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Lewis Havens’s voice: lost on the Somme, found in Hampstead

Delving into London and the Great War throws up many extraordinary stories, some of which happy endings. Lewis Havens’s story is one of those – seeing him lose his voice in the horror of Delville Wood but recover it three years later.

Lewis Havens was a handyman living at 163 Newport Buildings, Shaftesbury Avenue, and working at the London Hippodrome.  He had married Minnie Gertrude Light in July 1912. Havens attested under the Derby Scheme in November 1915, approaching his 25th birthday, and was called up for service in the Rifle Brigade in April 1916.

Lewis Havens in uniform (image uploaded to Lives of the First World War by Milford Harrison)

Lewis Havens in uniform (image uploaded to Lives of the First World War by Milford Harrison)

Havens’s military career was short but eventful. After a few months of training, he was sent to the 8th Battalion in France on 24 August 1916 and joined the battalion on 8 September and went into Delville Wood.

Delville Wood was the scene of great carnage in 1916. From July to the start of September, British and South African troops wrested control of the wood from the Germans as part of the Battle of the Somme. The Battle itself ended before Havens arrived, but it was far from safe: the 8th Rifle Brigade lost 100 men killed on 15 September alone – many more must have been wounded.

 

 View from within Delville Wood, 20 September 1916 - just after Havens was wounded there. © IWM (Q 1156)


View from within Delville Wood, 20 September 1916 – just after Havens was wounded there. © IWM (Q 1156)

 

Havens was one of those wounded in the wood that week. His medical record notes:

“When in trenches was blown up twice and gassed on Sept 14 and 15. Came to himself in Rouen Base Camp where he was for 3 days. Has been dumb ever since. Was deaf at first (3 months)”

He was immediately sent back to England, diagnosed with shell shock (neurasthenia) and was discharged in March 1917. He then returned to work at the London Hippodrome.

According to the medical board Lewis Havens could hear perfectly well but was unable to speak. They noted that he had previously become mute 5 years earlier for two years following a fall through a trap door on a stage.

The Hippodrome employed Havens as a “greencoat”. As the Milwaukee Journal explained “he attends to raising and lowering the front curtain and to placing, at the sides of the proscenium, the cards which bear the names of the next performers.” Able to hear but not speak, Havens adopted a whistling response to questions: once for “yes”, twice for “no”.

In 1919, a performer named Mrs Wanda Lyon paid for Havens to see a masseur called Frank Horler, working at Sir Frederick Milner’s hostel for shell shock suffers in Hampstead.

According to the Milwaukee Journal: “Intense was the astonishment of all on stage within hearing of Havens when he announced, just as he had before he went to the front: ‘All’s ready to begin’.” Understandably, Horler was not so surprised by the recovery, but he did express surprise at its speed: “I tried massage and electrical treatment for four days. On the fourth evening I saw him, and he surprised me by saying in a low voice, ‘I congratulate you.’”

Another person who was pleasantly surprised was Havens’s young daughter, who was able to hear her father’s voice for the first time.

Havens and his daughter, from Daily Mirror 16 August 1919

Havens and his daughter, from Daily Mirror 16 August 1919

Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on 21 July 2015 in Ordinary Londoners

 

Capture the flag

In the newspapers a hundred years ago today were the exploits of young Londoner Ernest Norman Lawrie, who had gone out into no-man’s land to capture a German flag.

Lawrie and the German flag, Daily Mirror 9 June 1915

Lawrie and the German flag, Daily Mirror 9 June 1915

Ernest Norman Lawrie was born in West Hampstead in April 1893 and grew up in Kew Gardens. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Lawrie; John was the manging director of Whiteley’s department store in Kensington. After being educated at Haberdasher’s School in Cricklewood, young Lawrie (who appears to have been known as Norman) started working at Elkington and Co plate silver makers of Regent Street in 1912.

