Sunday, 24 November 2013

SS Severn Leigh

A lifeboat, carrying survivors of SS Severn Leigh, made landfall at Leverburgh, Harris on 5 September 1940. The nine men on board had spent the previous two weeks or so making their way east from a position at the 25th degree longitude West, 54 degrees North.

SS Severn Leigh was en route from Hull in England to St John, New Brunswick, Canada as part of a trans-Atlantic convoy. From August 20th, the ship had been chased by German U-boat U-37, but after three days her number was up. A torpedo hit her bow, and the crew abandoned ship in four lifeboats. The U-boat's captain spotted that the ship's gun was manned, and that the radio operator was sending out distress signals. So he resurfaced and shelled the ship again. Shrapnel strafed two lifeboats, still alongside, killing 33 crew members.

Frank James Fox, a chief steward from Hull, was in one of the lifeboats, but died, or was found dead on arrival in the Outer Hebrides. He lies buried in the cemetery at Sandwick. Frank was 65 years of age, and left a wife, Emma, in Hull.
This entry is dedicated to his memory, and to the memory of the many in the Merchant Navy who gave their lives in the defense of their country, and contributing towards the liberation of Europe from the oppression of Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

SS Empire Light

SS Empire Light was sunk in 1941 in the Indian Ocean by the armed German raider Pinguin. Survivors of the encounter were picked up by the German vessel, which itself was then attacked by HMS Cornwall. The Pinguin was sunk, taking the survivors from the Empire Light to the bottom with her. Twenty-six of the Empire Light's crew perished on 8 May 1941, six of whom came from Lewis.

Their names are:
Norman MacIver, 37 Vatisker
Murdo MacDonald, 32 Gress
Donald Graham, Garrabost
Murdo Campbell, 5 Sheshader (also quoted at 42 Inaclete Road, Stornoway)
Norman Malcolm Montgomery, 17 Sheshader
George Campbell, 5 Portnaguran

A visit to the Eye cemetery reveals that was very much a family tragedy. Norman Malcolm Montgomery of 17 Sheshader was related to Murdo Campbell of 5 Sheshader. Norman's mother, Isabella Montgomery née Macleod, died 6 months after the sinking of the Empire Light. Her husband Norman was lost in the sinking of HMY Iolaire on 1 January 1919, one of the 205 drowned in that disaster.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

In waters deep

In memory of all those who gave their lives, in peril on the seas.


In ocean wastes no poppies blow,
No crosses stand in ordered row,
Their young hearts sleep... beneath the wave...
The spirited, the good, the brave,
But stars a constant vigil keep,
For them who lie beneath the deep.

'Tis true you cannot kneel in prayer
On certain spot and think. "He's there."
But you can to the ocean go...
See whitecaps marching row on row;
Know one for him will always ride...
In and out... with every tide.

And when your span of life is passed,
He'll meet you at the "Captain's Mast."
And they who mourn on distant shore
For sailors who'll come home no more,
Can dry their tears and pray for these
Who rest beneath the heaving seas...

For stars that shine and winds that blow
And whitecaps marching row on row.
And they can never lonely be
For when they lived... they chose the sea...

Eileen Mahoney

Monday, 18 November 2013


There are at least two islands by that name off the west coast of Scotland, one in Loch Bracadale (Skye), and the other off the east coast of Benbecula. It is to the latter that this post refers. At present, I'm working my way through the list of WW1 casualties from Benbecula, and Donald Monk is one of them.

Son of Capt. John and Catherine Monk, of Benbecula;
Husband of Elizabeth Monk, of 134, Queen's Rd. West, North Vancouver.
Last known address in Benbecula: Wiay
Service unit: D Coy 49th Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment)
Service number: A32674
Date of birth: 18 April 1886
Date of death: 30 October 1917 at the age of 31
Memorial: Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, panel 24 - 28 - 30)
Local memorial: Benbecula

Donald was married to Elizabeth, living at 134th St / 114th Ave in Vancouver when he signed up for the CEF on 11 January 1915 at Edmonton. He is described as follows:

Height: 5 ft 10 3/4 in
Complexion: fair
Eyes: brown
Hair: brown
Religion: Church of England

He appears in the 1901 census on Wiay Island, off Benbecula, aged 15, son of Cathrine (46) and brother of Neil (12) and Angus (10). He is also mentioned in the 1891 census, eldest child (4) of John (45) and Cathrine (39), Neil (3) and Angus (3 days) being the others.

Wiay is for sale, 23 years after its outgoing owners bought it on a whim.  Half a million quid, and it's yours. With resurrected planning application for a holiday home in the ruined crofter's house on the island. Which sends me wondering, is that the house in which Donald Monk was born?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Remember, remember, the 11th of November

Armistice Day is nearly upon us, and I feel it is appropriate to post a reminder of my links that commemorate the Fallen from the Outer Hebrides in both World Wars.

Centenary of Sacrifice is an on-going project, which will post the names of all the Fallen from these islands on the date, 100 years later, on which they died.

Isle of Lewis

Faces from the Lewis War Memorial
A listing of the casualties from Lewis from WW1.

Lewismen lost in the Great War
A listing of the casualties from Lewis from WW1, including all available information (e.g. images of war graves, transcript of Stornoway Gazette tributes etc).

Roll of Honour, Isle of Lewis 1914-1919
A transcript of Loyal Lewis, Roll of Honour, listing all from the island who served during WW1

Tributes for the War Memorial
A transcript of tributes from the Stornoway Gazette to WW1 casualties from Lewis

Tributes for the War Memorial (WW2)
A transcript of tributes from the Stornoway Gazette to WW2 casualties from Lewis

John Macaulay RNR and SS Kenmare
The story of one WW1 casualty, the ship on which he died and the U-boat that launched the fatal torpedo

Lewismen in Australian service
A listing of those WW1 casualties who served with the Australian forces

Lewismen in Canadian service
A listing of those WW1 casualties from Lewis who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force

Lewismen from the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders
A listing of WW1 casualties from the 2nd battalion Seaforth Highlanders , accompanied by transcripts from the battalion war diary for the day on which they died.

Iolaire Disaster 1919
Listing of all casualties who died in the sinking of HMY Iolaire on New Year's Day 1919

HMS Timbertown
About the internment camp at Groningen, Holland, where 105 Lewismen were interned during WW1

World War II tribute for Lewis
A listing of WW2 casualties from Lewis

Wargraves in Lewis
Photographs of all CWGC and private wargraves in Lewis and information on the casualties

War memorials in Lewis
Photographs of all war memorials in Lewis with transcripts.

Southern Isles
Outer Hebrides losses in the Great War
A listing of military and personal details of the WW1 casualties from Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Grimsay, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra

Berneray to Vatersay tribute
A listing of the WW1 and WW2 casualties from Berneray, North Uist, Grimsay, South Uist, Eriskay and Barra

Harris War Memorial
A listing of the casualties from Harris from WW1 and WW2.

Western Isles wargraves
A listing of all wargraves in the Western Isles, listed by cemetery

Western Isles war memorials
A listing of all war memorials in the Western Isle

Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery
A listing of photographs of wargraves and military information of  the casualties, interred at the Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery in Orkney