Frank Ernest Rock

Surgeon Frank Ernest Rock, R.N., who lost his life on the Laurentic, was the first child of Samuel Joseph Rock and Sarah Ann (née West). He was born in Portsea, Hampshire in 1872. He married Alice Maud Fanny Simmonds 31st July 1902 at St Mary Abbots, Kensington. They had two children, Margaret and John.

Frank’s Father and both Grandfathers served in the Navy. His paternal grandfather G. H. Rock was lost at sea when the H.M.S. Captain capsized off Finisterre in 1870 with the loss of nearly 500 men.  (H.M.S. Captain capsized because of design and construction errors that led to inadequate stability).

Shipping losses as the result of submarine activity was a significant concern throughout the war and efforts to seek out and destroy the U-Boats seemed to have little success. The submarine commanders received their orders at sea via coded radio messages, usually under cover of darkness. Surfacing to receive instructions, the submarines did not transmit signals and while the messages might be intercepted, the U-Boats could not be traced by the British or Allied Navies, nor could the messages be decoded or understood without the correct cipher. The fear of submarine attacks, especially during the periods when the German U-Boats operated an ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ policy (When the submarines would attack without warning while submerged.) must undoubtedly have preyed on the minds of many aboard the Laurentic and other vessels.

At dinner in December 1916, in conversation with the Times of London’s War Correspondent, Captain Norton of the Laurentic seemed dismissive of the threat posed by submarines and mines. While his reasons for such a position are unclear, his estimation of the threat was to be proven tragically flawed.

The drive to break German communication codes and to disrupt submarine operations would again come to the fore in World War Two, most notably at Bletchley Park in England where Frank Ernest Rock’s daughter Margaret would go on to become one of the team of code breakers. She was selected to work in Dillwyn (Dilly) Knox’s Research Section, a small team tasked with breaking untried ‘Enigma machine variations’ and later the German armed forces intelligence service (Abwehr) Enigmas.

Frank’s son John died at the age of 37, testing a glider as part of his career at the Central Landing Establishment. He was a pioneer in training the first parachute and glider regiments.

WesternMorningNews2ndFeb1917(Western Morning News, February 2nd 1917)

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