Norman Lawrie was among the first wave of volunteers for war service after the Britain declared war in 1914. On August 10th, he joined the Kensington Battalion, the 13th Londons. Two and a half months later, he and his comrades went to the Western Front. Lawrie saw action at Neuve Chapelle in early 1915 and was commissioned as an officer in the battalion on 3 April 1915.

In a letter home he describes his efforts to win glory among the officers and men of the battalion soon after he was made an officer himself:

“The first time I went into the trenches as an officer I had rather an exciting experience.

“It had been a very dark night, and I kept on telling the sentries to keep a good lookout.

“In the morning we were surprised to see, midway between our lines and the German lines, a little German flag flapping in the wind. Underneath was a board with some writing on it, and all this stuck on to a post.

“It had been put there by some German patrol, who had the cheek to come thus far and stick it in the ground.

“Great excitement reigned all day, and our fellows potted at the post ‘like mad’ to knock it down, and the Boches potted at our fellows to do likewise, but neither side succeeded.

“During the evening I heard a group of about ten officers talking about it, and each saying he was going out when it was dark to bring it in.

“Well, to cut a long story short, I didn’t wait till it was dark but at dusk I strolled out, revolver in hand (loaded in all six chambers), with a corporal, in case I should get potted.

“After passing the word along our sentries, ‘Cease fire, patrol going out in front,’ the corporal and I started on our journey.

“We first of all had to climb over our own entanglements – that is one of the reasons why I went out before it was quite dark, as you get torn to pieces by the barbed wire in the dark; and reason number two, I wanted to get there before our other officers; and number three, because I didn’t want to meet a German patrol, which always comes out in front of their wire in the dark.

“Having safely climbed our wire, we crawled along and found to our dismay a ditch 5ft across and with 7ft of water in front of us.

“I had a pretty long journey. Well, we got there all right, and I gripped the post, when a sudden fear seized me.

“Here was I isolated between the two trenches, and suppose a wire was attached to the post from the trench and when I pulled it they would open a machine gun on me.

“Well, I felt carefully all over it, but ah! no wire. So I tore it out of the ground and – good heavens! A star shell went up and dropped within 5 ft of the corporal and I.

“You know what a white flare is like at a firework display, which shows up everybody all round. Well, both sides use these as rockets to show up the ground between the trenches at night, and this was one of them.

“Of course, the Boches spotted the flag was gone, and then spotted two black forms lying flat on the ground.

“My word, it was hot for a moment! The bullets fairly scraped us as they whizzed past. Well, we waited till the flare died down, and, picking up the flag, we ran to a hole in the ground made by a shell and dropped into this. And once more a star-light went up, but we were hidden this time.

“At last the star-lights stopped, and we hurried back to our trench, and huge cheers greeting me hugging the flag like a baby.”

 

The Daily Mirror described the incident as showing “better than anything the spirit of our men at the front” and revealing “once again the British soldier’s utter contempt for death”. Viewed another way, it was a reckless gamble with two men’s lives over a simple flag. Either way, it certainly shows how important such symbols as the flag were in the contest over no-man’s land.

From de Ruvigny's 'Roll of Honour'

From de Ruvigny’s ‘Roll of Honour’

Norman Lawrie was killed in action a few weeks later. I don’t know how he died, but his commander’s letter says that “He met his death leading his men in the true British way, and under circumstances as exacting as any that troops could be called upon to face”, so it doesn’t seem to have been in another wild venture out into no-man’s land.

Sources:

  • de Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour
  • Daily Mirror 9/6/1915
 
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Posted by on 9 June 2015 in Events, War Dead

 

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Bombs begin to fall on London, 31 May 1915

A hundred years ago today, 31 May 1915, the much-feared aerial attack on London began. The Zeppelins, whose visits to England had begun earlier in the year with bombs dropped over East Anglia, visited the East End of the capital – their first bomb was dropped on a house in Alkham Road, Stoke Newington.

