The Hartlepool man who rescued 28 survivors of a German E-boat attack

Mark Simmons
Mark Simmons

Captain Thomas William Smith was a man you could rely on.

It’s evident from the times that he was either commended or mentioned in dispatches for his actions at sea.

Capt Charles Carter.

Capt Charles Carter.

He was the father-in-law of Hartlepool man Captain Charles Henry Carter who was another inspiring figure.

Today, we continue our look at heroism within one family.

Hartlepool museums manager Mark Simmons was given plenty of material to work with when he began investigating a family with Hartlepool links.

Captain Charles Henry Carter left the Museum of Hartlepool both his Order of Glory of Tunisia and his MBE in his will of 1982.

It is understood the brave conduct for which he is commended related to fine rescue work when an attack was made by E-Boats on a convoy at night. His ship was able to pick up 28 survivors, including an injured captain of a vessel

Northern Daily Mail excerpt, August 1941

And when Mark began his detailed study of the legacy, it unearthed a story of not one man with a heroic past - but two.

Last week, we told how Carter himself made such a difference. It seems his father-in-law Captain Smith was just as influential.

Mark told us: “Carter was married to the daughter of Captain Thomas Smith of the SS Southwood.

“Captain Smith himself won a commendation and was later awarded the MBE for his rescue of the crew of the SS Effra on April 17, 1941. Carter was also present at this rescue, as he was a senior member of the Southwood’s crew at the time.”

But Captain Smith had won other plaudits as well.

He was awarded the British War Medal 1914-1918 and the Mercantile Marine War Medal on March 23, 1923.

During the Second World War his excellent service led to a notification from the Admiralty on August 15, 1941.

It was sent to tell him he was to be “...Commended for good service in S.S. Southwood, in action with the enemy”.

It was followed in August that same year by a report in the Northern Daily Mail.

It said: “Capt. Thomas William Smith of Killerby, Piercebridge, and formerly of West Hartlepool, is one of a number of officers and men of the Merchant Navy who have been commended for brave conduct when their ships encountered enemy ships, submarines, aircraft or mines.

“Captain Smith, who formerly lived in Westbrooke Avenue, West Hartlepool, for many years has been in the service of the Constantine Shipping Line, Middlesbrough.

“He has been at sea since he was a boy, serving throughout the last war.

“He is the captain of a vessel engaged in coastal traffic, and it is understood the brave conduct for which he is commended related to fine rescue work when an attack was made by E-Boats on a convoy at night. His ship was able

to pick up 28 survivors, including an injured captain of a vessel.”

Do you have a relative who gave outstanding service to their country.

Or perhaps you would like to share another aspect of your family tree.

Get in touch by emailing chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk