St Barnabus Primary School, Warrington remember a brave lady.


May Westwell was the only daughter of the late Mr and Mrs W W Westwell of 103, Lovely-lane Warrington. She joined the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps to support the War effort in April 1918. Before that she was a teacher at Evelyn Street Primary school in the town. After spending some time in Belfast in an administrative post, she was transferred to the headquarters of the Irish Command in Dublin.
Miss Westwell had decided to use her short leave to travel back to Warrington to surprise her family and friends. They were all totally unaware of her being a passenger until they received the tragic news of her loss on the Leinster at the age of 30. The courage of Miss Westwell during this terrifying event was noted by a surviving passenger and reported by a local newspaper.
“There was a Canadian Major who was amongst the rescued, and the first remark he made was that of all the things that impressed him most at the time, was the behaviour of the Q.M.A.A.C. on board. Their courage was magnificent. Your daughter was the one referred to as she was the only woman officer travelling and there were few women in uniform on the boat.”
The school is planning to commemorate the life of May Westwell by creating a poppy cascade at St. Barnabus Church, Warrington made from plastic bottles. They aim to promote Miss Westwell as a positive role model to children, especially girls, and by using bottles link the project to the issue of single use plastic around the globe. There will be a service at the church on 10 October to remember the sacrifice of Miss May Westwell and others.
The Holyhead Maritime Museum has been asked to make and send a poppy to the school to mark the link the town has with the tragedy. This we will gladly do.

‘Torpedoed! – the R.M.S Leinster Disaster’


Now available for sale at the Holyhead Maritime MuseumPhilip Lecane’s definitive account of the worst maritime tragedy of the Irish Sea.

RMS Leinster was torpedoed in October 1918 en route from Dun Laoghaire (then Kingstown) to Holyhead resulting in the loss of over 560 lives, including 27 from Holyhead.

As part of the Museum’s contribution to the centennial commemoration, the book is offered at special price of £14.50 (£15.99 on Amazon). Get your copy whilst stocks last.

RMS Leinster Burials at the Isle of Man

Philip Lecane of the National Maritime Museum of Ireland recently undertook a special visit to the Isle of Man primarily to visit the graves of six soldiers lost on RMS Leinster and whose bodies were washed up on the shores and buried in island cemeteries.
These include:-
Private Thomas Cardiff, Royal Air Force, age 18.
Private Horace Albert Cook, East Kent Regiment, age 19.
Private William Herbert Hutchinson, Border Regiment, age 25.
Corporal Michael Carroll, Royal Army Corps, age 25.
Private Arthur Herbert Lott, Royal Berkshire Regiment, age 25.
Private George Lutton, Royal Munster Fusiliers, age 30.

Coincidentally at the time of Philip Lecane’s visit contact was received from Fiona Hutchinson, the grand-niece of William Herbert Hutchinson (listed above). She has kindly supplied a photo of her grand-uncle and has passed information onto Philip Lecane and Brian Ellis to include in the Maritime Museum’s interactive database of those on RMS Leinster when she was lost  .

A short ceremony of remembrance was undertaken at the graveside of Privates Hutchinson and Cook, who were buried together. The photo shows Philip Lecane and standard bearer Jim Cottier of the Royal British Legion, Isle of Man.

John Cave MBE

imageMany will know of the recent sad passing of John Cave, President and founder of the Holyhead Maritime Museum. John’s commitment and contribution to his home town of Holyhead is immeasurable. His knowledge of the history of the town and especially its maritime heritage was second to none. He with others made sure that significant events in the town’s past were brought to the community’s notice and commemorated with due reverence and dignity.
As a leading member of the RMS Leinster Centenary Commemoration Group he was actively participating in developing plans for this year’s commemoration at Holyhead. He was particularly keen to encourage the involvement of the town’s younger generation in events planned for October.
John was passionate that the loss of RMS Leinster and those on board should be adequately remembered as the centenary approaches. As part of John’s legacy to the town the Commemoration Group will press on, albeit without John’s guidance and wisdom, to deliver a commemoration that he would have been proud of.
The Holyhead Maritime Museum has maintained a close relationship with the National Maritime Museum of Ireland at Dún Laoghaire over many years. The photo is from a visit a few months ago to share information relating to the forthcoming commemorations.
In the photo – John Cave MBE and Barry Hillier from Holyhead Maritime Museum with Padraic O’Brolchain, Philip Lecane, Brian Ellis and Seamus O’Connor from the National Maritime Museum of Ireland. They stand at a display of artefacts from RMS Leinster.

Leinster victims washed up on Anglesey shore.


Over a month after the sinking of the RMS Leinster four bodies were washed up on Anglesey’s west coast. As can be seen from the newspaper report they could not be identified. Three are buried at Llanfaelog (probably together) and one, a woman, at Aberfraw. All graves are unmarked.

Whilst a large number of bodies were recovered and buried in Ireland, others were found at the Isle of Man and further north on the west coast of Scotland. Many more were never found. Their grave remains the sea.

The newspaper report mentions keys found on the body of the man in the blue serge suit. It would seem that these did not help identify the body at the time. 100 years on it would be good to try and solve the mystery. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

The newspaper report is from the North Wales Chronicle of 15 November 1918. We are grateful to Clive Hughes for bringing it to our attention.


Survivor William R Thomas

William R Thomas, aged 16, was a survivor of the loss of RMS Leinster. He was born at Holyhead and was employed as an Under Steward.

As part of the centenary commemoration efforts are being made to clearly identify all those on board at the time of the tragedy. The National Archive contains records of 1.1million Merchant Seamen. Between 1918 and 1921 CR10 Record Cards were introduced which contain personal details and photographs.

The cards shown above are of two young seamen from Holyhead of similar age. It is possible that one of these could be the William R Thomas who survived RMS Leinster. We are looking for present day relatives who could possibly help identify William R Thomas.