Here is a map of all the bomb damage sites across London in 1914-1918:

Where the bombs fell in London, 1914-1918

Where the bombs fell in London, 1914-1918

This week, the London Borough of Hackney unveiled a plaque on the house where that first bomb fell. This interesting modern commemoration echoes a plan in the City of Westminster (see my blog post on it here) to mark the sites where bombs fell, initially every site and later just the first and last. The Westminster plan did not receive any support after the war among the other boroughs where bombs had fallen; it was shelved in 1920.

 
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Posted by on 31 May 2015 in Air Raid, War memorials

 

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WG Heighton, shooting down a German aeroplane

We have heard stories about pilots who were shot down, like Sidney Herbert Quicke shot down by the Red Baron, or John Young and Cyril Taylor, who died fighting bombers over London. Others showed bravery in the air and survived, like CRL Falcy. This week, the story of a man who shot down a German aeroplane from the ground: William George Heighton.

William George Heighton was born in 1887 in Sussex. By the time of the Great War he was married and living in London; he and his wife Eva Amy (nee Collyer) lived in West Hampstead and had no children. Heighton worked as a policeman.

When the Derby Scheme came along in late 1915 as a way of prompting men to join up by asking them to volunteer to be conscripted, Heighton was one of many who signed up – putting pen to paper on 16 November in Hampstead. He was called up over a year and a half later, in July 1917, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery. After a stint in hospital, he was sent to the Western Front in December.

By mid-February 1918, Heighton was a gunner in 163 Siege Battery, RGA. This was armed with 6-inch howitzers, but Heighton was no ordinary gunner – he was a Lewis Gunner. Instead of firing the looping shells of a howitzer on to German trenches and defences, his role was to protect his battery and their comrades from attack by enemy aircraft.

An RGA Lewis Gunner at Monchy-le-Preux, 18 March 1918. Is it Gunner Heighton? Image© IWM (Q 10748)

An RGA Lewis Gunner at Monchy-le-Preux, 18 March 1918. Is it Gunner Heighton? Image© IWM (Q 10748)

In March 1918, the Germans launched their Spring Offensive, their last attempt to break the Allies in the West before American reinforcements could arrive in large numbers. The initial attack was stunningly successful.

A few days later, a flight of German aeroplanes British troops around 163 Siege Battery. Heighton’s account says that five or six aeroplanes were using their machine guns to attack the British reserve trenches when he fired on those aeroplanes. He brought one of them down and the others fled back over the German lines. Heighton was applauded as a hero. His commanding officer, Major McWatt, told him that he should be commended for his bravery and a few infantry officer wtinesses shook his hand to congratulate him for his actions.

Before Heighton could hear any more about any commendation, though, he was taken prisoner. As the German advance continued, he was captured at Monchy-le-Preux on 29 March. He had clearly been an attentive letter-writer, because his wife wrote to the War Office looking for information on 15 April, saying, “Could you please send me any news of my husband I have now heard from him since the 26th Match – until this date I have always heard so frequently – but have not even had a field card.”

A month later, Eva had heard from her husband, who had written to her that he was being held in Cassell in Germany. She continued to write to the War Office for more information, though, so obviously she did not hear much from him. It seems as though he was ill during the last months of the war, when he was held in Limburg. He was quickly repatriated after the war, arriving in Hull on the first day of 1919.

Back in civilian life, Heighton wondered whether anything had come of the promise of a commendation. In fact, he hadn’t even received his service medals, let alone anything in recognition of shooting down that aeroplane.

In September 1921, he wrote off to the officer responsible for RGA records, but they could not find any record of the incident. The National Archives only holds 163 Siege Battery’s war diary to up February 1918, so perhaps the March record was lost during the German attacks in which Heighton was captured. In December, Heighton acknowledged receipt of his campaign medals: the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

It doesn’t look as though William George Heighton was ever rewarded officially for shooting down a German aeroplane, but doing so was quite an achievement – and driving away the remaining aircraft attacking British forces must have been a relief to his comrades.

