2nd Engineer SS Elterwater, Merchant Navy
Died 16th December 1914, aged 29
Remembered at the Mercantile Marine Memorial, Tower Hill, London
but not in Blakeney
Henry Digman was born in South Shields, 1885, the son of Captain Nevison Newbegin and Elizabeth Digman nee Bullen. His father was born in Blakeney (1852), served his apprenticeship in Kings Lynn, where he married (1878) and his two daughters were born. The family then relocated to South Shields where Captain Digman eventually became commodore of the Pelton Colliery Line Fleet. He retired in 1912 to live first at Cley then Blakeney, where he was born.
Henry married Mary Jane Hume (1912) while his two sisters, Maria and Agnes, married the brothers, Arthur and Isaac Walker respectively. Their parents were Arthur and Martha Ann Walker nee Newbegin and she was born in Blakeney, a first cousin of Nevison Newbegin Digman.
By the outbreak of war, Henry was 2nd Engineer on the SS Elterwater, a 1,228 ton steel collier built in 1907 and owned by Sharp Steamship Co. Ltd. of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. She had shipped many of the large machinery components for HMS Indefatigable to Devonport Dockyard. HMS Indefatigable was subsequently lost at the Battle of Jutland, 1916.
The SS Elterwater struck a mine just off Scarborough. She was en route from the Tyne to London when struck at 6.13 pm, sinking in just three minutes with the loss of six lives from a crew of 18. Scarborough along with Hartlepool and Whitby had been bombarded by the Imperial German Navy on 16th December. This followed an earlier raid on Yarmouth in November that had demonstrated, to the German Navy, the potential for fast raiding into British waters.
Many in Scarborough and Hartlepool were killed and injured during the December bombardment, including the first British soldier to be killed on British soil. As the German battleships fled from Scarborough, the Kolbeg was left behind to lay a minefield off Flamborough Head. This was barely completed when disaster fell with alarming losses to both merchant shipping and human life. First to go was the Norwegian SS Vaaren followed 12 hours later by the SS Elterwater. The peril was further increased by German torpedo-boats laying more mines on the Dogger Bank. The following day, all traffic between Flamborough and the Tyne was restricted to daylight hours only. For the minesweepers sent in to clear the field, disaster was just waiting. The operation was led by Commander R. Walters, R.N. in the Brighton Queen and on the very first day’s sweeping, and within ten minutes, three of his trawlers struck German mines!
Henry Digman is remembered at the Mercantile Marine Memorial at Tower Hill, London and in South Shields where his memorial is a stained glass window of a single arched light. It was moved in the 1950s to Laygate Baptist from the Baptist Tabernacle in Laygate. Despite his very close affinity to Blakeney, Henry is not remembered in Blakeney where his father was born, retired to and was buried.