Kirkcaldy sailor’s story features in new World War I book

Steve Dunn with his sixth book, Bayly's War, which features the story of a Kirkcaldy sailor.
Steve Dunn with his sixth book, Bayly's War, which features the story of a Kirkcaldy sailor.

A Kirkcaldy sailor, who lost his life in the First World War, is among those with little-known stories who features in a new book published this month.

The experiences of 21-year-old David John Whitton, of Carlyle Road, are featured in Bayly’s War, the sixth book by naval historian Steve Dunn.

David was a medical student at Edinburgh University and a resident at the city’s Royal Infirmary.

When the war came he left his studies and joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves (RNVR) as a surgeon probationer on HMS Cullist.

His decision to join a Q-ship was particularly brave as these vessels were heavily-armed merchant ships, with concealed weaponry, designed to lure submarines into making surface attacks so they then had the chance to open fire and sink them.

In February 1918, following a surprise attack, the ship was torpedoed and sank within minutes. Of the total of 70 crewmen, 43 were killed, including David, who is commemorated at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Steve hopes to raise awareness of the exploits of ordinary men who found themselves in extraordinary situations.

He said: “Clearly a great deal has been written about the First World War but I wanted to do something different and include stories that few people know about.

“David was one of a number of surgeon probationers who died during the war and what makes these men particularly brave is they were neither Royal Navy sailors nor qualified doctors.”