The Fallen of Ewhurst and Ellen's Green, Surrey  
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  Oliver Tidy 

Able Seaman J/10402

H.M.S. "Formidable"
Lost at Sea,  01/01/1915, aged 21


No Known Grave, but Remembered on :
Ewhurst War Memorial,  Memorial Plaque and Book of Remembrance
Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent, (Panel 10)




OLIVER TIDY was born in December of 1894 in Ewhurst, the son of James and Rita Phylis Tidy(1) and elder brother of Delia (b1897) and Vera (b1899). In 1901 the family lived at Greenfields, and Oliver's father was a chimney sweep. By 1911 Oliver's parents had moved to Plough Farm, Ewhurst (2).

It is not currently known when Oliver joined the Royal Navy.

HMS Formidable was laid down in Portsmouth Dockyard in March 1898 and completed, at a cost of £1,097,245, in September 1901. With a maximum speed of 18 knots, she was armed with four 12inch Breech loading guns houses in two main turrets, twelve 6inch Quick Firing guns, sixteen 12pounder Quick Firing guns, six 3pounder Quick Firing guns and four 18inch torpedo tubes. Her armour consisted of a 9 inch belt of main armour with up to 12 inches of armour on barbettes and 10 inches on gun houses. She was manned by a crew of 711 men.


HMS Formidable

With the commencement of the First World War, Formidable formed part of the Fifth Battle Squadron, Channel Fleet. Her captain from 1912 until 4th September 1914 was Drury St. A. Wake, who handed the ship over to the command of Captain Arthur Noel Loxley. In the early part of the war Formidable and the Fifth Battle Squadron were responsible for the patrolling of the English Channel to the east of Selsey Bill and operated to cover the arrival of the British Expeditionary Force in France.

On 26th December 1914, the Fifth Battle Squadron were given permission to proceed from Sheerness, in Kent, to Portland to carry out firing exercises. The squadron sailed at 10am on 30th December 1914, being escorted through the Dover Straits by six destroyers, which then returned to Harwich, leaving the squadron to progress west, with Formidable at the rear.

The squadron passed Dungeness at 4pm on the 30th December, and Beachy Head at 7pm. By 11.20pm they passed south of Selsey Bill and at 1.30 am on the morning of the 31st they were to the south of St Catherine's Point on the Isle of Wight. At 9am they passed Portland and commenced firing exercises before reversing their course once again towards St Catherine's Point . It was decided that these exercises would continue through the New Year, and at 7pm and in order to comply with the requirement that vessels alter their course after night fall should submarine attack be possible, the squadron again reversed their course to the west. The squadron was unaware that they had been tracked all day by the German U-boat, U24, based in Flanders. 

 Another course change was planned for 3am, just off Start Point, but at 2.20 am Formidable suddenly turned off course. She was attended by HMS 'Topaze', a light cruiser, which found Formidable listing to starboard and lowering her boats. She had been torpedoed from a range of 360 meters, the explosion damaging a boiler and causing a pronounced list to starboard and loss of all steam. Captain Loxley had commanded all watertight doors to be closed. The weather was deteriorating significantly, and one of Formidable's boats full of men was  capsized.

At 3.05am, forty five minutes after the first explosion, Kapitanleutnant Rudolph Schneider launched a second torpedo into Formidable's port side from close range. The lack of steam prevented the lowering of Formidable's boom boats was hampered, and the men onboard started to break up woodwork to make rafts. Throughout, the crew remained in good order, and HMS 'Topaze' continued to circle and endeavoured to rescue the men from boats in extremely hazardous conditions. Eventually, fearing further torpedo attacks, she was forced to move away.

When, at 4.40am Formidable finally began to heel over, Captain Loxley gave the word for the remaining men to take to the water, and commented "Lads, this is the last, all hands for themselves and may God bless you and guide you to safety" before returning to his ship's bridge with his dog, Bruce, by his side. He was lost with his ship. 

Of the men who made it to the boats, appalling conditions hampered their efforts to reach safety. 71 men were rescued by a trawler, 'Provident', from Brixham in addition to the 43 men that 'Topaz' had rescued from a barge. A further 54 men made it ashore to Lyme Regis in another of Formidable's boats, although by the time they had made the beach six of the men were dead and another three subsequently died ashore.

Of the compliment of 747, 34 officers and 513 ratings, including Able Seaman Oliver Tidy, died in the torpedo attack, or of exposure or by drowning. The bodies of only 18 men and that of Captain Loxley's dog Bruce were recovered for burial.

In Ewhurst, a Memorial Service was held in the Congregational Church on Tuesday 12th January 1915, conducted by Rev Gabriel Woodward, in memory of Oliver Tidy, and largely attended by the villagers (3).

Oliver's parents subsequently moved to 7 Coneyhurst Lane, Ewhurst (4).





Follow this Link to details about First World War Medals


(1) Rita Phylis Porter, married Hambledon, Sept 1890
(2) Elliott's Cranleigh Directory & Almanac
(3) Surrey Advertiser 16/01/1915
(4) CWGC Register. (notes age as 20)


Other sources:

  • Book of Remembrance

  • 1901 Census

  • "Before the Bells Have Faded" Mark Potts & Tony Marks



Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey