Tower Hill Memorial New Addenda Section

Discussion in 'Non-Commemorated War Dead' started by Billy McGee, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. Billy McGee

    Billy McGee Senior Member

    Just how many of our Merchant Navy war dead are still forgotten?

    In 1940 the Norwegian Merchant ship Nina Borthen sailed from Southampton bound for the Persian Gulf. The ship was last seen leaving her convoy in a severe storm off the west coast of Ireland and the ship and her thirty-five crewmembers were never heard from again. An empty lifeboat eventually drifted ashore off Dunmore Ireland on the 19th December 1940. Amongst the missing were seven British Merchant Seamen of which six of them were only 16 years old. Eventually German U-boat records revealed the ship had been struck by four torpedoes from U-103 on the evening of 6th October 1940 and sank in approximate position 53° 00'N, 26° 00'W. The names of all the dead were recorded by the Norwegian Maritime Archives, but the British Seamen had somehow been overlooked by the British Registrar of Shipping & Seamen of the day.

    I first became aware of the missing British Seamen as early as 2012 when I made contact with a Norwegian historian living in the USA asking how she had details of these men, yet reference with the British CWGC database showed no trace of them. I passed on the information she had to the CWGC in the hope they would be given official recognition, but it was denied, stating there was not enough evidence to have them commemorated. I was eventually supplied with documents from The National Archives at Kew showing compensation was paid by the Norwegian Government to some of the families of those lost, but this was still rejected by the CWGC. I then made contact with the National Maritime Museum of Norway who produced copies of official deceased record cards for all seven and sent them to me free of charge, but again this was rejected by the CWGC as not enough evidence. I had a feeling that I was the only one who cared and was sick of all the red tape. I made one last contact with the Norwegian Archives asking if they held any other records, which may help get these boys the official recognition they rightly deserved. Finally I was sent seven identical letters. In 1946 the families of these seven were still trying to find what had happened to their loved ones and a reply to all the families was sent to them explaining the facts held by the Norwegian Shipping & Trade Mission, through the Norwegian General Consulate of the day. In August 2016 the CWGC relented and they were finally officially accepted as war dead. I also managed to extract a further fifty odd letters from Norwegian archives for similar cases I was working on and after four years since the research started all were finally accepted.

    This set a new problem for me as the Tower Hill Memorial to honour our dead was full. After bombarding the CWGC with emails and finding family members of those lost to contact the CWGC, with our combined efforts, the CWGC eventually applied for planning permission to have the memorial extended. Finally after another two years of waiting I have been informed the new bronze panels are under construction in Australia of all places and are awaiting shipping to the UK to be in place the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019 . The boys are finally coming home.

    BUTLER, Deck Boy, NORMAN, age 16 of 15 Norwich Road, Southampton
    HASLAM, Oiler, HENRY, age 16 of 15 Silent St. Ipswich
    RICHARDSON, Deck Boy, JAMES, age 16 of Boundary Annan Road, Dumfires
    SELF, Cook, GEORGE, age 43 of Poundtree Road Park End, Southampton
    TAYLOR, Deck Boy, HORACE, age 16 of 133 Regent Park End, Southampton
    TIMMS Galley Boy, RONALD, age 16 of 36 MacNaughton Road, Southampton
    WILSON, Deck Boy, GEORGE, age 16 of 1 Oaktree Road, Southampton

    Lest We Forget!

    Attached Files:

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  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Blimey Billy fantastic work
    Good for the Norwegians to supply the information.

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  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Hello Billy,
    I passed by Tower Hill Memorial today and the panel was not in place yet.
    I called CWGC and they said it has still not arrived from Australia and would more likely be in place by the summer of 2019.

  5. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Billy great work, thank you.
    But can't we even cast a bit of bronze in this country anymore?
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  6. Billy McGee

    Billy McGee Senior Member

    Just been informed the new panels are in the UK and are to be treated and erected at Tower Hill in the next couple of weeks. Seven years since I first started this research and campaign to get these names added. Job done. Photo of a couple of the panels before they get treated.

    Lest We Forget!!

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  7. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Well done Billy
  8. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Excellent work Billy

    Thank you
  9. Billy McGee

    Billy McGee Senior Member

    At the outbreak of war in Norway on the 9th April 1940, more than 1000 Norwegian Merchant ships were at sea sailing in foreign waters. These ships were owned and operated by about 500 ship owners or shipping companies with a staff of over 6000 trained people. Practically all the offices were located in Norwegian ports, so the entire administrative apparatus stopped functioning immediately after the invasion on April 9th. By the evening of 12th April an insurance plan for Norwegian ships in neutral ports had been initiated with the British Government, and telegrams sent out from the Foreign Office to British consulates all over the world, asking them to inform Masters of Norwegian ships that Great Britain would fully cover the usual sea and war insurances, on the condition that they proceed to the nearest British or French port, without stopping at any other neutral port en route. The next day the Admiralty sent out the following message to all Norwegian ships at sea: "Your ship is held covered by the British Government against War and Marine risks on the values and conditions under which she is at present insured....As regards cargo the ship owner is similarly covered for his liability to the cargo owners" The telegram stated that the agreement had been reached with a Mr. Hysing Olsen representing Norwegian ship owners. On the 19th April offices were rented at 144 Leadenhall St. in London, a whole floor of about 500 square meters, practically fully furnished and with the option of renting another two floors. The location was ideal, right across from the main entrance to Lloyd's and next to the War Risks Insurance Office. The name "The Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission" was adopted, shortened to “Nortraship” (Extracted from the "Nortraships flåte", J. R. Hegland)

    By the end of the war, according to Lloyd’s War Losses 351 ships of the Nortraship fleet had been lost by direct enemy action, resulting in the deaths of over 3,500 Merchant Seamen. These casualties were meticulously recorded by The National Archives of Norway and published in two volumes of Sjøforklaringer fra 2. Verdenskrig Vol. I & II. (Maritime Inquiries from WWII), which consists of direct copies of official reports from ship losses recorded at the Norwegian National Archives. The publications, which I donated to the CWGC several year, included the names of hundreds of serving British survivors and over 900 Merchant Seamen of foreign nationalities recorded as dead/missing, which includes the names of over 270 British Merchant Seamen killed. Just over 200 British Seamen named in the publications as being killed are recorded with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial in London, while a further 13 are buried ashore in official war graves.

    Started in 2009 I went about searching for extra information on the individual cases in the National Archives at Kew and the National Maritime Archives of Norway to find additional information asked for by the CWGC to prove, at my own expense, that those named in the two publications who had been overlooked by the Registrar General of Shipping & Seamen of the day and should rightly deserve official commemorations. It has taken me nearly seven years researching and correspondence between Norway and the CWGC and finally today ten years later these men and boys, many only sixteen years old are finally honoured.


    Lest We Forget!!
    Finished Panel 2.jpg Finished Panel.jpg
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  10. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Well done Billy - thank you for sticking with it. Good result indeed.
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  11. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Well done Billy excellent news

  12. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    I assume the same applies to British seamen serving on Dutch ships and those of other flags; but I wouldn't know where their names and details could be found.
  13. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Though this was held to be a marine loss the vessel was carrying war materials: The majority of the lost crew were Danish, with five Brits and one Canadian; there were also five gunners. May I leave it to the Moderators to decide whether this should be a new thread?

    "The Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Transport were merged to form the Ministry of War Transport on 1 May 1941.

    Requisitioned ships were normally handed back to their owners, who managed them on behalf of the government; these ships generally kept their own names. ...These new vessels were handed to established owners to manage, usually to replace lost tonnage.

    The first ship handed to Buries Markes was the Empire Knight, another Doxford Economy Ship. ...

    She was initially allocated to the Liner Division. Her first voyage was to Eastern Canada, where she loaded an Ellerman Bucknall cargo, for India, the Middle East, or the Persian Gulf. She was routed via the Cape of Good Hope, arriving at Colombo on 14 October. She was then to load a UK cargo for Clan Line; but grounded off Ceylon, as it was then, and had to be dry-docked.

    Once she returned to service she began loading at Calcutta, for T & J Harrison. She cleared the Indian coast just before Christmas and made a long voyage home via the Cape, Punta Arenas and Balboa. The movement card is littered with ‘repairs’ in most ports and once she reached the Clyde she was slightly damaged when in collision.

    Empire Knight’s next trip was to Halifax, in ballast. There she loaded a general cargo for Donaldson and Black; which was delivered to the Clyde. Another ballast voyage to St Johns NB followed; where she loaded a Furness Withy military cargo and general, again for the Clyde. She was diverted to Liverpool, from where she sailed, again for Canada. Once there she loaded timber and/or metals for the Humber and further repairs.

