War at Sea

Photo below – American supply ship at the entrance to Inverness Harbour while proceeding towards the east through the “Yankee Channel”.

It supplied the American fleet which was anchored in the north channel of the Inverness firth

Disaster at Cromarty – sinking of HMS Natal

HMS Natal was a 13,500 ton cruiser which blew up at her moorings near Cromarty on the last day of 1915. Nearly 400 people died including three local children and their parents who were at a party on board.

The following is an account of the tragedy as it appeared at the time.

“The peace of the Cromarty Firth was shattered when, on the afternoon of 30th December 1915, a huge explosion located in her aft magazines blew up and quickly sank the 14,000 ton armed cruiser HMS Natal, then lying at anchor.

On that day, the captain in command of the ship had arranged a cinema show in his quarters for children and other civilian guests. Sadly all, including the captain and his wife lost their lives, as well as more than half of the ship’s company of 850 officers, ratings and Royal Marines.

The cause of the explosion was never established but there was a strong suspicion of sabotage. Local people talked with awe for many years afterwards about the wartime disaster – there had never been so many lives lost in the Cromarty Firth.”

On that fateful day the son of the captain of the Natal was suffering from a sore throat and did not go on board. Left an orphan, he survived to return on 13th June 1992 to unveil a plaque in memory of the civilian victims and this is located outside the new RNLI complex at Invergordon, overlooking the firth, where until recently a wreck buoy marked the grave of the ship. A vellum scroll is also kept inside the building showing the names of the civilian casualties.

Sea Planes at Cromarty

Ships in the Moray Firth

Sailors embarking at Fortrose
Ships at Fortrose