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Description

Description of the collection and Joseph Wyse's story by Carmel Gilbride:

Torpedoed in St George's Channel

This collections [sic] belonged to my great-uncle Joseph Wyse from Finglas in Dublin. It comprises of his medals from the merchant navy as well as letters he sent to his mother (Bridget Wyse) and sister (Elizabeth Wyse) and a locket containing a picture of him. He initially served as a merchant marine for the Elder Dempster Line delivering post to the Canaries via Africa. In this capacity then he should have been safe from the violence of the war were it not for the German policy (beginning in 1915) of sinking merchant vessels. In march of that year he was serving on the SS Falaba when it was torpedoed in St George's Channel killing him and most of the people on board. The event is interesting in itself as an American citizen was killed in the incident which raised tensions between America and German and caused a public inquiry well before the sinking of the Lusitania.

We know that his family was not initially informed of his death as his medals only arrived in 1921 and his brothers were sent over to England to try and find him. We think that he signed up for the merchant marine because of poverty. He is listed as a labourer in the 1911 census and the merchant navy would have been an excellent way to advance his prospects especially as he had the valuable skills of being able to type and write shorthand. Our best guess is he was working his way towards qualifying to work in the communications department.

We also know that the whole event caused a mild controversy in the family as the more extreme Republican elements therein saw his enlistment as a betrayal of Ireland - “If you take the King's shilling you get what you deserved”. Other than this there are interesting little details in the letters he wrote home as his descriptions in terms of mild astonishment of the black passengers who his ship had taken on board, showing just how isolated working class life in Dublin must have been

2 medals awarded to Wyse following his enlisting and death in the merchant navy ;

1 Locket with pictures of Joseph ;

15 postcards sent by Joseph to his mother and sister on his travels


Source:
Joseph Wyse's Medals and Postcards from the Merchant Navy. Europeana 1914-1918. CC BY-SA.

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