McConnochie – History of a Family’s RN Service 1845-1980

Biographies and personal histories
RAN Ships
None noted.
September 1993 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)

I recently gave custody of the Service Documents of my paternal great grandfather, grandfather, maternal grandfather and father, to the Naval Historical Society so that interested persons could view them and in the hope that they will provide research information; if nothing else, they represent a continuous line of service in one family from 1845 to 1980 when I left the RAN.

The second CRESSY

The second CRESSY

My paternal great grandfather, John Isaac joined the RN in June 1845 and served in VICTORY, CHILDERS, LEANDER and EXCELLENT up until December 1853 and in CRESSY from December 1853 to May 1857. He then went to Portsmouth Yard as a rigger and was transferred to the Coastguard in April 1858 where he remained until pensioned off in June 1884. During his service in CRESSY, which was an 80 gun screw ship, the ship proceeded to the Baltic in March 1884 as war with Russia was imminent, and joined a fleet under Vice Admiral Sir Charles Napier.

In March 1889, his son, John Henry Isaac, my paternal grandfather, joined the RN as a Boy 2nd at St. Vincent. He served in a large number of ships including RAMILLIES under the command of Lord Jellicoe, whose signature appears on page 4 of his Service Certificate for the annual assessment at 31st December, 1894. In June 1900 while serving in ENDYMION, he landed with a Naval Brigade in North China under the command of Vice Admiral Seymour which captured the Priyang Arsenal during the Boxer Rebellion. He was awarded the China Medal with Relief of Peking Clasp. In December 1906 he was promoted to Acting Gunner 1st Class and retired as a Commissioned Gunner on 31st May, 1920. During his commissioned service he served in numerous ships including NESS and BRAMBLE in the North Sea and Persian Gulf and RIVIERA in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

In July 1923 his son Donald Jack Isaac, my father, joined the RN as an ERA Apprentice. After completing his apprenticeship at PEMBROKE he served three years in NELSON followed by a short period at GREENWICH and then 2 years on the China Station in WISHART. In February 1934 he transferred to the Submarine service and served in PORPOISE for 2 years, REGENT (on the China Station) for 2½ years, OBERON for six months and H50 for 1 year. In November 1940 he stood by UNDAUNTED while she was completing and after work up cruises in Scotland, the boat sailed for the Mediterranean and base at Malta. On her first operational patrol, which included the area off Tripoli, she failed to return and my father was posted as missing. Subsequently the boat was given up as lost and he was officially discharged dead on 13th May, 1941. Records available after the war showed that she had probably been sunk by depth charges dropped from the Italian destroyer PEGASO off Zuaro, Libya.

In May 1945, my mother changed the family name of Isaac to that of my father’s mother’s maiden name – McConnochie. She felt this action was necessary as we were experiencing constant harassment by people wrongly attributing Jewish connotations to the name Isaac.

I joined the navy in April 1949, in the Writer category and after 20 years service and promotion to commissioned rank in 1963, transferred to the Seaman Branch and qualified as a Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Officer. I left the Service in January 1980, concluding an almost continuous line of service since at least 1845.

Maternal grandfather (Johnstone) on board Royal Yacht VICTORIA AND ALBERT, 1965.

Maternal grandfather (Johnstone) on board Royal Yacht VICTORIA AND ALBERT, 1905.

On my mother’s side of the family, her father, Thomas Ashton Johnstone joined the RN in March 1895. He served in a number of ships including AGINCOURT at the Battle of Jutland. One of the enclosures to his Service Certificate is a Memorandum from the Commander in Chief, Admiral Lord Jellicoe, commending all officers and men for the way in which the ships were fought. Earlier, in February 1897 he took part in the punitive Expedition against Benin City; this was the capital of Benin, a province of Southern Nigeria. He was awarded the Ashanti Medal with Benin ’97 Clasp. In June 1919, he commenced service in the Royal Yacht VICTORIA AND ALBERT where he remained until pensioned off to the Reserve in 1923. He was presented with a fob watch by the late King Edward VII for his services which included assisting the King up and down companionways. (Service record is available as a PDF pdf25pxJohnstone service Record)

This then has been a rough overview of the Service careers in my family;. there may well be more as I am unaware of the activities of either John Isaac’s or Thomas Johnstone’s forbears. I hope that interested members will take the opportunity when it presents itself, to view these documents – it is surprising how little the Service Certificate format has changed.

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