John Harold Drake

Birth Date:
Death Date:
20 Sep 1914
Service Branch:
Royal Naval Reserve
Service Number:

John Harold Drake was born in Dover in 1880, the second son of Charles Edward Drake and Mary Ann (formerly Godden), who were married 2 Feb 1878 at Dover Holy Trinity. His father, Charles Edward, was a Royal Navy Lieutenant at marriage and achieved the rank of Staff Commander. His grandparents were John Thomas Drake and Elizabeth (formerly Elizabeth Major Rayner) who were married 1 Nov 1838 at Dover St Mary. Grandfather John was a mariner at marriage and later a hotel proprietor in Dover.

John Harold Drake was a Royal Navy Lieutenant aboard HMS Pegasus and he died of wounds at Zanzibar on  20 Sep 1914 aged 34.  He was buried at Zanzibar Cemetery until 1971, when the graves were moved to Dar Es Salaam War Cemetery, where his headstone now is (reference 2 A 10).  He was also named on the Pegasus pillar at Zanzibar Cemetery, but the pillar was demolished in 1972 when a road was built.  He is also commemorated on a brass plaque in Zanzibar Cathedral.  Photographs  of the headstone, the brass plaque, the pillar and the Pegasus officers have been sent to me by Kevin Patience, the author of ‘Shipwrecks and Salvage on the East African Coast’ (2006) and ‘Konigsberg: A German East African Raider’ (1997).  These photographs are available to enquirers, as is an excellently researched 2012 magazine article about the Pegasus written by Kevin Patience following his diving expeditions.

HMS Pegasus was one of eleven Royal Navy cruisers built in 1893.  Due to unsatisfactory boilers, all these cruisers had been condemned in 1904, but were reprieved and remained in service with scrapping proposed in 1915.  However, by 1914 four of the ships had already been withdrawn.

On 20 Sep 1914, when  Pegasus was anchored in Zanzibar Harbour because of boiler and engine problems, the German light cruiser Konigsberg launched a surprise attack.  Pegasus was incapacitated within eight minutes, and the Captain struck the colours to avoid further bloodshed.  Pegasus sank later that day with the loss of 38 lives and 55 wounded men.

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