The sinking of the three British cruisers Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy by German submarines cast a shadow of grief over the town of Whitby.
But when it became known that 21 out of 28 local Royal Naval Reservists who were on board the sunken warships had been rescued, the sorrow was mingled with deep feelings of thankfulness.
The first three local survivors to return were G Murfield, J Wood and R Gash, who arrived by the 10.51 train from London.
There was a large crowd in Station Square and on the arrival platform. On the train slowing down, there was a great eagerness to catch a glimpse of the brave lads who had been snatched from the jaws of death.
The first to be seen was Wood, who, on alighting, was warmly embraced by his father David Wood.
A quick movement of the crowd and both Murfield and Gash were in the midst of their awaiting relatives, and again, the welcome was most affectionate, but not demonstrative.
The three men made their way to the station entrance. Dressed in their new uiforms they looked splendid specimens of the British tar. Dr JG Ross offered the use of his motor car to the trio, but they declined, and walked along Wellington Road and Baxtergate to the bridge running the gauntlet of the congratulations of the friends they met en route.
Gash proceeded along St Ann’s Staith to his home on The Cragg, Wood and Murfield crossed the bridge to their respective homes.
Eight more of the local survivors arrived on the Saturday morning by rail train – James Hall, Harry Murfield, James Murfield, WH Hodgson, T Dryden, A Harrison, W Hall and J Hind.
Nine of the remaining 10 who were accounted for reached Whitby by mail train on the Monday – John W Elder, Thomas Murfield, Robert Ventress, George and W Winspear, George C Walker, John W Hill, Thomas B White and Robert Usher.
All the men, who are visiting their home on 10 days’ leave, had a hearty reception.
The other man accounted for Matthew Winspear, was left in hospital in Ymuiden, Holland, suffering from cold and exposure after being in the water for a considerable time.