On Wednesday 27th May 2015, shipmates from Huntingdon & District, and St Neots & District Branches of the Royal Naval Association were invited to take part in the Royal British Legion’s Every Man Remembered campaign at a ceremony at the War Memorial in St Ives. The person being remembered was stoker Clement Metcalfe Freeman, who lost his life onboard HMS Princess Irene during a massive explosion on the 27th May 1915.
HMS Princess Irene was a 5,394 GRT ocean liner, built in 1914 but requisitioned by the Royal Navy converted to an auxiliary minelayer. On 27 May 1915, she exploded and sank off Sheerness, Kent with the loss of 352 lives.
In May 1915, Princess Irene was moored in Saltpan Reach, on the Medway Estuary in Kent between Port Victoria and Sheerness, being loaded with mines in preparation for deployment on a mine laying mission. At 11:14 GMT on 27 May, Princess Irene exploded and disintegrated. A column of flame 300 feet (91 m) high was followed a few seconds later by another of similar height and a pall of smoke hung over the spot where Princess Irene had been, reaching to 1,200 feet (370 m). Two barges laying alongside her were also destroyed. A total of 352 people were killed including 273 officers and men, and 76 dockyard workers who were on board Princess Irene. Follow this link for more details: HMS Princess Irene
Stoker Clement Freeman, of St Ives in Cambridgeshire, was one of those killed during the explosion.
The Royal British Legion’s Every Man Remembered campaign has been taking place throughout the country; as Clement was a member of the Royal Navy, s/ms Karl Webb (Huntingdon), Keith Ridley and Mike Milne (St Neots) joined members of the Royal British Legion to parade their Branch Standards in honour of Clement.
A gathering of veterans, town councillors, VIPs and local residents met at the memorial at 1100 where Clement Freeman’s name can be seen engraved alongside all those who lived in the area.
Citations and a background of the fate of HMS Princess Irene and all those killed during the explosion were timed to ensure that a two minute silence would begin at 1114, the exact time that the explosion occurred onboard.
At the sound of the Last Post, Standards were dipped in the usual mark of respect whilst all those in attendance fell silent to remember all those who have been lost in conflict, and in peacetime, while serving their country.
A certificate from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was placed at the memorial during the ceremony, but will be held in St Ives church with memorials of others lost during both World Wars. We Will Remember Them.