    She sailed from Hull on New Year’s Day, this time for St Johns NB to load a military cargo for South Asia or the Middle East. This loaded she sailed on about 10 February. The next day, in a blizzard and gale, she struck Boon Island Ledge, off the coast of Maine. The casualty was abandoned and subsequently broke in two. The larger stern section floated away and sank; the bow sank on the 15 February 1944. Twenty four of the crew lost their lives, making this the worst disaster that Buries Markes suffered in the war.

    The TNA file FO 3/1 – 42983 is titled Empire Knight Loss Report – but it only contains correspondence about the salvage of flotsam from the wreck. File BT 381 – 3126 Articles for Empire Knight (ON 169017) 1944 is more informative. This is, of course, only the office copy, but it contains additional correspondence relating to the tragic loss.

    It shows that the Master, Mates, Engineers, and some of the crew were Danish; they had been on the same ship on the previous voyage. As they were from the Newcastle upon Tyne Danish Pool it is possible that they had manned the ship from when it was new; their own ship having been sunk? The list of the dead is on the next page.

    An act of heroism is recorded in the Lloyd’s List of 8 December 1947. Third Officer Helge Verner Nielsen (Empire Knight) and two others managed to launch a boat, possibly the jolly boat, it capsized but they up-righted it. Mr Nielsen managed to row the boat alone, even though his hands were frozen to the oars. He then kept it alongside another ship while his two semi-conscious companions were rescued. He was awarded Lloyd’s Silver Medal for Saving Life at Sea.

    The bow of the Empire Knight. U S Navy photograph

    The files show that the salvor Risdon Beazley was interested in the wreck, which would indicate that her cargo included non-ferrous metal. The US Authorities have banned all activity around the main part of the wreck, as it contains flasks of mercury.

    Losses from the m.v. Empire Knight

    Nielsen, Carl Kristian, Master, Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Johnsen, Christian H., Chief Officer, Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Harley, William, Chief Radio Officer, Fa. William, 127 North Road, Wallsend Knudsen, Ernest Martin, Carpenter, Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Fredericksen, Enjar, A.B. Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Dahl, Jens Georg, A.B. Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Jensen, Robert Frank, A.B. Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Hansen, Leonard J, A.B. Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Jellis, Kenneth Wm., O.S. Fa. Frederick, 64 St Nicholas St. Lincoln
    Brophy, Gerard, O.S. Mo. Julia, 26 Woodfall Close, Huyton
    Kofoed, Poul Frederik, 2nd Engineer, Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Madsen, Orla F., 5th Engineer Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Andersen, Willy Voldomar, Greaser Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Boeg, Frederik, Greaser Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Sorensen, Henry, Greaser, Danish Pool, Newcastle on Tyne
    Brown, Robert, Greaser Canadian, Toronto. Signed on in St Johns NB
    McKensie, Lewis, Cabin Boy, Fa. Lewig, 36 Caird Street, Liverpool Six
    Dant, Frederick I., Cabin Boy, Fa. Fred, 130 Carr Lane, Willerbys, Hull
    Taylor, Bartholmew, Apprentice, Mo. Sarah, 20 St Lewins Ave, Cullercoats
    James, Frederick, Gunner, Mo. Roma, 24 Llan Road, Abertrider
    Bruford, Henry, Gunner, Mo. Clare, 10 Pretoria Street, Fetherstone
    Hall, Thomas, William, Gunner, Mo. Elsie, 17 Heston Rd, Kempstone, Beds
    Phillips, Edward Daniel, Gunner, Mo. Alice, 42 Glamis Rd, Tuobrook, L’pool
    Cook, Charles Henry, Gunner, Wi. Agnes, 177 Cumberland St Glasgow.

    Are this gunners commemorated? If so I feel that the merchant seamen should receive the same treatment?
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  14. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hello Roy,
    The gunners as you would expect are commemorated but the merchant seaman are not. They are already known to Billy as they are on his list of non-commemorated merchant seaman.
    I think you know my feelings on this - it is a tragedy they are not commemorated. Under the rules our merchant seamen will not be commemorated unless we can go back to the CWGC and, in this case, prove they died due to increased war risk.
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  15. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Hello Hugh,
    Thank you, I hadn't realised that Billy had already tried to have them commemorated. I do know your feelings and totally agree with them. I too would have thoght that carrying a military cargo at the time of war counted as 'increased war risk'
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  16. Billy McGee

    Billy McGee Senior Member

    Unveiling the new panels at Tower Hill Sunday 8th September 2019
    Unveiling V.jpg

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  17. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Took these today



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  18. Wobbler

    Wobbler Well-Known Member

    Great stuff Billy!
  19. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much for all your efforts to ensure that these brave men are properly commemorated.
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