|In this photograph taken aboard the Canonesa sometime during the first year of the war Tom Purnell is pictured standing between apprentice Peter Tingey (to his left) and another shipmate. In 1997, 57 years after this photograph was taken, I made contact with Peter Tingey, now living in Australia. Peter's recollections have been invaluable to me in recounting the events surrounding my grandfather's death.|
In 1917 when 14 years old he left school to become an engineering apprentice. In taking up his apprenticeship he received a reference from his school headmaster, Mr G.I. Smith of Galley's Field School, Hartlepool.
On 23rd July 1917 Tom started his apprenticeship as a Marine Engineer, Fitter and Erector at Richardsons Westgarth & Co Ltd. of Hartlepool, a period of training which ended seven years later on 10th July 1924. According to his apprenticeship indenture signed by Tom and his parents together with two Directors and the Secretary of Richardsons, Westgarth & Co he was to be paid 3 shillings and sixpence per week during his first year (that's about 17 pence in UK money, or 25 US cents) rising to 12 shillings by the seventh and final year. The reverse of the indenture has typing added at the end of the apprenticeship. Signed on 15th July 1924 it states:
Richardsons Westgarth then employed him as a journeyman, but just 3 months after completing his training he was laid off due to the trade depression. He was re-employed by Richardsons Westgarth in March 1927, again leaving due to a depression in trade 3 years later in January 1930. A reference supplied by Richardsons, Westgarth & Co's works manager in February 1930 described Tom as "a good workman, of sober habits, and his conduct was all that could be desired." Throughout this period he appears to have been living at 11, Blaydon Street, Hartlepool. [A history of Richardson's, Westgarth & Co. by P.L. Hogg can be purchased, through Amazon.co.uk, by clicking here.]
Very shortly after this, in February 1930, he gained employment, as a 4th Engineer, aboard a merchant vessel, the S.S. Royal Prince. His voyage took him to New York where his passport reports that he was admitted on 18th March. His stint with the Royal Prince ended in July 1930. In a letter dated July 26th 1930 the Royal Prince's Chief Engineer stated that "during the whole of this period, at sea, he was on watch in the main engines and boiler for eight hours per day. I have found Mr Purnell a capable mechanic, strictly sober and attentive to his duties at all times." On 25th July 1930 he was engaged by the S.S. London Corporation as 5th Engineer, returning to London on August 7th 1930. Between November 1933 and October 1935 Tom served as a greaser aboard the Furness-Houlder Argentines Line refrigerated steamer S.S. Duquesa. He made seven return journeys aboard the Duquesa, from Victoria Docks, London to the River Plate in Argentina. In November 1933 he enrolled as a member of the National Union of Seamen, paying a two pounds entrance fee.
In 1934 Tom married Anne Sinclair Paterson at St Hilda's Church, Hartlepool. Anne gave birth to a son, Allan Adrian Purnell on 19th July 1936.
His National Union of Seamen's membership card of 1935 shows that he belonged to the Deck & Engine Department of the NUS, and was at this time living at 27, Town Wall, Hartlepool.
At the outbreak of war in Autumn 1939 Tom joined the S.S. Canonesa. The wartime service of the Canonesa and of my grandfather, ending with the sinking of the ship and his death in September 1940, is described in the main body of this web-site. Return to the Contents page to view this information.
Part 2 of this account describes how Tom Purnell's death was reported to his widow, Anne. Whilst hearing of the Canonesa's sinking within a few days, confirmation of her huband's death was not received until four weeks later. Also briefly covered are the lives of Tom's widow, Anne, and their son, Allan, in subsequent years.
Firstly his name appears on the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill, close to the Tower of London. This is a moving memorial well worth a visit. The names which appear on this Memorial have also been published in a volume produced by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, formerly the Imperial War Graves Commission. Photographs of the Tower Hill Memorial can be seen at the Gallery section of this site.
His name also appears in a memorial book at the Institute of Marine Engineers, Mark Street, London. This book is a tribute to all those engineers who lost their lives during the war. The book is kept in a case in the reception area of the Institute, just below a plaque dedicated to the Engineers lost aboard the Titanic. The Institute is located just a few minutes walk from the Tower Hill Memorial.
Throughout the 1920's and into the 1930's Tom
was a member of, and indeed played for, Hartlepool Rovers Rugby Football
Club. At a service officiated by the rector of Hartlepool, Rev.
W.S. Cowans, on 30th April, 1949 the Club dedicated its New Friarage Ground
"as a memorial to our members who gave their lives in the two world
wars." 33 members had died in the First World War, 18 during
the Second. The Rugby club and the ground still exist.
The Gallery includes photographs of Tom Purnell
and of the Tower Hill Memorial.
The Gallery includes photographs of Tom Purnell and of the Tower Hill Memorial.
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