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Date: 9 June 1915


Milford Fishermen Murdered by Pirates

It would be difficult to describe the feelings of Milford people on Thursday when, what to them was the worst tragedy of the war, was brought home by the arrival of the Cardiff steamer, Hirose, and four survivors of the steam trawler, Victoria. We had grown accustomed to the arrival of shipless crews as a result of the German submarine piracy campaign in western waters, but now that the pirates have turned their attention to our own fishing craft, the feeling as of a new horror seized people of all classes. Wives and relatives have become anxious, and in this connection it would be well if habitual rumour mongers stayed their tongues out of consideration for anxious families. On Friday there were rumours spread regarding the fate of other trawlers, all fortunately groundless, folk should, therefore, be guarded in the spreading of what they hear. The reality is likely and serious enough without being made worse.

The Victoria was one of the smaller class of trawlers and had not long been at the port, having been purchased from Fleetwood by Mr Curzon and was managed by Messrs. Brand & Co. The large Victoria, owned by Mr. James Thomas, is on Admiralty duty. The fall story of the little craft’s fate is given below, but some particulars of the men who were so wantonly killed may be told. It is a fact one family has been especially hard hit, as three members connected with it are amongst the killed, as will be seen from the list. The fate of the little boy Jones is painfully distressing. He was 12 years old, son of Mr W. Jones, skipper of the steam trawler, Tenby, and had gone on a pleasure trip with his uncle, Skipper Stevenson.

Skipper Stevenson, who was about 33, was a son-in-law of Mr J. Gray, Avondale Hotel, Hakin, and leaves a wife and four children.

Mate Dennis McCarthy was a widower with no family.

Chief Engineer Albert Cole was about 33, a son-in-law of Mr John Elliott, Trafalgar Road; he leaves a wife and five children.

Harvey Rudge, cook, was a man between 55 and 60, and a brother of Mrs Gray, Avondale Hotel, Hakin.

Frank Slate, trimmer, was a Haverfordwest man.

James Jones, the little boy, was a grandson of Mr and Mrs Gray, Avondale Hotel.

The wounded lad, George Huddleston, is a son of Skipper J. Huddleston, Hakin, two of the other men are natives of Yarmouth.


It was just before seven o’clock on Thursday evening when the news of the tragedy was made known, after the steamer Ballater, of Liverpool (Cardiff owned), came up the Haven and anchored opposite the town. A number of men were put aboard a drifter and landed at the mackerel stage, and told of what was one of the blackest deeds that the desperate Huns, who are now infesting western waters, have perpetrated. It was, moreover, one of the worst stories told by local sufferers. Of tragedies of the sea there have been many told by our gallant Milford fishermen, of fights against storms, of dreaded collisions, with their toll of deaths, but this horror was different: six of Milford’s brave fishermen have fallen innocent victims to the foulest of foemen, without warning, without mercy, in the interests of “Kultur.” The names of the crew of the steam trawler Victoria, which left the Milford Docks on Tuesday, May 25th, without a thought of the fate which awaited them are:—

Skipper—Steven Stevenson, Hakin.
Mate—Dennis McCarthy, Milford Haven.
Chief Engineer—Albert Cole, Milford Haven.
Second Engineer—George Scrivens, Yarmouth.
Third Hand—John Craig, Milford Haven.
Deck Hand—George Huddleston, Hakin.
Cook—George Rudge, Hakin.
Trimmer—Frank Slate, Haverfordwest.
With the little boy, James Jones, Hakin.

Aa stated, four only of these ten are alive to tell the tale.