 
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Posted by on 10 April 2015 in Ordinary Londoners

 

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Patience Huthwaite and Reginald

War can break families apart, it can disrupt the normal patterns of family life through absence or death on war service. Patience Huthwaite suffered just this problem when her boyfriend Reggie Bryant was sent to serve in Iraq in 1916 and was reported missing in action.

Patience Huthwaite was born in London, daughter of house decorator Henry Huthwaite and his wife Patience. In 1901, she was seven and living with her parents and three brothers (Henry junior, James and George) at 40 Euston Road.  In 1911, though, she was living in an “Industrial School” in Blackburn Lancashire, doing laundry work

In August 1915, she was living in central Colchester. We know this because she was receiving letters from Reginald Bryant, a young man from Diss (apparently also a decorator) who was in training in Colchester as part of the Norfolk Regiment. These letters are available on the Great War Archive. It is not clear whether Patience was already in Colchester and met Bryant there, or moved to Colchester to be near him – something a number of girlfriends and wives did during the war.

Reginald Bryant, Norfolk Regiment (image from Great War Archive ©University of Oxford) - sadly there are no photos of Patience

Reginald Bryant, Norfolk Regiment (image from Great War Archive ©University of Oxford) – sadly there are no photos of Patience available

Sometime in early 1916, Reggie was sent overseas. Unfortunately for Patience he was sent to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), meaning that he was unlikely to be able to come back on leave – which men serving on the Western Front could about once a year (or more often for officers).

Reggie being away was a particular problem because Patience was pregnant. Worse was to come, though, when Reggie was reported missing in action. He was with his unit at Kut-al-Amara when the garrison there was besieged and defeated by the Turkish Army. The garrison fell at the end of April and a large number of Reginald’s comrades were taken prisoner (and treated terribly by their captors). Reggie Bryant was not among those prisoners, however – he was reported missing a week before Kut fell.

Letter to Patience confirming that Reginald was missing in action (from Great War Archive ©University of Oxford

Letter to Patience confirming that Reginald was missing in action (from Great War Archive ©University of Oxford

Patience gave birth to a son in September 1916, whom she named Reginald Bryant Huthwaite. As the letter above shows, when Regginald junior was born it was still not confirmed whether his father was alive or dead – Patience was writing to the War Office in December 1916 to try to find out. The advice sent to her was probably that she should write to the Red Cross office that dealt with inquiries about missing servicemen.

Contrary to what is often thought, pre-marital sex was not so uncommon in the first half of the twentieth century. In some ways the change from the 1970 was more in how people responded to pregnancies, with unmarried parenthood becoming more acceptable.

As Pat Thane put it in a report for the British Academy:

“Until the 1970s, illegitimate and legitimate birth rates followed similar trajectories: they rose and fell together, both rising between c.1750 and 1850 and falling from the later nineteenth century to the 1930s, suggesting that they were influenced by similar factors. In 1846-50, 67 in every 1000 live births were illegitimate. The figure fell steadily to 40 in 1906-10. During World War One it rose to 53.9 in 1916-20. This was probably due to marriages being prevented or delayed due to the absence or death of men at war rather than, as was assumed at the time, to licentious behaviour by young people liberated by wartime conditions.”

