Hartlepool Mail joins historians to remember Merchant Navy heroes

REMEMBERING THE HEROES: Gary Green who wants to remember the sacrifices of the brave seamen.
REMEMBERING THE HEROES: Gary Green who wants to remember the sacrifices of the brave seamen.

THE sacrifice made by Britain’s Merchant Navy seamen is to be recorded.

In a new project, the Hartlepool Mail has teamed up with town historians to remember all the civilian heroes who died on the waves.

Last year, we listed the names of every Forces hero from Hartlepool who died in the First World War.

This year, we shall be listing the names of all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War on the seas in the Merchant Navy.

The compilation comes courtesy of the Nautical Archeology Society North East in partnership with Hartlepool Council’s library and museums services teams, as well as local family history societies.

Gary Green, the project manager for the Heroism and Heartbreak scheme which remembers all those from the town lost at sea, and who has shared the list with the Mail, said: “The centenary of the outbreak of the war has generated a lot of coverage.

“But nearly every one concentrates on the soldiers who were fighting on the Front. If you look at the stories of the Merchant Navy’s involvement in the First World War, you realise they played an absolutely crucial role in keeping Britain in the war.

“In those days, everything that came into Britain came in through shipping. Britain was by no means self-sufficient but we were the world’s leading merchant power.

“Nearly half of the world’s merchant ships were British owned and the industry employed 250,000 seamen. It was an absolute lifeline.”

But the Germans also realised this and Gary added: “U boats would sink ships without warning. Losses of merchant ships increased annually. Most historians agree that, at one point, Britain was six weeks away from being forced into submission.

“The courage and sacrifice made was every bit as selfless as the soldiers on the Front.”

Today, we start our look at the Hartlepool sailors who gave their lives at sea. Here is the first of our monthly lists;

Merchant Navy Losses in January:

January 1st, 1915 – W. FAIRLESS, Fireman/Trimmer, aged 50, steamship LINWOOD.

January 31st, 1917 – Lionel DUNCAN, Master, aged 29, son of Charles William and Dora Duncan, of Borough Road, Middlesbrough; husband of Tabitha May Charlton (formerly Duncan), of Seaton Carew, West Hartlepool, steam tug IDA DUNCAN.

January 31st, 1917 – Thomas GILFOYLE, 2nd Engineer, aged 27 or 29, son of Thomas and Mary Gilfoyle; husband of Sarah Evelyne Gilfoyle (nee Warkcap), of Wells Street, Hartlepool, steamship RAVENSBOURNE.

January 12th, 1918 – Robert OXLEY, 2nd Mate, aged 63, husband of Louisa Oxley, of Burbank Street, West Hartlepool, born Scarborough, steamship WHORLTON.

January 29th, 1918, Robert KINGSTON, Chief Engineer, aged 43 or 44, husband of Edith Kingston, of Landsdowne Road, West Hartlepool, steamship ETHELINDA.

Anyone wanting more information on the Heroism and Heartbreak project, and those who can provide more information on those featured in our list, should email infodesk@hartlepool.gov.uk, telephone (01429) 242909, or call in to Hartlepool Central Library in York Road.