1. Memorial:Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon29
2. Book:The (1921) Masonic Roll of Honour 1914-1918Pg.120
3. Memorial:The (1940) Scroll - WW1 Roll of Honour28A GQS
4. Memorial:Liverpool Masonic Hall War MemorialCol.1. Hope St.

Awards & Titles:

Mentioned in Despatches twice
1914 (Mons) Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Early Life :

The majority of this legend is courtesy of Geoff Cuthill of the Province of West Lancashire, to whom the project is grateful.

John was born 9th April, 1888, the son of John Cullen and Margaret Jane (Maggie) nee McBryde, in Liverpool. He was baptised at St Peter's Church on 17th June, 1888, the family residing in the Toxteth Park area with his father described as a victualler. His parents having married in Liverpool in 1879, and although his father was from Liverpool, his mother had been born in Wigtownshire, Scotland. In both the 1881 and 1891 census, the family lived at 159 Mann Street, off Stanhope Street, Toxteth.

In 1901 John, age 13 year 5 month is admitted to the Liverpool Collegiate School, previously attending Clint Road Board School in Edge Hill. According to the 1901 census the family are at 195 Wavertree Road, Edge Hill, John has three brothers, William J age 19, Thomas 7, Arnold 5, and four sisters. These are Florence 20, Jessie 17, Jennie 15, and Maggie 10.

John had enlisted into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on 11th May, 1908, which had been established in 1903 for civilians who enjoyed sailing in their spare time. He was described as being five feet five inch in height, of dark complexion with brown eyes and black hair. He had a scar on the left hand side of his scalp. His address was given as 195 Wavertree Road, as was that of his next of kin, his mother, Maggie. He gives his religion as that of Church Of England, and occupation is ‘Average Clerk’. With the RNVR he is added to the list of HMS Irresistible on 9th July until 1st August, 1909, probably for sea-training.

The census return of 1911 shows William James Cullen now age 29 as head of the household and Licensed Victualler. The address is still 195 Wavertree Road, so William has obviously taken over the running of the establishment. The siblings present are, Jeannie Wallace Cullen 25, John McColm Cullen 22 and given as assisting with the business, Dorothy Margaret 20, Thomas Richard 17 Engineer Apprentice and Ernest Arnold 15 Electrical Engineer Apprentice.

Service Life:


Unit / Ship / Est.: SS Red Rose 

Action : Naval Campaign 

Naval Campaign is defined as to include all sea operations where attrition rates are in ones and twos and which do not fall within specific naval battles such as Jutland, Coronel, Falklands etc. This includes Merchant Navy losses.

Detail :

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, formed the Royal Naval Division, comprising of 12 Battalions, largely recruited from the R.N.V.R. John was posted to the 7th Battalion on 22 August 1914 as Seaman B/90, although it would later be known as the “Hood Battalion”. After minimum infantry training, and poorly equipped, the battalion, with others of the Royal Naval Division embarked from Dover on 4 October, for Antwerp. It was at Antwerp that the Royal Naval Division gained its first Battle Honour, although with horrendous losses, and John joined the main withdrawal through to Ostend, and back to England, being discharged to Portsmouth on 28 October 1914.

The following day he is back with the R.N.V.R. as service number Mersey 1/30, listed on HMS Victory until 17 November when he moves to HMS Caesaria, on which he serves until19 November 1915. This was an armed boarding steamer, built at Cammel Laird, Birkenhead in 1910 for the London and South Western Rail Company. Taken over by the Royal Navy in October 1914 for use off Scotland, then later converted to carry troops. She was based at Scapa Flow from 30 December 1914 until moving to the Aegean in March 1915. This was the period of the Gallipoli campaign.