At the time of the Second World War (in advance of which illegitimacy rates were similar to before 1914), the moral panic about illegitimacy that had occurred in the Great War re-emerged. The Registrar General’s pre-war statistics showed that pre-marital pregnancies (i.e. illegitimate births and those within marriage that occurred significantly less than nine months after the wedding) accounted for 14.6% of all births, and more among younger mothers. This figure decreased as illegitimate births increased during the war. He felt that the explanation for the increase in illegitimacy was

“almost unquestionably to be found in the enforced degree of physical separation of the sexes imposed by the progressive recruitment of young males into the Armed Forces and their transfers to war stations at home and abroad, rendering immediate marriage with their home brides increasingly difficult – and, in the case of many – quite impossible”

It seems more than likely that Reginald Huthwaite was one of those children whose parents would have married had they had the chance. Eventually, the authorities decided that Reggie Bryant had died (usually this was after about a year with no news). This left young Reginald without a father of course. He soon acquired one, though, when Patience married Reggie’s brother Clarence (also a veteran of the Norfolk Regiment in the Great War: the Commonwealth War Graves Commission page for Reggie says he was one of six brothers who served). According to the family’s account (on the Great War Archive), Reginald Huthwaite was brought up by his maternal grandmother, Patience senior, in London. He remained a Huthwaite for the rest of his life and died in 1999.

The Great War affected families in many ways. The lives of Reggie Bryant, Patience Huthwaite and their son show just one of those stories.

 
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Posted by on 24 March 2015 in War Dead, Women

 

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Benjamin Adams: a riveting war story

The British armed forces in the Great War took in men with a vast array of skills and experience. Many men ended up in combat arms, but where they had skills that could be useful in other parts of the military machine, they were often moved into roles where those skills could be used. Benjamin Adams was one of those.

Benjamin John Adams was born in Poplar in 1893, the one of the 13 children of boilermaker Robert Adams and his wife Mary. In 1911, he was living with his parents and his surviving siblings: five brothers and three sisters; two of his brothers were boiler makers like Robert, while Benjamin was a riveter.

On 15 April 1915, Adams enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry at Poplar. In December that year, he was sent overseas. He was not sent to the Western Front, Gallipoli or another war zone, though: Private Adams was sent to Belfast to work for Harland and Wolff, the shipbuilding company responsible for building the Titanic. In the years leading up to the war, the company had successively built six ships that where – at the time of their launching – the largest vessels ever made.

Harland and Wolff riveters, working in Glasgow © IWM (Q 20003)

Harland and Wolff riveters, working in Glasgow © IWM (Q 20003)

During the war, Harland and Wolff continued to build ships, including the ‘mystery ships’ – warships designed as civilian shipping. According to Grace’s Guides, they and one other company were the main builds of the standard warship designs.

After three months in Belfast, Adams returned to the DCLI before being sent away in April 1916 to County Durham for more non-military work. In July, they found him suitable employment in the army, but not in the DCLI: Adams was transferred to the Railway Operating Division of the Royal Engineers. He soon qualified, unsurprisingly, as a riveter.

In September 1916, Adams was finally sent overseas with the RE. He served on the army’s vital railway system for three years, before returning to the UK on 8 November 1918.

Benjamin Adams may not have had an exciting war, nor a particularly dangerous one, but his work was vital. It was also an example of the army making good use of the skills of the men who ended up in its ranks.

 
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Posted by on 24 February 2015 in Ordinary Londoners

 

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SS Oriole and the blockade of the UK

On Friday January 29 1915, the merchant vessel SS Oriole set sale from its home port of London, heading for le Havre in France. It was last seen off Dungeness on Saturday 30th. A few days later two of its lifebuoys were washed ashore on the Sussex coast.

The SS Oriole (Daily Mirror 10 February 1915)

The SS Oriole (Daily Mirror 10 February 1915)

The blockades by the Germans against the UK and by the UK against Germany were hugely important in the course of the Great War.  Starvation through lack of imported food was a grave risk to both nations. In the end it was the British blockade that had the decisive effect, although the German attacks on merchant shipping in 1915 and 1917 helped to bring the USA into the war, which also helped to tip the balance in favour of the Allied Powers. Our story today, though, comes just before the German navy proclaimed the seas around Britain to be a war zone.

