Disaster off Tyne claims lives of the crew from two trawlers

Tower Hill Memorial.
Tower Hill Memorial.

THE Shields Daily News report, ‘Terrible Disaster off the Tyne – Two trawlers mined – all hands missing’, on December 2, 1918, told of the loss of two locally-based trawlers which had struck mines north east of the Tyne – going down with the presumed loss of all crewmen.

The Armistice of November 11, 1918, did not bring an end to the sad toll of loss for local families.

The war did not end formally until July 1919 with the conclusion of the Treaty at Versailles.

With the area’s strong maritime connections, hundreds of local men from North Shields were in constant peril from the continuing danger posed by thousands of high explosive mines in the North Sea.

These had been placed by both the enemy and the British, and it would be years before the menace of random death caused by striking a loose mine would become a rare occurrence.

In the immediate aftermath of the war tragedy struck twice on the same day – December 1 – and left 12 local families to mourn the loss of husbands and sons.

Two vessels, the steam trawlers Ethelwulf and T W Mould were fishing with a number of others from the North Shields fleet when two loud explosions were heard at about 3am and two boats were engulfed in flames.

The fleet was re-assembled and it was found that the Ethelwulf and T W Mould were missing.

A search at first light revealed nothing and the fleet returned to port where news of the tragedy and loss amongst families, all well-known to each other, spread rapidly.

The Tower Hill Memorial (pictured) records details of the 2,477 British merchant and fishing vessels lost in the conflict and includes the two local boats lost on December 1, 1918.

In Church Street, the families at 116, 128, 140 and 145 would all have been plunged into grief and doubtless would have known each of the men killed.

The 12 men lost had all lived within 500 yards of each other.

The Tynemouth Roll of Honour records these as victims of the war.

Although the vessels were engaged in their peace-time activity of fishing, many of the crews were recorded as members of the Royal Naval Reserve so their families clearly thought it was appropriate to note their naval associations.

Indeed, it may be that they had all served during the war and been released to pursue the equally vital task of providing food for the nation.

Detailed research may reveal the exact history of these men who gave their lives in the perilous waters of the North Sea, no doubt fully aware of the constant danger in which they placed themselves.

The Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project’s first trip to the battlefields of the First World War will take place in May, 2012.

The five day tour (21 to 25) is being organised in association with DFDS Seaways and will travel to Belgium and France.

Full details and how to book can found at www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/battlefields2012 or by calling 0871 522 9955.

Project volunteers are being reminded of the closure of the North Shields Central Library for refurbishment and repairs.

A base for the Local Studies section will contain all the existing sources in the temporary library facilities to be operated from Monday, December 12, 2012, at the buildings of the former Business Centre (Old library), Howard Street, North Shields.

To find out more about the project and to assist, call into the project workroom on weekdays from 10am to 4pm – Room B9, Linskill Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of 12 men from North Shields killed on December 1, 1918, in the loss of two trawlers which struck mines north east of the mouth of the Tyne – see story.

Lost from the Steam Trawler Ethelwulf – SN 344.

Dodds, John, age 34, 2nd Hand, RNR, 42 Dockwray Square, son of John and Sarah, husband of Mary (nee Steedman).

Jameson, John J, Chief Engineer, Coburg Street – details needed.

Kinnear, Andrew, age 49, Deck Hand, RNR, 145 Church Street, son of the late James and Janet, husband of Ellen (nee Ferguson).

Steedman, Robert, age 52, Skipper, son of William Grandeson and Mary Steedman, husband of Sarah, 42 Dockwray Square – their son-in-law John Dodds also resided with them.

Watson, John George, age 23, 2nd Engineman, 140 Church Street, son of Edmund Watson and the late Sarah, husband of Polly (nee Reed).

Wray, Arthur Temple, age 26, Deck Hand, MN, son of late John and Maria, husband of Elizabeth Anderson Wray (nee Hammerburg), 18 Dockwray Street.

Lost from the Steam Trawler T W Mould – LH 82.

Angus, Richard Ellis, age 36, Trimmer, MN, 128 Church Street, son of the late Richard and Mary, husband of Catherine Cawley (formerly Angus – nee Clements).

Kennedy, John Tom, age 51, 1st Engineman, 26 Coburg Street, son of Mary Ann Kennedy and late Samuel, husband of Jane (nee Armsworth).

Lucas, Joseph, age 29, Cook, RNR, 116 Church Street, son of James Freeman Lucas and late Mary Brand Lucas, husband of Margaret Ann (nee Moor).

Marlborough, George Robert, age 45, Deck Hand, MN, son of R Marlborough, 8 Savannah Street, Millwall, London.

Wales, Alfred Frederick, age 34, 2nd Hand, MN, husband of Mrs Wales, 12 Princes Street.

Williamson, Henry, Skipper, HM Reserve Transport, Washington Terrace – Chatham Naval Memorial.

No bodies of the above were recovered. Apart from the last named, all others are commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial to Merchant Navy casualties of both world wars.


KIA – killed in action

DOW – died of wounds

LAS – lost at sea

NF – Northumberland Fusiliers

DLI – Durham Light Infantry

RND – Royal Naval Division

RNR – Royal Naval Reserve

RFA – Royal Field Artillery

n Anyone with information on this week’s list or who wants to find out more about the project, should visit www.tynemouthworldwarone.org, e-mail contact@tynemouthworldwarone.org or write to Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project, c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR.