Full name: Frederick James ROTCHELL
Service Number: J/63769
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Regiment: Royal Navy “HMS Opal” (further info below)
Parents name: James Henry and Sarah Jane Rotchell
Birthplace: Vicarage Stables,Wrexham
Death: 12/01/1918 Drowned in wreck of vessel; Scapa Flow
Plot_ref: R-04881 at Wrexham Cemetery
1901 – Rhosddu Road, Wrexham
13, Saxon Street, Hightown, Wrexham
War: WWI – World War One
Wrexham memorial: Commemorated at Wrexham Cemetery
Cemetery or memorial: Commemorated at PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEMORIAL
Portsmouth Naval Memorial © CWGC
Transcription of headstone:
SARAH JANE ROTCHELL, 13, SAXON STREET, WREXHAM. WHO PASSED AWAY JUNE 20TH, 1942 IN HER 69TH YEAR.
ALSO, JAMES HENRY ROTCHELL, 5, BRON-Y-DRE, WREXHAM. WHO PASSED AWAY OCT 19TH, 1954. AGED 82 YEARS.
ALSO, IVY ROTCHELL, WHO DIED SEPT 25TH, 1913. AGED 3 YEARS.
ALSO, FREDERICK J. ROTCHELL, WHO LOST HIS LIFE AT SEA JAN 12TH, 1918. AGED 20 YEARS.
On commissioning, Opal joined the 12th Destroyer Flotilla, based at Scapa Flow as part of the Grand Fleet. Opal took part in the Battle of Jutland where the Twelfth Flotilla supported the Grand Fleet, and both attacked and was attacked during the general action. She also participated in other major fleet sorties during the next two years as well as pursuing her regular duties of minesweeping, convoy protection and anti-submarine patrols in the North Sea.
On 24 July 1917, Opal and the destroyer Mounsey were escorting an east-bound convoy on the Scandinavian (Lerwick–Norway) route, when the convoy came under attack by the German submarine U-67, which fired two torpedoes from distance at the convoy, one of which hit and sunk the Swedish merchant ship Viking. In response, Opal followed back the track of the torpedo and dropped a depth charge on the estimated location of the submarine, but U-67 escaped unharmed.
On 12 January 1918, Opal joined her sister ship Narborough and the light cruiser Boadicea in a night patrol to hunt German auxiliary warships suspected to be laying mines on the Scottish coast. By 17:30, the weather had deteriorated to such an extreme degree that the destroyers were in danger of swamping and foundering and visibility was near zero. Fearing that her companions might sink, Boadicea ordered Opal and Narborough back to Scapa Flow while she continued alone. For the next four hours, Opal regularly sent reports indicating her course and intention to return, but at 21:27, a garbled message stating have run aground was received, followed by silence. The weather was so atrocious that no vessels could be dispatched until the following morning, and it was two days before Opal was found, battered, broken and empty on the Clett of Crura off the east coast of South Ronaldsay. Narborough was found in a similar position nearby. One survivor – William Sissons – was later located on a small islet, and he related that the ships had been sailing a regular slow course making frequent soundings and radio reports, but had suddenly crashed headlong into the rocks, probably due to a navigation error by Opal’s captain. Both wrecks were abandoned and broken up by the sea over the next few weeks taking the bodies of both crews, bar the single survivor, with them.
Commemorated at Wrexham Cemetery
More info on HistoryPoints.org
Sources: Wrexham Cemetery; Graham Lloyd; CWGC; WIKIpedia; Imperial War Museum.