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War Memorials

In Memory of
HMS Ariel - Royal Navy
Who died on Friday, 2 August 1918
Aged 29

No Known Grave
Panel 26
Plymouth Naval Memorial to the "Missing", Devon

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Plymouth Naval Memorial

Plymouth Naval Memorial1
There are essentially identical memorials at Chatham and Portsmouth

Frank Alan Rothera was born in Beeston, Nottinghamshire in 18892, the elder of two surviving children of Frank (b. 1861, Nottingham) and Ada Mary Rothera (b. 1858, Birkenhead, Cheshire née Watson)3. Frank senior's father was a well-established solicitor and several in the family chose that career, some carrying out the role of Coroner in Nottingham over many years. Frank senior, however, became a doctor and began in general practice in Beeston in 1886. In 1887, he married Ada Mary Watson and set up home at The Old Manor House, West End, Beeston. In 1894, he became Medical Officer of Health for Beeston. Following the birth of their son Frank Alan in April 1889, another son, Hubert, was born in 1891 but died the following year, Their daughter Gwendel was born in September 1893. But, the record of the family in 1901, including Frank Alan as an 11-year-old school boy and Gwendel as a 7-year-old school girl, living with three domestic servants at the Old Manor House4 did not reflect the tragedy that was to come later that year. In the early summer, Ada began to suffer from depression and a carriage accident added to the problem and. despite the near constant attendance of a companion, on 10th August 1901 she died from poisoning from belladonna which she had taken from her husband's surgery5.

In 1903, Frank senior married Maud Mary Willett who had operated the private school on West End that was subsequently taken over by Miss Horner6. In May of the following year, on reaching the age of fifteen, Frank Alan entered the Training Ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth, as a Royal Navy officer cadet. He became a Midshipman in the following September and received steady promotion in the years up to the 1st World War. At the time of the 1911 Census he was a Sub-Lieutenant with HMS Chelmer at Devonport and was promoted to Lieutenant in October 1911. In 1916 he was in command of the destroyer HMS Test, based on the Humber, engaged in counter-mining operations and anti-submarine patrols. This was followed by a command of the destroyer HMS Hind as part of the Home Fleet7.

ArielIn July 1917, he took command of HMS Ariel, an Acheron-class destroyer (Shown left) that had been built in 1911 and had recently been converted for service as a minelayer. Now, with her sister ships HMS Ferret and HMS Sandfly, she was engaged in critically important work, mine laying to close the Heligoland Bight to German ships and submarines. In March 1918, while mine laying in that area in company with four other ships, she came upon three armed German trawlers which were sunk and 72 prisoners captured. On 2 August, while mine laying in the western end of the Heligoland Bight, the V-class destroyer HMS Vehement sank after striking a German mine, causing her forward ammunition magazine to detonate which, in turn, blew off the entire forward section of the ship. One officer and 47 ratings were killed. In maneuvering to exit the minefield, Ariel suffered a similar fate when, after striking a mine, she too lost her bow when the forward magazine detonated. She sank in less than an hour with the loss of 49 lives including her commanding officer, Lieutenant Rothera8. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial to the "Missing". He was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1914/15 Star9.

Lieutenant Rothera's father, Frank Rothera, had died earlier that year, aged 56, on 5 January 1918 suffering from double pneumonia. His widow moved to live in her native Cheshire and died there in 1936. His sister, Gwendel Rothera had married George Alfred Duncan Harvey, a medical officer serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps, in 1916. She died in a nursing home in Barnet, Hertfordshire in 1979, aged 8510.

1The photograph of the memorial at Plymouth is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2Frank Alan Rothera was born on 7 April 1889 (Royal Navy Officers' Service Records) and was baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 4 June 1889.
3The couple married at St Mary Magdelene Church, St Pancras, London on 29 July 1887.
4Beeston, Notts: 1901 Census - Piece 3153 Folio 55
5A report of the inquest appeared on the Nottingham Evening Post on 15 August 1901.
6Their marriage was recorded in Nottingham Registration District in Q2/1903 (7b 590).
7Details of his career can be found in his Royal Navy Officers' Service Record (available at FindMyPast) and in Navy List entries. In the 1911 Census he is recorded as a Sub-Litenant with HMS Chelmer at Devonport (Piece 13061).
8Detail of these ships and the loss of Ariel is based on various Wikipedia entries relating to the ships. The image of Ariel is from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.
9These awards are recorded in the Naval Medal and Award Rolls, available at ancestry.com.
10Details of the family are derived from standard genealogical sources.
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