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Posted: 27.06.18

Christ College Remembers … Master Mariner Herbert James Graham Kell

Herbert James Graham Kell, the son of a civil engineer, joined Christ College with older brother, Fergus Aenas, and younger brother, Philip Arthur Graham. All three brothers were involved in athletics, with Herbert receiving his only mention in The Breconian by gaining second place in the Under 15 High Jump in the annual athletic sports of 1889.

Master Mariner Herbert James Graham Kell

School House 1888-1890

26th June 1918

Aged 44

After leaving school both Herbert and Philip became apprentices in the Merchant Navy. In 1892 Herbert signed an apprenticeship to the shipping firm of Wright, Graham and Company of Glasgow, later gaining his certificates as Second Mate (1895) and then First Mate (1899) and Master (1901) before being entered into The Captains Registers at Lloyds. In 1909 he emigrated to Australia where he joined the shipping firm of Huddart Parker & Co of Melbourne, Australia. Kell served as Second and chief Officer, and then as Master on many Huddart Parker vessels.

By early 1915 was the Captain of the SS ‘Wimmera’, a passenger ship of 3022 tons mainly used on the trans-Tasman Sea run between Australia and New Zealand. On the morning of 25th June 1918, the ‘Wimmera’ left Auckland bound for Sydney. On board were 76 passengers and 75 crew. At 5.15am on the 26th June, she hit a mine laid by the German commerce raider ‘Wolf’.

In accordance with maritime tradition, Herbert Kell went down with his ship after ensuring that passengers and crew took to the lifeboats. Six of the eight lifeboats survived their launching and eventually landed at various locations over the next 48 hours. Master Mariner H J G Kell died in the sinking, along with the Chief officer, the Chief steward and 23 others.

His younger brother, Philip Arthur Graham Kell, also died at sea and was the first Old Breconian to be killed in the First World War. Master Mariner Herbert James Graham Kell is remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial, London, and on the Christ College War Memorial.

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