Tracing a radio operators history 1939-1942

richard jarvis
27th July 2009, 16:43
First of all can I say how much I appreciated the help given by several contributors, most notably Eriskay, yvon, Hugh Maclean and Roger Griffiths when I recently posted a thread 'Name of ship lost by enemy action 4 11 1942'. That thread revealed a great deal of information about the sinking of the Oued Grou and we were even able to get an extract from a survivors report held in the National Archives which actually referred to the rescue of the family member (radio operator Thomas Carey) we were seeking to trace. The section of the report covering the period as the ship was going down, included the sentence, in the Captains words; 'I would especially mention the cook. a West African Negro named Salli Dipre. Wireless Operator Carey, who was in the water with a Naval inflated air life belt, was unable to swim. Consequently he was continually being spun round, quite unable to control his movements. The cook quickly appreciated his position, and towed some wreckage over to him...enabling him to survive until picked up by the lifeboat'.
I now need to see if anybody out there can point me in the right direction to find out details of Thomas Carey's war service before the Oued Grou. I have his Continuous Certificate of Discharge starting with the Oued Grou, but this is of course a renewal book, the original having been lost in the sinking.
The record book does give what I presume to be his personal number R214372, but is there any way in which this can be used to trace back earlier service.
We know that he was in trawlers, almost certainly Fleetwood based, immediately pre war but it appears likely that he came under Ministry of War Transport at or shortly after the outbreak of war.
Any suggestions where to start looking?
Regards, Richard

Hugh MacLean
27th July 2009, 18:24
Hello Richard,

His seaman's pouch may give details of all his ships prior to 1941 listed on the back of a CR2 card by official number not ship names. (not sure if this will cover fishing) The pouch can be hit or miss as to its contents but usually contains a photo albeit a mugshot.

The file is held in piece BT 372/281/71 (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATID=-3305296&CATLN=7&Highlight=%2CR214372&accessmethod=0)at the National Archives in Kew. Hit the link then hit "Request this" then take the "request estimate option and follow instructions. Ask for the "seaman's pouch for R214372 CAREY T G 19/06/1910 BURNHAM BEECHES".

You can let us know how you get on.
Regards

richard jarvis
27th July 2009, 18:53
Many thanks for that Hugh, I have put in an estimate request for that information. Without your help I wouldn't have known it even existed. Incidentally, how did you know the date and place of birth of Mr Carey? Just interested to know what records you can access so quickly!
Regards, Richard

Hugh MacLean
27th July 2009, 19:24
Richard,
Date and place of birth you will find in my link under "record summary"
The Pouch and the CRS 10 are the main seaman's personal records and you will be doing well to get both of them. Many pouches were destroyed in the sixties.
Regards (Thumb)

richard jarvis
3rd August 2009, 21:38
Many thanks for that national archive information Hugh. We have now had a reply. Probably the most important part is a sheet headed 'Summary of Service'. This shows Thomas Carey serving on the Serula at the time the summary commenced, being discharged from her on the 8.1.41 (no engagement date is given). The service record is then Empire Steelhead 17.1.41-4.3.41 and Pandorian 26.3.41. The next record is on his Continuous Certificate of Discharge and is of course for the Oued Grou, which was our starting point.
(Incidentally I do not have numbers for the 3 ships on the 'Summary', and I am a bit puzzled by what seems a long gap between the Pandorian and Oued Grou)
In the pouch however are also a CR1 card which shows that he was discharged from the City of Sydney 161144 on 8 6 1940 (with a written endorsement 'first ship') and two CR2 cards which puzzle us. They shows dates of engagement firstly to the City of London 124162 on 23.2.40 (which precedes the date of discharge from the City of Sydney!) and secondly to the Holmia 149591 on 17 7 40 but we have no record of a discharge from her. There is also a hand written note on the back of one CR2 card indicating that he started service on the City of Sydney 161144 on 7 10 39. PLus a further reference to a discharge from the Northland on 17.1.41!
It appears therefore that he started war service on the City of Sydney on 7.10.39, then we can be pretty sure of the Serula (although not the start date), Empire Steelhead, Pandorian then the Oued Grou.
Quite how the City of London, Holmia and Northland fit in defeats us at present!
Prior to his death Thomas Carey referred to three ships that he had served on being the victim of enemy action, one of which was the sinking of the Oued Grou.
How might we find out if any of the other ships (we now have City of Sydney, Serula, Empire Steelhead, Pandorian, Fort Cumberland, Empire Grebe, Sarmiento, HMHS Karapara) were damaged by enemy action during the times he served on them?
Sorry this is such a long note, we do very much appreciate your time given to help and guide us thus far. Regards, Richard Jarvis

richard jarvis
5th August 2009, 23:05
I have managed to find out a little bit more. Found the website www.battleships-cruisers.co.uk/damaged_merchant_ships.
From that I have found;
Empire Steelhead (number?), 26.2.1941 damaged by torpedo dropped from aircraft.
Pandorian (166314), 9.4.1941 damaged by bombing.

Is there likely to be any more detailed information about these incidents held anywhere?

Thomas Carey certainly went through an unlucky patch in 1941, the above two ships were followed by the Oued Grou which was torpedoed and sunk.