A “Telegraph” representative first sought out the third hand, John Craig, who lives in Dewsland-street, but he had not come home, he and others were in Hakin breaking the news to bereaved relatives. It was whilst on his way over there that our man met the deck hand with arm bandaged up coming to Dr. Griffith’s surgery and regaling a number of sympathisers with the details of the terrible tragedy. He willingly gave his graphic account which we give in his own words. He had been out a week and in a few hours would have been thinking of making for home. It was about 5 o’clock in the evening on Tuesday and they were then 130 miles west by south of St. Ann’s Head fishing. The first thing of an unusual nature was that they heard the sound of guns booming. They saw nothing and thought it might possibly be a drifter patrol boat on the track of a submarine and they took no notice. Then a shot suddenly come [sic] overhead the ship forward and smashed one of the boats. Anticipating trouble they prepared to meet it. The boy Jones was placed in the wheelhouse and the crew were ordered to lash some boards together into a raft, this for some of the men proved a fortunate precaution. Another shot came shortly and struck the wheelhouse killing the little lad instantly. Things were now serious, but worse was to follow, for whilst Skipper Stevenson and the chief engineer were standing near the fo’castle ladder discussing matters a shell came and both were killed. “I cannot describe in words the horror of that moment,” said Huddlestone [sic], “in fact, I was in the act of handing one of them a cup of water, when it was knocked out of my hand and injured my wrist, and I also received a piece of shell on my forehead and I fell down the fo’castle ladder. Down below some terrible things happened. The poor mate, McCarthy, had his two legs blown off, while in the fore-hole the trimmer, Frank Slate, had his two legs broken. The firing now ceased and I managed to climb on deck and saw the submarine coming alongside.” One of the officers pulled him aboard the submarine. They said if they had stopped they would not have fired. He did not see anything of Craig, Franklin, Scriven or Rudge until a long time afterwards when he saw the body of Rudge floating past with a life-belt on and he then saw the other three on the raft. He called the attention of the Germans to them and they were picked up after about 14 hours in the water. They spent the night aboard the submarine, a novel experience. On the whole they were treated alright, but did not have much conversation with the Germans. The Commander appeared to be an abrupt and uncivil sort of individual, but another officer who appeared to be a doctor was courteous, and was the only one to speak much English. He dressed Huddleston’s wounds and later said that England started the war. Next morning he could not say what time, they were called up on dock and told that another boat was coming alongside. They had been submerged till then. Here he said He [sic] should have stated that the Germans put a bomb aboard the Victoria and she went down head first. They saw them attack the Hirose and sink her, after which they put the four survivors of the Victoria in the boat with the crew of the Hirose, gave them 6 or 7 biscuits and cast them adrift. Then followed an awful experience. They rowed about all day and again through most of Wednesday night in driving wind and rain and had rowed about 60 miles before being picked up by the Ballater. He was definite in his statement that the submarine was U. 34 [sic]

The other men had very similar stories to tell. Huddlestone’s [sic] injuries showed that a large piece of flesh had been blown out of his wrist. He had since been suffering from the effects of his trying experience.

The crew of the Cardiff steam trawler Hirose, a fine new vessel owned by Neale & West, were escorted to the Bethel. Some of them are well known in Milford, the skipper Yank Ward and the mate Frank Harrington. The other men were:—Chief engineer Walter Triton; Boatswain, Edward Johnston; Second engineer, Charles Eruson; Third hand, Guy Botsford; Deck hand, Frederick Paddick; Cook, Jack Pert; Trimmers, Ernest Adams and Thomas Davies. Skipper Ward was not with the other man at the Bethel but he corroborated their version of what took place and the thrilling time they passed through. The other men gave a graphic recital whilst at tea, the first meal said one that we have had for nearly two days. The boatswain Edward Johnston gave the story in a clear and coherent manner. He said the Hirose left Cardiff on Tuesday morning and on their way to the fishing grounds about 130 miles west by south of Lundy Island shots began to fall near be ship [sic]. They could not see where these came from till a submarine was observed making for them and continued firing all the time but so faulty was their marksmanship that not one of them hit the ship, though it made them quake a couple of times. The submarine quickly overhauled them, and drew near. An officer shouted to them through a megaphone to leave the ship and ordered them to come aboard the submarine. In the trawler’s boat he sent his men aboard the Hirose with a couple of bombs which exploded on the ship, which, however, did not appear to sink quick enough, so they fired two shots into her amidships and sank her. This would be between 5 and 6 on Wednesday morning. They were not on the submarine very long so did not see much of the crew, one officer seemed a decent fellow but the commander, well—he was a German inclined too sneer. On the submarine they found four survivors of the Milford trawler Victoria and ultimately the fourteen of them were put in the small boat given half a dozen biscuits to help them along and were left to take their chance in a leaky craft in a strong sea.

It was chiefly owing to the way the skipper and mate handled the boat that they managed to keep afloat. Throughout the day and night a round 24 hours or more they rowed on and on and were thankful when the Ballater came along and took them aboard. They received every consideration at the hands of Captain Mildred and his crew and were brought into Milford. They had never found a port so welcome. After a good night’s rest and attention from Mr Hardcastle and his staff the crew left for Cardiff on Friday morning.


Trimmer F. Slate, aged 47, who lost bis life in the sinking of the trawler Victoria, was a native of Haverfordwest, and resided at Castle Back with his wife and four children. Slate, who bag been a seafaring man for many years, usually shipped as cook, but this time only the trimmer’s berth was vacant on the Victoria and he took that. He had only been a week on the boat when he met with such a sad end. It appears that Slate went below to help get up steam when the submarine was sighted, and when he came on deck again the shelling of the boat had begun. He was struck on the head by a falling spar first of all and then both legs were broken by a shell. In the meantime the skipper had been killed and another member of the crew had both his legs blown off. The story of how the Victoria was finally destroyed is already well-known and Slate must have perished with the ship. The men were pulling in the last net when their boat was attacked. Slate was born at Glenover, and his father was a sergeant in the old militia. The greatest sympathy will be felt for the mourning wife and her little ones who are left practically destitute.

