Monday, December 05, 2011

A Father and Son of the Sea

Photographs (Top to Bottom):

1. Old 'Sea salts', Whitehaven harbour (c.1931)
(Believed to include members of the Cradduck family)

[Courtesy of The Beacon Museum, Whitehaven]

2. Tom Cradduck, SS Empire Leopard
Lost at sea due to enemy action (02.11.1942)

[Courtesy of 'The Whitehaven News']

3. Ronnie Cradduck, SS Empire March (Barrow)
Died of illness, Madras, India (21.11.1942)

[Courtesy of 'The Whitehaven News']

4. Sailing ships in Whitehaven harbour
[Home port for Tom and Ronnie Cradduck]

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(a) Citation
Thomas William Walters Cradduck
[Based on the CWGC citation]

Casualty Details
Initials: T W W
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Able Seaman
Regiment/Service: Merchant Navy
Unit Text: S.S. Empire Leopard (London)
Age: 41
Date of Death: 02/11/1942
Additional information: Husband of Mrs Rhoda Cradduck, of Whitehaven, Cumberland.
Son of William Cradduck and Agnes McKee Cradduck (nee Dempster) of Whitehaven.
His son, Ronald Cradduck, Merchant Navy (SS Empire March) also died.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 43.

(b) Citation
Ronald Cradduck
[Not listed by CWGC as he died of illness in India].

Casualty Details
Name: CRADDUCK, RONALD ('Ronnie')
Initials: R
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Service: Merchant Navy
Unit Text: SS Empire March (Barrow)
Age: 18
Date of Death: 21 November 1942.
Additional information: Son of Thomas William Walters Cradduck and Mrs Rhoda Cradduck of Whitehaven
His father, Thomas W.W. Cradduck, also died during the war.
Died in hospital in Madras, India of "Typhoid Fever"
[N.B. The actual date of death may have been 18 November 1942 - see below]

Sunday, 11 December, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(c) A Father and Son who made the Ultimate Sacrifice

Tom and Ronnie Cradduck were a father and son from Whitehaven, Cumberland (now Cumbria) who served in the Merchant Navy during WW2. Both of them died in November 1942, although in different parts of the world. As sometimes happens with the tragic fortune of war, in the last week of November 1942 Mrs Rhoda Cradduck of Marlborough Street, Whitehaven received the news that her husband and eldest son would never return home.

The father, 41-year old Tom Cradduck was reported missing at sea in the North Atlantic due to enemy action. His ship, the SS Empire Leopard, had been sunk by German U-Boat on 2 November 1942. By the end of November there was no hope that Tom Cradduck had managed to escape the sinking vessel. Tom Cradduck was one of four seamen from the port of Whitehaven to be lost with the sinking of the SS Empire Leopard. The others were brothers George and William Henry Acton and William Scott Truett.

At almost the same time as receiving the grim news of her husband, Mrs Cradduck received the news that 18-year old Ronnie - the eldest son of the family - had died in Madras, India on 21 November 1942. Ronnie Cradduck had contracted typhoid fever on his last voyage on board his vessel, the SS Empire March. He had been admitted to hospital in Madras where he later died.

It was reported at the time that Mrs Cradduck still had 3 younger children living at home. Such are the consequences of a World War.

Subsequently, Mrs Cradduck remarried. She passed away in 1991 in the Carlisle area.

(d) Some biographical information

By November 1942 the Cradducks of Whitehaven were among the best known seafaring families of their home port. Tom and Ronnie served their country as Merchant Seamen on the High Seas during WW2. Ultimately, they gave their lives while engaged in the traditional family trade.

The founder of this seafaring Cradduck dynasty can be regarded as another Thomas William Walters Cradduck (1851 - 1924). This Thomas Cradduck, the grandfather of Tom Cradduck and great-grandfather of Ronnie Cradduck - the WW2 casualties - was a traditional 'sea salt' of almost legendary stature. It is believed that 'Old Tom' Cradduck - if one may call him that - came to Whitehaven from Chepstow, Monmouthshire in the late 1860s. In those days tall sailing ships similar to those seen in photograph No 4 above regularly plied their trade on the high seas. In 1875 Old Tom Cradduck married Whitehaven-born Hannah Jane Butler and made their home in the port area of town to raise a family.

Old Tom and Hannah Cradduck went on to have 10 children, the youngest (Frances Hannah) being born in 1899. At the time of the 1911 census Old Tom described himself as a seaman 'of own account' working in the boating profession. In fact, he had long been involved in just about every activity of sea and port - fisherman, pilot, 'hobbler' and coxswain of the Whitehaven lifeboat from 1891 to 1911.

A hobbler was an unlicensed pilot who would tow larger vessels into the harbour with ropes. Sometimes two or three hobblers would own a boat between them and it seems that Old Tom also had a financial interest in a number of boats.

To complete the record, Hannah Cradduck died in 1922. Old Tom Cradduck died at his home near the harbourside, 26 Quay Street, Whitehaven, on 23 June 1924. His funeral service took place at St Nicholas' Church, Whitehaven - the seaman's church - on Friday 27 June followed by interment at Whitehaven Cemetery. He was 73 years old.

Wednesday, 14 December, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

One of Old Tom and Hannah Cradduck's sons, William Cradduck (1877 - 1947) married Agnes McKee Dempster at Holy Trinity Church, Whitehaven on Boxing Day, 26 December 1898. They were the parents of the Thomas William Walters (Tom) Cradduck who would lose his life at sea in 1942. They also made their home in the Whitehaven harbour area, which at different times was on Catherine Place, Bardy Lane and Hodgson's Court.

