SS Raceland's Commonwealth crew, not commemorated, bar one

Discussion in 'Non-Commemorated War Dead' started by Adam Brown, Dec 15, 2014.

  1. Adam Brown

    Adam Brown Member

    Thanks to member Hugh MacLean for his help on another thread on this forum about this ship. This is a better location for the information I have about the Raceland and her crew so I'll post it all here.

    The SS Raceland (ex-Italian Ircana) was attacked and sunk off Norway On 28th March 1942 by the Luftwaffe. Forty-five crew took to four lifeboats in the hope of reaching the fairly close Norwegian coast. A storm scattered the lifeboats and capsized two, killing all occupants.

    For the next few days the two remaining lifeboats endured the Arctic waters. Exposure took its toll in both boats and many men died before they separately reached northern Norway. (One after five days and the other after eleven). The bodies of those who died after reaching land first were recovered, but were buried at a remote location on the island of Söröy.

    The Raceland was US owned and Panamanian registered and bulk of her crew were Scandinavian – Norwegians, Danes and Swedes, but there were also Estonians, Dutch, Canadian, English and Scots serving on her. All the Scots sailing on the Raceland had died on the lifeboats and had no grave but the sea.

    Unfortunately out of ten Commonwealth crew members of the ship, only one has been commemorated by the CWGC. I think it is no coincidence that Mess Boy Roy Currie who was one of those whose bodies were recovered, is the one commemorated. Either the German or Norwegian authorities may have recorded his death and burial and ensured his recording in the official registers?

    The rest have been lost in a gap of recording British and Canadian nationals serving in non-British registered ships. In April 1942 the US Coastguard informed the British Consulate in Washington of the British nationals who were missing after the loss of the Raceland. I don’t know if this was the only occasion when the details of the names were passed on to UK authorities from the US authorities but there are other paper trails between next of kin and US authorities and ship owners to suspect it wasn’t.

    Here are the ten Commonwealth crewmen lost on the Raceland:

    Burke, Patrick Trimmer British
    Burns, James Joseph Fireman 38 British
    Currie, Roy Garfield Mess Boy 17 Canadian
    Hickman, Samual Trimmer 34 British
    Keough, John G Trimmer 39 British
    Kleinberg, Jack / Jacob? Messman 23 British
    Lozon, John Trimmer 25 Canadian
    McKenzie, Hugh Fireman 48 British
    Sheridan, Bernard G Messman 20 Canadian
    Wong, Jack Dunn Radio Operator 22 Canadian

    Jos Odjink in the Netherlands has already pieced together the facts around the sinking of the ship and has researched the background to many of the crew (and has put the basic details online: Consulting archives in London and Washington whilst on business trips, Jos has uncovered several useful documents. From Jos’s information and the work of some members of the Scottish War Memorials Project this is what we know of the Scottish sailors so far:

    John G Keogh

    He was born at Carntyne Street, Shettleston on 28th March 1902. The ship was sunk on his 40th birthday.
    His parents were John and Ellen Keough (nee McKeown) and in the 1911 Census he was one of five children. His next-of-kin address during the war was given as 703 Shettleston Road, Glasgow - his mother was living there. She died there in July 1949. One of the survivors wrote to her from a PoW camp and said her son had died the day after the sinking. A Merchant Navy index card from 1937 for John Keough gives his rating as Fireman.

    James Joseph Burns

    No date of birth has been found yet, but his age is given as 38 by the US Coastguard so it should be around 1904. No James Joseph Burns has been found to match this date of birth.
    His next-of-kin address was given as 117 Florence Street, Glasgow; it was his mother who was living there. The same survivor in the PoW camp who gave information to John Keogh’s mother told James Burns’ mother that her son had died in a lifeboat on the 2nd of April.

    Jack Kleinberg

    This man is already listed on the SNWM roll of honour at Edinburgh Castle because his sister approached the Secretary to the Trustees in the 1990s with the information she had about his death. The SNWM entry says he was born in Glasgow:

    Surname: KLEINBERG
    Forename: Jack
    Rank: Able Seaman
    Place of birth: Glasgow
    Date of death: 28 March 1942
    Theatre of death: Unknown
    Other detail S.S. "RACELAND"

    Jos Odjink has found a letter from his fiancé - an Etta Bernstein of Glasgow - looking for information from the ship owners about his fate. That would seem to suggest he was a Glaswegian but intriguingly he is also listed on the Jewish War Memorial in Piershill Cemetery in Edinburgh. This memorial also gives his age as 23. It was the investigation of this man’s name on which prompted the SWMP investigation of the fate of the other Scottish crewmen of the Raceland (

    Hugh McKenzie

    This man is more difficult to track down and not just because of the name. He was listed by the US Coastguard as 48 years old, so he should have a date of birth around the mid 1890s. His next of kin address is given as 1913, 75th St Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio. Jos thinks he may have taken US citizenship even though the US Coastguard sent his details to the British Embassy.
    David McNay of the SWMP has found a Merchant Navy index card for a Hugh Brown Mckenzie with a birth of 2nd November 1896 in Glasgow which is a possible lead but will need to be confirmed.

