Recorded on Chatham Naval Memorial
Recorded on family memorial Bangor cemetery
Norman Giles Paton was born in 4 Osborne Terrace, Belfast, on 2nd October 1886. He was the son of John Paton, a commission agent (who hailed from Scotland) and Maggie Paton nee Brown. The family moved to Bangor some time before 1911 where the census shows them living in Seaforth Road.
He attended Methodist College in Belfast before working as a Manufacturers Agent in the linen trade with his father and a brother, Frank, in Linenhall Street.
Norman received a commission as Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on 31st May, 1918, and served on HMS Hermione and ML 403. He was killed when ML 403 was torpedoed in the North Sea on 22nd August, 1918. He is recoded as buried at sea.
PATON, NORMAN GILES, Sub-Lieut., Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, eldest s. of John Paton, of Ardmore, Bangor, Linen Merchant, by his wife, Maggie, dau. of Francis Brown; b. Belfast, 2 Oct. 1886; educ. Methodist College there; was associated with his father in business; appointed Sub-Lieut. Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve 31 May, 1918; served on H.M.S. Hermione and M.L. 403, and was killed when M.L. 403 was torpedoed in the North Sea 22 Aug, 1918. Buried at sea. He was an enthusiastic and skilful yachtsman; unm.
Du Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, vol. 4
SUB-LIEUTENANT NORMAN G. PATON, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, killed on the 22nd August, was the eldest son of Mr. John Paton, Ardmore, Bangor. Deceased, who was educated at the Methodist College, Belfast, was in the linen business with his father in Linenhall Street until he obtained his commission about three months ago. His brother,
Mr. Frank Paton, was invalided out of the Army after three year' service with the Royal Irish Rifles.
Belfast Newsletter, 24th August 1918
ML 403 was stationed at Whitby, and was called upon to recover and defuse a German torpedo that had been fired at a northbound steamer on 21st August 1918. The steamer's crew watched the torpedo miss, and run into the rocks on the western side of the bay without exploding.
On 22nd August, it was decided to recover the torpedo, and ML 403, commandered by Lieutenant Arthur Whiting, RNVR was tasked with the recovery. ML 403 sailed out of Whitby with a crew of ten, plus two torpedo experts. A large crowd of locals gathered on the cliff above to witness the recovery.
The torpedo was safely lifted out of the water, but it would seem that around 14:00, while the torpedo experts attempted to defuse it, it exploded, setting off the depth charges and the petrol tank aboard ML 403. The explosions broke windows, brought down ceilings, and damaged roof tiles in the village of Runswick. The bow of ML 403 was blown close to the shore.
Miraculously, the coxswain, who had been feeling unwell, and who was lying in the crew fo'c's'le, survived.
Information found on the Great War Forum.
His Majesty's Motor Launch (HMML) 403 was destroyed by explosion whilst trying to salve a German torpedo in Runswick Bay 22nd August 1918.
These launches were extremely dangerous and some were lost by fire before the fuel for their petrol engines was reduced to 1 part petrol to 2 parts parrafin. Forty of these boats were delivered to the French. They were mostly built in Canada and were 46 tons gross, 75 x 12 x 4 feet, petrol engined 440 bhp giving 19.5 knots. Most of the crews were ex Motor Boat section. MBs were used in all theatres.
Information from Dittmar and Colledge.
Portrait photo from A History of Methodist College Belfast by J.E. Henderson, courtesy of Nigel Henderson.