Trawler lost with all hands all too common a wartime tragedy

ON March 28, 1916, the steam trawler Saxon Prince was lost with all hands off Dover.

She had been used as a mine sweeper after being requisitioned by the Admiralty in August 1914

As was common, the crew was made up of former fishermen who volunteered to stay with the vessel.

The Saxon Prince was skippered by George Albert Rose, of Tyne Street, North Shields, who, it was said by the Shields Daily News in its report of the tragedy on April 6 ‘was amongst the best known and most popular trawler skippers of the north east coast’.

Twelve men are listed on the Royal Navy Roll of Honour as lost in the incident, but here reports of press at the time and modern history part company with official records.

The newspaper named a crew of eight – men listed in the casualty column this week.

Other men listed on the Naval Memorial at Chatham do not feature so we have to presume they were not local.

The paper did mention John Forrest, of South Shields, and a Wellesley boy, George Cox.

Navy records show that Cox, a signal boy aged 16, died of wounds received serving on another vessel a few days later.

No doubt confusion in reports coming back to North Shields associated Cox with the Saxon Prince, although he was in fact lost from HM Yacht Amalthea and is buried at the Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery on Southampton Water.

A further variance in the reported facts of the case is provided by the details given in Ron Wright’s Beyond the Piers – a tribute to the Fishermen of North Shields.

Wright reports that the Saxon Prince (SN58) had served as a minesweeper No. 262 up to March 1916, and then returned to fishing duties but had disappeared in a storm off Dover with the loss of nine.

So there is no certainty about the facts of the case but as the men are all seemingly regarded as being serving naval personnel at the time of their deaths, and thus included in the navy honour, we must assume the vessel was still actively serving in some capacity.

Mrs Rose, the skipper’s widow, had received a letter of condolence from the King.

The paper later added that the vessel had been lost by a mine disaster. So we have no certainty as to the facts.

The talk given by Jeff Bennett, of the Western Front Association, at the Low Lights Tavern, on the campaign in Mesopotamia, was attended by more than 40 people.

The next talk, by Ian McArdle, will feature a comparison of the war novels of Erich Maria Remarque – All Quiet on the Western Front, and its sequel The Road Back (1930).

Tickets (free) can be obtained from Keel Row book shop, the Low Lights Tavern and the project workroom at Linskill Community Centre.

The talk is on Tuesday, March 19, at 7.30pm.

The re-print of the Roll of Honour and thought-provoking map, showing the addresses of more than 900 of those who died as a result of the war, are still available.

Both can be obtained from the project workroom at Room B9 – Linskill Community Centre and Keel Row book shop, Preston Road.

Anyone with information on this week’s casualties or anyone killed or died as a result of the war is asked to contact the project.

The workroom is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more about the project or to get involved.

THIS week’s casualty list gives details of men from the former Tynemouth Borough who were killed on March 28, 1916, in the sinking of the steam trawler Saxon Prince.

From North Shields

Charters, Robert, age 21 deck hand, RNR, 1 Stephenson Street, son of John Davidson Charters and Margaret Charters (nee Tully, stepson of Susannah Charters (nee Irving), he had seven siblings, formerly a miner.

Lorimer, Thomas aged 40, trimmer, RNR, 2 Pant Street, husband of Anne Lorimer. Details needed.

Proffitt, Charles Marshall, age 42, deck hand, RNR, 194 Linskill Street, son of William and Hannah, husband of Margaret Alice.

Rose, George Albert, age 44, Skipper, RNR, 63 Tyne Street, son of Thomas Swan Rose and Pleasants Rose, husband of Janet.

Smailes, George Oswald, age 40, engineman, RNR, 31 Coburg Street, husband of Alice. Details needed.

Tomlinson, Thomas James, Rennoldson, age 22, 43 Bell Street, son of Thomas and Jean, seven siblings.

Also lost – no details.

Forrest, Thomas, of South Shields.

Brooks, Charles W, stoker RNR.

Pilbeam, Arthur E, Petty Officer, RNR.


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, e-mail or write to Tynemouth World War 1 Commemoration Project, c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields, NE30 1AR.