QSA (1) CC (Bosn. S. C. Legg, R.N. H.M.S. Niobe);
1914-15 Star (Ch. Bosn. S. C. Legg. R.N.);
BWM and VM (Ch. Bosn. S. C. Legg. R.N.);
France, Medaille Militaire
Together with ‘H.M.S. New Zealand’ Visit Medal 1913, silver, in its original W. R. Bock, Wellington, brown leather purse; Naval Victories Medal, by Spink, commemorating the battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland, bronze, in fitted case of issue, the lid embossed ‘H.M.S. New Zealand Xmas 1916.’; and Battle of Jutland Medal, by Spink, white metal, these last two privately named ‘S. C. Legg. Chief Boatswain. H.M.S. New Zealand.’
Medaille Militaire London Gazette 15 September 1916 (Jutland).
Sydney Charles Legg was born at Dartmouth, Devon, on 19 April 1867, and joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class aboard H.M.S. Lion on 14 July 1882. He progressed through the rates to become Petty Officer 1st Class in July 1897 and, while serving in Niobe in South African waters during the Boer War, was appointed Acting Boatswain on 1 February 1900, and confirmed in that rank later in the same year. He continued at sea in various ships until 27 February 1912 when he was appointed to ‘stand by’ H.M.S. New Zealand, then building at Govan at the charge of the New Zealand Government.
He served on the battlecruiser New Zealand until August 1917, having been advanced to Chief Boatswain in February 1915. As such he was aboard the ship when she went on tour to the Dominions in 1913, including a visit to her namesake during 12 April-25 June 1913. Whilst there the ship was estimated to have been visited by almost half the population of New Zealand - most pertinent of whom was a Maori chieftain who presented the captain with a Maori piupiu (a warrior’s skirt) and a greenstone tiki (pendant) which were intended to ward off evil, with the injunction that they were always to be worn by the captain when the ship was in action. Their efficacy was to be proved as the ship saw action at the battles of Heligoland Bight 1914, Dogger Bank 1915 and Jutland 1916.
At Dogger Bank, command of the British squadrons fell to Rear-Admiral Moore of the New Zealand when Beatty’s Lion was badly damaged by three 12-inch shells from the Derfflinger, and as a consequence she was directly engaged in the three hour duel that resulted in the loss of the Blucher.
At Jutland, the crew of the New Zealand had the misfortune to witness the loss of the Indefatigable and the Queen Mary, passing the latter battle cruiser on the port beam at just 100 yards distance when she blew up. An Officer stationed in New Zealand’s gun-control position later wrote:
‘At about 4.35 the stern of a ship projecting about 70 feet out of the water, with the propellers revolving slowly, drifted into the field of my glasses; clouds of white paper were blowing out of the after-hatch, and on her stern I read “Queen Mary”. She passed us about 100 yards on our port beam, and a moment later there was a blinding flash, a dull heavy roar, which ceased as suddenly as it began, followed by a few seconds silence, and then the patter of falling debris. All that was left of the “Queen Mary” was a great mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke about 600 to 800 feet high, which temporarily obscured our view of the enemy, but a few seconds later we drew clear.’
In spite of such harrowing scenes, the New Zealand’s crew continued to engage the enemy with numerous well-aimed salvoes, the whole under the direction of Admiral Pakenham and Captain John Green. The crew were doubtless relieved to know that the latter was wearing the piupiu and tikii as instructed. As mascots went, they did the trick, with just one enemy shell hitting the New Zealand on her after turret causing no casualties.
Legg was appointed to Rosyth Dockyard on 2 August 1917, and, on 19 April 1922, was promoted to Lieutenant and retired. He was still in the Retired List in 1948, aged 81.
E&W Africa (1) Benin 1897 (M. T. Johns, Lg. Sto. 1 Cl. H.M.S. Phœbe.);
QSA (0) (M. T. Johns, Ch. Sto., H.M.S. Niobe);
RN LS&GC VR (M. T. Johns, Ldg: Stoker, H.M.S. Speedwell.)
Martin Thomas Johns was born in Calstock, Cornwall, in March 1857, and joined the Royal Navy as Stoker 2nd Class on 24 February 1880. Posted to H.M.S. Royal Adelaide, he was advanced Stoker on 1 September 1880, and Leading Stoker on 25 March 1890. Posted to H.M.S. Speedwell on 1 July 1890, he was awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 30 July 1890, and was promoted Leading Stoker 1st Class on 1 April 1893. He transferred to H.M.S. Phoebe on 13 November 1895, and was appointed Acting Chief Stoker on 6 May 1897. Promoted to his ultimate rate of Chief Stoker on 6 May 1898, he transferred to H.M.S. Niobe on 6 December 1898, and was shore pensioned on 21 May 1900.