Leslie Follett, killed in Battle of Jutland

Leslie Raymond Follett, No. SS116258, Royal Navy. Killed in action, 31 May 1916

Stoker First Class Leslie Raymond Follett is one of many New Zealanders who died as a result of First World War service. He is listed on the Royal Navy’s Roll of Honour.

Born in Marton in 1894, Leslie Follett was the eldest son of Charles and Annie Follett and a great-grandson of Charles Follett, a prominent land owner in the area. A little over five feet tall with grey eyes, brown hair and a tattoo which included the words ‘true love’ on his right forearm, Follett was working as a ship’s cook when he enlisted in the Royal Navy in November 1914. Earlier in the war he had worked on a Norwegian ship. When this was stopped and inspected by a German vessel, Follett claimed he was Norwegian and avoided detention.

Follett began his career with the Royal Navy on HMS Victory II, an onshore training facility located at Crystal Palace in south London. He served as a stoker second class, working in the engine room. During training Follett spent five days in the cells, a punishment reserved for serious breaches of naval discipline such as being absent without leave. After completing his training Follett was posted to the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary in June 1915 as a stoker first class.

At the outbreak of the war the Queen Mary was part of the Royal Navy’s battlecruiser force, and when Follett joined it the ship was stationed in Scotland. Between June 1915 and May 1916 the Queen Mary took part in patrols and sweeps for German ships in the North Sea. In late May the fleet was put to sea after receiving reports of the German fleet’s movements. The Queen Mary was about to take part in its first major engagement: the Battle of Jutland.

On 31 May 1916 the British fleet met the German fleet off the coast of Denmark. When the two navies’ battlecruisers encountered each other, the Germans opened fire first. Down in the engine room of the Queen Mary Follett and others were working hard to keep the ship’s engines going. They were unaware of what was happening above them, and the firing of the ship’s guns would have felt like a distant thump. Half an hour after the battle began, the Queen Mary was hit by shells fired from a German battlecruiser and exploded before sinking. Follett was one of more than 1200 men who went down with the Queen Mary. One of the 20 survivors was Sub-Lieutenant Peregrine Dearden from Canterbury who was rescued by the Germans and taken prisoner. Follett is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial and Marton’s First World War memorial.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage would like to thank the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy for its kind assistance with this story.

Further information

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record

Stoker Leslie Follett (Navy Museum)

HMS New Zealand fights in the Battle of Jutland

Lost in the Naval Battle’, New Zealand Herald, 14 June 1916, p. 8. (Papers Past)

Marton First World War memorial

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