On 20 November 1915 John transfers to another armed boarding steamer, SS Dundee, and is with her until 1 April 1916 when he moves to HMS Victorious. He is promoted to Leading Seaman on 16 March 1917 after being ‘mentioned in despatches” and is still listed against Victorious until 1 July 1917 when he is returned to the SS Dundee. His service papers show him officially leaving the Dundee 15 September 1917. What is not mentioned is that John was aboard the Dundee on 16 March 1717 when she with the cruiser HMS Achilles intercepted a large merchantman north of the Faeroe Islands and ordered her to stop for inspection. At 3.40 pm, just after Dundee’s boarding party had gone aboard, the supposedly neutral Norwegian steamer Rena revealed her concealed armament. She was a disguised enemy surface raider and an already suspicious Commander Selwyn Day RNR, Dundee’s commanding officer saw: "…the large Norwegian flag painted on her port quarter fall outboard, being hinged on the lower side, and I gave the orders “Fire” and “Half speed ahead” to keep station, the raider now slewing rapidly to port with slight, if any, headway. Two torpedoes followed from her in quick succession, passing from 20 to 50 feet astern [of Dundee]… Our guns were already firing, and every shot was a hit. The first (from our aft 4″) raked her port battery deck, causing an explosion and volumes of smoke. The fore gun fired through the deck into her engine-room and volumes of steam spread with intense smoke and flames…the 3-pdr. gun fired at her bridge. Forty-four 4″ and twenty-five 3-pdr. rounds were fired at about 1,000 yards’ range before the raider fired her first gun. "

"Dundee" had by then used up all her 4” ammunition and was still coming under return fire. She was, as Commander Day would later recall, ‘in a difficult position.’ There was much relief when HMS Achilles closed and finished off the enemy vessel, which turned out to be the heavily-armed surface raider Leopard, sending her to the bottom with all of her 319 crew and Dundee’s six-strong boarding party.

The London Gazette of 22 June 1917 shows John as Mentioned in Dispatches 16 March 1917 (HMS Victorious III). As mentioned previous he left the Dundee on 15 September 1917, however the vessel had been torpedoed on 2 September by the German submarine UC - 49, south-west of the Scilly Isles on sunk the following day. On arriving back John is sent to HMS Excellent, a shore establishment near Portsmouth, which he is listed against until 28 March 1918. He is then listed to HMS President until his loss while serving as Acting Leading Seaman aboard the “SS Red Rose” (HMS President III Defensively Armed Merchant Ships) presumed dead on Tuesday 21 May 1918.

The “SS Red Rose” had left Littlehampton for Le Havre on 21 May 1918 with a cargo of Government stores and was torpedoed by the German submarine UB - 57 with the loss of 11 crew. It was owned by Richard Hughes & Company of Liverpool, and had been built on the River Clyde.

In addition to masonic memorial, John is commemorated on; Plymouth Naval Memorial. Panel 29, Memorial, Parish Church, St. Mary, Towerlands Street, Edge Hill. His family headstone at St Mary’s, which informs that John’s familiar or nickname within the family was “Mac.”

Masonic :

TypeLodge Name and No.Province/District :
Mother : Antient Briton No. 1675 E.C.West Lancashire

26th March 1912
28th May 1912
26th June 1912

John McColm Cullen was initiated into Ancient Briton Lodge No 1675 at the Masonic Hall, Hope Street, on the 26 March 1912. John was described as being a Wine and Spirit Merchant, aged 23 years, of 195 Wavertree Road, Edge Hill, Liverpool, and was proposed by Robert Lloyd a boot-maker, seconded Robert McGee stationer. The lodge records give him being passed to the Second Degree on the 25 May 1912, but do not give the date of the third degree. However returns held by United Grand Lodge give 28 May as the date for the second degree with him raised as a master mason on 26 June. His Grand Lodge certificate issued on 29th June, 1912.

On 25th February, 1919 John’s younger brother Ernest Arnold Cullen was initiated into Ancient Briton Lodge.

Source :

The project globally acknowledges the following as sources of information for research across the whole database:

Additional Source:

Last Updated: 2021-03-17 10:34:34