The Oriole was a steamer built in 1914 and weighing 1,489 tons, owned by the General Steam Navigation Co of London. On 29 January, it set sail with a normal cargo under captain William George Dale, from Wimbledon; under Dale were 20 other crewmen. On the 30th, the crew of (appropriately named) SS London Trader passed the Oriole off Dungeness.

What happened next is not definitively known.  On 6 February, two lifebuoys from the Oriole were washed up on the shore at Rye. On 20 March, a bottle was found by Guernsey fisherman containing a message written by the Oriole’s carpenter: “Oriole torpedoed – sinking”. By that time, the vessel had already been declared lost, and along with it all 21 lives aboard.

It is thought that the Oriole was sunk by submarine U20, captained by Kapitänleutnant Walther Schwieger. That same submarine struck two other vessels that day: the Ikaria, which had sailed from Buenos Aires, and the Tokomaru, which had come from New Zealand. The crew of the Tokomaru managed to get away before it sank and were taken to Le Havre; the Tokomaru stayed afloat and was towed into that same port but was taken back out and sank on February 2nd. Nothing was seen of the Oriole, the vessel on the shortest journey.

The newspapers reported the Oriole as missing on 9 February, quoting an official statement:

“The British steamship Oriole, of the General Steam Navigation Company, which left London on January 29, was due at Havre the following day.

She has not arrived, nor is there any news of her whereabouts, except that two lifebuoys marked ss. Oriole were picked up near Rye last Saturda.

There is grave reason to fear that she may have fallen victim to the German submarine which torpedoed the Tokomaru and Ikaria. She carried a mercantile crew of twenty-one hands all told

[The Oriole, a London steamer of 1,489 tones gross was built last year.]”

The Express also carried accounts by the captains of the other two ships. The experience of Dale and his crew, if they were also attacked by U20, may have been similar. Captain Robertson of the Ikaria stated:

“When about twenty-five miles N.W. of Havre, 12.30 on that day, I was on the bridge with the chief and the second officer when we saw the wake of a torpedo coming towards the ship at about 30 ft. from the ship. The ship was stopped at the time for the purpose of getting a pilot as two tug-boats were coming up with flags to the fore.

About a second after we saw the wake of the torpedo we were struck in the fore part of the ship on the port side. An explosion occurred, and a volume of water, mixed with cargo, cement, and parts of the torpedo, arose about 60ft. and fell on the deck.

The ship immediately began to sink by the head. The crew were ordered to launch the boats to leave the ship. The crew and I then boarded the tug which was lying close to us, and waited for the ship to sink.”

Robertson and his crew were lucky; they got away onto the tug.

According to naval history dot net, the attacks by U20 were the first ships sunk without a warning by the submarine crew. Robertson had 30 seconds’ warning after spotting the torpedo, the Tokomaru crew spotted the periscope as they were attacked; we do not know what warning, if any, Dale and his crew on the Oriole had.

The crew of the Oriole are all believed to have died that day. Their details are listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database:

