March 12th 1919

Sub-Lieut. Percy Trevelyan (RN)

It is now four months since the Armistice was signed and we assumed that those who had served their country so faithfully were to be spared. However, the influenza and associated illnesses are proving just as deadly.

Percy Trevelyan, who had been assigned to HMS Sable in December, died of bronchial pneumonia at his home on Marston Ferry Road in Oxford on March 10th, aged just 19.

He only spent a year at the OPS (1909-10), being ordered by his doctor to go to a school with a different climate, but we all grew very fond of him and his bright, happy disposition during the short time he was with us.

He entered the Navy by way of the Royal Naval Colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth.

At Jutland, Percy (then a 16 year old midshipman) was in the thick of the fighting, being on the battleship HMS Malaya, which sustained more casualties than any other battleship that day.

He then served in the Dover Patrol for about nine months on the patrol boat HMS P 50, when it was commanded by another Old Dragon, Lieut. Desmond Stride (RN).

Percy lost his mother in 1903 and his older brother Wilfred, who served with the Rifle Brigade, died at Ypres in May 1915 after barely a month at the Front.

His body is to be interred in the family plot alongside his mother at Wolvercote Cemetery.


5 thoughts on “March 12th 1919

    • Jane says:

      My grandfather was a midshipman at Jutland but I have no recurs if what ship. But it was another thing that chimed with me. The last battle-of-the line I believe.


  1. It was common for boys to choose a life at sea from the age of 13 and go to Osborne & Dartmouth RNCs (as both Collier & Trevelyan did) or HMS Britannia (as W. Fisher & Tyrwhitt did) – and there were others…


  2. Jane says:

    This is one of the most moving stories of all Fesmond. Having survived the war, having lost his mother and his brother, he is killed by the flu! It seems so futile.

    Having lost my mother at aged 14, and my brother in a military accident when I was 17, I know what an impact that has.

    I feel a real empathy for Percy. He was sent to OPS for a ‘different climate’ which implies either an emotional or physical sensitivity. He has such a lovely gentle innocent face and I can only imagine that he was suffering from the traumas of war too.

    Thank you Desmond for recording the lives of all these young men whose lives were cut short. It’s been a journal of respect and care and I always feel my own brother has been remembered every time I see your posts. So as they are coming to a close I will share his story.

    Paul was handsome, and witty and not terribly academic. He wanted to join the Army, even as a little boy. He joined the Royal Artillery after passing out of Sandhurst. I have the passing out picture, if that’s the right term, with his baby-faced good looks and his full dress uniform full of pride and hope. He served in Zimbabwe during the handover in 1980 and organised a football match with fully armed guerillas which was considered an excellent peace-building initiative at the time. He had a gift for creating harmony so what happened next had a deep irony.

    It was the trauma of our childhood that led him to join the SAS. If you read about the recruitment criteria, he should never have been recruited – he was loving, kind, warm – and a few weeks before he died he reported to my sister that he had seen the most ‘terrible things’. He was too deep in to his training to leave. Not that he told any of us what he was doing exactly. But we knew he regretted it.

    He was killed in training in the last few days by one of his own small team with a live exploding bullet designed to cause maximum damage. God knows what damage that did to the young man who shot him in error. Two in camera inquests to get to the truth – the first concluding it was a richochet.

    Paul paid the ultimate price for his own choices; but he was just 22.

    I haven’t thought about it in years, but the no doubt ‘pink’, open-face of Percy and his story reminded me. Paul shouldn’t be forgotten either.

    Shot in the back of his head causing instant brain death but leaving his body perfect except for one black eye. I saw the shell of him one last time before the machine was switched off. We joked he was already flirting with the angels! Thus huge life force gone. It was the shock of it.

    He had a full military funeral and was buried at Tidworth cemetery on a cold, misty December morning with a 21 gun salute and the last post. He would have loved the drama of it.

    But I remember his wit, his boyish energy, his ability to charm, warmth, love, practical fraternal care after our mother died and his deep sensitivity.

    And Percy would have been loved and remembered too. I have no doubt. So I remember Percy now and all those killed in action or training whose promise was cut short.

    Thank you Desmond


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