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.
Chester Chronicle 6th February 1943 Page 7 Col 4.
YOUNG SAILOR KILLED AT SEA.
News has been received by his grandmother, Mrs. PRESTIDGE, 32, Dodd’s Drive, Connah’s Quay, that Seaman Leonard James PRESTIDGE, who joined the Merchant Navy last July, has been killed at sea.
He was 17 and joined the crew of a liner in July. Before going to sea he was a scholar of Mold Road Senior School where he gained certificates for good attendance and swimming etc.
The following letter from a British Vice-Consulate in America was received by Mrs. PRESTIDGE : – “Capt. DUFF has spoken to me so highly about your grandson, Leonard, that it brings to me a realisation of the extent of the great loss you have suffered. His Captain has nothing but praise for the lad’s high character, courage and behaviour. The ship came under heavy enemy fire and, during the course of the action, Leonard was killed. He was struck instantaneously by the explosion of one of the shells and never recovered consciousness before passing over. After hearing about Leonard from his Captain, I appreciate what a promising fellow he was and consequently the terrible grief his death will have caused you. But mingled with your sorrow you must also have great pride in the knowledge that your grandson was killed in action performing his duty on one of the most honourable and vital tasks any of us may be called upon to perform. He truly died serving his King and Country in the very highest sense of the term.”
Many thanks to the website uboat.net- 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.