    Whilst looking for the Raceland men I’ve found other men not commemorated by the CWGC too i.e. Scots serving on US merchant ships and not commemorated by the CWGC such as these men:

    Thomas Mullin, Nathaniel Green 02/24/43 F/W Rothesay, Bute, Scotland. Listed on his family’s gravestone in Rothesay.
    C. W Hunter, Nimba 09/13/42 Scotland
    Joseph Sutherland, Rochester 01/30/42 3rd Engineer, Glasgow, Scotland
    Edward M Mackin., Tambour 09/26/42 Donkeyman, Scotland, Aged 32
    John McRae, Winkler 02/23/43 Able Seaman, Scotland
    Hugh J. Smith. Winkler 02/23/43 Ordinary Seaman, Scotland

    What is the best way to go about finding the proof of their nationality and deaths given the US ownership of the ships? Will anything be found in the National Archives, in the Register of Seamen Log - BT 387. Allied Crew Lists from WW2?

    Hugh kindly suggested the CRS 10s. Can these only be viewed in TNA?


    Rich Payne and dbf like this.
  2. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hello Adam,

    Will anything be found in BT 387 (Allied Foreign Ships Requsitioned or Chartered by HMG)? Well I think to answer that question you would need to know what arrangement was made with the ship owners with regard to war service. Was RACELAND requsitioned or chartered by HMG? If yes then there should be a list of the crew in BT387. If she operated outwith the British Ministry of War Transport (MoWT) then I suspect there will be nothing there. That will be the same for the other US ships listed.

    Regarding CRS 10s they can be viewed at TNA but the files are held in block - alphabetical surname. I can easily point you to the correct piece references should you need them but for research such as this a visit to Kew would be your best bet. There are a couple of guys on here who do copying though.

    The particular piece in BT 387 you would need for RACELAND is BT 387/50.

    A couple of other files that I have found that may be of interest are MT47/236 (United States and Panamanian ships to North Russia).
    PIN 15/2816 (British seamen serving on United States ships).

    I will take a look at the list of seamen you have posted and see if I can come up with anything on them and will point this thread to a couple of my Merchant Navy researcher friends in the hope of more help for you.

  3. Hello Adam/Hugh
    I did some research at the National Archives for Jos Odjik back in 2010. All I have on file is the various convoy reports for PQ13 but no Crew agreements from RACELAND.
    If correctly recall Jos;s remit was for the convoy information and not for the crew agreement so I cannot tell you for definite if one survives in BT387/50. The fact is Jos has got hold of a copy either from NARA or TNA. Why don't you contact him to find out? I have an old e-mail address if you need it.
    Hugh's suggestion to look at CRS10's is a good one but you really must go tho Kew to view them properly. Even then its not easy without full details such as date and place of birth, Dis A numbers etc.
    Good luck in your quest.

    PS You are welcome to the copied file I have.
    dbf likes this.
  4. Adam Brown

    Adam Brown Member

    Hugh and Roger

    Many thanks for your replies, you have both been of great help.

    It looks like TNA will hopefully hold the key to getting the information needed. I was unaware of the two files on US Ships and British sailors in US ships, they both look like very good places to look.

    The CRS 10s must also be added to the list of documents to look at but from what you say that might be quite a time consuming business.

    If I, or one of my Scottish Military Research Group colleagues, make a trip to TNA then I think it would be worth a look at BT 387/50 too anyway.

    I have Jos’s e-mail address already thanks, he has already provided me with as much information as he has on the Scottish crewmen, but it all came from the US archives and not TNA.

    Thanks again. This has been very valuable to me as I am unfamiliar with merchant seaman records and these sources of information make me hope it will be possible to get the evidence to get the men commemorated.

    If you can come up with anything else about the men named it would be very much appreciated and in the mean time we will keep looking for information in Scotland.

    Kind regards


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