Arthur George David De Bank was born on 11th June 1895 at Woodford, son of James William (Engine Fitters Labourer) and Rhoda Rebecca De Bank. He was Baptised at Woodford Bridge on 4th August 1895. Arthur was the oldest of nine children. In 1911, sixteen year old Arthur was living at Norman Villa, Horn Lane in Woodford Green and working as a bench boy at a saw mill. His father, James, had passed away prior to 1911, leaving his widow and eight children. At this time, the family also had a lodger, George Vegas, who worked alongside Arthur in the saw mill. His mother later lived at 1 Model Cottages, Horn Lane. He joined the Royal Navy on a twelve year engagement as a Stoker on 27th April 1914.
He served initially with HMS “Pembroke” at Chatham, followed by a number of postings, including the cruiser HMS “Crescent” and the submarine depot ship “Dolphin” until he joined the crew of submarine K.17.
This vessel became a victim of the “Battle of May Island”. Nine submarines and many various surface craft including Battleships and Cruisers sailed from Rosyth and vicinity into the North Sea to undertake a night exercise “Operation EC1.” This was to be undertaken without navigation lights or radio transmissions about 13 miles off the coast of Fife.
After an initial attempt to avoid a collision between the force and two minesweeping trawlers in mist and rough seas, there followed a number of interrelated crashes between submarines, plus submarines and surface ships taking part in the exercise. The submarine K17 was run down by the light cruiser HMS “Fearless” and sank some 8 minutes later. Though 18 of the submarines crew managed to escape, other ships steamed through them in the darkness, and only 9 men survived the sinking. Arthur De Bank was among those who were not recovered, but his his name appears on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
Research by Adrian Lee andRedbridge Museum
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
British Warship Losses in the Ironclad Era 1860-1919 by David Hepper