Chief Petty Officer Raymond Clarence Gentry

Chief Petty Officer Raymond Clarence Gentry was from New Zealand of English origin and joined the Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in 1892. He was an outstanding rating and was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct medal in 1906. In 1915 he had 23 years service behind him in a variety of ships, when was killed fighting ashore in the Persian Gulf as part of a landing party from HMS Pyramus.

Raymond Clarence Gentry was born in St Osyth, Essex on 29 May 1876, before his family emigrated to New Zealand. At the age of 16, in 1892, he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class and was posted to the training ship HMS Boscawen at Portland. Raymond joined his first seagoing ship, the armoured cruiser HMS Australia in April 1894, being promoted to Ordinary Seaman in May of that year.

HMS Pyramus going alongside at Lyttleton
HMS Pyramus going alongside at Lyttleton

Over the next few years he served in a variety of ships and qualified first as a Seaman Gunner in 1895 and subsequently as a Gun Layer. In the days before automated firing of guns they were trained onto the target by specialist seamen known as Gun Layers. Concurrently he was rising quickly through the ranks, being rated Able Seaman in April 1895, Leading Seaman in July 1896, Petty Officer 2nd Class in April 1897 and Petty Officer 1st Class in July 1898. In November 1906 he was promoted to Acting Chief Petty Officer and confirmed in the rank in December 1907.

Over the next few years he served in a variety of ships and qualified first as a Seaman Gunner in 1895 and subsequently as a Gun Layer. In the days before automated firing of guns they were trained onto the target by specialist seamen known as Gun Layers.

In May 1914 Raymond was posted to HMS Pyramus which was one of the ships of the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy, the remnants of the Australian Squadron which had relocated to New Zealand on the arrival of the Australian Fleet in Sydney in October 1913, the other ship being Psyche and soon to be joined by HMS Philomel. Pyramus had been on the Australia Station for some years and was due to recommission under the command of Commander the Right Honourable Viscount Kelburn RN and Raymond was part of the draft for this event. The recommissioning took place in Wellington on 15 July, the same day that Philomel was commissioned for service under the New Zealand Government. Amongst the new crew of Pyramus were over sixty New Zealanders.

After the outbreak of war Pyramus was part of the escort of the expedition to occupy German Samoa and then, part of the time with the escort of the convoy of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, proceeded to India. From January until July 1915 the ship was off the east coast of Africa, blockading the German cruiser SMS Könisberg, which had taken refuge up the Rufji River. Once that ship had been sunk Pyramus was deployed to the Persian Gulf.

After arrival in Muscat the ship moved to Bushire where it joined a force comprising HM Ships Juno, Dalhousie and Laurence convoying Indian troops on a punitive expedition against the Ras Ali of Dilwar, 20 miles (32 km) to the south. Bushire had a British Concession for a telegraph station and residency, but on the outbreak of war the German Consul had fled inland with a large sum of money and was fermenting discord with the local Tangistani people. The aim of the expedition was to blow up the fort of the Ras Ali and cut down his date trees, from which he derived his revenues.

After three days of bad weather the landing took place on 13 August, the troops being conveyed in three strings of boats, each towed by a steamboat. Commander the Viscount Kelburn was in charge of the landing. The enemy commenced firing at about 1,000 yards and the helmsman of one of the steamboats was hit and his boat veered into an adjacent string. Kelburn directed the disentangling of the boats and got the troops ashore, for which he was made a member of the Distinguished Service Order.

During this action Chief Petty Officer Raymond Gentry and Yeoman of Signals Frederick Wood of Pyramus were killed and buried in the English Cemetery with full honours the next day.

Six men were killed in the action, one of whom was Stoker J. Foord of Pyramus and another 17 wounded. The casualties were brought off to the ship and next morning the ship proceeded to sea and buried the dead. Operations around and off Dilwar continued for the next three days.

By early September Pyramus was back in the area and the landing party was frequently ashore searching and destroying dhows as required. On 8 September, comprising 62 men and three maxim machine guns it was ashore at Bushire for field exercises and were billeted in the navy house. The next morning a message was received that the enemy were in sight and the Pyramus party was ordered to defend a ridge about six miles (9.5 km) away. They were about first in the field, and after a brief skirmish got the three maxims into position and succeeded in checking the enemy’s advance long enough to allow the main body to arrive. This comprised Indian infantry and cavalry and they dealt severely with the attacking Tangistanis, but at a cost of over 100 killed and many more wounded. During this action Chief Petty Officer Raymond Gentry and Yeoman of Signals Frederick Wood of Pyramus were killed and buried in the English Cemetery with full honours the next day. Today they are buried in the British War Cemetery in Tehran.