William Le Sauteur

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Jersey's Great War heroes:

William Le Sauteur


William Le Sauteur - a lucky escape at Jutland

This is one of a number of articles published by the Jersey Evening Post on 10 November 2018, the day before the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War. They tell the stories of a number of Jerseymen and Jerseywomen who were distinguished by their bravery during the war. Some survived to recount their own experiences, others perished in the conflict and never saw their native island again.

See full list of articles

An islander and the crew he was serving with in the Royal Navy in the Great War cheated death when the German shell which ripped through three decks of their ship failed to explode.

William Le Sauteur, who was born in February 1878, enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class when he was 15, and steadily rose through the ranks to become a seaman gunner, receiving his buttons as a Chief Petty Officer in 1911.

Before the Great War he was decorated for his service in the Royal Navy during the Boer War.

HMS Galatea

He joined the crew of the light cruiser HMS Galatea in November 1914 and remained with her throughout the war. The vessel mainly operated out of the Essex port of Harwich into the North Sea, and among its tasks was to watch for the German High Seas Fleet coming out of their ports.

It also dealt with any other German surface ships and submarines trying to operate against British shipping and England's east coast towns.

In May 1916 HMS Galatea and her sister ship HMS Phaeton brought down a Zeppelin as it was either heading westwards to bomb an English town or conducting a reconnaissance.

Four weeks later HMS Galatea took part in the Battle of Jutland and was very fortunate to survive. Warned that a major German fleet operation was imminent, British ships, including HMS Galatea set out and were tasked with investigating a mystery ship, which turned out to be Danish.

Two German destroyers also headed for this ship, and the two fleets came to be less than 50 miles apart. It is believed that HMS Galatea was the first British ship to fire shells in the Battle of Jutland. The vessel was also the first to be hit by a German shell, which tore through three decks.

By an amazing stroke of luck, the shell failed to explode and the ship continued to participate in the action.

Chief Petty Officer Le Sauteur, who was awarded a medal for meritorious service, and the Medaille Militaire for work on the British Navy's behalf in France during the war, left HMS Galatea in February 1919. He died in January 1923 following a recurrence of Spanish flu, followed by pneumonia, leaving a widow and two sons.

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