We have drawn the attention of Mr Marlay Samson, the hon. secretary to the County War Fund, to Mrs Slater’s case, and Mr T. Y. Lewis, one of the hon. treasurers, informs us that immediate steps will be taken to allocate a grant to the unfortunate widow.

Belgian Trawler also Sunk

In addition to the appalling crime connected with the sinking of the steam trawler “Victoria,” the port of Milford also lost another trawler, sunk by the pirates in the Belgian trawler “Delta B,” news of which reached Milford before the other disasters were known, although it happened later. Very late on Wednesday night it appears that the manager, Mr Jules Baels, received a wire from the skipper—“Delta B sunk by submarine; crew saved.” Much anxiety was at once felt on Thursday morning when it became known, but of course it was intensified the same night when the survivors from the other trawlers arrived. It is probably the same submarine which has accounted for the three trawlers as they occurred in the same region at times not far apart—Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon.

The Delta B has had a checkered history since the war. She was one of the trawlers which brought round a large number of refugees and the fishermen’s families in October last and in Folkestone harbour was damaged, having her bow twisted. She had been lying in Milford Docks alongside the slipway till a few weeks ago when she was taken over by Mr Jules Merinck and sent to Swansea for repairs. These completed she landed a voyage at Milford, and this was in fact only her second trip out. She left dock Tuesday with a crew of ten men consisting of Pierre Titeljon, skipper; G. Titeljon, 2nd officers; C. Messing, chief engineers other ranks, A. Gonzales, D. Cerpoorber, G. Corme, J. Labeke, L. Ramant, Leon Allay, Alf Mesmaker, all of whose families are resident in Milford Haven. The men arrived safely by the afternoon train on Friday from Penzance and there was a crowd of anxious Belgian women and friends at the station to greet them. Some of the men were able to save their kit and appeared pleased to have got back safely. The manager, Mr Baels, showed them every consideration, and at the rear of his office in Victoria Road had the group photographed.

Seen by our reporter Skipper P. Titeljon said his ship was sunk by shells and gunfire on Wednesday afternoon about 8 miles off the Bishops (Scilly Islands). Shots commenced to fall near them without warning, and he did his best to get out of range. When he first saw it the submarine was between 600 and 800 yards away. Shots fell so thickly that he found it impossible to get away and ordered his men into the small boat. The commander of the submarine spoke to them and said he was not aware that it was a Belgian fishing boat that he had attacked, but the skipper said he was flying the Belgian flag. The Delta B was sunk about half an hour after they left her. The crew were pulling about in the boat for two hours when they were picked up by an English vessel and lauded the same evening at St. Mary’s, Scilly Islands, and from there transferred to Penzance.

All the men told their friends of their experiences with characteristic volubility and gesture.


Adding further to his story, Skipper Titeljohn [sic], of the Delta B, said it was about two o’clock in the afternoon, when the submarine, which we had not seen, commencing [sic] shelling us without any warning. I steered the vessel round, showing our stern to the enemy, but as we had the trawl down it took some time to cut the hawser and get free. All this time shell followed shell, passing through the engine room cabin, but only one of the crew was hit, and that was a youth named Frans Davitte, who was hit on the leg and is now in hospital at Penzance. Finding I could not get away I stopped the engines and got the boat out, and by this time the submarine was only about 20 yards away and still shooting at us. An officer in her conning tower waved his hands for us to get into our boat. We did so and pulled away from our vessel. Then the submarine fired two shells at the Delta B. on the starboard, and steamed round to port and again fired two shells. These took no effect, and then the submarine came close to us and ordered us aboard, and I was commanded to take two bombs and place them amidships, the commander saying “You can have half-an-hour to take off anything you want.” I put the bombs where I was ordered, but neither I nor any of my crew could remove a single thing, and we got back into our boat and resting on our oars, saw our dear old vessel go down stern first.

When we got aboard the submarine, I asked a German officer for a drink of water, for I was almost speechless through excitement and shouting orders, but he took not the slightest notice of my request. One of my crew I heard saying to a German sailor “Why did you do it?” meaning firing at us. “Oh.” said he, “this is war, and we shall sink everything we see.” When we got into our boat a second time, we pulled about for one and half hours, then the Milford trawler, Dewsland, came and landed us at St. Mary’s, Scilly Islands.

Another Crew Landed at Milford.

