command of the destroyer Tirade on 11 January, 1919.[6] This would be very brief, but was followed one in command of Spear which would last until the end of 1919.

Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander on 1 July, 1919, Craven was appointed from Spear to Martin in January, 1920.[7]

Craven was placed on the Retired List on 27 April, 1920 postdated to 13 May, 1921 with a gratuity of 2,500 pounds sterling. Craven was killed in an Irish Republican Army ambush whilst serving as a District Inspect in the Auxiliary Division. Royal Irish Constabulary, a mere six weeks after undertaking the role. On 9 March, 1921, his insignia of D.S.O. was forwarded to his mother. It is difficult to document a career as varied and yet ultimately heroic as this and not be saddened at such an end.[8]

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Edward R. M. Geake
Captain of H.M.S. P33
9 Jan, 1917[9] – 16 Aug, 1917
Succeeded by
Stanley W. Moughtin
Preceded by
Edward C. Denison
Captain of H.M.S. Cherwell
16 Aug, 1917[10] – 14 Jan, 1918
Succeeded by
Donald F. Lawrence
Preceded by
Ralph V. Eyre
Captain of H.M.S. Mounsey
14 Jan, 1918 – 1 Nov, 1918
Succeeded by
Francis W. Craven
Preceded by
Francis W. Craven
Captain of H.M.S. Mounsey
18 Nov, 1918 – 11 Jan, 1918
Succeeded by
?
Preceded by
John Fawcett
Captain of H.M.S. Tirade
11 Jan, 1919[11] – 25 Jan, 1919
Succeeded by
Alexander L. Fletcher
Preceded by
Alexander L. Fletcher
Captain of H.M.S. Spear
c. Jan, 1919 – Jan, 1920
Succeeded by
David J. R. Simson
Preceded by
David J. R. Simson
Captain of H.M.S. Martin
Jan, 1920
Succeeded by
?

Footnotes

  1. Craven Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/51/295. f. 311.
  2. Craven Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/51/295. f. 311.
  3. Craven Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/51/295. f. 311.
  4. Craven Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/51/295. f. 311.
  5. Craven Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/51/295. f. 311.
  6. The Navy List. (February, 1919). p. 920a.
  7. Craven Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/51/295. f. 311.
  8. Craven Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/51/295. f. 311.
  9. The Navy List. (August, 1917). p. 396e.
  10. The Navy List. (November, 1917). p. 392j.
  11. The Navy List. (February, 1919). p. 920a.