Fàilte! (Welcome!)

Fàilte! (Welcome!)
This blog is the result of my ongoing research into the people, places and events that have shaped the Western Isles of Scotland and, in particular, the 'Siamese-twins' of Harris and Lewis.
My interest stems from the fact that my Grandfather was a Stornowegian and, until about four years ago, that was the sum total of my knowledge, both of him and of the land of his birth.
I cannot guarantee the accuracy of everything that I have written (not least because parts are, perhaps, pioneering) but I have done my best to check for any errors.
My family mainly lived along the shore of the Sound of Harris, from An-t-Ob and Srannda to Roghadal, but one family 'moved' to Direcleit in the Baighs...

©Copyright 2011 Peter Kerr All rights reserved

Monday, 8 February 2010

Serving King & Country...

The 7,267 ton merchant ship Tahsinia was completed in 1941 by William Doxford & Son Ltd of Sunderland. She joined the fleet of the Anchor Line (Henderson Bros) Ltd in Glasgow and was put under the charge of 51 year-old Captain Charles Edward Steuart.

On the 28th September 1943 she left Colombo,Sri Lanka (having sailed from Calcutta) en route to the UK via Aden with over 7,000 tons of cargo, including tea, manganese ore and pig iron. She had no escort.

Fregattenkapitan Ottoheinrich Junker, the 38 year-old captain of the Monson Boat U-532 was patrolling the waters North-East of the Maldive Islands when, on the 1st October, he first torpedoed the Tahsinia and then sunk her with gunfire. She was the third of his 8 victims and he was duly rewarded with the Iron Cross, 1st Class.

Captain Steuart, his 39 crewmen and 8 gunners all survived. On 6th October, 23 of them made landfall on Mahdu Atoll in the Maldives from where they were taken to Colombo by an Indian dhow. The remaining 25, including Captain Steuart, were picked up by the British merchant ship Nevasa some 10 miles West of Alleppey Lighthouse. They had been in their lifeboats for a whole week. The Nevasa took them to Bombay, arriving there on the 11th October 1943.

On the 7th December 1945, 54 year-old Charles Edward Stuart died in the Western Infirmary, Glasgow. The causes listed on his Death Certificate are Subacute nephritis, Uraemia and Cardiac failure. That the true cause was the damage wrought by those 7 days in an open boat in the Indian Ocean is testified by his listing on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site which records his final resting place in the Glasgow Crematorium.

However, that is not quite the end of the story because 3rd Office Steuart had also been injured in WWI as a result of which he met a hospital nurse Louisa Ogg Hall who, although 11 years his senior, he married on 16th February 1918 in Aberdeen.

Years earlier, a family holidaying in Aberdeenshire had a gravely ill son and the call went out 'for the best nurse in the Land'. Whether Louisa was indeed the best in the Land, or merely the best available locally, is not known, but it was she who was despatched to look-after the sickly child.

It was, apparently, touch-and-go whether he would survive but, due in no small part to the care of his nurse, he recovered.

His grateful parents rewarded Louisa with a brooch which now resides in Canada.

The little boy's name was Albert, but he is better-known to us as George VI.

Notes:
Captain Steuart was always known in our family as 'Uncle Charlie' but is was in fact Louisa who was my Father's 1st Cousin on his mother's side. Upon Louisa's death in 1951, my aunt in Canada inherited the brooch which is in the form of a monogram bearing the parents initials, G & M

U-boat info: http://www.uboat.net/boats/u532.htm
Tahsinia info: http://www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/3095.html
http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?14164
CWGC Record: http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=2840920

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