A 93-year-old veteran has recounted the story of his father surviving an attack on his ship in the First World War and being stranded in the sea.

Eric Edis of Oak Hill Court, Woodford Green, is recalling past memories of conversations with his father Francis, who was on board HMS Hogue on the fateful morning of September 22, 1914.

The ship was one of three British light cruisers which were sunk off the Dutch coast by the German submarine U-9, resulting in the loss of 1,459 lives.

The armoured cruisers, which each carried a crew of 760, had actually been in reserve at the start of the war but were re-commissioned with reservist crews to form the 7th Cruiser Squadron along with a couple of others.

Their task was to patrol the area of the North Sea known as the Broad Fourteens, regarded as highly dangerous for such old ships.

The area exposed the cruisers to a modern German squadron which they would have been too slow to flee and not armed to a degree which would allow them to put up a good fight.

For this reason, the force became known as the ‘Live Bait Squadron’.

After the submarine encountered the three cruisers, it fired at torpedo at Aboukir at 6.25am.

Mistaking this for a mine, the other two liners began to lower boats to rescue survivors.

At 7am a torpedo struck Hogue, which sank within 10 minutes.

The submarine then broke surface and was spotted before firing another torpedo into Cressy.

Francis, who was born in Little Baddow, Essex, and his comrades were left stranded in the freezing water, clinging to a piece of wood.

Mr Edis said: “He had been in the water for almost two days before they were rescued.

“After that, I think he never again went swimming. Who could blame him - there was a huge loss of life.

“But he survived, otherwise I would not be talking to you today.

“He never said much about it but he did tell me the story about his belt.

“He had all his money converted into gold sovereigns and they were on his belt.

“It was too heavy and was weighing him down in the water so he had to take it off and leave it go. He had to unravel it and unbuckle it while in the water.

“The belt is probably still there to this day!

“I was disappointed for him but it is better to lose your money than to lose your life.

“When the ship was sinking it was every man for himself. Whether they had any conversations, I don’t know. They were struggling to stay alive.

“My father would never really talk about the war but my mother told me what had happened.”

After being pulled from the water, Francis was brought back to the UK. He remained in the Royal Navy for some time after, serving a total of 23 years and receiving four medals.

Francis lost his brother Frederick in the Great War but moved on from the difficult phase remarkably well.

He met his wife Ethel Varley when she was working in a pub in Wood Street, Walthamstow, and the pair married and had 11 children.

He found a job as an attendant at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone where he worked long hours.

“He was a quiet, inoffensive man,” remembers Mr Edis, who was a tower gunner during the Second World War.

“He was nearly always at work at Whipps Cross. You’ve got to work hard when you have 11 children to look after.

“I think that what he went through, he overcame it very well and he had to move on.”

Francis passed away aged 89 in Gillingham, Kent, and is buried in the Royal Navy Cemetery outside the town.