Yet another example of the German piracy campaign has been reported at Milford Haven by the arrival of the steam trawler, Ebor, on Tuesday morning with four men, crew of the Norwegian steamship, Trudvang, of Bergen, which was bound from Lisbon to Dublin with iron ore. The crew were taken to the Bethel and regaled with breakfast by Mr Hardcastle and bis staff. Captain K. M. Johansen told a “Telegraph” representative that at 1.30 on Monday afternoon, when 80 miles west by south of St. Anne’s Head, he heard a loud whistle and saw a submarine about a mile away. She also fired a couple of shots, which he took as a warning and he stopped. She signalled for the captain to come aboard with his papers, which he did. The commander kept them and haughtily asked him how long he wanted to get clear of his ship. He said half-an-hour or more. The commander replied “We give you 20 minutes.” “I went back,” said the Captain, and we managed to get two boats away clear in the prescribed time. The submarine then fired twelve shots, and my ship was sunk. As she went down we saw the smoke of a large steamer coming up and the submarine submerged, and turning eastward lay watching the coming steamer. This was a large patrol yacht from Milord Haven which, as it came nearer, we could see had 12-pounders fore and aft.Iit came up to us, being attracted by firing, and asked where was the submarine. I told the commander she was watching us. At that moment we saw a torpedo coming, but this missed our boats and the patrol yacht, and the latter afterwards picked us up but let the boat drift. Afterwards we were transferred to the trawler and taken to Milford. The patrol boat went towards where the submarine was last seen. There was no letter or number on the submarine, except two painted white strokes.”

The crew consisted of three Russians, a Spaniard, Portugese, and Italian, the rest being Norwegians, and they could not speak English only in very broken sentences. They said they had to leave in a hurry. One of the Norwegians, asked what he thought of the war, said “German is a bad man, and will stop at nothing.” The skipper of the Ebor is Mr Charles Baker, of Grimsby, brother of Mr J. W. Baker, local manager of the Grimsby stores. He said that there was one remarkable incident to record. His steward was a Norwegian naturalised Englishman, and on the crew of the Trudvang being put aboard the Ebor, he recognised one of them as the husband of his own niece. Naturally there was a warm greeting. The Captain also knew an acquaintance of Skipper Baker in Grimsby.

The needs of the crew are being attended to, pending their departure, by Mr G. S. Kelway, the local Consul.

More Piracy Victims at Milford Haven.

Sensation followa sensation at Milford Haven, which in this terrible campaign of piracy by the Germans, is playing an important part in receiving and giving out succour to the surviving victims of submarine outrages. In some respects yesterday was the most remarkable of the many experiences to date, for no less than three crews were brought in the same day. Last evening a message was received from St. Anne’s Head to prepare for two crews, no particulars were available and there was much excitement, various rumours being abroad. At the Government examination boat “Herald,” stationed at the harbour entrance, was seen approaching the mackerel stage with a number of men aboard. There was a rush to the Docks and the police were hard preyed to keep the crowds back, everyone being anxious to know what really had happened.

In company of Mr Kelway, shipping agent, the captain and crew of the vessel were escorted to the Bethel, followed by eleven Frenchmen who were similarly taken to the Fishermen’s Institute. The facts briefly were that the Glasgow steamship, Strathcarron, outward bound, had been torpedoed without warning 80 miles west of Lundy, and the French barquentine, La Liberte, was sunk by shell fire not far from the same spot. Fortunately, the crews, 31 and 11 respectively, were saved without injury. There was not much time to get the full story as the officers were busy sending messages away to the owners and friends, whilst the men were in a state of excitement. All was bustle at the Bethel, where the Strathcarron’s crew were regaled, but in a quiet moment the “Telegraph” representative interrogated some of the men. The Strathcarron left Barry on Monday with a cargo of coal, and just after six on Tuesday morning, without a moment’s warning, a torpedo struck her amidships. “It was our water tanks that allowed us to escape as we did.” said one of the men, “for it kept her up sufficiently long for us to get clear.” Another said “there was not much time for thinking but we were well prepared, the boats all being in readiness for an emergency, and every man obeyed the Captain’s orders to the letter so there was no commotion and we got nicely away, but the ship soon afterwards sank. The submarine was not seen by anyone. It was a short time afterwards and about three from where our ship went down that we saw a submarine. She was circling round and round and was commencing to fire on a sailing ship. This proved to be the “La Liberte,” whose crew had also taken to their boat. Several shells were fired at her and she sank. The crew came up to them and they rowed together till 1.30 mid-day when they were picked up by the steamer Branksome Hall which brought them to St. Anne’s Head and transferred them to the Herald.

A. the Institute of the National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, our representative saw the French crew. They were being given a substantial meal, Miss Cooper herself personally assisting in the good work. It was unfortunate that not one of the men could speak English, so that their story is as yet untold. Both sailors’ institutions were taxed to provide accommodation for so many men, as between the three crews there were 57men to be provided for. Townspeople took in some of them. Intense indignation prevails.

'Milford Fishermen Murdered by Pirates.' Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph. 9 June 1915. 3.

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