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Criccieth - Margaret and Nantw’s Adventure.
At the end of May 1914 the steamship DRUMCLIFFE sailed from Barry Dock, in South Wales, with a cargo of coal for Buenos Aires in Argentina. The captain was Thomas John Evans of Llwyn Onn, Criccieth. Accompanying him on the voyage was his wife Maggie and their two daughters, Margaret age 7 and Nantw age 5 years. It was a regular occurrence for a Captain’s wife to sail with their husband and sometimes the children, especially during school holidays. After an uneventful voyage south, the ship arrived at Buenos Aires and unloaded the coal. Orders were then received to proceed to New York. All went well until, off the mouth of the Amazon, on the 6th August the DRUMCLIFFE was stopped by a German light cruiser, the S.M.S. DRESDEN. Unbeknown to Captain Evans, despite having a radio, the First World War had started two days earlier. An officer was sent from the DRESDEN to check the ship’s papers and to ensure that there was no war material on board. He was surprised to see the children and relayed this back to the warship by flag signals. Captain Fritz Ludecke immediately answered, ordering that the DRUMCLIFFE be allowed to proceed on her voyage though the radio equipment was to be destroyed. The ship proceeded on her way, eventually arriving in Europe. The family came home to Llwyn Onn where the girls went back to school. They would always remember their adventure and the polite German officer. He was Wilhelm Canaris who went on to become Admiral Canaris who was executed at the end of the Second War for plotting against Hitler.

The sisters had long lives and were liked and respected in the community. Nantw died in 1996 and Margaret passed away in 2009 at the age of 102. They were loyal supporters of the RNLI and left a substantial legacy fund to Criccieth Lifeboat. In 2011 the new, second lifeboat at the station was named MARGARET AND NANTW in their honour.

And the DRESDEN? After releasing the DRUMCLIFFE she sank several British ships including the steamship NORTH WALES which had Nefyn and Porthmadog men amongst the crew. On 8th December 1914 she took part at the Battle of the Falklands. All the German ships were sunk except the DRESDEN which escaped. During February 1915 she was in the South Pacific and sank the sailing ship CONWAY CASTLE owned by R. Thomas and Co, Criccieth and Liverpool. The crew reached Valparaiso safely where Captain John Williams notified the British Consul that the DRESDEN was short of coal, had engine problems and was probably hiding in the Juan Fernandez Islands off the Chilean coast. HMS KENT and GLASGOW were sent to find her. She was found and destroyed on the 14th March 1915.
And the DRUMCLIFFE? She was sold soon after this incident and re-named KELVINBANK. Her luck changed and she was sunk by a German submarine north of Scotland on 13th June 1917. Sixteen crew members were lost including Richard Owen Pritchard, Merllyn Cottages, Criccieth.
Photo of Criccieth lifeboats by Nicholas Leach/RNLI for non-commercial use.

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