World War II Crew Activity

Inger Sheil

This post has been prompted by a recent very interesting communication from the great grandson of Henry Tingle Wilde - at a time when the world remembers the anniversary of D-Day, it is fascinating to find that H T Wilde's son, Henry Owen Wilde, was a beach marshall at Normandy and went on to be highly decorated for his actions in France. I've been told he was a quiet, unassuming man who did not speak often of his own remarkable record (or that of his father, for that matter).

Anyway, this triggered consideration of what the Titanic survivors did during WWII. We've discussed their WWI lives at various times - how Lowe, Lightoller, Boxhall and Pitman served their country, as did other crewmembers, and how some - such as Archie Jewell - lost their lives. But at this time, some consideration of their WWII roles might be interesting.

Charles Lightoller's Dunkirk heroics are fairly well known - it's not long ago that Pat W reminded us of his remarkable Sundowner story. The sacrifice the Lightoller family made in the loss of their sons has also been discussed.

I've made reference to Lowe's activities in WWII - although hindered by ill-health, he readily answered the call and worked as an Air Raid Warden in Deganwy before a stroke severely inhibited his movements. Pitman's role in the merchant service has been less explored, but is not less interesting.

This service continued on to the next generation - the Lightoller boys, Lowe's son serving in South East Asia (among his more interesting missions was one served with a long-range penetration group in Burma), Boxhall's niece who worked on the homefront with the RAF and a daughter of Wilde's who worked in Liverpool as an ambulance driver and received official recognition for her heroism.
One might think of some of the unsung heros who simply went on to just do their jobs. Robert Hichens had a pretty chequered life, and it's not common to think of him as any sort of hero, but he continued to serve in the merchent marine up to the day he died. Under wartime conditions, this wasn't a job for the faint hearted, but these were the people who brought food, fuel, munitions, and medicines to England during some of her darkest hours.

Inger Sheil

That's what I was thinking of, Mike - also some of those who suffered through the blitz, without much opportunity to be heroic or otherwise other than through sheer steadfast endurance! The merchant navy did a remarkable job, of course. Many survivors must also have been caught up in the bombing in Liverpool, Southampton and London.
>>Many survivors must also have been caught up in the bombing in Liverpool, Southampton and London.<<

Yep...couldn't sip their beer in peace, and dodging bombs while on the beach, only have to go out and take their chances with the U-Boats and hostile aircraft all over again. Interesting times and all that. I'm glad I never had to face that.

Tracy Smith

George Stewart, the former first officer of the Californian and a retired master mariner, returned to sea in the early days of WWII to serve as third officer of the SS Barnhill as a favor to the Barnhill's captain. In March of 1940, Stewart, 62, died when German aircraft bombed and sunk the ship.

Inger Sheil

I remember that one, Tracy! Thank you for the reminder. Terribly sad - I seem to recall that Reade dealt with it rather sensitively, whatever he thought of Stewart, but would have to look up the passage again, though.

His entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Registry includes the following information:

Initials: G F
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Third Officer
Regiment: Merchant Navy
Unit Text: S.S. Barnhill (London)
Age: 62
Date of Death: 20/03/1940
Additional information: Husband of Caterina Marie Stewart, of Sale, Cheshire.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 13.
Cemetery: Tower Hill Memorial

Must look for his entry the next time I visit the Tower Hill memorial.

Tracy Smith

Thank you, Inger, for providing the additional information about George Stewart.