Can anybody add anything? Are there likely to be pictures of the two ships available anywhere?

Regards, Richard

Hugh MacLean
6th August 2009, 17:22
Hello Richard,

To help give you basic information of all the ships you require put the name of each into the search engine: http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz/

EMPIRE STEELHEAD official number 168009
SERULA official number 149591
HOLMIA and SERULA are one and the same ship. SERULA was originally built as HOLMIA in 1918 and was renamed in 1926.

Regarding the order in which the ships were written on his CR2 card. Use it as a basis for further research as these cards were written up by clerks and I have seen a fair few mistakes in them. One way to find out for sure if he was aboard a particular ship is to obtain the crew agreement for the ship for the time that he is shown aboard. Further details on crew agreements on request.

Photo EMPIRE STEELHEAD (http://www.photoship.co.uk/JAlbum%20Ships/Old%20Ships%20E/slides/Empire%20Steelhead-01.html)
Photo PANDORIAN (http://www.photoship.co.uk/JAlbum%20Ships/Old%20Ships%20P/slides/Pandorian-01.html)
Regards (Thumb)

richard jarvis
7th August 2009, 23:02
Many thanks Hugh for sorting out that confusion, I think we are reasonably sure now which ship he was on and when so I am writing all that up. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction re ship pictures, I was able to get several others from that same site.

Do you think there are likely to be reports anywhere on the incidents involving the Empire Steelhead and Pandorian? Presumably there would be entries in the ships logs, but what happened to those logs?

I was able to find the day by day reports of all marine action and found very brief references to the attacks on these two ships, nothing more than the nature of the attack, the position, and that the Empire Steelhead was set on fire and towed to Invergordon.

Incidentally the 'pouch' held by the National Archives revealed a CRS53 British Seamans Identity Card which has copied quite well and includes a good photograph. It also clarifies that Thomas Carey held a certificate 232 as a First Radio Operator (although he appears to have served as 2nd R.O. in most cases). Interesting to see that some of the information (eg NHI and Pension Fund info) is still 'secret' and has had to be obscured when the copy was made!

Regards, Richard

Hugh MacLean
8th August 2009, 09:22
Do you think there are likely to be reports anywhere on the incidents involving the Empire Steelhead and Pandorian? Presumably there would be entries in the ships logs, but what happened to those logs?

The official log of EMPIRE STEELHEAD official number 168009 for the year 1941 should be held at the National Archives, Kew in piece BT 381/1708 (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATID=8197675&CATLN=6&Highlight=%2C168009&accessmethod=0)
Hit the link then “request this” then take the digital express option and follow instructions. Ask for “the narrative of the official log for EMPIRE STEELHEAD official number 168009 from mid Feb - mid March 1941” the cost for the file is 8.50 sent direct to your email address on a no find no fee basis. You get up to 10 document pages for your money. As the crew agreement is also part of the official log you may wish to ask for that as well for the same period. It will not cost you any more money.

Same procedure as above for PANDORIAN official number 166314.

The 1941 log is held at Kew in piece BT 381/1659 (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATID=8197626&CATLN=6&Highlight=%2C166314&accessmethod=0)

Ask for “the narrative of the official log and crew agreement (if you wish) for PANDORIAN official number 166314 for March 1941”



Thomas Carey held a certificate 232 as a First Radio Operator (although he appears to have served as 2nd R.O. in most cases). Interesting to see that some of the information (eg NHI and Pension Fund info) is still 'secret' and has had to be obscured when the copy was made!


NHI and Pension Fund info is not secret the reason it was obscured is for reasons of privacy and identity theft.

It was quite common for seamen of a senior rank to sail in a junior position. If a qualified Chief RO but the ship only had a position for a 2nd then he would sail as a 2nd RO.

Hope that helps (Thumb)
Regards

richard jarvis
12th August 2009, 12:02
Thanks again Hugh. I put those requests to the National Archives in the form you suggested and regrettably got the following standardised reply;

Unfortunately your Digital express order, number 28612 / 34914, for images from BT 381/1659 cannot be completed.

This is because your document request requires more research time than is allowed for this service.

Is there any way forward in order to get the digital images? I suppose I could ask for the log for the specific day of the incident which presumably would be easy to find and less trouble to copy although we might only get part of the story of the incident? What would you recommend?

Regards, Richard

Hugh MacLean
12th August 2009, 13:55
Hello Richard,
Firstly, the digital express service will only allow you up to 10 document pages for your money. If you asked for the crew agreement and the official log then it is possible that it came to more than the ten. If you just asked for the log for March 1941, did you ask for the Narrative? The ship's official log has many pages most of which will be of no interest to you. It may be worth phoning them up, quoting your reference number and tell them you only want the Narrative. Details of lifeboat drills etc are of no use to you but they are still part of the log; the staff are not researchers they just copy what you ask.

What else to do then? If you get no joy by phoning them, you could go back via digital express and ask for the log only or you could use the "request estimate" option which is the second option below digital express. This option will take up to a couple of weeks to complete.

You could also use their research services and combine all your requests into one. See this link for details: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/foi/research.htm

Regards