Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy man who helped sink Bismarck would be so proud of beloved HMS Caroline now, says hero's son

By Claire McNeilly

The spectacular rebirth of HMS Caroline brought back poignant memories of the Belfast man who took great pride in looking after the only surviving warship from the Battle of Jutland.

Able Seaman Patrick Lynas, who died in June 1994 aged 69, was senior shipkeeper on the Belfast-moored Great War vessel for 22 years until his retirement in 1987.

But it has now emerged that the Ballymurphy native was a naval hero himself during the Second World War when, as a teenager, he served on HMS Rodney, which played a key role in the sinking of mighty German battleship Bismarck.

Ironically, Mr Lynas had served for a short time on HMS Hood - the pride of the Royal Navy - which was sunk by Bismarck just three days before Rodney and other British vessels exacted ruthless revenge.

"We only found out about it after he passed away," said his son Patrick Jnr, one of 11 children born to Mr Lynas and his Italian wife Margaret (nee Velente), who died five years ago aged 86.

"He lost a lot of friends in the war and never liked to talk about it.

"He would have died for the Navy, though... and he would have been so chuffed and proud of how the refurbished Caroline is looking now, down at Alexandra Dock."

Patrick Lynas joined the forces when he was 15, just as war was breaking out in 1939.

"He bluffed his age, saying he was 16, in order to sign up," said Patrick Jnr, who added that his father spent most of the conflict as a range finder on Rodney.

"I'll always remember the photograph of the Rodney that my father kept at the top of the landing in our family home in Ballymurphy," his son said.

"Some people tried to get an OBE for him, but he resisted that because he was a modest man who didn't want his name in the papers. In the end, the Ministry of Defence sent a Royal Navy admiral from London over to HMS Caroline and they presented my dad with a parchment certificate of service in recognition of his efforts during the war."

Patrick Jnr recalled that, every Remembrance Day, his father would honour all those who died in those epic sea battles of the early 1940s. And although he played an integral part in the history of HMS Rodney, he was deeply affected by the catastrophic demise of the supposedly invincible Hood, which sank within three minutes with the loss of all but three of its 1,419-man crew.

The Hood's loss was one of the most demoralising for the British forces in World War II, although Patrick and his colleagues on the Rodney and three other British vessels went some way towards addressing that when they sent Bismarck - one of the most feared warships in maritime history - to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on May 27, 1941.

"I know that my father cried when the Hood went down," said the retired Finaghy man.

"He knew that he could well have been on that ship.

"He always said it was God that popped him on the Rodney and God who got him back home again. He wasn't a man who complained about much.

"Indeed, one time when he was manning the Rodney's pom-pom guns he had his ears damaged by a shell and was flash-blinded in one of his eyes - yet he never mentioned it to anyone at the time."

The 67-year-old said he remembered how upset his father was when the IRA ordered him to desist from wearing his Royal Navy uniform while walking to the docks to look after HMS Caroline.

"My dad was a Catholic from Ballymurphy, but thought nothing of wearing that uniform when walking down to his work at Milewater Basin," he said.

"He was first threatened when the Troubles started, and from then on, until he retired, he had to wear ordinary clothes going to work.

"I know that incident about the uniform upset him a lot.

"He used to say to us: 'Hate nobody. Never, ever fall out with each other'."

If you knew Able Seaman Patrick Lynas, his son would like you to get in touch. Please email:

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