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At the outbreak of the First World War, Barry Bingham, an Ulsterman and career sailor who joined the Royal Navy in 1895, was a Lieutenant-Commander gunnery officer on the new battlecruiser HMS Invincible.
He and his men did not have to wait long before they were pitched into battle against the German fleet, Invincible was part of the taskforce sent into the South Atlantic to avenge the defeat at the Battle of Corondel. The ensuing battle of the Falkland Islands was a decisive encounter, the lighter German Squadron under Admiral Graf Spee were surprised by their British opponents and lost all but two of their ships.
The author’s reward for his conduct was command of a destroyer squadron in the Home Fleet and in May 1916 at the Battle of Jutland he was to win the Victoria Cross. He was ordered along with six other destroyers, along with the three of his squadron, to attack Admiral Hipper’s battlecruiser squadron. Out-ranged and out-gunned, Bingham’s ship drove for his target hard and fast, hoping to come within torpedo range of the heavier German ships. The German destroyer screen intercepted the majority of the British ships, of which two were sunk and others disabled; Bingham in HMS Nestor along with HMS Nicator of his squadron plowed forward. With reckless bravery the two ships carried on to 3,000 yards but were disabled before they could release their torpedoes; the Nestor continued to fight the unequal battle until sunk., Bingham and many of his crew were picked up a German destroyer bound for captivity warmed only by the thought that they had done more than their duty.