Young Tom Cradduck was one of 7 siblings and the eldest son of William and Agnes. He was born in 1901 and baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Whitehaven (Church of England) on 1 September 1901. Of the 7 children, by 1910 only 2 were still alive - Tom and his younger brother Joseph (Joe) who was born in 1909.

One morning in mid-December 1910 William and Agnes Cradduck and their two surviving sons were lucky to escape with their lives while sleeping in their beds. A harbourside retaining wall behind their home collapsed and partly demolished their house at Catherine Place, Whitehaven. This was in the part of the harbour adjacent to where the present-day Beacon Museum is situated. The area can be seen in the background to the left of the tall ships in photograph No 4 above. Luckily, William, Agnes, Young Tom and Joe all came out unscathed. Some of their neighbours were not so lucky. Two other houses in Catherine Place were completely demolished and 8 people were buried alive, of whom 3 were killed.

Having had this lucky escape as a child Young Tom Cradduck went on to become a seaman. Subsequently he married Rhoda Curtis. Their eldest son, Ronnie, went away to seek his fame and fortune on the high seas as soon as he was able to do so.

Like many young lads brought up in a seafaring family Ronnie would no doubt have listened to tales of the high seas and distant lands from 'sea salts' such as those seen in photograph No 1 above. Thus, Ronnie Cradduck joined the Merchant Navy on his 15th birthday, although it is believed he had already been at sea before then. His obituary in 'The Whitehaven News' (03/12/1942) described him as "... a bright and cheerful youth ... who has been all over the world".

Ronnie Cradduck had but a relatively short life of 18 years. But he lived it the way he wished for:

"If there is another world, he lives in bliss
If not another, he made the most of this".

Wednesday, 14 December, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(e) Remembering a father and son of the sea

The following family notices were placed in 'The Whitehaven News' by relatives in remembrance of Tom and Ronnie Cradduck:

(i) November 1943

Cradduck - In loving memory of Tom W. Cradduck, lost at sea, November 1942; also Ronnie, his son, died in India, November 1942.

From Uncle David, aunt Barbara and Family, 6 Hamilton Lane.

(ii) November 1944

Cradduck - In remembrance of my son Tom, M.N., lost at sea, November 2 1942. Also Ronald, M.N., died in India, November 18 1942.
Remembrance always.

Always remembered by his Father and Grandfather and all at 24 Quay Street.

In 1947 family members also submitted Tom and Ronnie's names to be included in the Borough of Whitehaven WW2 'Roll of Honour'. Eventually, in 1953 Whitehaven Borough Council produced a 'Book of Remembrance' for those townsfolk who had died during the war.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason neither Tom or Ronnie Cradduck's name made it into the 'Book of Remembrance'. What makes the omission of Tom Cradduck's name even more difficult to understand is that 3 other Whitehaven seamen lost when the SS Empire Leopard was sunk - George Acton, William Henry Acton and William Scott Truett - are all listed in the 'Book of Remembrance'. The Cradduck family were also staunch members of the Church of England. However, the names of Tom and Ronnie Cradduck were not included on any Church war memorial either.

Whatever trhe reason for these unfortunate omissions , henceforth the names of Tom and Ronnie Cradduck will be included in an updated WW2 'Roll of Honour' for their home town of Whitehaven. In future, they will also be remembered in the updated Parish of Whitehaven 'Roll of Honour'. Their sacrifice, and that of their family, will at last be remembered.

Wednesday, 14 December, 2011  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(f) Dedication

This article has been dedicated to the memory of:

Thomas William Walters Cradduck (1901 - 1942)
Ronald Cradduck (1924 - 1942)

"A Father and Son of the Sea"

They sailed out on an ocean wide and deep,
In life we will rank them amongst the best,
And now in heroes' graves they lie asleep,
This father and son of the sea: at rest.

(December 2011)


Cumbria County Archives & Library Service
(Whitehaven Records Office)

'The Whitehaven News'

Mr Stuart Nicholson, Archivist,
Parish of Whitehaven (Church of England)

The Beacon Museum,
West Strand, Whitehaven

Dave Banks & Mike McCrickard
(West Cumbria Mines Research Group)

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Hugh MacLean and Billy McGee
(WW2 Merchant Navy researchers,
"WW2 Talk" website)

Further reading

To read an overview of the role of the Merchant Navy in WW2 on the BBC "People's War" website, click on the following link:
WW2 Fact File: Merchant Navy

To read further stories about the SS 'Empire Leopard' and some of its crew written by 'ritsonvaljos' for the BBC "People's War" project, click on the following links:
Torpedoed by a German U-Boat, 2 November 1942

George and William Acton, Merchant Seamen with the SS Empire Leopard

An Unwanted Letter from the Minister of War Transport in London

To read the story of William Scott Truett who also lost his life when the SS 'Empire Leopard' was sunk, whose home port was Whitehaven the same as Tom and Ronnie Cradduck, click on the following link:
Able Seaman William S. Truett, M.N.

To read an account which appeared in 'The Whitehaven News' about the accident involving Tom Cradduck, his parents and brother in December 1910 and which caused the death of 3 of their neighbours click on the following link:
How another mine disaster followed Wellington tragedy

Wednesday, 14 December, 2011  

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