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Prestidge, Leonard James

Leonard James Prestidge was about 13 years old when the Second World War broke out and on the 1939 Register there is a redacted record for someone living at 32, Dodd’s Drive Connah’s Quay with a Louisa Prestidge, (a widow born on the 14th February 1880, and a Female Agricultural Worker) who I believe is Leonard, as on his Death Record Card (Merchant Navy) his next of Kin was his Grandmother Mrs. Louisa Prestidge, 32, Dodd’s Drive.

I believe that Leonard James Prestidge  was born in the March quarter of 1926 in Liverpool, (Abercromby, Liverpool ABE/75/82) and was the son of Elizabeth Prestidge, Louisa’s daughter before her Civil Marriage to Robert J. Bell in the June quarter of 1927.(Flintshire (Mold)    HOL/49/25).

Thanks to the Family Tree of “haroldgriffiths” on Ancestry.co.uk we know that Leonard was to have a half sister, Louisa H. Bell and a half brother, Cecil Bell, but perhaps was living with his Grandmother Louisa Prestidge most of his life as she was his next of kin on his Merchant Navy documents.

When Leonard “went to sea,” I do not know, but in his short life he had faced, I would think, heartache, adventure and also fear and danger.   His was a Cabin boy, age 16 years, on the Merchant Ship M/V “Empire Glade” and on the 28th November 1942 en route from Alexandria to New York a U-Boat, U-67, surfaced and hit the unescorted “Empire Glade” with gunfire, the ship was damaged but the vessel escaped and reached Charleston on the 7th December.   However it is reported that one of six Gunners had been killed on board.   This leads us to the conclusion that it was poor Leonard who died and although he was listed as a Cabin Boy, he must have been on the guns when he was killed.

Many thanks to https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/2477.html

The fate of the U-boat, U-67,Sunk on 16 July 1943 in the Sargasso Sea south-west of the Azores, in position 30.05N, 44.17W, by depth charges from an Avenger aircraft (VC-13 USN) of the US escort carrier USS Core. 48 dead and 3 survivors.  Coutesey of “Ships hit by U-boats” – https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship2477.html

I also presume that Leonard James was buried at sea en route to Charlston as there is no known grave listed for him and he is named on the Tower Hill Memorial, one name among 36089 men and boys from the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who gave their lives and have no grave but the sea.

Nick Griffiths  from the Family Tree of “Harold Griffiths,” says that they still have the iron that Leonard took with him when he left to join the Navy, he also tells us that his wife’s Mother and Grandmother, remembers they gave  the iron and some food to him as he left, and remembers waving him off as he went down Primrose Hill in Connah’s Quay with his friend and that was the last time she saw him. The iron was returned with his belongings, she also confirmed his mother was Elizabeth but did not know who the father was.   Again, many thanks to Lillian Trickett(nee Prestidge) and Nick, they have added so much to Leonard’s story.

Addendum – Leonard’s Grandfather Alfred Prestidge, the husband of Louisa, lost his life for his Country in the Great War in 1915, please read his story by clicking on the link, so Louisa, herself had suffered many bereavements in her life and had to deal with the extra loss of Leonard James as well.


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