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The Story of a Brave Young Menstrie Man

John Stratton AB, World War 1 sailor

John Stratton AB (left) and an unidentified sailor |d|
Image supplied by Mr Alexander Stratton.
I walked past the village War Memorial recently and stopped to look at the names of the Menstrie men killed in both the world wars. The very first name in WW1 was John Stratton AB of HMS Monmouth. I was interested, being an old RN man from WW2.

By chance, a few days later, I was given a book entitled "Castles of Steel" by RK Massie. Out of curiosity I looked up HMS Monmouth and discovered she was sunk with all hands in the S. Pacific off the coast of Chile. She was sunk by a German squadron commanded by Admiral Von Spee. He was in command of the pre-war German Pacific fleet, which was virtually trapped in the Pacific and intended to try to return to Germany by rounding "The Horn", doing as much damage as it could on the way.

To try to prevent this, a totally inadequate British squadron commanded by Admiral Craddock in HMS Good Hope with HMS Monmouth, HMS Glasgow and an armed merchant cruiser, the Otranto, eventually tracked the German down. Both the Monmouth and the Good Hope were due to be scrapped but were hastily manned at the outbreak of war by reservists and some young midshipmen. They were poorly trained, particularly in gunnery and their guns were smaller than the Germans'. Craddock should have kept well clear, pending the arrival of reinforcements but unfortunately the Otranto was fairly slow and would have been an easy victim for the enemy. Instead, he decided to attack with the inevitable result. Only HMS Glasgow managed to escape. Good Hope was sunk and the Monmouth managed to limp away but was caught by the German ship Nuremberg and sunk. The sea was too rough for the Germans to launch boats and the entire crew was lost as were that of the Good Hope - 1600 men in all.

I'm sure this would be the story of how poor John Strattons' name came to be on the village War Memorial.

As things turned out, the Monmouth and the others were avenged a few weeks later. Von Spee managed to round the Horn but made the mistake of deciding to attack Port Stanley in the Falklands. This allowed a powerful squadron of heavy and fast British cruisers to come down from the north and deal with him. All his ships were sunk in their turn.

A. Armstrong

September 2009

I would like to thank Mr. Alan Armstrong of Rowan Crescent for this story of village history. I, for one, found it extremely interesting. - Linda Matheson

Mr. Alexander Stratton, John Stratton's nephew, has supplied more information about the family and its ties with Menstrie. See his letter at this link.

Further reading

HMS Monmouth
Battle of Coronel
The Coronel Memorial
HMS Ganges, (posting of John Stratton's friend pictured)

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