b. 24/11/1886 Kensington, London. d. 24/04/1916 Kut-el-Amara, Iraq.
Humphrey Osbaldeston Brooke Firman (1886-1916) was born on 24th November 1886 at 26 Queensferry Place, Kensington, London, the son of Humphrey Brooke Firman, whose family owned the Gateforth estates in Yorkshire. His short life, from the day he joined the Royal Navy as a cadet on 15th May 1901, followed the course of a career naval officer. As a midshipman and then sub-lieutenant, he served aboard the battleship Glory on the China Station, in the battleships Albion and Illustrious in the Channel Fleet and in the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert. Promoted to Lieutenant in 1908, he saw service in the Persian Gulf amd off the Horn of Africa before the Great War which saw him head for Mesopotamia to join the fleet of river boats.
In early 1916 he was given his first Tigris command, the new gunboat HMS Greenfly, one of sixteen new “Butterfly” class vessels commissioned for the Navy. At 8 p.m. on April 24th, 1916, with a crew from the Royal Navy under Lieut. Firman, R.N., assisted by Lieut. Comdr. Cowley, R.N.V.R., the " Julnar ", carrying 270 tons of supplies, left Falahiyah in an attempt to reach Kut.
Her departure was covered by all artillery and machine gun fire that could be brought to bear, in the hope of distracting the enemy's attention. She was, however, discovered and shelled on her passage up the river. At 1 a.m. on the 25th, Gen. Townshend reported that she had not arrived, and that at midnight a burst of heavy firing had been heard at Magasis, some 9 miles from Kut by river, which had suddenly ceased. There could be but little doubt that the enterprise had failed, and the next day the Air Service reported the " Julnar " in the hands of the Turks at Magasis.
Firman’s body was said to have been found in the cabin of the “Julnar” and buried by the Turks at Magasis. The grave, if it was ever marked, was subsequently lost, and his name was commemorated on the Basra Memorial. His VC was presented to his father by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 28th February 1917. His medal is now held by York Castle Museum, York.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: YORK CASTLE MUSEUM, YORK, YORKSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE - ON BASRA MEMORIAL, IRAQ. PANEL 1 AND 60.
Humphrey Firman's memorial on the New Malden War Memorial (Pic - John Sharrock)
Humphrey Firman's VC medal as displayed at the York Castle Museum (Feb 2012).
Basra Memorial (courtesy of TWGPP)