OAP’s tribute to victims of mine

Carl Leckey (front) at the memorial
Carl Leckey (front) at the memorial

SEVENTEEN merchant sailors killed in the Second World War when their ship hit a mine in the River Mersey have been commemorated more than 70 years on thanks to the efforts of a pensioner.

Carl Leckey has had a plaque installed to commemorate the deaths of Hartlepool crew members of the SS Ullapool.

He mounted a six-month campaign to have the memorial put in place on the banks of the Mersey.

By fascinating coincidence, when he joined forces with his local council to get the plaque in place, it turned out that council official Steve Campbell, tasked with helping Carl’s initiative, was originally from Hartlepool.

The 17 West Hartlepool seamen, who died alongside a passenger, were on board the town-built SS Ullapool.

The cargo ship, built at Gray’s shipyard in 1927, were returning from Halifax, in Canada, as part of a convoy which was being tailed by German U-boats.

The vessel made it across the Atlantic Ocean despite the enemy’s efforts to sink her to what was considered a safe haven in the Mersey and the crew were looking forward to going home to be with their families after a long and dangerous voyage.

But tragically, the ship struck a drifting enemy mine within sight of the docks of the Mersey, where the crew would have left the ship, and most of the crew died in the explosion.

The town men were WJ Thwaites (master), FH Scott (second officer), AA Corkish (able seaman), AR Logan (a 15-year-old deckboy), PG Kerr (second engineering officer), JP Burrough (fourth engineering officer), firemen/trimmers J Flannagan, J McKay, JC Patterson, PC Gray, P Scott and AH Joicey, H Lake (cook), H Farnie (steward), JAW Paton (radio operator), JA Stephenson (second radio operator), HP Wenlock (Sergeant, Royal Marines, Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) gunner and passenger J Flannigan.

Now, seven decades after the tragedy, on March 13, 1941, Carl has been instrumental in getting a plaque installed on the promenade at New Brighton, in Wallasey, near Liverpool, opposite the site where the Ullapool sank.

Former tugboatman and retired lock-keeper Carl, 74, from New Brighton, said: “The Ullapool story is amazing.

“The ship made it all the way here, the lads must have been made up that they were going to get home,

“But sadly the ship was struck by a mine, not far from our house.

“When Steve from the council came to see me about the plaque and heard the crew were from Hartlepool, he looked up and said ‘I’ve got shivers all down my back’.”

The dad-of-two and grandfather-of-four, who is married to Rose, 70, and attended an official unveiling ceremony, attended by council officials, said he did not hesitate to mark the passing of the men, as he felt camaraderie, due to “being a seaman, it’s in your blood”.

Wife Rose said: “Carl has been upset about these guys for so long, he just wanted to help.”

Now Carl is wondering if anyone knows what happened to the bodies of the Ullapool’s members, as he would like to visit the men’s graves.

He can be contacted at rose.carl@talktalk.net.

l WERE any Mail readers related to anyone involved in the Ullapool tragedy? Contact Tracy Walker on (01429) 239374 or email tracy.walker@northeast-press.co.uk