This is a postcard from our Museum store which shows a photo of the WW1 ship HMS Birmingham. HMS Birmingham was launched on the 13th of May 1913 and was commissioned in February 1914. She joined the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet in 1914, visiting Keil in June that year.
On August 9th 1914, she spotted the U-15, whose engines had failed as she lay stopped on the surface in heavy fog, off Fair Isle. The crew of Birmingham could hear hammering from inside the boat from attempted repairs, and so fired on her but missed. As the U-boat began to dive, she rammed her, cutting her in two. U-15 went down with all hands, the first U-boat loss to an enemy warship. Birmingham also sank two German merchant ships that year and took part in the battle of Heligoland on August 28th and the battle of Dogger Bank in January 1915. In February 1915, she joined the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, Attacking a U-boat on 18th June 1915 with no success.
She also took part in the battle of Jutland as a member of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, during which she sustained damage caused by splintering during the night of the battle.
After the First World War, she was flagship for the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron in 1919-1920, after which she was transferred to the Nore from 1920-1922. Considered (with two other two shaft ‘Towns’) for conversion to a mine layer, but the idea was not pursued. She was recommissioned in November 1923 to the Africa Station with the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron as flagship, relieving Lowestoft. She then continued to serve in foreign stations until being sold in 1931. She arrived at the yards of Thos W Ward, of Pembroke dock on 12th March that year to be broken up.
At the end of the War, Quinan was 40 years old. He was offered a knighthood which he turned down (as an American, he didn’t think it was appropriate). He was made a Companion of Honour on the same day as General Smuts. He also received official thanks from the House of Commons and a gift of £10,000. In 1919, he returned to South Africa. His work was clearly held in the highest estimation and praise was showered upon him as can be seen below. Photograph below shows Quinan in later life.
“The unique professional knowledge derived from many years of technical experience, the unremitting work of a powerful and vigorous mind, and the irradiating influence of a great, genial and unselfish personality were unreservedly put at the disposal of the British Empire. An atmosphere of good fellowship and of equal comradeship in work pervaded every branch. Everyone who came under the influence of Mr Quinan was stimulated to put forth his best in the general cause.” – Article in Nature Journal, 1920
“It would be hard to point to anyone who did more to win the war than Kenneth Bingham Quinan.” – David Lloyd George
Below: Quinan was given a solid gold brick on retiring along with the words “from one old brick to another”.
KBQ’s timeline after the war
In 1917 Quinan was appointed to the Commission of Chemical Trades after the War. Churchill offered him a position in the Ministry of Munitions but he declined this offer and many others.
In 1919 he returned to his old farm in South Africa as a consultant
In 1922 he helped found and became the first Vice President of the Institute of Chemical Engineers (now the Royal Institute of Chemical Engineers). The main aim for this was to disseminate the information gathered during the War.
31st December 1923 married Jean Pargiter. They had two sons
In 1924 KBQ retired to his fruit farm ‘Bizweni’ in Somerset West where he built a laboratory and dedicated himself to grape production. He also enjoyed big game hunting (especially lions).
In 1942 KBQ was invited by the British Government be Senior Representative in South Africa for Chemical Defence Matters. He worked tirelessly in munitions manufacture again.
11am 26th January 1948 KBQ collapsed and died at his desk in his office at the age of 69.
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