top of page

James Arneil, 3rd Marine Engineer, S.S. Earl of Forfar

Mercantile Marine War Medal - Fatal Casualty

SKU: ZM139
  • The Mercantile Marine War Medal issued to the next-of-kin of James Arneil, who was killed in an explosion at Murmansk, Russia on 26th October 1916. His father was living in Timaru after the war and claimed his sons medal in New Zealand.


    James Arneil was born 25th January 1895 at Paisley, Scotland, son of James Wilson and Elizabeth Banks Arneil (née McDougall). Arneil saw service early in First World War as third engineer on board the Glasgow-based steamer Meadowfield. On 9th July 1915 the Meadowfield was off the south coast of Ireland, bringing a load of copper ore from Spain to Glasgow, when she was attacked by U-20, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger. Just two months earlier Schwieger had infamously sunk the Lusitania, killing 1198 of the passengers and crew and changing the course of the war. Schwieger attacked the Meadowfield on the surface, crippling the ship with gunfire and killing one member of her crew. The survivors, including Arneil, managed to take to lifeboats before the vessel was finally sunk. After seven hours in the open, they were picked up by a trawler and taken to Holyhead.

    On his recovery from this traumatic ordeal, Arneil transferred to the Kinsale before being posted to the Earl of Forfar in 1916. On 26th October 1916 the Earl of Forfar was berthed at the Russian port of Bakaritsa near Archangel, Murmansk, having brought a load of munitions. She was docked next to the Baron Driesen which still contained 1600 tons of explosive munitions and stores. Just before 1 pm a terrific explosion came from the Baron Driesen, followed by several more which destroyed the ship and devasted the wharf area. Some forty minutes later another series of explosions were felt, these emanating from the Earl of Forfar. The vessel was gutted and twenty-four members of her crew were killed, including James Arneil. Five men, including Captain G.P. Bevan, C.M.G., D.S.O., R.N, were subsequently awarded the Albert Medal for saving numerous wounded seamen from within the stricken ship. 

    James Arneil’s parents emigrated to New Zealand after the war, settling in Timaru. The medals were applied for by James Arneil snr. and were issued off the New Zealand roll, and are therefore named in the New Zealand style.

    Medal is correctly impressed J. ARNEIL.

bottom of page