Surname Forename/initials Age Rank Additional information
ARDY HENRY JOHN ALFRED WILLIAM 42 Cook HUSBAND OF FLORA ARDY, OF 9, KINSALE RD., PECKHAM RYE, LONDON.
BROOKE W S 53 Assistant Steward BORN IN LONDON.
CHAINEY W Able Seaman
CHAPLIN J Fireman
CHITTENDEN G H Seaman
CROWTHER J Fireman
DALE WILLIAM GEORGE Master HUSBAND OF MRS. M. L. DALE, OF 17, CAMBERLEY AVENUE, WEST WIMBLEDON, LONDON.
FISHENDEN FREDERICK CLIFFORD 31 First Mate HUSBAND OF ISABEL DAISY ELLYCE FISHENDEN (NEE MILES), OF 47, PORT HALL RD., PRESTON, BRIGHTON.
GRACE E G Seaman
HARGRAVE JAMES WILLIAM 43 Boatswain and Lamps HUSBAND OF ALICE ELIZABETH HARGRAVE (NEE JEFFERY), OF 78, ST. LEONARD’S RD., SOUTH LOWESTOFT.
HOLLAND THOMAS WILLIAM 23 Ordinary Seaman SON OF ANN ELIZABETH HOLLAND, OF 15, DOVE ST., LOWESTOFT, AND THE LATE ROBERT HOLLAND.
LYNCH TIMOTHY JAMES 30 Fireman and Trimmer SON OF THOMAS LYNCH OF 20, STOREY ST., NORTH WOOLWICH, LONDON.
MULCAHY WILLIAM GEORGE 28 Fireman and Trimmer SON OF MRS. MARY MULCAHY, OF 1, CORRIG CASTLE TERRACE, DUN LAOGHAIRE, CO. DUBLIN.
PIERCE GEORGE REGINALD 31 Second Engineer HUSBAND OF ETHEL VINE PIERCE (NEE BULLEY), OF 5, BURLINGTON TERRACE, CHISLEHURST, KENT.
SADLER JOSEPH ROBERT 30 Fireman and Trimmer HUSBAND OF ELLEN CATHERINE SADLER (NEE STEIN), OF 33, CHANCERY BUILDINGS, BEWLEY ST., CABLE ST., LONDON.
SCHAFER JOHN GEORGE 30 Fireman HUSBAND OF ELLEN LOUISA SCHAFER (NEE MARCH), OF 71, HARCOURT AVENUE, MANOR PARK, ESSEX.
STATHAM HENRY GEORGE 23 Third Engineer HUSBAND OF SARAH ELIZABETH STATHAM (NEE SMART), OF 63, QUEEN’S RD., BAYSWATER, LONDON.
SWAIN REUBEN FRANK 50 Carpenter HUSBAND OF ELIZA MARIA SWAIN (NEE SMIZZEN), OF 12, MAYVILLIE RD., ST. PETER’S, BROADSTAIRS, KENT.
THOMSON OSWALD 51 First Engineer HUSBAND OF JANE MERCER (FORMERLY THOMSON, NEE BORTHWICK), OF 11, CLARENDON RD., LEWISHAM, LONDON.
TODMAN NELSON VICTOR 27 Second Mate HUSBAND OF ANNIE GERTRUDE TODMAN (NEE MITCHELL), OF OAKWOOD LODGE, OLD RD., CRAYFORD, KENT.
WALFORD EDWARD CHARLES 35 Donkeyman HUSBAND OF ANNIE POND (FORMERLY WALFORD, NEE STOKES), OF 51, LIVERPOOL RD., CANNING TOWN, LONDON.

 

As you can see, most (10 of the 16 with additional details) were Londoners by origin or residence. I don’t know what wives like Sarah Elizabeth Statham in Bayswater or parents like Thomas Lynch in North Woolwich were told during the days after the loss.* Did they start to mourn straight away, or wait until the presumed deaths were official six weeks later?

All 21 men are now commemorated on the Tower Hill memorial to merchant seamen lost and sea.

The U20 sinking the Lusitania

The U20 sinking the Lusitania

A few weeks after the loss of the Oriole, Ikaria and Tokomaru, the Germans declared their first major submarine campaign with its attacks without warning. A few months later the same submarine – U20 – sank the RMS Lusitania, sparking outrage in the UK and the USA. A renewal of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917 helped to finally bring the USA into the war.  Many more men and women lost their lives during the war at sea in 1914-18, but these 21 men were among the first of this period of increased aggression by the German Navy in 1915.

 

Sources:

http://www.naval-history.net/WW1NavyBritishBVLSMN1501.htm

http://www.wrecksite.eu/casualty-list.aspx?bIfW66QyuzE7kohz3L2IKQ==#13369

 

* The next of kin details were collected after the war, which explains why some of the wives have new surnames.

 
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Posted by on 30 January 2015 in Ordinary Londoners, War Dead

 

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