Search our records : Reginald Arthur Perry

Surname: Perry
Forename(s): Reginald Arthur
Service Number: Stoker 33725
Date of Birth: 25th February 1892
Force: Royal Navy
Unit: HMS Highflyer
Parents: Richard and Joanna Perry
Home address:

Reginald Perry was born in Seaton on 25th February 1892, but by the time of the 1901 census the family was living in Townsend, Beer.  Reginald’s father, Richard Perry, was an agricultural labourer and carter, born in Beer, while his mother, Joanna, was born in Seaton.  Reginald had two younger sisters, Sarah (aged 7 in 1901) and Alice (aged 5)[1].

Reginald joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class on 5th June 1916.  His Royal Navy record describes him as 5ft 7 ½ in tall, with black hair and brown eyes, and a fresh complexion.  He appears to have trained at HMS Vivid, a shore establishment at Devonport, before joining HMS Highflyer, a cruiser, on 1st August 1917.

Highflyer carried 11 six-inch guns, and had a crew of 450.  For much of the period Reginald was on board, (August 1917 to April 1919) Highflyer was escorting convoys across the North Atlantic. She was in harbour at Halifax, Nova Scotia on the morning of 6th December 1917 when two merchant ships collided in the harbour.  One of these, the SS Mont Blanc, due to leave for Bordeaux, was carrying 200 tons of TNT, 2,300 tons of picric acid (an ingredient of military explosive) and 10 tons of gun cotton. The Mont Blanc caught fire and her crew abandoned ship.  As she drifted across the harbour, setting fire to a pier, a party from Highflyer, led by Commander Triggs, set off in the ship’s whaler to assist[2]

At 9.05 am the Mont Blanc exploded in the biggest ever man-made explosion prior to the dropping of the atomic bomb.  Almost 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 injured, while around 1,600 buildings were destroyed.  Only one of Highflyer’s whaler’s crew was found, and he died soon after.  Highflyer took on survivors, including 28 crewmen from the Mont Blanc and some from the Norwegian ship she had collided with.  A party of stokers went ashore to give first aid, and it is possible that Reginald was in this group.  Highflyer was damaged in the explosion, three seamen on board were killed and 47 injured.

Despite the damage and casualties, Highflyer left Halifax on 11th December, escorting a convoy of 31 ships bound for Plymouth, where they arrived on 27th December.  On 31st December, Reginald was promoted to Stoker 1st Class. 

After repairs in Plymouth, Highflyer became the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief North Atlantic and West Indies. Following a spell in Bermuda, she returned to convoy escort work in the North Atlantic, and when the Armistice came in November 1918, Highflyer was escorting a convoy towards Glasgow. She docked there on 12th November 1918. 

Reginald stayed with HMS Highflyer until he was demobilised on 15th April 1919.  He died in 1976, aged 84.

[1] 1901 census via