Chief Stoker 277882 HMS Vanguard, Royal Navy
Died 9th July 1917, aged 44
Remembered at Chatham Naval Memorial
& on both Blakeney War Memorials
Vincent was born 9th September 1872 at Cley, not Blakeney, Gloucester as stated in his Naval Records and repeated by the CWGC. He was the eldest son of William Richard Bullen of Holt (1844-1910), plumber and glazier, and his wife Ellen Keeble of Starston (1848-1897). His siblings were William Ahmed born Cley, Mary Elizabeth born Down, Cambridge and Henry Charles born Blakeney. In 1891 the family were living in the High Street, Blakeney, opposite the present Delicatessen. Then ten years later, after the death of their mother and young William, Mary and Henry were living in Newlands Row, High Street opposite the present Royal Legion car park. Mary was a school teacher while Henry was a shoemaker. Their father was absent from home.
Meanwhile Vincent had already signed up with the Navy in 1894 and married Marian Elizabeth Gardiner at Hereford in 1902. They had two daughters; Mary May Bosanquet Bullen and Clara Eleanor Bullen known as Maisie and Claire respectively.
By 1911 Vincent was on board HMS Mallard, a Torpedo Boat Destroyer stationed at Malta in the Mediterranean. He was Acting Chief Stoker (Head). Meanwhile his younger brother Henry had also joined the Navy and was 2nd Sick Bay Attendant Medical on HM C6 Submarine stationed at Harwich.
Sometime later, Vincent was transferred to HMS Vanguard, a newly built St. Vincent-class dreadnought assigned to the Home and Grand Fleet. Apart from taking part at the Battle of Jutland, HMS Vanguard generally patrolled the North Sea as well as engaging in training exercises. At the time of his death, Vincent was with HMS Vanguard in Scapa Flow where she had that very day just finished a training exercise for abandoning ship. At 11.40 pm, shortly before midnight, she suffered a massive internal explosion and sank immediately. In terms of loss of life, it remains the most catastrophic accidental explosion in the history of the UK and certainly one of the worst accidental losses of the Royal Navy.
She was one of five warships destroyed by internal explosion rather than enemy action; the others being HMS Bulwark 1914, HMS Princess Irene 1915, HMS Natal 1915 and HMS Glatton 1918. Each explosion was caused by the overheating of cordite and in the case of HMS Vanguard, thecordite was stored against an adjacent bulkhead in one of the two magazines which served the gun turrets amidships. This was the culmination of both bad design and bad practice that resulted in the death of some 2,291 sailors from the five warships. Of the 804 men who lost their lives by misadventure at Scapa Flow were 16 year old Alick Grey of Morston, Vincent Bullen and Christopher Cooke, both of Blakeney.
According to his Naval Records his widow, Marion, was living at 71 Commercial Road, Hereford whilst his CWGC certificate gives her address as 5 Ethelbert Street, Hereford.